BY CRAIG BAILEY
and ELIZABETH M. HAGOOD
This month we announce a new partnership between the Lowcountry Open Land Trust and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Many Charlestonians, church members and historic preservationists from all over join us in celebrating the next chapter in the life of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and its historic sanctuary and educational building at 43 Wentworth Street.
The story of Redeemer Presbyterian Church is one that celebrates a living historic church and its faithful congregation, a vibrant community that supports its historic churches and their original purposes, and a creative community partnership that sustains the ongoing costs of maintaining an historic church building.
Just last fall, Redeemer Church was challenged to raise $1.6 million in 90 days to purchase 43 Wentworth and keep its use as an active church and thriving center of community life. However, during Redeemer’s struggle to buy these buildings, it was often asked, “Even if that church buys the buildings, how are they going to repair, restore and sustain them?”
Redeemer’s church leaders could not definitely answer that question last fall. But, today, Redeemer has an answer to that question: The Lowcountry Open Land Trust.
Redeemer did not solicit the Land Trust as tenants, nor did the church solicit anyone as tenants. In fact, commercial realtors cautioned Redeemer not to expect to rent any of the space. Rather Redeemer focused on raising money by renting the sanctuary for weddings. At the same time, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust was expanding and in need of additional office space.
Through a series of events, our organizations found one another and we realized that the unused space in the educational building perfectly suited the Land Trust’s growing staff. In addition, the compatibility of the Land Trust’s mission with Redeemer’s faith seemed providential. The Land Trust’s mission is:
“To honor the relationship between people and land by protecting irreplaceable lands in the Lowcountry.”
Likewise, God, in the Book of Genesis, took His newly created man and newly created woman and placed them in a newly created garden He called Eden, and told them, “Take care of it.”
It is the common call to stewardship — “Take care of the garden” — that bonds our two organizations and creates a commonality of purpose. It is also the call to all of us as members of one community.
So, yes, this story is about adaptive use and how we can creatively and efficiently use our historic assets. But it’s also about how we work together to preserve what matters and strengthen our community. We are proud to partner together to preserve a community asset and create a synergy of purpose that can be a model for other historic churches and local non-profits.
Everyone wins: We can bless the city, we conserve resources, we learn to share and model sharing, and we generate funds that can be used to sustain our historic buildings into the future.
Craig Bailey is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Elizabeth M. Hagood is executive director of Lowcountry Open Land Trust.