BERLIN – Cosmetic renovations to a deteriorating multi-purpose building in Berlin are necessary before hosting the 1st Annual Dr. Charles A. Tindley Gospel Festival in September, supporters of the building told the Berlin Mayor and Council last Monday night.
The new festival will celebrate the life and work of Dr. Charles A. Tindley, a Berlin native and minister who wrote gospel songs.
The gospel festival will be the second new festival in Berlin added this year, joining the just concluded and considered successful Peach Festival.
Tindley was born in Berlin in 1851 and grew up to become a Methodist minister in Philadelphia. He was one of the early gospel hymn writers with five of his songs included in the current Methodist Hymnal.
Also known as “the Prince of Preachers,” Tindley wrote “I Shall Overcome,” the basis for civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”
The Sept. 19 festival at the multi-purpose building is free and will include music, food and arts and crafts, said Gabriel Purnell, a festival organizer who sits on the Berlin Community Improvement Association (BCIA) board, which owns the building.
“We are hoping this will be the beginning of a cultural event that will help inspire the community,” said Purnell.
At last week’s council meeting, Jesse Turner, a member of the BCIA board, read a list of necessary repairs to give the building a facelift for the final years of its use.
The repairs and improvements to the building will include painting the front of the structure, replacement of molding, the addition of handicap rails and new tile and paint in the restrooms.
The town council had to approve the repair costs, which came out of a sum set aside for preliminary work on a new multi-purpose building, which is intended to be a true community center. A new sign is also in the works.
The cost of all the repairs will come to just $4,260.
“This is all very basic maintenance work,” noted Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.
The town council approved the request unanimously.
“You’re being a real help in putting some cosmetics on the building. It’ll be ready for the festival,” said Purnell.
The town has already set aside $25,000 for preliminary studies for the building replacement. That funding will pay for the repair work, and leave over $20,000 for studies and other prep work for the new building.
Plans call for a new building within the next few years, though that likely will not happen for two years at least, according to Williams.
“We know that fix is not going to happen this year or realistically next year,” said Williams on the building replacement.
The BCIA board is also working on achieving official non-profit status, paying a consultant $350 to work on the application.
That plus the application fee, nearly $500, is also included last week’s funding request. Planners hope to continue the gospel festival in future years, and the multi-purpose building may only be a temporary home.
The Germantown School, a major piece of Berlin’s African-American heritage and a potential future host for the Tindley gospel festival, is part sponsor of the first annual event.
“Hopefully, the festival will grow to the point where we may have to go to a larger facility,” said Purnell. “This year it’s going to be here in the corporate limits of Berlin.”