Benefit concert aims to restore 100-year-old church
It's been three years since a fire raged from roof to basement inside Allen Temple CME — a dark day that had some thinking it was the beginning of the end for this church in the historically-black King neighborhood.
But pass through the solid wood doors on the corner of Northeast 8th Avenue and Skidmore Street, and you'll see a spark is growing to restore the 100-year-old structure.
Allen Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church will host a benefit concert at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 20 at the nearby Maranatha Church, located at 4222 N.E. 12th Avenue. Leading the choral show is Peggy Houston-Shivers, a well known classical and gospel singer returning to her hometown from Colorado Springs.
Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, though additional donations are always welcome.
One organizer of the concert is Pastor LeRoy Haynes, who has guided the flock at CME for 21 years.
"We are a cutting-edge program church," he says. "Whether it's issues of gentrification, police reform, issues dealing with poverty and a variety of different social justice issues, we are… a community center for excellence."
It was a stormy Saturday evening on Feb. 7, 2015 when Haynes heard the news that an electrical fire had broken out in the three-level building's basement. By the time he arrived, everything was under control. So he left.
"I was putting some finishing touches on my sermon when I got another call: 'Pastor, the church is on fire — again," Haynes remembers. "It was a very traumatic experience, almost surreal."
The second fire, likely caused by a faulty transformer or a loose wire, did far more damage to the roof of the church built in 1912 by German Lutherans. Haynes says there are only four buildings with this type of history left in the Rose City. But Allen Temple needs at least another $200,000 to finish repairs.
Part of the problem is the need to upgrade the church to current building codes. Church managers also envision creating a day-care center and kitchen in addition to the restoration of the main sanctuary. The temple already organizes programs for drug and alcohol recovery, homelessness outreach and school mentoring.
"This situation, the first thing you think of is you're going to go away," adds Bill Green, another member of the church leadership. "We're making sure that we're coming back and keeping (the community) in tune with what we do."
For Haynes, Allen Temple is a bulwark against the forces of gentrification, which pushed out 10,000 Portlanders of color between 2000 and 2010, according to census data.
"The church, as an institution, is sort of like infrastructure," Haynes notes. "If you're going to preserve people in that neighborhood and in that community, you've got to have infrastructure."
Peggy Houston-Shivers, the lead performer in Sunday's choir concert, has many roots here in Portland. When she graduated from Portland State University in the late 1950s, she was the only African American in the school's music department, according to a press release.
Her late husband, Clarence, was a Tuskegee Airman and sculptor whose work stands in front of the United States Air Force Academy.
For more information on the concert, call (503) 852-1758 or click here. The Allen Temple congregation currently meets at Maranatha Church on Sundays with a sermon by Haynes at 1 p.m.