Signs of the positive shift in momentum in the Charlotte community continue to rise from all corners of the community. On Tuesday, May 30 Charlotte First Congregational Church UCC Pastor Phil Hobson spoke of how the members of his congregation are doing their part in revitalizing their small corner of the community through a project called Congregational Commons.
Hobson gave the invocation prior to the official groundbreaking ceremony, which will turn a deteriorated, former bank drive through into a community gathering space.
“As we take what is broken and broken down and turn it into a space for community, a space for worship, for music, for picnics, for walking a labyrinth in prayer, for all the things we can do with a space revitalized for the use of those around us, we give thanks to those with the foresight who put money away, and for the courage for those who said that this is a project for which we need to spend ourselves,” Hobson said. “This is a place where we don’t have to preach, we can simply be the church and let folks gather, let folks eat, let folks be. This is a joy. What now is falling down, will soon house performances.”
The congregation voted unanimously in 2016 to purchase the property located between Sheldon and Bostwick streets from the City of Charlotte. The church members cast their vote even though there was no plan as to how it would be developed.
Led by design committee chair, Matt Slot, First Congregational formulated a plan to turn the newly acquired property into a community gathering space that will feature a performance stage for small concerts, outdoor movies or plays, a covered patio, and a simplified version of the Chartres Labryinth in France. The area will also featured a tremendous amount of open green space inviting community members to come together and enjoy the environment.
“This is something from a city standpoint we see as an extraordinarily important development for the downtown,” said Mayor Tim Lewis. “This is something that will really give life to the community.”
Construction on Congregational Commons began Tuesday, May 30 and Slot said the entire project will be completed in phases, the first of which is to properly renovate the existing drive through structure, which will serve as the patio area. The small building will also remain, providing a restroom and small kitchen space.
“This is a project for the entire community,” said Amy Frost, Church Moderator. “The church is taking the lead, but it’s really meant to be something for the whole community to enjoy.”
Grass will be planted this summer and work on the labyrinth will follow when the grass is ready. In the meantime, First Congregational Church will host its first outdoor movie Monday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m. Slot said there will be hotdogs, games, in addition to an animated movie classic on the big screen. The event is free and open to the public, but free-will donations of canned goods and non-perishable items on behalf of SIREN/Eaton Shelter will be accepted.
For more information about the Commons project, or to donate your money, or time, contact First Congregational Church at email@example.com or through the church office at (517) 543-1310.