READING, PA (July 3, 2019) – This summer, the Community Foundation is hosting three interns to begin what may be a very long process. They are identifying and cataloging every building that’s ever been built in the City of Reading to serve as a house of worship. Eventually, we will catalog each house of worship in all of Berks County. It’s a very big project that is likely to take several years.
We’re starting in Reading and plan to work our way outward. The interns are attempting to photograph each building and capture their history, current use and physical characteristics.
It’s no secret that many of our local congregations are in deep decline, as they are all across the country. A significant number of churches have already closed. The fate of some is very uncertain.
All around Berks County, these church buildings are repositories of our heritage. We’ll ultimately create a database of those buildings that can be used for many purposes, some of which we have in mind.
We want to identify “churches,” or “church buildings” (both terms we use generically to include mosques, chapels, synagogues and any other building built specifically for worship), that have a particularly high priority for preservation due to their unique historical, architectural or artistic value. The original Bethel AME Church (119 N. 10th St. in Reading), for instance, was a stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of supportive locations used to smuggle escaped slaves to freedom. It would be a terrible shame to lose that piece of history.