Editorial in the Charleston Mercury on Redeemer

Real meaning of being the ‘Holy City’

It is one thing for Charleston to be known as the “Holy City,” but it is far more important for this city to be known as a place where the faithful flourish. We indeed have a good number of historic churches and a rich history of religious tolerance. It was just this Easter that Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue allowed Grace Episcopal Church, temporarily out of their sanctuary due to structural issues, to use their temple for worship. CNN and others picked up this story.
The community thrives when lives are transformed in houses of worship, which is why we have regretted seeing the former St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church at 43 Wentworth St. grow ever closer to becoming a private residence. Nancy Snowden is in the process of buying it for a residence, which is her choice. Instead, we choose to ask our community to wake up and see what is so important about these holy places.Charleston is swept up in some residential nirvana that puts housing interests ahead of spiritual, commercial, recreational and environmental concerns. Recall that we have not had a gas station South of Broad for about 15 years; the pressures on small family businesses are enormous and big boxes are pulling residents away from the community that sustains them. Mixed use is seemingly passé, and the goal is more housing in paradise for the masses. Through all the changes, our chief concern should be the renewal of our collective moral and spiritual compass – that which can withstand the tempests of time. Every lost church takes us ever further away from what feeds the souls of citizens.    We communicated about this issue with the Rev. Dr. Peter Moore of St. Michael’s Church; he expressed sorrow that the sale of this sanctuary is the antithesis of a “distinct way of life where family, faith and values are all woven into a tapestry that resonates with deep springs within.” During the last five years this church has been the home of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The initial asking price of roughly $8 million was beyond the ability of the young congregation or just about any congregation, though the final price looks far lower. If 43 Wentworth St. were not in use, we could understand considering a different use for the property. When worshippers find that commercial interests desire their sanctuaries, they will immediately see their sacred structures at risk; this should concern members of any house of worship with congregations that are diminishing in some way.

The Rev. Dr. Moore concluded with comments about the negotiating process and impending sale and said: “Even when they want it for ostensibly good purposes, it does not justify the loss of a beautiful church building filled with eager worshipers who – given time and patience – might well have raised the funds needed to ensure its vibrancy for generations to come.” Again, the situation forces us to focus upon what the city’s zoning board shall consider a priority. Only engaged citizens can direct the path of progress and make certain it honors the real meaning of being the Holy City.