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Aid the Spiritual Renewal of a Great American City

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Aid the Spiritual Renewal of a Great American City
Scranton is enjoying a renewal. So many neighborhoods have been made over. The arts are flourishing. Old glories have been restored.
But all this will come to nothing if the renewal is less than spiritual.
HEAVEN & EARTH is here to foster spiritual renewal.
It’s a gathering place close to the Cathedral, close to the University, and close to Lackawanna College.  So it’s the place where young seekers and seasoned believers can gather, talk, listen, and grow.
HEAVEN & EARTH is an integral part of Scranton’s renewal. It’s a Catholic gift shop, bookstore, and cafe in the heart of the city’s cultural district. There are galleries nearby, and coffee shops, but nothing quite like HEAVEN & EARTH.
The place itself is symbolic of Scranton’s past and future.  A century old, the Guild Building was originally a car dealership, but for most of its history it was a religious bookstore that stocked local churches and welcomed foot traffic from seekers.
John and Janine Evanish bought the building in 2014 and immediately invested in restoring its historic beauty and integrity.
They opened their gift shop in 2017 and stocked it with a well curated selection of books. They made it an inviting space, where people could browse, sit down, and have conversations. They enriched the local culture by inviting renowned authors to visit, sign books, and speak on the premises.

Immediately they saw how a religious bookstore can work in individual lives. Most people come in because something big has happened or is about to happen. They want to find tangible, traditional ways of celebrating a wedding, a birth, a first communion, or a confirmation. Or they want to find meaningful ways of grieving and observing a death. It’s always an occasion for conversation. It’s always a chance for growth. And the people on staff at HEAVEN & EARTH make the most of every opportunity. The store has come to figure in many conversion stories — and has quietly transformed the lives of many lifelong Catholics.
In 2019 the Evanishes expanded the store’s presence in a big way. They opened a café for larger gatherings. Now the place resounds with live music from local Christian artists. Now the tables hum with conversation about the important things in life. Now the seats and booths fill up for study groups — some preparing for exams, others poring over the pages of the Bible.

The place offers what one customer called “a haven of peace.” But peace is not the same as drowsiness. HEAVEN & EARTH has an unmistakable energy.
It is largely the momentum Janine Evanish still feels from her conversion to the Catholic faith in the early 1990s. She wants others to know the joy, the resolution, the purpose, and the mission she has known since then. This does not happen by way of argument or browbeating. It happens by way of friendship. And in HEAVEN & EARTH she has established a place and context for healthy friendship in Scranton.
HEAVEN & EARTH is what sociologists call a “third place” — a communal space where people spend time between home (first place) and work (second place). It’s the place where people share ideas and come to see other viewpoints. It can be a place of welcome and challenge.
In other cultures, there are many such “third places.” In U.S. cities, they’re in short supply. We have public libraries, and we have neighborhood bars. But in neither of those do we find an insistent, attractive, permanent Catholic voice.
We want HEAVEN & EARTH to be that place. We want HEAVEN & EARTH to be that voice.
Till now the shop has grown entirely from the energy and investment of the Evanishes, joined by a growing number of friends and employees who believe in the mission. But that’s not enough to sustain a strong presence in a city like Scranton. Third places don’t proliferate, because almost by definition they’re not profitable. Places like HEAVEN & EARTH need support from others who understand and value this particular mission in this particular neighborhood.
The future of the faith in your hometown is as dependent on “third places” as it is on official programs of the Church. If the Church is going to be strong for the generations of your children and grandchildren, it needs to be more than a parish building. Catholicism needs to be part of the culture — part of the community — part of the neighborhood. We need to have a voice in the public conversation. We need to have a place (other than loud bars) where young people are hearing good music.
In the generations of our immigrant ancestors, the Church was not confined to the sanctuary and school. It was everywhere. It needs to be in the midst of everything once again.
If you’d like to help with the spiritual renewal of a great American city, this is your chance. If you’re Catholic and live in the Scranton Diocese, this is one way you can make a definite difference in the life of your Church. If you grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania and still love the place, this is a way you can pay back a debt to your ancestors in the faith.
Please consider a contribution to the future of HEAVEN & EARTH, its programs and its outreach. We want the faith to be as essential to our home as anthracite once was. We want to Scranton to be the Catholic City more surely than it was the Electric City.
Make your contribution today, and you’ll help …
• Hire a mission-oriented coordinator of events and evangelization efforts.
• Hire a mission-oriented barista for that important first contact.
• Enhance our offerings of Catholic books and sacramentals.
• Improve our outdoor signage to attract more walk-ins.
• Establish an online component to the apostolate.
• Bring on analytics software to manage inventory.


Janine Evanish
Scranton, PA

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