Article Title

Community | First United Methodist Church Featured in an Exhibition

Sacred Places


“How can historic sacred places support civic engagement, social cohesion, and neighborhood equity?” That is the question asked by the Community Design Collaboration and Partners for Sacred Places and recently addressed by The Atlantic’s Emma Green, who examined the value that religious groups add to a neighborhood. Essentially, if a religious group has no home or visual presence in a community, it is not just the group that loses, the entire neighborhood is negatively impacted.

To open the dialogue about this topic, the Community Design Collaborative in partnership with Partners for Sacred Places started a design initiative called Infill Philadelphia: Sacred Places / Civic Spaces and invited Bailey Edward to submit a project board. Sacred Places / Civic Spaces’s mission is “To re-envision underutilized, purpose-built religious properties as community hubs… it will strengthen relationships between sacred places, community organizations, and service providers with a mutual interest in co-location,” and it aligns well with Bailey Edward’s vision to design for the social good.

Bailey Edward prepared a design board of our work at First United Methodist Church (FUMC), a renovation and restoration of a 1924 sanctuary space and lower level multi-purpose community space. Bailey Edward designed a reconfiguration of the sanctuary space to better accommodate the needs of the congregation and increase accessibility by adding a center aisle and creating a welcoming narthex at the rear so the congregation can gather and socialize. Furthermore, the restored chancel furnishings were placed on wheels so the space can easily convert to a multi-purpose space for non-worship events. The redesign of the lower-level included new kitchen bathrooms, classrooms and, most importantly, a large assembly space that can transform from a homeless ministry to a commercial theater space and everything in between.

Community buildings that serve the public and the preservation of sacred spaces have always been pillars in Bailey Edward’s work. Principal Robin Whitehurst sits on the board for Partners for Sacred Spaces and works with congregations to develop designs that fit the changing needs of a modern congregation within an older worship facility. We’re honored to be featured as part of a larger conversation within the architectural community about the adaptation of historic sacred spaces to meet modern community needs.

The Sacred Places / Civic Spaces Precedent Exhibition is on display until July 31st at the Center for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia. You can see a sneak peak of Bailey Edward’s and others’ exhibitions here.

Bailey Edward’s work at FUMC is also featured in this month’s AIA Philadelphia’s Context Magazine! Check out the feature and the rest of the publication here.