The historic Lincoln Temple UCC sits in a gentrifying area. (James Wright/The Washington Informer)
The historic Lincoln Temple UCC sits in a gentrifying area. (James Wright/The Washington Informer)

The shuttered Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ building has been given a new life as the Shaw Community Center, which ministers to young people in a gentrifying neighborhood.

The church that at one time had singers such as Jessye Norman, Marian Anderson and Roberta Flack and orators like former Georgia state Sen. and NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright have spoken from its pulpit has a more subdued mission now. The Shaw Community Center (SCC) has taken full residence of the facility and the work of changing lives for the better has continued.

“We have been here since 2012,” said Sudi West, executive director of the Shaw Community. “When the church closed last September, we didn’t close. When we found out that the church was going to close for good, we asked the governing board whether we could still rent the space. The board said yes and we have been fulfilling our mission here since.”

The SCC’s roots started at Lincoln Temple as a part of its outreach program to the Shaw community in the 1960s and it formalized in 1991. The program changed locations in 1991 to the Lincoln Westmoreland site on 7th Street NW, where the Channing E. Phillips Homes presently sit.

The SCC offers programs for young residents in the areas of technology, arts education, financial and academic literacy, vocational training and workforce development. The programs serve hundreds who live in the Shaw neighborhood, recognized by public policy professionals and city planners as a gentrified neighborhood.

“We offer programs that respond to a rapidly changing neighborhood,” West said.

The SCC’s well-known “After School Program 2019” focuses on helping students with their homework from school and developing their academic potential. The Summer Camp program includes a Real News component where students talk and write about current events.

For example, students recently went to the Broccoli City Bar near the Shaw-Howard University Metro Station to interview with the owners and staff. They wrote and posted stories about their experiences on social media.

The Real News program included a visit to The Washington Informer this summer.

The SCC has an active scholarship program for college-bound students and seasonal programs such as digital media literacy training, a Christmas party, Thanksgiving baskets and college prep for high school students.

While the Lincoln Temple congregation has left, it has been replaced with other faith groups, West said.

“While the Shaw Community Center is the anchor of the Lincoln Temple building, we have two other sub-anchors,” he said. “One is a Hispanic church and the other Eritrean. Those congregations are a reflection of the neighborhood around Lincoln Temple.”

The Lincoln Temple building has been deemed a historic site by the District government, so the building would be very difficult to tear down. West said he remains aware of developers wanting the spot to use for commercial purposes but that won’t happen.

“We are here to stay and to serve the community,” he said.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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