This whole project of exploring different faiths and belief systems has taught us a ton. We are constantly asked why we’re even bothering to do this and visit all the places that we are. What it essentially comes down to is just plain curiosity and desire to expand who we are as humans by exposing ourselves to as much culture and education as we can. There’s a ton of things that exist around all of us in the day to day world that we’re entirely unfamiliar with. Luke and I have decided that, relative to religion and spiritual beliefs, we don’t want to be unaware of all the ideas and philosophies that exist–that help to contribute to the world in which we live.
It’s easy to read history books or websites or even a blog and get a factual account of how and why things exist, but it’s entirely different to be able to experience it first hand. I won’t pretend that going to visit the Hindu Temple suddenly made me aware of what it’s like to be follower of Hinduism, but a small glimpse in to the culture of which we are unfamiliar can only add to who we are as people, and to help obtain a greater understanding for the people we share the planet with.
We called the Church of Scientology this morning, told them what we were doing on this project of exploring and writing a blog and told them we’d love to come visit and asked if it would be okay. A gentlemen on the phone (I’ll make everyone anonymous since they specifically pointed that out as a concern) told us they’d be happy to have us, and give us a tour and he’d have someone ready to meet with us and answer all our questions when we arrived. We were definitely stoked to be visiting a place where we felt welcomed, and to be learning about something brand new. On the road to Buffalo we went…..
When we arrived, we took some pictures outside the building like we always do, a woman who was getting out of her car said, ‘Hey, come take some pictures inside!’ and even held the door for us–it was obvious they were happy to have visitors. We walked past numerous signs inviting people in for tours and a movie that was being shown that day. Just inside the door seated at a reception desk, a friendly young girl asked if we were Luke and Chris, and again, we felt very welcome. We filled out some visitor papers, asking for our contact information and how we had heard about the Church. At that time, the man from our phone call came and greeted us, as did another woman. We talked with them more about what we wanted to do and why we were there, and expanded on the phone call with some personal stories of what we had done so far with visiting other places.
At this point, it was explained to us that because we have a blog, and would be writing about our experience to share with others, we automatically were to be directed to a “communications person”. At the beginning of that being mentioned, it was said that maybe we could get an interview with the “communications person,”, and when they called this person to ask her about it, we were then told she would answer any questions we had if we wrote them down and left them for her. We were given a DVD movie and told that someone would be in touch.
I understand completely why the Church is interested in protecting themselves. I’ve said all along how lucky we’ve been that so many people have welcomed us with open arms and gracious hospitality. No one knows us, and we could be anyone with any kind of agenda. Remember, even the “Borat” movie was created by doing interviews under a false pretense, and he even got sued later, so I totally understand.
We spent all afternoon trying to figure out what our feelings were about being turned away, and what it meant for us. We were being denied? Should we take it personally? We are definitely not professionals in journalism, or writing, or even research, but have we been doing this project all wrong? Maybe it was the cold rain turned hail, or the trip to Buffalo that seemed like all for naught, but we eventually drove back to Rochester a little weary, but not thrown off our path.
Since we were in Buffalo anyway, instead of making the trip a total bust, we did a little exploring. After leaving the Church of Scientology, we stopped at Spot Coffee to collect our thoughts and make a plan. We did quickly step inside St. Louis Church as a Palm Sunday mass was ending–that one really warrants another visit after researching a bit more of the history. Plus, we found the memorial marker where William McKinley was shot (by the way, he was shot by a member of the Oneida Community!), and then where he later died.
Since we were nearby, we also went to Forest Lawn Cemetery, and stopped at the burial place of Millard Fillmore, the 13th and least known President of the United States. In my opinion, we couldn’t have visited Forest Lawn without also stopping to pay our respects to another famously laid to rest individual, Rick James. May they all rest in peace.
The day wasn’t a total bust in my opinion, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t just a little broken-hearted that a Church that had posters and signs up inviting anyone and all in for a tour turned us away without getting past the reception desk. I hope that door will soon open itself and we’ll get another chance at traveling to Buffalo.
Google and Foursquare helped a little, but do you guys know of any other places we could’ve visited while in Buffalo?