The Congregation opens Thursday in Boston Edison and Atkinson neighborhoods

When Betsy Murdoch and her husband bought their home in Boston Edison four years ago, they often talked about the lack of walkability in the neighborhood.

She and her neighbors would talk about creating a space for neighbors to “get together, meet each other, and unwind.”

The would also eye the church on Rosa Parks Boulevard between Edison and Atkinson Streets but couldn’t find the owner. Then one day her business partner was driving by and saw the doors were open. Inside was a Realtor getting ready to list the property, “perfect timing,” Murdoch says.

This Thursday, that space Murdoch and her neighbors envisioned will have a grand opening. As part of the festivities for The Congregation, 9321 Rosa Parks Blvd. there will be teen artists from the Mint Artists Guild featuring their work as well as musical performances from Apropos and a ribbon-cutting.

By day, The Congregation will be a café offering coffee and pastries and by night there will be small, shareable snacks like cheese and meat boards and cocktails. The menu will feature Great Lakes Coffee (Murdoch used to work in wholesale for the coffee company), local beer, wine and spirits, soups, flatbreads, salads, and snacks made in house. Baked goods will be sourced from Good Cakes & Bakes, Terri's Cakes, and Eat Good Cookies.

There is also space to rent for private and community events.

"We will be a gathering place for the residents and visitors of these neighborhoods to relax and socialize. We will feature rotating art, musicians, story hours, book clubs, and outdoor programming in the biergarten in good weather," Murdoch says. “We are also excited about hiring from within our community and offering jobs to our neighbors.”

There are about 20-25 full and part-time employees, Murdoch says, with a majority hailing from the city of Detroit and several who live within a 5-mile radius.

Construction on the 2,500-square-foot former church began last summer with the help of Detroit-based architect David Iannuzzi of Iannuzzi Studio and JJ’s House. The Congregation was a Motor City Match awardee in 2017.

As part of that work to revitalize the church, the group wanted to preserve as much of the church’s history as possible, repurposing or restoring anything salvageable. In the café, a counter is made of church pews. At the edge of the main room is a rare Casavant Freres organ and pipes. A new outdoor deck was added to the facility, offering a great view of Gordon Park.

Hours will be 7 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. weekends, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.

Read more articles by Dorothy Hernandez.

Dorothy Hernandez is managing editor of Model D. Prior to joining Issue Media Group, she was a food journalism fellow with Feet in Two Worlds and WDET and has contributed to NPR, Thrillist, Eater, and a variety of other local and national publications. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dorothy_lynn_h.
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