#4) Greater Faith for Deliverance (inactive)

Number four on the list of churches I’ve seen thus far in Detroit is the now defunct Greater Faith for Deliverance Church (which operated under at least one different name in the past), in Detroit’s Petosky-Otsego neighborhood on Grand River. Though I know I still have a long way to go with this compilation, I can honestly say this is the most architecturally beautiful one I’ve profiled on this blog thus far, and undoubtedly the most decayed.

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My love of urban decay is more complicated than it was before I moved to Detroit. When I lived in the DC area and Pittsburgh, blight wasn’t all that commonplace, and so whenever there was an abandoned building or house, it was always very fascinating to me. I’d been itching to check out Detroit since middle school (namely because The White Stripes were one of my favorite bands, and 8 Mile was one of my favorite movies), but later on as an adult, I wanted to visit to see the ruins. Yes, I’ll admit it: As a tourist, I came here for the ruin porn. And Detroit satisfied that desire more than I ever dreamt possible.

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Yet things have changed slightly. I am not just some wide-eyed tourist anymore. By mid-May, I will have lived here for six months as a homeowner in one of Detroit’s most abandoned areas — abandoned not only by its long-time residents, but also by city officials who are focusing their efforts primarily on the downtown area.

Living in Detroit is great, don’t get me wrong, but it certainly comes with challenges. I’ve had people not take me seriously because I am white, yet all the while I’ve been told that Detroit desperately needs more people “like me”; I assumed they meant “young people moving from other parts of the country”, but they actually meant “white people with jobs who are willing and able to pay property taxes”. And these property taxes I just referred to? They are astronomically high, to the point where tax foreclosure is sadly so commonplace here.

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Nevertheless, A LOT of positive things are happening here, with so much more to come. I am living in Detroit by choice, and I am happy to be invested in the city and its comeback. So when I see buildings like this scrapped, eroded shell of a church, I still look at them with curiosity and wonder… yet above all, I look at them and feel a certain sadness.

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I am sad not just because of the evident systematic disinvestment, but also because I yearn for the civic pride that I hear used to be strong in the community but is now just a rarity. It’s sad that the people who make a difference in Detroit (for instance, my friend Jonathan Pommerville) are staggeringly outnumbered by those who loot and destroy their own communities; it’s even more devastating that the latter class of people are protected by the majority who turn a blind eye to the theft, arson, and mass destruction that happens so frequently. Maybe it’s a fear of speaking up, or indifference, or hopelessness… but it’s bullshit nonetheless.

But maybe this sadness is also steeped with impatience, because though I am confident that things will turn around in Detroit, I don’t want to wait forever to see this come to fruition.

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And I do not want to see this building be destroyed any further. I’d love to see someone revitalize it one day, as it has some beautiful features and is in a central location. And before that ever happens, I would love to explore inside.

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I will follow up on this post with more findings (which I am sure will be abundant), but from what I’ve seen thus far, this congregation is not active. So, I highly doubt that Greater Faith for Deliverance will ever return to this building, or that this city fine will ever be paid.

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#3) Morning View Baptist Church

I was driving on Grand River, close to downtown Detroit, on Monday afternoon with my phone battery at 15%. Despite being so underprepared, I was able to take pictures of four churches I saw between I-94 and Virginia Park Street. Morning View Baptist Church is the first one I snapped pictures of, and the third church I am adding to my list overall.

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Morning View Baptist Church is at the corner of Grand River and Lawton, in Detroit’s NW Goldberg neighborhood. Upon first sight, I had no idea if it was still in operation. Granted, the building does not look blighted at all, yet not a single vehicle was parked on either side of the parking lot.

Granted, this was a Monday around 2:00pm, but nothing. No car for the pastor. No vans or buses. NOTHING. Fortunately, I used Google to aid me in figuring out this mystery.

Their website lists their ministry schedule, which is very limited. They only offer services on Sundays and Tuesdays. But even an active website can be misleading, as I’ve seen websites still running for businesses that are now defunct. But often times, where Google’s help ends, social networking takes over.

