What’s next for the Redeemer Lutheran Church in East Falls?

Looking to repurpose a house of worship currently unoccupied, members of East Falls Community Council presented their ideas on Monday night for the use of what was once the Redeemer Lutheran Church in East Falls.

Rev. Patricia Davenport, Director of Evangelical Mission for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Southeastern Pennsylvania [SEPA] Synod, was present to speak about the building and solicit ideas for its future use.

The church, located at the intersection of Midvale Ave. and Conrad St., was closed for worship in 2009 after an extended – and, at times, contentious – exchange between Redeemer’s congregation and the SEPA Synod, as detailed on the congregation’s website.

At present, the plot includes two vacant structures – the former church itself, and a building behind which was used for pre-school programs.

Suggestions for the site 

Rev. Davenport related that on a recent visit to examine the building’s condition, she received several informal recommendations from community members regarding their suggestions for the site. Looking for a more formal means of soliciting proposals, she turned to the EFCC for their assistance.

Davenport stated that although her preference is for a “word and sacrament community” – i.e. traditional church operations – she expressed openness to a “word and service” arrangement, wherein secular activities predominate.

She noted that regardless of the religious framework, residents voiced an emphasis on providing children with learning and recreational opportunities.

“One of the things said to us was, ‘this is a young community – we need something for our children,'” said Davenport.

To this end, she mentioned an arts program, a proposal that was supported by Meg Greenfield, 1st Vice-President of the EFCC.

Relating that the EFCC at one time subsidized an art and music program, Greenfield said that the arts programs were well-attended and held appeal to adults as well as children.

In keeping with offerings tailored for children, other residents suggested a child-care facility, which could take advantage of the former playground area located on the site’s W. Penn St. boundary.

Juile Camburn, editor of The Fallser, suggested that the building become senior housing, as she observed that a number of retirees desire to remain in East Falls but reside in homes too large for their needs.

Keeping with the character of the community 

Some residents also voiced their hope that whatever form the site ultimately becomes, it retains a community-based character that does not necessarily have a larger regional draw, further taxing East Falls’ limited parking.

Davenport said that after the public comment period, proposals will be submitted to an evangelical outreach team, which will be responsible for issuing final determinations.

She said that the Synod has no set time frame for the project.

Tom Sauerman, President of the EFCC, emphasized that the secular need not be supplanted by the sacred for consideration.

“It doesn’t have to have a religious overtone as far as the kind of program (to be submitted),” he said.

Dog park update 

As reported by Newsworks, East Falls resident Kelly Grieco is trying to establish a dog park in the neighborhood.

Grieco was present at Monday night’s EFCC meeting to provide updates to the park, which remains in the preliminary research and development stage.

Noting that over a dozen volunteers and the East Falls Development Corporation have pledged support, Grieco has contacted the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and has met with the creators of existing dog parks in both Manayunk and Phoenixville.

In addition, Grieco reported that Joshua Cohen, Special Assistant to 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., has reached out to her on behalf of the Councilman’s office offering support and, at a later stage in the project, possible funding.

She asked those with an interest in supporting the park to visit the park’s Facebook page.

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