Let church rise anew


It’s too bad the idea of converting the former Good Shepherd Church into a museum didn’t pan out. When announced nearly two years ago, it seemed a win-win proposal for the congregation, which had moved from downtown to the suburbs, and for the city, which saw an opportunity to branch out from its Capital City Museum on Ann Street. A $1-a-year lease was to shift responsibility for maintenance of the 1850 church to the nonprofit Good Shepherd Center Inc.

Complications arose on both sides of the deal. The city has been struggling with budgetary shortfalls and its Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites is losing Curator Nicky Hughes to retirement, casting doubt on City Hall’s ability to uphold its end of the bargain. Just the upkeep on a building constructed before electricity and indoor plumbing came into common use is problematic. Jim McCarty, co-director of the department, said it would have cost at least $12,000 to put new restrooms in the building. The Good Shepherd parish, meanwhile, is taking another look at the possibility of selling its ancestral sanctuary, along with the old school building and the site of the school gymnasium, which was demolished to make room for the Franklin County Judicial Center project.

With a little luck, despite disappointment over the museum plan’s failure, things could work out for the best. History is downtown Frankfort’s strong suit. Its restored homes and artifact collections are vital to the transformation of the old central business district from a one-time retail center into an office district with tourism as a sideline. But history isn’t enough. Unless downtown resigns itself to being little more than a museum district, it needs to enhance, as much as feasible, its role as a living, breathing community center. The days when almost everyone around here shopped and played in the heart of town are gone, probably never to return, but Downtown Frankfort Inc. is working hard to promote new enterprises that have set up shop in the old buildings to serve nearby residents and office workers as well as suburbanites, who come back for special events like the Candlelight Tour and the Derby Breakfast.

How the former Good Shepherd Church fits into this picture is yet to be determined. In other towns, old churches and dime stores have been transformed into antique malls and restaurants. The big open spaces are quite adaptable to such purposes. But a more desirable outcome is for another congregation to fill pews in the former Catholic church. Downtown revitalization often focuses on restoring commercial vitality after major retail bolts for the suburbs, but spiritual life is just as indispensable if the goal is well-rounded community life in the historic part of town.

Even though Good Shepherd is sorely missed, downtown still has a proud assembly of churches that resisted the urge to move out. Just down Wapping on St. Clair Street is First Baptist. Nearby on Washington is First United Methodist. Not far away are First Christian, First Presbyterian and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. Surely all would welcome new worshipers into their community of faith, and any newcomer could take pride in a spiritual home that’s unlike anything to be found in the sprawling suburbs.

If God’s willing and the real estate market cooperates, the resurrection of one of downtown’s most historic landmarks as a living church would be a blessing indeed.

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  • cap...I only have one Bible that I read. And yes that's a fantastic idea for this building. And we could make a parking area for them to park their bikes. Great location too since the library is so close.

  • "If a man will not work, let him not eat." Read your Bibles... I don't attend any church and am not a Catholic, but that doesn't stop me - as you put it - from being a Christian. The topic under discussion was the best use for this abandoned building. Other (better) suggestions? A homeless shelter, no doubt.

  • Jesus didn't have a church to preach to his followers in but that didn't seem to stop him or his followers from worshiping. If you are being distracted from the sermon because of the structure of the church then maybe you need a new preacher or maybe YOU are not paying attention to what the preacher has to say. And I believe in today's standards Jesus would have been considered a "liberal". You know help and feed the poor. Love thy neighbors. Judge not less ye be judged. Those kind of liberal thinking things.

  • capntrade, I am sure that the other liberal form parishioners are crushed that you don't attend the contemporary church...what a loss they must feel. If there truly was enough Catholics of BOTH persuasions in this town to justify the two churches, why don't you and the other conservative sect traditional old-school Catholics start one? I hear that there is this great building down town that can be leased cheap, and it is available. It sure beats your bathtub.

  • On a philosophical level, the classic church is "God-centered"; the contemporary church is "man-centered." On a practical level, it's really hard to concentrate on worship when surrounded by so much social chit-chat (which the architecture encourages) and just plain ugliness. The truth is, the move to the new church symbolized a move to a new and much more liberal form of Catholicism. Of course a person could worship in any building or in the woods or even in the bathtub, but that's not really the point...

  • Thanks for your answer, cap. But you're incorrect in saying I could have found my answer from Google, in a hurried search or not. I didn't ask whether or not there is symbolism involved in church architecture. My question was, how does a different setting hinder your worship of God?

  • JohnB, the most hurried perusal of the history of church architecture on Google will answer your question. Yes, there actually IS a meaning and intent behind the steeple, the cross, the focus on the altar, and sacred images, etc. as opposed to what is essentially a civic center for socialization like any other public building. Besides which, the new building is incredibly noisy, classless, and architecturally ugly. None of the other downtown churches have found it necessary to not only pull up stakes and move, but to "move" to an entirely different atmosphere and style of worship. Sad! There are enough Catholics of BOTH persuasions in this town to justify the two churches.

  • I don't think anybody has an objection to churches per se, they just shouldn't be subsidized by government in any fashion, shape or form. And that ain't exactly what you guys are talking about, is it? There is absolutely NOTHING that is stopping the conservative sect traditional old-school Catholics (both of them) from once again gathering under an actual church steeple (or anywhere else)...'cept money, that is. They apparently don't want to spend any. They could probably get the liberal post-Vatican II "new" Catholics (what ever that means) to wave the $1 a year "lease" even.

  • *helps* or hinders. Sorry :)

  • Cap, can you help me understand how a particular architectural style either hurts or hinders your worship of God?

  • I, for one, would love to the see the old Good Shepherd Church become home (again) to the conservative sect of the Catholic Church here in Frankfort. Let the liberal post-Vatican II "new" Catholics enjoy their contemporary architecture and progressive school out on Leestown, and let the traditional old-school Catholics once again gather under an actual church steeple. There aren't that many left; parking shouldn't be a problem.

  • My point is that, instead of another church, which caters to a particular group, why not use the building for something that everyone can enjoy? There aren't too many recreational activities available here in Frankfort--I think that would be better than another church. btw, go ahead and say the same thing about bars--I don't care--I don't drink, either.

  • bjos, I don't understand your point. I could easily say the same thing about bars-as someone who doesn't drink, I think that we have way too many of them around here! If there is a desire downtown for an additional congregation to come about, I suspect that it will happen, and I can't see why anyone would be bothered by this.

  • From the rate of crime around here I'd say we need alot more churches.

  • For those of us who do not like or partake of the "spiritual community", it seems like Frankfort has way too many churches already. You've named 6 of them. Don't need another one.

  • Maybe God can help the City pay for its "end of the bargain" in whatever future scheme is hatched to preserve the building.