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Calvary United Methodist Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2021 Cohort

Calvary United Methodist Church

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Calvary United Methodist Church is an activist church in Philadelphia. The church developed alongside the surrounding neighborhood with the construction of new trolley lines in the latter half of the 19th century, ultimately leading to the construction of the English Gothic-style church by Brown, Gillespie & Carrel in 1907.

Calvary United Methodist Church by Bruce Byker James

Calvary United Methodist Church by Bruce Byker James

2021 Cohort

Calvary United Methodist Church

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Calvary United Methodist Church is an activist church in Philadelphia. The church developed alongside the surrounding neighborhood with the construction of new trolley lines in the latter half of the 19th century, ultimately leading to the construction of the English Gothic-style church by Brown, Gillespie & Carrel in 1907.

As Philadelphia faced major demographic shifts and development threats in the 1950s, Calvary transitioned into a “catalyst for change.” The congregation was an early advocate for and practitioner of desegregation and supported women’s rights. Calvary also was one of the first 10 United Methodist churches in the country to oppose the anti-LGBTQ stance of the United Methodist Church at large. Declining membership placed the future of the church in jeopardy in 1989, but community activism and the formation of the Calvary Center for Culture and Community in 2000 led to Calvary’s revitalization.

Calvary UMC, with the work of the affiliated nonprofit Calvary Center for Community and Culture, is now a “beloved center and beacon to community,” according to the congregation. The Calvary Center supports multiple organizational uses of the building, successfully housing over 20 organizations in the church through space sharing. These organizations include four religious congregations, performing arts groups such as Curio Theatre Company, educational programs, and social justice advocates. The church also serves as a space for blood drives, election polling, regular and emergency community meetings, and community activities.

A $100,000 National Fund grant and $100,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation will contribute to a large restoration project at Calvary UMC. Work will involve making the building watertight, upgrading drainage systems, repairing Tiffany-designed stained-glass windows, and stabilizing the building. This project will allow Calvary UMC to expand its creative and unique community use and continue to be a model for space sharing in the future.

Calvary United Methodist Church by Kari Collins

Calvary United Methodist Church by Yonni Kroll

Historic Houses of Worship as Advocates for LGBTQ Rights & Inclusion

Houses of worship may not be the first places that come to mind when thinking about institutions that uplifted lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, as many LGBTQ individuals across the nation and the world have faced discrimination as a result of the policies of organized religions. Although discrimination against this community has not been extinguished from religious institutions, an increasing number of religious groups in the United States have taken firm steps towards welcoming and advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ community.

Curio Theatre Company at Calvary UMC by Rebecca Gudelunas

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez