Klara Tammany, former director of the Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston, looks out from the second floor of Sophia’s House in March. Tammany continues to use her faith to guide her efforts to address neighborhood needs. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

LEWISTON — After 20 years of working for the Episcopal Church, Klara Tammany sought a more ground-level approach to her faith.

She moved back to Lewiston in 2006, where a friend was leading the congregation at Trinity Episcopal Church on Bates Street. The membership was small but passionate. It was committed to addressing neighborhood needs.

It was perfect for Tammany, who not long before had written a book, “Living Water,” which addressed the promises made when committing oneself to a religion. The gist of the book: Practice what you preach.

Tammany said the promises are meant as guides to living one’s life. For her faith, they include loving your neighbor like yourself, working for justice and peace and respecting the dignity of every human being.

“I had to be near a church that I thought had their feet on the ground,” she said, “and was doing real things that were responding to those promises. Trinity has always committed to that neighborhood very practically.”

In the years since, Tammany has turned her faith and involvement at Trinity into a series of initiatives aimed at neighborhood issues. As executive director of the Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston, an organization that provides a safe place for women dealing with trauma, Tammany led the development and launch of Sophia’s House, a group home that offers rent-free support.


Now semiretired, Tammany lives at Sophia’s House in Lewiston as a resident mentor to women recovering from addiction, trafficking or prison. She said her faith drives her response to a need in the community.

“When something presents itself as a need, the answer has to be, ‘Yes, now how do we do it?'” she said. “You just act as if it’s already happened, and the puzzle pieces come together.”

Sophia’s House is not the only organization to sprout from the Trinity community. Tree Street Youth and the Trinity Jubilee Center were both formed by the church and are now separate nonprofits.

Tammany, now the senior warden at Trinity, which she likened to chairman of the board, has recently embarked on a mission to help the Trinity Jubilee Center expand. She said church membership is down to about a dozen people, and rather than lose the building to financial hardship, the church would give the Trinity Church building to the Jubilee Center and conduct a capital campaign to expand it, while renovating the church into a larger community center.

Last winter, the center, which provides hot meals, shelter and other services to guests, had to serve meals outdoors in the cold due to COVID-19 and a lack of space. It will do the same this winter.

Tammany is approaching the project the same way she approached Sophia’s House.


“I have no idea how we’re going to raise the money to renovate the building and add onto it,” she said. “But we know that if we don’t, the Jubilee Center loses its home, and that building that’s been vital in the neighborhood is no longer accessible. If our mission is to serve the people in that neighborhood, we have to keep that building open. So we’re just going to assume we are.”

She said preliminary plans call for expanding the Jubilee Center before next winter, and then renovating the church, including removing old pews, refinishing floors and more.

“Then, instead of just meeting basic needs, we’re meeting spiritual needs, artistic needs, community needs,” she said.

A feasibility study of the project is being undertaken now as leaders are seeking grant funding.

Tammany said she is open to all religions and “not dogmatic about my faith.” She believes whatever a person’s faith, it should be practiced “and not just given lip service.”

When asked about the lofty goals of the Trinity renovation, she said she was not sure how it would happen that quickly, but knew how she would confront any obstacles, at least spiritually.

“When you put something out there like that, with a firm commitment of purpose behind it, from my faith perspective, the universe works to make it happen,” Tammany said. “That’s how Sophia’s House happened. You just have to assume that there’s a good spirit in the world that’s accessible and directed at the betterment of the world.

“That’s my hope amidst all this craziness of politics and pandemic and environment. That there’s goodness in the world, and you have to tap into it.”

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