Church-theatre Symbiosis

Adapted from the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Fort Worth:

The Episcopal Church Building Fund has announced a new loan initiative between the fund and Theatre Arlington, a community-minded regional theatre in downtown Arlington.

This loan arose out of a partnership between the theatre and St. Alban’s Church. Leaders of both are involved in a revitalization project aimed at transforming the Main Street corridor of Arlington into a premier arts district.

ECBF loans normally are made directly to Episcopal parishes with the permission of their dioceses.

“Working with ECBF was a natural move because we already had partnered with them in other ways,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Scott Mayer, Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth. Several congregations in the diocese participated in ECBF’s Recasting Assets program, a process to help congregations identify their place in the community — to understand their relevance; to build mission and value in the world around them, and to use their real-estate assets to develop financial self-sustainability.

“This reflects our understanding that the Church is changing rapidly and so must our concept of what constitutes church-related property,” said the Rev. Ruth Woodliff-Stanley, interim president of ECBF.

A $500,000 loan from ECBF is being structured as a mortgage and being made directly to Theatre Arlington in support of the ministry of St. Alban’s. St. Alban’s holds weekly services in Theatre Arlington’s space and rents office and classroom space from the theatre.

This will allow Theatre Arlington to remain in its administrative and education building on Main Street and continue, along with the Downtown Arlington Arts Management Corp., to spearhead development of the Arlington Arts District.

“Throughout history, the church and theatre have had a symbiotic relationship,” said Valerie Galloway, the theatre’s executive director. “Theatre developed from religious rituals of the hunt, and the church regularly employs theatrical elements to teach. So the alliance between Theatre Arlington and St. Alan’s is historic on many levels.”

St. Alban’s is “glad to have played matchmaker in this collaboration between ECBF and Theatre Arlington,” said the Rev. Kevin Johnson, priest-in-charge of the church.

“Working in mutually beneficial partnership with Theatre Arlington rounds us out and spurs us to be more than church as usual, not just on Sunday mornings but in our whole ethos. We find that out-of-the-box creative approaches such as taking Ash Wednesday ashes to the UTA campus come easier, enabling a wider variety of people to connect with the transcendent. It really is the living manifestation of going beyond the safety of the church walls into the world. Bringing a congregation of people to the Main Street theatre every week has raised our community awareness and helped us become a more engaged partner in the development of the downtown core.”

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