The Boston Ethiopian church had grown from a bible study group in 2006 meeting in a member’s living room to a congregation of over 400 with worship, a choir, and an extensive education program including bible study, Ethiopian language instruction, and tutoring in math and English. The growing church had rented space from a Seventh Day Adventist church in the Fenway and a Catholic parish in Boston but this congregation, home to a great number of Ethiopians in their adopted country, needed its own home.
In February, a parishioner and board member named Lee, charged with leading the search for a home for the congregation ventured in to the ePlace Real Estate office in Cambridge MA looking for help. After that first meeting agent Herb Kimsey went to work scouring all available sources to identify possible locations. He searched various databases, considering not only at church properties, but empty warehouses and veteran’s halls. He brainstormed with colleagues, and even searched City of Boston abandoned properties for potential bargain locations.
When the former Our Lady of Lourdes church in Revere became available a viewing was quickly arranged, and it became apparent that it met most of the necessary criteria with plenty of room to grow. However, as a decommissioned Catholic church that had sat empty for 10 years, it had fallen into significant disrepair.
Lee and her church board decided to make an offer that was within their budget but the knew it was going to fall short of several bids coming in from developers. With Herb’s help they persevered. At his suggestion they rallied church members to strengthen their bid by signing petitions, obtaining a dozen glowing letters of reference and another dozen letters from children hoping to secure a permanent home at Our Lady of Lourdes.
During several visits to the Revere site, neighbors and former parishioners wandered over to ask about the fate of the building, and have a chance to see it once more, maybe for the last time. All expressed their good wishes to the buyers, and their hopes that it would remain as a church and landmark in the community as it had been since its cornerstone was laid in 1902.
In his letter to the Archdiocese, Tsehay Beyene, the Senior Priest and Adminstrator said,
“We wanted to establish the church as the cornerstone of a stable and welcoming community for our families, and especially our children. We are devoted to the work of our Sunday schools in building morally and spiritually strong young people, and giving them the opportunity to study the Ethiopian language, that they remember their culture and history.
Our Lady of Lourdes was the heart of the community to its parishioners for 100 years, and a source of guidance and comfort through the cycle of life, from baptism to final rest, and all the joys and sorrows in between. We would welcome the opportunity to bring this building, holding all its history and stories, back to life.”
Happily, members’ efforts paid off and The Boston Menebere Leule Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s revised offer was accepted by the Archdiocese. The closing on the property was held Sept 5th, with head priest Tsehay Beyene and church board members signing the mortgage after a prayer of thanks. The keys were handed over amid a roomful of happy, relieved smiles.
This is just the start of a lot of hard work and fundraising by the parishioners. They are anxious to repair the building and get it polished and prepared for what is likely to be an impressive and memorable ceremony of consecration of their new church.