Chicago (CBS) — Some Englewood residents are heartbroken the religious group that has offered services in their building for three years is no longer allowed to use the space.
Viola Henry hasn’t been able to walk to her church since her hip replacement years ago. But, the 91-year-old can make her way downstairs every Sunday at 10 a.m. for Unchained Ministry’s service in the community room at Sangamon Terrace.
“I thought it was beautiful because I’m not able to get to my church,” Henry said.
The ministry’s mission is to “serve seniors with limited mobility”.
Henry says she looked forward to the service every week and was brought to tears when she learned it was ending.
“I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t mind telling it because it’s not right,” Henry said. “You don’t do things like that.”
Their last meeting was Jan. 27 per a letter from the Sangamon Terrace Board addressed to Pastor ShaVonda Fields, who leads the group.
The building’s board of directors decided they would “take a new direction”.
“This is their weekly fellowship that they are allowed to come down and express themselves,” Field said. “The musicians are the residents. The worshippers are the residents.”
But Pastor Fields and some other participants are not residents. The board says it considers the group an “outside organization”. Even though the development was made possible by a federal grant, state tax credit and funds from the city, ultimately it is a private building.
“The only thing I wanted to do was to serve the residents,” Field said.
Pastor Joel Washington is a resident and helps lead the prayer group. He’s upset because he’s never seen a written policy about the use of the community space.
“A policy statement that everybody agrees with or at least makes it possible for people to use the space on even terms,” Washington said.
With the room off limits last Sunday, some members even met outside for their service.
The boards of both buildings that use the community space issued a statement, saying in part:
“The boards did not believe it was in the best interest of all residents to have any outside organization, religious or non-religious, use the space in such a manner and for its own purposes.”
Still, Henry says she hopes the board will re-evaluate their decision.
“I still say it’s not fair. But what can I do? Nothing,” Henry said.
The boards of Sangamon Terrace and Bethel Terrace said they’re working on a written policy that will provide clear guidelines to all residents regarding the future use of the community room.