Monday, April 30, 2012

Seminary celebrates groundbreaking for new Krauth Library Connector

New structure, scheduled to be completed this year, will make the 1908 Library ADA compliant. State Rep. Cherelle Parker helped to secure funds to make the new construction possible.

The Krauth Memorial Library, completed in 1908 on the campus of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), is the only public building on the 13-acre Northwest Philadelphia campus that is not accessible to all.

Now, thanks in significant measure to the efforts of Pennsylvania state Rep. Cherelle L. Parker (D-200th District), who secured a $500,000 grant for the project from the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program, the library will feature a welcome mat for everybody before the end of this year.

ADA compliance will be made possible by a new “Library Connector” to be constructed between the seminary’s Brossman Learning Center and the library. Parker was honored Thursday, March 22, 2012 at the groundbreaking event celebrating the anticipated construction. The announcement from LTSP President Philip D. W. Krey during his remarks that the interior hall of the new connector will be “called Parker Hall in honor of state Rep. Cherelle Parker” obviously moved Parker. Krey also told onlookers that the new structure will be named for Timothy Breidegam, the late son of Helen and DeLight Breidegam. Construction on the connector is scheduled to begin soon and be completed by the end of the summer, according to Eric Butz of Roberson Butz Architects, who gave remarks at the groundbreaking.

“When this library was dedicated on June 3, 1908, this community was introduced to an architectural wonder,” said library director Dr. Karl Krueger. Krueger noted that the historic building’s glass floor and skylights made it possible for early students to enjoy natural light in the structure. Then LTSP Dean Henry Eyster Jacobs said at the time of the library’s opening that “we need books as resources to empower leaders.”

Krueger said the library’s mission hasn’t changed in more than a century. “The shelves, books and materials in the library have the same mission as then – to empower people to service in this community, city, and the world.” He thanked Parker for her role in making the building’s critical resources truly available to everyone.

Representing the faculty, the Rev. Dr. Katie Day, Charles A. Scheiren Professor, Church and Society, and director of LTSP’s Metropolitan/Urban Concentration, said to Parker, “Thank you for making our lives easier and for providing our campus with more aesthetic enjoyment. You have made a tremendous contribution.” Day described her responsibilities as a professor teaching seminarians about how church relates to society. “I believe this is what it is all about,” she said. “The relationship between the church, the public, and government – this (project) is what it looks like.” She said the connector reality goes beyond just “good intentions to meet a need” to the forming of “effective partners” to produce results. Day described Parker as someone who comes from membership of Enon Baptist Church in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy and who has used her faith and skills to foster relationships “between communities of faith, the government and a plethora of communities.”

A surprise guest and speaker was the Rev. Dr. Gladys Willis, an LTSP alumna who was dean and professor at historic Lincoln University, Parker’s alma mater. Rep. Parker was a student in a Shakespeare class Dr. Willis taught at Lincoln. The professor, now retired, remembers Parker as a “lively, persuasive student… It is a special honor for me to be here to celebrate a former student.” Willis praised Parker as someone who “continues to raise your voice in the community for those who have no voice. I am proud of you and respect you dearly.”

Dan Muroff, former president of East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN) for four years, reminded listeners of LTSP’s concerns for the wider community, and that EMAN’s offices are located on campus, an example of partnership between the school and its neighborhood. “The Brossman Center facility here serves as the Town Hall for Mt. Airy and most of Northwest Philadelphia,” he said. He described Parker’s efforts to secure a grant to benefit LTSP’s campus as evidence of her commitment to the community, and said it is remarkable she was able to secure passage of the bill making the grant possible during just her first term in office. “You are a rising star in Harrisburg,” Muroff said of Parker.

In expressing appreciation for her recognition, Parker thanked Muroff for serving as her “connector” to the seminary and its mission that includes caring about the community. She thanked Kimberly Turner of the office of state Rep. Dwight Evans (D-203rd District) for her role in helping to secure the grant. And she expressed gratitude to Dr. Willis for her influential teaching in Parker’s life.

Speaking of her decision to advocate for funding for the seminary project, she said she becomes uneasy about institutions where only the members benefit from what it does. “It’s important for members of a (wider) community to share in the benefits of an institution like this one because you don’t know how you may inspire or motivate those you serve in the community to become part of your extended family, and Rev. Krey you always made your community service concern evident to me after I met you.”

Parker told her listeners that as a Christian and Baptist she appreciates how leaders from churches she connects with come to LTSP to study and emerge to become key leaders beyond the seminary’s campus. “These leaders connect with the community in ways that politicians can never connect,” she said. “I believe that politics is simply a tool used to decide how scarce resources are allocated. These are tax dollars, your dollars,” Parker said to her audience. “And before you cast a vote to decide how they will be used you better be sure that your vote will translate into something tangible that will benefit the community you serve.” Parker said she feels very certain that her vote will be making that kind of tangible difference. “This is an awesome day for Northwest Philadelphia.”

Groundbreaking participants included Krey, Krueger, Parker and Butz. The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Lamont Wells of Reformation Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, a student in the seminary’s Doctor of Ministry program. The Reading and Collect for the occasion was delivered by the Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian, seminary chaplain and seminary dean-elect. He is also the H. George Anderson Professor of Mission and Cultures and Director of the Multicultural Mission Resource Center at LTSP. Student body President Laura Gorton (MAR 2012) also participated.

Members of the Northwest Philadelphia community joined seminary students, faculty, and staff for the ceremony and the community luncheon that followed.

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