Transformation is a familiar subject for pastor Billy Vaughan when he considers the evolution of the Everett Memorial United Methodist Church in Memphis’s Binghampton neighborhood.
He’s been tied to the church and the area for at least 15 years and has seen what happens when organizations operate in but remain disconnected from their communities. He also knows the possibilities that arise when organizations extend open arms to their neighbors.
Like many churches, Everett Memorial stared down challenges of declining membership in the face of demographic shifts.
Rev. Billy Vaughan
“This church was in this amazingly diverse neighborhood, one of the most diverse in the whole city, economically, ethnically, racially with folks from all sorts of various countries,” Billy explains.
But the church never kept up with the changing face of the community.
“It tried to maintain an identity that no longer fit,” he says.
“This just wasn’t the church that needed to be here any more,” and recognizing this new reality, a new life for the church was conceived.
The building was given to an organization known as CONECT, which among other facets oversaw an urban ministry program.
CONECT intended to sell the building it owned and move into the former Everett Memorial United Methodist Church building on Merton Street in the heart of the communities these urban ministries served, but when economies tumbled in 2008 all hope for that sale was lost.
This presented a new opportunity to bring together organizations of like-minded purpose. What it needed was strong leadership.
Enter Amy Moritz and the new Center for Transforming Communities (CTC).
Amy was offered the opportunity to direct a new organization that would operate out of the church to draw together the diverse communities of Binghampton.
Amy’s belief in the concept of Shalom, which states that people will individually find peace and prosperity when they contribute to the collective peace and prosperity of their community, is exactly what was needed to breathe new life into the building.
Today, the CTC operates the former church building, now known as The Common on Merton. Its purpose is to connect non-profit organizations as partners in the betterment of neighborhoods and communities.
The Commons is thriving with the life of a diverse community ecosystem, and Billy says he’s excited by the fact that this is only the beginning of realizing new possibilities.
Photo courtesy www.focuseforthegood.org