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Posts Tagged ‘storefront churches’

There’s a small, silver-colored church on Detroit’s eastside. It’s housed in a simple square building with a cinder block addition that was added over time. Based on the old tile roof, the brickwork, and its location on a sidestreet that ends at Mack Avenue, I’m thinking it was originally built as a gas station, probably in the 1930s or 40s.

Greater Peace Church _9835

I’ve ridden my bicycle past the small, unassuming place for many years, and for as long as I can remember it’s always been used as a church. What’s interesting to me about the little building on Mack is that it seems to never change. The small silver church and the surrounding grounds have always been well maintained. The tiled roof, with its shiny tin colored silver paint and the building’s matching brick walls, always look fresh. As if it was painted yesterday.

Greater Peace Church_9837

I never see any activity as I pass by, no matter the day of week or the time of day. There’s never anyone painting the walls, cleaning the surround small parking lot, or trimming the grass along the street or next to the place. It appears as if time has stopped and is now stuck on this small building. Because of its bright metallic, silvery color, the place seems to glow in the sunlight, much like white ashes on a dying fire, barely hanging onto its meager existence.

Greater Peace Church_9836

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In many ways, Detroit is defined by contrast. It seems to be everywhere. There are modern, slick-looking casinos lined with colorful neon. Directly across from them are abandoned buildings sprayed with gritty urban graffiti. There are poor people on beat-up bicycles, slowly riding to neighborhood party stores, while young people living in up-and-coming neighborhoods zoom by on expensive road bikes. The city has an abundance of storefront churches, some located next to party stores with outside signs promoting liquor and the acceptance of state issued, food assistance bridge cards.

There are also contrasts in the signs I see posted to the sides of buildings, utility poles, and elsewhere. I spotted two in particular that seem to define the harsh contrast found within this peculiar city. When I saw these signs placed side-by-side, they made me smile. They also made me think about how fragmented Detroit has become. I love the juxtaposition of the two signs and had the thought that nothing defines Detroit more than the few words found on each.

Bridge Cards Welcome_4831

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On my bicycle rides in Detroit, I see plenty of storefront churches. The places of worship vary in size. I’ve seen them setup in places with a span of about twelve feet wide and just as deep. Others are spread over a large space that at one time may have housed a grocery store, or some other good-sized business. Some are low-key and unassuming in appearance, while others shout out their presence in big bold letters on well-maintained buildings. On occasion, I spot one that truly catches my eye.

On Detroit’s northeast side is one of those peculiar places. There isn’t anything really special about the building or its design. It isn’t in a vintage Art Deco place or a former neighborhood bank that was built in the Neo-classic style of architecture popular in the early 1900s. It’s just a modest, one-story wooden structure that combines five individual storefronts into one long church. To me, that’s the beauty of it.

In taking a close look at the place, I noticed the overall color scheme of the building includes highlights that wrap around and above the windows, creating quasi-arches on the white background.  I also noticed the windows have been converted to glass block, and they are grouped into four sets scattered across the front. Two of the four entry doors are gated, and a set of double doors on the far left look as if they haven’t been opened in years. They feature a couple of painted crosses. The paint color of the arches and window trim is remarkably close to the reddish color shingles.

In the center of the long building are three rough-looking crosses. They too are trimmed in the reddish paint. The craggy crosses are housed in former window openings that have been bricked in. They  are also made of glass block and are a bit rough along the edges. I like how they don’t have a lot of uniformity in their design. I also like how the painted outlines to the left of the crosses have a much heavier line than the opposite side, creating an odd balance. Looking at them reminded me of a Southern country folk art painting; a painting Howard Finster may have created years ago.

There's something appealing about this long, sleek storefront church

There’s something appealing about this long, sleek storefront church

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Chene Street on Detroit’s eastside runs through the heart of the city’s once heavily populated Polish community, and not too long ago it was a fairly active place. It was a street lined with ethnic bakeries, small candy stores, hardware stores and numerous corner bars. Plus, there were many ethnic cultural clubs, restaurants and even a bowling alley. Nearly all of those places have closed, and many of the early 20th century buildings that housed them are no longer standing.

The street now looks to be a place for those who are down on their luck. It’s the type of street where men congregate along abandoned storefronts and empty lots drinking from bottles covered with brown paper bags  talking among themselves. It’s also a place where tough, streetwise women that look to be in their 40’s or 50’s, but in reality could be in their 20’s, wave to men in passing cars. At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hope for many of those I see while riding along Chene St. However, that may not be the case.

On a mile stretch of the street between I-94 and East Warren Avenue, there are a large number of churches. They are not your traditional looking churches with majestic steeples, soaring naves and gothic buttresses. They are smaller places of worship; what many would call storefront churches. They vary in size and membership and have been set-up in structures where businesses once thrived. When I ride by on Sundays, they seem to be packed with churchgoers.

I like the starkness and simplicity of this place

Unfortunately, steel bars cover the windows and doors on many of the churches

This building appears to be a former restaurant

This Neo Classical style building was probably a bank

This church stands alone, away from the others

There is no way of knowing how many (if any) of the people I see on the street attend the services. But I would guess that a major part of the churches’ mission is to help those found right outside their doors.  Based on some of the things I see…various wall writings; a portable tent with flames from hell shooting skyward; a large cross in a field…there seems to be a strong push to reach out and save the ones who need it most. I hope they can help some of the poor unfortunate people along that strip of Chene.

Religious writings on a storefront wall

Interesting “pop-up” tent church on a vacant lot

I’ve seen people attending services at this cross

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