Posted March 26, 2018

Temple chaplain establishes wellness center in North Philadelphia

The Church of the Advocate will establish a new wellness center to help address trauma, and a grand piano from the Boyer College of Music and Dance will serve as one of its centerpieces.

The Rev. Renee McKenzie plays a piano donated by Temple
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
The Rev. Renee McKenzie, CLA ’98, ’05, plays a new piano donated by Boyer College of Music and Dance. The piano will be used in McKenzie’s new Advocate Wellness Center, which seeks to help local residents cope with trauma.
Sometimes it’s the actions of others that cause trauma and grief in people’s lives; in other instances, it’s the environment that causes harm. Dilapidated schools, underfunded neighborhoods overrun with blight and the constant threat of violence can all cause unchecked trauma in the lives of countless inner-city residents.
The Rev. Renee McKenzie, CLA ’98, ’05, vicar of the Church of the Advocate on Diamond Street, was recently awarded a grant to address trauma in North Philadelphia through the establishment of the The Advocate Wellness Center. 
“You cannot address the problem until you can name the problem,” McKenzie said. “First, we want to help people to name it and then to understand it. And then to become resilient against it.”
From common anxiety to deeper issues, the effects of trauma aren’t always visible. 
The Advocate’s program will offer the community access to an ongoing suite of wellness classes including workshops, yoga, meditation, healthy eating and mindfulness techniques to help local residents improve their quality of life. 
“We’re looking at grief, the impact of individual and systemic trauma, and how it shows up in the lives of people who have sustained life-altering emotional and mental bruises,” said McKenzie, who also serves as chaplain to Temple’s Campus Ministry. 
Music will play an integral role in the development of the wellness center.  
“Music is very important to our community,” McKenzie said. “We have concerts in our space frequently and will integrate music into our overall program.” 
To help with the success of the project, Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance donated a used grand piano to the church.
“The Advocate has long been a leader in fostering social justice, and it is important that the university can support the church in achieving its programmatic goals that directly benefit our neighbors and North Philadelphia,” said Beverly Coleman, assistant vice president of community relations. 
Although members of the Advocate’s congregation are mostly community members, Temple students also take sanctuary in the colorful chapel, which is well-known as a center for community building. 
“The Advocate is more than a church,” McKenzie said. “We’re a social services organization with faith at the heart of what we do.”