Their unofficial Facebook page shows that people checked in for services as recently as this past Sunday, thereby proving that it is still active. However, there were two things I noticed wrong on this page:

  1. The website added to the page’s contact information leads to another Morning View Baptist Church. Digging through the website, you’ll find that this church is located in Rockmart, Georgia. Not a big surprise; the pictures of the church sitting atop a hill and their old white pastor were a dead giveaway.
  2. For this lady’s anonymity, I will not state her name, but as a member of the church, she posted a review to the error-riddled Facebook page with some delightful errors of her own. She stated that “Pastor Carr jr. Be on point with his sermons” and that “everyone there show ginuwine love”.

Admittedly, I don’t always use proper grammar, conversationally or in writing. It’s not because I don’t know any better, but simply because I’m not that anal about it anymore. Case in point: I will mix up current and past tenses all the time (especially via text messaging). This is partly because I hate texting and am usually rushing to send out long, wordy messages… and partly because LSD maybe just slightly messed with my sense of time and reality (and gave my friends in Pittsburgh a bunch of funny little stories that I’ll never live down).

But misspelling “genuine”?! Come on! “Ginuwine” is a singer… or was. I don’t think he’s doing anything now. Since he’s a DMV native like myself, I should probably know more.

And for those of you that don’t know about Ginuwine, I’ll leave this here for you. You’re so very welcome.

 

 

 

#2) Synagogue Baptist Church

I was driving around on the east side running errands one day earlier this week when I saw this church*. Often times I cannot stop to take pictures of each church I see, but the second I saw this one, I did a not-so-legal U-turn in the middle of the street to snap a couple of pictures. It wasn’t due to any stately religious statuary, or any ornate architectural features, as this church possesses none of those things. What it does possess, however, is a religiously incorrect name.

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That raised a red flag for me, not only as the best friend of a Jew, but as someone with at least an elementary grasp of other religions. But where all else fails, the dictionary comes in handy. Merriam-Webster defines synagogue as “a building that is used for Jewish religious services”. In other words, the total opposite of a building for Baptist services.

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^ This picture was admittedly taken from an awkward angle from inside my car, but it is crucial to state this next point. The people of Synagogue Baptist Church placed the phrase “JESUS SAVES” next to their incorrect/ironically named church’s sign… never mind the fact that people of the Jewish faith do not accept Jesus as the messiah. So, if you go to a real synagogue, you will be hard-pressed to find anyone there who believes that Jesus saves anyone. It’s simply not part of the Jewish ideology.

This is an active church, as evidenced by their website. Their pastor is celebrating 30 years of service this month. In 30 years time, has anyone ever discussed the name of this church with the pastor? This is a question that will hopefully get an answer once I start researching all of these churches in-depth! I will update this post accordingly!

*Doing a search of this address has come up with results as both Detroit and Highland Park. I have found this to be the case for other addresses in this area and in Hamtramck, as both of these small cities are encapsulated within the large, sprawling metropolis of Detroit. Because of this, I will also include profiles for churches in Highland Park and Hamtramck.

Sorry for the wait (exciting news)

I apologize for the extreme lateness of this post. Earlier this week an emergency meeting was called, and I assumed the treasurer role of The Honest Plot (Northwest Brightmoor Renaissance), a non-profit working hard for the betterment of NW Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood. I am swimming in paperwork, attending meetings frequently, and this is just the beginning. Though I am not complaining; I am eager to gain experience working for a non-profit, and I look forward to helping my community.

It’s worth noting that I also just became a captain of the Plainview Block Club Association, working to help engage my fellow neighbors in bettering our street. Also, I work full-time, raise my pet puppy alone, and try to fix up my house when I can.

So, yeah! Life is getting busier by the day, but I will do my best to not let any of these obligations interfere with the mission of this blog. So, thanks for your patience and continued readership!

