by Jack Rubinger
Taborspace, located at 5441 SE Belmont, the site of the Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church had about 100 active congregants seven years ago and was filled with cobwebs and storage.
It now draws about 3000 people into the building each week. On any given day, one may find CPR classes, writer workshops, AARP technology classes, and baby sign language classes.
Taborspace runs with the combined efforts of volunteers, interns, community members and a small team of staff members. The mission of Taborspace is to create connected community by providing a welcoming and nurturing gathering place, as a collaboration between the church and the neighborhood.
The refocusing was accomplished with the help of Revive Community Commons, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who transformed the historic building into its current state as a vibrant community hub.
“We’re keeping our eyes open to help other historic sacred spaces in Portland and are hoping readers will help us, too, by letting us know about beautiful, classic churches, synagogues and mosques in their neighborhoods,” said Eli Eichenauer, a certified advanced rolfer and executive director of Revive.
Beautiful underutilized historic churches make wonderful homes for community life although many of them are in danger of being torn down to make room for new development.
Revive is working to preserve these cultural treasures and make them available to people like Mick who uses the Taborspace as his “home office” to do tech/financial services work from his computer and Norman who leads Walking With Spirit; a meetup group that encourages its attendees to integrate their spirituality into their daily lives.
The group is open to all faith backgrounds, and is a perfect example of the shared nature of the sacred space.
Like many transformations here, this one was fueled with great coffee. Bell Tower Coffee sits nestled on the ground floor of the church’s century-old belltower and was once an unsightly storage area which now opens into Taborspace’s commons area. The beautiful room in the building’s second floor has ornate stained glass windows and plenty of room to sip and gather.
In addition to serving locally-roasted coffee, pastries and sandwiches, lead barista Lauren Teresa Grijalva helps run a barista training program with warmth and passion so people can get jobs in Portland’s popular coffee culture.
About 250 organizations use the building and there’s always something going on.
The first major Revive Family Fun & Health Fair was held Saturday, September 24, and featured music and dancing, a beer and cider garden, face painting, kids yoga, herb bundling, bubbles, bunny rabbits, hula hooping and a benefit raffle.
There was a free family holistic health clinic as well with naturopathic and allopathic doctors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and nutritional therapists.
Taborspace provides hourly space rentals for private and public events including celebrations, business meetings, performances, workshops, healing and movement classses.
Several local businesses are part of what’s happening at Taborspace.
The historic Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church bell tower is in need of special care. There’s wood rot and water damage and fractures in the walls and the tower needs re-roofing and re-sealing. About $30,000 is needed to save the bell tower.
For information about donating to the Historic Building Fund and Taborspace, visit taborspace.org. To learn more about Revive, visit revivecommunitycommons.org.