[Episcopal News Service] Christ Church Cranbrook, an Episcopal parish in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, has partnered with First Baptist Institutional Church in Detroit to open a community resource center that will serve a variety of needs in “already struggling Detroit neighborhoods that have also been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the two churches said in a press release.
Representatives of the two churches held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new FBIC Resource Center on Jan. 31, though program development and hiring are still in progress.
The center is housed in a renovated space on the First Baptist Institutional Church’s campus in northwest Detroit in an area where 31% of residents – and about half of children – live below the federal poverty line. The center will offer services including a food pantry; workforce training; financial assistance for residents facing eviction or utility shutoffs; and workshops for reading, math and financial literacy, with a particular focus on youth, seniors and veterans. Case managers will also work with clients to connect them with other services they might need.
FBIC has been ministering to Detroiters since 1916, and the congregation has been active in community outreach from its beginning. The church built an extensive campus just south of 8 Mile Road in 1975 to provide for both religious and community needs, and today it offers services such as youth programming and prison reentry. Christ Church Cranbrook, consecrated in 1928, has had a relationship with FBIC for about four years as part of a drive to “build bridges” with churches in Detroit, said the Rev. William Danaher, rector.
First Baptist Institutional Church “has a long history of being one of the leading Black Baptist churches in Detroit. … It’s a remarkable church,” Danaher told Episcopal News Service.
After the Rev. Robyn Moore became FBIC’s pastor in 2018, she and Danaher began imagining further possibilities for outreach and mission work in the neighborhood, Danaher said. The arrival of COVID-19 added urgency to those efforts.
“When the pandemic hit, it was clear that people were coming to the church looking for support in one form or another,” Danaher said.
In 2020, Christ Church Cranbrook raised about $241,000 for a COVID-19 relief fund, which was partially matched by the Douglas F. Allison Foundation. Part of that was used as an initial investment for the community center, along with FBIC’s own funding, Danaher said. Administering the center will be a joint effort between the two churches, “utilizing congregational talents wherever possible to run workshops and provide a range of services to those most in need.”
“My hope is that we’ll continue to be able to partner in this project with the foundation that provided us with this initial grant,” Danaher told ENS.
Danaher emphasized that the partnership is one of “mutuality and friendship” that breaks through economic and racial barriers.
“We have an understanding that we expect to be transformed by this ministry as well. My goal is to close the distance between the suburbs and the city of Detroit and to build bridges,” Danaher said.
“First Baptist Institutional Church is truly an amazing church, and they have as much to offer us as we have to offer them,” he added, such as “the opportunity for spiritual friendship and encouragement of yet another Christian community doing kingdom work.”
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.