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St. Louis Not The Only City Where a St. Aloysius Is Threatened

January 27, 2006 History/Preservation, Politics/Policy, Religion Comments Off on St. Louis Not The Only City Where a St. Aloysius Is Threatened

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently had a story about church closings and possible demoltions in the New York City area, including a St. Aloysius in Harlem:

Architecturally, the three Harlem churches meet the commission’s criteria for landmarking: special character or special historical or aesthetic interest. But that’s only part of the churches’ significance. “They tell the story of immigrants to this country who were poor and who were unable to manifest any kind of individual pride in terms of places they were forced to live in,” says Michael Henry Adams, a Harlem architectural historian of Harlem and author of Harlem: Lost and Found. “But they were able to manifest a group pride by building these great buildings as an indication of their faith in God and also the opportunities of this great country. They’re symbols of the promise of America.”

In these cases parishioners are working with preservationists to save their history, even though the churches will likely be closed and the buildings used for other purposes.

Click here for the full story.

– Steve


‘BEHOLDER’ Is Interesting Story of Power & Corruption

January 18, 2006 Local Business, Politics/Policy, Religion Comments Off on ‘BEHOLDER’ Is Interesting Story of Power & Corruption

Recently I watched a new independent film, Heart of the Beholder: This American Dream Became a Holy Nightmare. It is the tale of a family that owned a chain of video stores that refused to remove certain films deemed indecent by a small by powerful group of zealots. These zealots blackmail a prosecutor into closing down the video stores, ruining the lives of this family. In the end the prosecutor gets his just rewards. It is an interesting story that everyone should see, especially those living in St. Louis.

I had not lived in St. Louis long when the story of St. Louis Circuit Attorney George Peach being arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer. That was in 1992. Yes, this movie is based on events that happened here in the St. Louis area in the 1980s and early 1990s.

First I want to say the picture is not anti-religious. In does not make light of or disparage Christians but does look at those who are a bit too self-righteous.

One of the movies the group picketing the video stores wanted to remove is one of my all-time favorites, Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks’ movies are many things but they are not morally offensive.

The movie is not being shown in theaters because they are having a hard time getting a distribution deal. I leant my copy to a friend and she watched it twice just to pick up all the details. You can order a copy by clicking on the image at right.

– Steve


Website Documents History of St. Boniface

January 10, 2006 History/Preservation, Religion, South City Comments Off on Website Documents History of St. Boniface

Among the Catholic Churches closed in 2005 was St. Boniface in Carondelet. Today I learned of a website which documents some of the history of the church including photos and audio interviews. Sadly the author is also tracking former religious objects on eBay.

Check it out here

– Steve


New Urbanism and the Christian Faith

January 7, 2006 Books, Religion 6 Comments

The other day I was having lunch at the new Prancing Pony Cafe & Bookstore in New Town at St. Charles and one book caught my eye, Sidewalks in the New Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith. I thumbed through a bit of it while waiting for my lunch companions to arrive but what I read was intriguing. I am personally not the religious type but many of my friends and family are. I think I’ll be ordering this book in bulk for birthday and Christmas gifts.

Here is what one person wrote in a review on Amazon.com:

People of all religious persuasions can find wisdom in this plain-spoken portrait of how humanity and culture are enriched by the informal social contacts of city life. Jacobsen, a pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Missoula, Montana, builds a case for why Christians should have special concern for traditionally designed urban areas. At the same time, the book explores themes of community and identity that are relevant to people of all spiritual traditions.
He argues that we have been lulled into “worshipping false gods in the name of American values.” The concepts of individualism, independence and freedom are wrongly associated with life in the suburbs, Jacobsen tells us. Pointing out that identical tract homes and big box retailers are not expressions of individual choice, he says we have allowed corporations to bend our communities to their bottom-lines instead of our communal needs.

The car, so often equated with freedom, does not, in Jacobsen’s view, equal the Biblical sense of liberation, instead it represents a form of escapism. He writes that we have allowed ourselves to be isolated from one another by our cars and our low-density developments. The result is a loss of civility and a dismissal of God’s command to “love the stranger.”

He notes that cities give rise to critical mass, a condition that stimulates and incubates new ideas, significant events and formal art. Sidewalks in the Kingdom is a powerful call for Christians to endorse our cities in the same way they have embraced our natural environment. Should the concept catch hold, Christians everywhere may soon be fleeing the suburbs for a city near you.

If you are a person of faith but are unsure about New Urbanism give this book a read and let me know what you think. I’ve provided a link above to Amazon.com but you can also order the book online through local independent retailer Left Bank Books. Also, the author’s website offers a sample chapter.

I started reading the sample chapter and I wanted to quote one small bit:

It is important to note that we have not been backed into sprawl and standardization as the dominant mode of development because of poverty, national crisis, or other limiting factors. Instead, we have boldly and confidently marched toward these unsatisfying arrangements with no one to blame but ourselves. We have done so, I believe, because we have been worshiping false gods in the name of American values.

I am so ordering a copy for myself!

– Steve


Parishioner & Resident Wants St. Aloysius Saved

I wanted to share with you a series of emails I have had with a resident near St. Aloysius. This person asked me keep their identity private.

Here is the first email I received from this resident two days ago:

Thank you for your efforts towards saving the buildings at St. Aloysius.
Our family is for the preservation of the entire block.

I was baptized at St. Al’s, attended and graduated from the school. My sister was married there. My parents were married in the “bowling alley” underneath the Gym, while the church was being built, It served as the church for a few years and if you look closely you can see remnants of the windows and where the alter was situated.

We are now residents of the Hill and belong to St. Ambrose Parish. We have not heard anyone say they would like a housing developement on the spot. It sounds political to us.

Thank you again!

I wrote back asking this person to “speak up” — that the alderman, priest and developer needed to hear from people on this issue. Here was the response:

I would hate to have repercussions.
This is definitely the way I feel…….tell me I am not the only one. I feel it would be painful to see buildings torn down!

I can hear this person’s pain. They feel like they might secretly be the only one that wants to save the building, afraid to speak out. I tried to reassure this person they were not the only one from the neighborhood that felt the same way. Here was the last thing I received:

I do not think that any of the three you mentioned in your first email [alderman, priest & developer] care about how the parisioners feel (We were never asked) I believe that they are own their own mission!

A little more bold than the last email. This time they consented to let me quote what they wrote anonymously. I’ve deleted only a few bits that might have identified who this person is. This is far from the only such email I’ve received on my efforts to save these buildings. I think many felt strongly about saving the buildings but didn’t want to speak up or didn’t know how to go about having an impact. Myself and others have got the ball rolling, we’ll see if they finish the job.

– Steve