Monument Re:Generation Grant from Monument Lab

This blog isn’t usually where you’ll find breaking news, but today it is. Last week, Monument Lab in Philadelphia announced the second cohort of teams in its Re:Generation initiative to “create new or to expand existing public art, public history, or public humanities projects.” Of more than 750 proposals from across the country, Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis was one of only 10 recipients of a Re:Generation grant. Calvary will receive $100,000 toward the development of the site of a slave market that was active on the lot just to the east of Calvary church from 1854 to 1860.


Many reading this will remember the Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation Calvary offered on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis. You’ll find a short video HERE that captures what went on that day and the work that led up to it. Through thorough research, Tim Huebner, along with a group of his history students at Rhodes College, found the names of 74 of the estimated 3,800 people who were bought and sold at the market. And a new historical marker, telling the fuller truth about what took place on our block, was installed and dedicated.


Nearly two years ago, when Calvary was making plans to renovate our buildings and block, we named that the vision for the best and highest use for the market site would need to involve people beyond the Calvary community. So we formed a steering committee to begin exploring what the site might become.


We invited Rich Watkins, board president of the Lynching Sites Project in Memphis, and past board chair John Ashworth to participate. Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, professor of art history at the University of Memphis and a scholar of urban slavery, joined our team. The Rev. Dr. Dorothy Wells, bishop-elect of Mississippi, entered the Episcopal Church at Calvary while a student at Rhodes. Her doctoral work on liturgies of truth-telling and reconciliation was instrumental to the shape of the liturgy at Calvary on MLK50. Margaret Grace Haltom and Annie Parker grew up at Calvary. Both are now in graduate school, Margaret at MIT and Annie at the University of Pennsylvania, studying how civic spaces tell the truth about our past in ways that lead toward a world that is more just. Tim Huebner’s work and Tim himself continue to form the foundation for all of this project. Margaret Craddock and David Lusk serve as representatives for the parish’s construction committee.


The group first met to walk Calvary’s site and brainstorm about what elements might make for a faithful memorial in the summer of 2022. Since then, we’ve continued to meet regularly and zoomed with other groups who have completed successful projects, such as the UVA Enslaved Laborers Memorial in Charlottesville, VA, and the Ed Johnson Memorial in Chattanooga. The work of this committee, particularly the leadership of Margaret Grace Haltom pursuing the Monument Lab grant, has resulted in this remarkable opportunity. The financial resources to assist our planning efforts are only part of the support we’ll receive from Monument Lab. Several of us traveled to a three-day workshop in New Orleans in January with the other nine teams in the cohort. And we will continue to meet monthly with Monument Lab, learning from those who have done this work most effectively across the nation.


This strikes me as another instance in which the curious, persistent faithfulness of Calvary’s people culminates in something beautiful, original, and truthful coming to be in the world. Much of this particular story is a heartbreaking reminder of the cruelty, and of the ambivalence in the face of cruelty we humans are capable of, very much including ourselves. But Jesus said the truth will set us free. I’m so grateful to be part of a community of his followers who are still trying to take him at his word and set our world a little more free in whatever ways we can.

14 thoughts on “Monument Re:Generation Grant from Monument Lab”

  1. What an incredible and important project. Those of you working on it are to be commended for your efforts. I look forward to hearing more and to helping in any way that I can.

  2. I love that this means so much to our remodeling vision. It says alot about Calvary, how we feel, and our truth.

    1. Kudos to Calvary for reclaiming this sacred space. Amanda Gorman, the poet for Biden’s inauguration echoes our community’s respect and covenant with the past:
      “The hill we climb . . .
      If only we dare.
      It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
      it’s the past we step into
      and how we repair it.”

  3. I’m glad that so much consideration and care is being given to what happens outside the building as well as inside. Public spaces indicate values held by the community as well as our collective stories. I look forward to watching this unfold.

  4. From afar, we revel in the spirit, courage, and vision of Calvary to address that part history that current opinion would prefer untold. Miss you all dearly.

  5. Wow. Just Wow. My Calvary community never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to all involved in the amazing effort.

  6. What an honor it will be for all at Calvary to “remember their names and recognize their lives” in such a meaningful way. I believe that this monument will touch many lives just as that service did in 2018. I carry it with me. Thanks, Scott.

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