Historic church in Washington, D.C., preserved as sacred space

The Church of the Advent, an Anglican congregation in Washington, D.C., has completed the purchase of the historic Third Baptist Church in the Shaw neighborhood. Advent, founded in 2007, has been meeting in rented buildings and will put down permanent roots for the first time, while Third Baptist Church’s members have chosen to continue as a congregation in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

“The Third Baptist Church was very happy to partner with the Church of the Advent, who we know will carry out the legacy of providing spiritual guidance and outreach ministry to those in the Shaw neighborhood,” commented the Rev. Paige Harris, senior pastor at Third Baptist Church. “Although the Third Baptist Church itself will be moving, we feel confident that the impact made while we were there will live on through the work of our new friends. We pray that the Lord will bless everything they do to carry out the mission of the church.”

Dating to 1857, Third Baptist is one of Washington’s oldest Black churches. Its 1893 building – designed by Calvin Brent, the first Black architect to practice in D.C. – is the oldest Black church building in Washington still standing. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008.

“Third Baptist Church’s members have been worshiping, providing a gospel witness, and engaging in vital neighborhood ministry outreach for more than 165 years. We are humbled and grateful to be able to carry on the incredible legacy of gospel-centered ministry in the Shaw neighborhood,” said the Rev. Thomas Hinson, rector at Church of the Advent.

The successful preservation of a sacred space comes as the number of houses of worship in the nation’s capital has declined by a third from 2008 to 2023, according to recent data released by Sacred Spaces Conservancy.

“Worship sites are attractive for redevelopment,” commented Evan Sparks, a member of Church of the Advent and a board member of Sacred Spaces Conservancy. “Even many historic church buildings have been turned into luxury housing. Sacred Spaces Conservancy is working with D.C.’s legacy congregations and new religious communities to help them understand their options and choose their path. We’re thrilled that Third Baptist chose to work with Advent and protect this historic sacred building.”

When Advent began its journey toward purchasing a building several years ago, it engaged Sacred Spaces Conservancy’s custom “Counting the Cost” curriculum. Counting the Cost trains clergy and volunteer leaders about the steps involved in first-time religious property acquisition and ownership, including self-assessments, financial readiness, neighborhood engagement, fundraising, real estate sales and more.

“Sacred Spaces Conservancy was instrumental for Church of the Advent to launch the process of buying a building in D.C.” said Deborah Tepley, executive director at Church of the Advent. “Their team helped us to get organized and form the necessary teams for decision-making and congregational buy-in. They also raised important questions that we needed to address in order to purchase a permanent home.”

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