First Presbyterian Church of Murfreesboro
On March 14, 2012, I had the privilege of speaking at First Presbyterian Church of Murfreesboro, TN, at one of their bicentennial celebrations. The congregation has been worshipping in Murfreesboro for two hundred years, and their current building is 98 years old. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. In a talk titled “The National Register of Historic Places and First Presbyterian Church of Murfreesboro,” I described the National Register nomination process and criteria to assembled congregants. I explained how nomination writers demonstrate the significance and historical integrity of properties, and I reviewed the privileges and protections that nomination does (and does not) offer property owners.
Following a discussion of the National Register itself, I detailed the nomination of the First Presbyterian sanctuary building and pointed out the architectural features which demonstrate the integrity of the property’s nomination for architectural significance. Through asking questions of the audience, such as “What significant events have you witnessed in this building?” and “Which features of the interior would change the feeling of this place for you if they were altered or removed?”, I was able to highlight how seemingly small aspects are important to the feeling of a space. This began a discussion that reminded the audience that the significance of this place, both for the congregation and the city of Murfreesboro, is more than the building itself. Members of the congregation know more of the stories of their buildings and events than they realize. By telling each other stories and memories of special moments that have taken place in the church, congregants can help each other to appreciate their sacred space in new ways.
When I was finishing the dissertation, I needed some advice about how to handle a disagreement among members of my committee. I looked in several places, including the website gradhacker.org. GradHacker is a website run by graduate students on which grad students and former graduate students write articles of advice to their peers on various topics.
I put out a call on twitter to see if any sites had previously published advice about dealing with committee member disagreement. No one had any and it was suggested that I use my experiences to write one for GradHacker. Through working through the issue, getting advice from a seasoned academic, and finding the balance between providing a useful example and not releasing too many details, I was able to co-author this piece with Dr. Karen Kelsky of The Professor is In
Read it on GradHacker here
Sacred and Secular: A Tale of Two Churches
I presented “Sacred and Secular: A Tale of Two Churches” at the 7th Savannah Symposium: the Spirituality of Place in February 2011 and again at the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church Historical Society meeting in March 2011. Below is the abstract, followed by the full paper and the accompanying presentation.
Nearly as long as congregations have been constructing churches and other religious buildings, they have been abandoning those structures for new ones, either larger or smaller. This paper explores the fates of two religious buildings in Nashville, Tennessee. Located in the same South Nashville neighborhood, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and Elm Street Methodist Church, have both undergone changes in the last 150 or so years. In response to the changing demographics in the neighborhood, the people of Holy Trinity Episcopal have renewed their congregational mission throughout the years. Two blocks east, Elm Street Methodist, on the other hand, was sold first to a manufacturer and then to the current tenant, an architectural firm: Tuck Hinton Architects, PLLC. Through evaluating the structures themselves, archival materials, and local newspaper accounts, this paper explores two sacred spaces in the same neighborhood, asking why one space continued to host a congregation and why another has been adaptively reused. Do the current tenants of these spaces honor their sacred histories? In what ways do they do so? Exploring these and other questions, this paper assists in understanding some of the key issues surrounding the adaptive reuse of religious buildings.