#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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#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.