I’ve talked to a couple of friends who’ve asked me how exactly I plan to execute my mission with this blog, as it is a pretty huge undertaking. To summarize my course of action:

  • I will first log each and every church that is seen in Detroit in the year 2016, in operation or otherwise (even those that aren’t in service anymore still impact their neighborhoods just with their presence alone). Not every post will be as lengthy as my first post on Kindred Ministries, for instance; just getting the name, location, pictures, and count is the most important part right now.
    • Then comes the fun part of taking more pictures of the more picturesque churches I find, creating a book of all of the churches in Detroit, etc.
  • Once I have documented every church in the city, I will then start doing more in-depth research on each church’s functions and community impact. I will also investigate any reports or tips of suspicious behavior, and will even infiltrate some by attending their services. If I can dismantle just one corrupt church, I’ll consider it a job well done.

Now that this course of action has been spelled out, I will move forward to post church #2 in just a moment!

 

#1) Kindred Ministries (inactive)

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Before I go into this post, I want to apologize for being a day late! I had to prepare for today, which consisted of volunteer work and a documentary premiere at Detroit Institute of Art. It’s been a lot of fun with some great new friends. But, more on that later!

The first church I am profiling is just around the corner from my house, which makes it the obvious first selection. You can see it from my yard. Though in past decades, the view most likely would’ve been obstructed by other homes, fences, and trees. Also, the focal point of said view wouldn’t have even been a church at all, but rather an elementary school and playground. And a very large one at that, taking up an entire city block solely on its own, bordered by Westwood, Acacia, Grandville, and Kendall.

The Peter Vetal School was an elementary school in Detroit’s Westwood Park neighborhood. It opened in 1924, at a time when the entire city was thriving. Yet, as the city declined, so did the school and the neighborhood it was encapsulated in. In 2011, the school closed, along with many others in Detroit. From what my neighbors have told me, Peter Vetal School was an anchor for the neighborhood; even as the area faced a slew of issues (drugs, prostitution, blight, etc.), it was at least hanging by a thread, tied firmly to the school. And once DPS shut Vetal School’s doors for good, that thread snapped. However, there was briefly a glimmer of hope for this massive school and the massive void its closure created in the community: Kindred Ministries.

A couple of years after the school closed, Pastor Keith Hill purchased the vacant building from Detroit Public Schools, and thus Kindred Ministries was born. His intent was to hold his sermons in the auditorium, using the rest of the behemoth structure as a trade school for the community. He even went ahead and erected a sign for the church outside. And that’s when scrappers broke in and wreaked havoc on the building. Due to extensive water damage to the inside of the building (thanks to the assholes<s> thieves<s> scrappers who flooded the building when he ripped out the building’s sprinkler system), the building cannot currently be inhabited, and would require an ungodly sum of money to repair. Though Kindred Ministries is obviously not holding any services here, Pastor Hill and Friends of Vetal School still hold out hope that the building will one day be restored for use as a vocational school and place of worship.

As a homeowner in Detroit, specifically in this neighborhood, I can see firsthand the dire need for hands-on job training for young adults in the community. Reading stories of this tragedy not only makes my heart go out to Pastor Keith Hill, or my blood boil at the despicable theft that somehow gets a pass in Detroit… it makes me sick. It hurts seeing how people with big hearts and good intentions can lose to those who selfishly and carelessly hasten the downturn of their own communities. I hate that stealing from others is seen as a justifiable source of income by some in this area. And above all, I hate that the depravity and short-sightedness of these thieves has only worsened this already gaping void in the neighborhood.

Scrappers, I hope the few hundred dollars or so you got at the scrap yard was worth the several thousands of dollars in property damage, the sleepless nights Pastor Hill and his family must have endured, AND the continued generations of poverty that can stem from a bunch of unskilled people who are broke and jobless in an area that requires skills and/or an education. It’s a shame you just couldn’t wait to see if Pastor Hill and his school could’ve taught you a thing or two about how to make an honest living.

For the sake of my community, I stand alongside Pastor Keith Hill and the Friends of Vetal School in the hope that this will one day come into fruition.

Kindred Ministries: church number one out of many in the city of Detroit. Stay tuned for the ever increasing count.

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^ If the story of Kindred Ministries and the Peter Vetal School wasn’t so devastating, I totally would’ve based this whole post on how the opposite side of their sign says “Kindren” rather than Kindred. When driving past this building, I usually drive past this side of the sign, which annoys me to no end. But I am not that petty. And this is one instance where there are much bigger things at stake than spelling errors and nonexistent words.