Creating Community in The Commons - Transforming a Building into a Center of Revitalization

Three years ago the possibility of the church at the corner of McAdoo and Oxford in Memphis’s Binghampton neighborhood becoming a community hub seemed remote. Like many of the city’s 2,000 houses of worship, Everett Memorial United Methodist Church no longer felt the graceful presence of a steady stream of parishioners. It needed serious maintenance and upkeep and there was no money in the offering plate — the congregation that passed it around had ceased to exist.

Yet within its mighty walls are the building blocks of community in transformation that is bonding in new and exciting ways, despite the shifting patterns of worship. Today the Center for Transforming Communities (CTC) connects a range of organizations within the former church in what is now known simply as The Commons on Merton. What a difference three years can make. “When the building was donated to us . . . we didn’t even know if it was possible to turn it into a sustainable asset, but we decided to venture into it,” says CTC director Amy Moritz. “In three years we now have it full of partners, there’s constant activity, and every partner makes a contribution to be here, whether it’s barter or pay.” It’s this collective agreement among partners that keep the lights on and The Commons maintained, but it’s the other contributions each partner makes that are transforming the community. Whether it’s the group established to empower refugees from the conflicted nations of Africa or the team helping people heal from the pangs of addiction, there are gifts and assets each organization brings into The Commons. Amy sees the role of CTC as a connector of these assets, not just within the four walls of The Commons but in the wider community where she sees people craving new opportunities to bond with each other. Faith is still very much a part of this equation and for Amy the concept behind the CTC is about taking the church outside the walls of a building so faith becomes entwined with the wholeness of the wider community. Seeing the old building alive with purpose and vibrant with activity warms her spirit, and as each connection among the partners grows stronger, The Commons becomes all the more entrenched in the new possibilities for community rejuvenation. Photo courtesy

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