Part of why we started visiting the places that ultimately would end up on this blog, was to experience first hand the sacred places that spiritual beliefs go to grow and be honored. The initial goal was to just visit the physical places themselves and learn all we could; but along the way we’ve encountered a number of people who’s dedication to their beliefs has kept us wondering more than just about the physical sanctuary. There have been a few places in the course of the blog that we’ve discussed the importance of the personal connections we’ve had and we wanted to find a way to explore those in addition to the places we’ve been. This post will be the first in a scattered series of interviews with a few of those people.
After visiting Christ Church Unity for a service and visiting with Reverend Eleanor Celentani and seeing what a unique set of principles guides the church, we wanted to know more. After emailing back and forth a bit, Luke and I asked her to answer a few questions for us. We’re grateful for the chance to have crossed paths with her, and even more grateful that she was open to the idea of being the first person to be featured on the blog in this way. Reverend Celentani’s answers are an exploration in to her personal sanctuary, and we’re honored that she’s agreed to bare her personal thoughts here with us and our readers.
University of Rochester’s Interfaith Chapel
view from across the Genesee River
Most every place we’ve seen so far for the purposes of this blog have been a space or site dedicated to a single faith. There are certainly places that house more than one, like Christ Church on East Avenue that is Episcopal, but rents some space to The Father’s House so that westside suburban church can have a city presence without having to own their own church–the two groups are certainly very friendly and even engage one another regularly but Christ Church still couldn’t be considered ‘interfaith’. The UUA with it’s wide open membership to all beliefs might be the closest, but you don’t find different groups meeting in the same place, just different individuals meeting together as UUAs. The term ‘chapel’ itself typically is affiliated with interfaith worship, but historically it was also just ‘another place’ that the church may have owned that was dedicated to worship. Often times chapels were even owned by individuals. The earliest chapels aren’t referred to as churches because they aren’t standalone facilities, but rather a chamber or room that was ultimately part of a larger structure (ie. synagogue, church, Naval ship, hospital). Most of the interfaith chapels that you’ll find today will be college campuses, hospitals, airports, military bases, retirement communities–places where many different people from different walks of life reside but only for a short time. Some of these interfaith chapels are pretty incredible, and the University of Rochester’s chapel was one I had always heard of as being really cool but had never been. I reached out to the Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at the U of R and set up a time for us to visit.
The Episcopal Church of
St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene
This past February, the Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene celebrated the 25th year anniversary of their merger. However, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church had its origins the year Rochesterville, New York was incorporated as a village in 1817 (and was known then as St. Luke’s Church, Genesee Falls). A little over a hundred years later in 1921, the congregation of St. Simon of Cyrene was formed and was the first African American Episcopal Church in the City of Rochester, New York, and in 1934, their new church was erected on Oregon Street. However, after both churches suffered years of falling attendance, the historically white St. Luke’ s Episcopal Church and the historically black St. Simon of Cyrene Episcopal Church decided to both overcome their own prejudices and perceptions about the other and it was agreed to merge, with St. Simon of Cyrene closing its doors on Oregon Street and moving to their new home in the existing St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 17 South Fitzhugh Street. While some of St. Simon’s congregation ended up leaving due to being unhappy about the merger, approximately 60 percent of the black congregation came to their new home, and quickly outnumbered the existing white population. The first service of the combined congregations took place in January 1988. While the official name is known as the Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, the church is colloquially referred to as the ‘Two Saints’ Church. Read more
Categories: #ROC, Episcopal
Tags: #ROC, Bishop Hobart, bomb shelter, Episcopal, Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, high church, low church, Nathaniel Rochester, Rochester England, St. Luke, St. Luke's Church, St. Simon of Cyrene, St. Simon of Cyrene Church, Two Saints
If you’ve been reading along on the blog, you’ll know that we’ve begun to learn a bit about stained glass windows. Last fall, the Memorial Art Gallery hosted a lecture on Louis Comfort Tiffany during the ‘In Company with Angels’ exhibit that featured seven windows that were at one time thought to be lost forever. Luke and I attended a lecture and took every advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the windows that are located in our area. Many people might not realize that this area actually has an incredible selection of Tiffany windows that represent all different aspects of the styles that Tiffany developed. As if that weren’t enough, a student of Tiffany’s, William Pike founded Pike Stained Glass right here in Rochester in 1908 and in doing so, ensured that our area would continue to have a spectacular collection of stained glass windows (in the places where congregations could afford it at least!). Pike continues to operate now by installing new windows and maintaining older ones and is owned by William Pike’s great niece. In touring around Upstate NY and visiting sacred places, we’ve managed to see quite a few of the Tiffany stained glass that exists today, and quite a bit of Pike as well.
St. Mary’s Church
Many places we visit often provide public tours and we’ve been looking at the website for St. Mary’s Church for nearly a year now waiting for a public tour to be posted on their calendar (which they advertise as something that is done from time to time). After we got sick of waiting, we reached out and were able to set up a personal tour. It turns out, it’s usually led by a team of volunteers who trade off discussing each aspect of the church according to their area of expertise. Luke and I had a chance to spend a couple hours with two of those volunteers and learning about one of the most prized Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows in possibly all of Western NY.
Categories: #ROC, Roman Catholic
Tags: #ROC, Burned Over District, Catholic, City of Rochester, Diocese of Rochester, First Universalist Church, Irish Immigrants, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Occupy Rochester, Pike Glass Studio, Rochester, Roman Catholic, Rose Window, stained glass, Tiffany, Washington Square Park
Christ Church Unity
Back in mid-November 2012, Chris and I toured the First Church of Christ, Scientist on the corner of East Avenue and Prince Street, where we met five very cool Christian Scientists (if you haven’t read this post, you can find it here). One of the things we did not include in that post is that as we were leaving, one of them recommended to us that we travel a bit further down Prince Street and visit the folks at the ‘Unity Church.’ Wanting to know more, we inquired what the place was and it was explained to us that the Unity Church is “kind of like a cousin” to the Christian Scientists. We expressed our gratitude for the tip and as we proceeded to drive away, we drove down the street to see the place they were talking about. There, at 55 Prince Street, almost across the street from the local Red Cross office and tucked in the shadow of the Rochester Auditorium Theatre is a small church officially called Christ Church Unity.
It’s here that I should probably share that Christ Church Unity is the only church in Rochester of the Unity religion (although there is a Unity study group in Henrietta, NY). Yes, there is a religion called Unity and I was shocked to learn just how big it actually is. The Unity religion is often grouped into what is known as New Thought, or the New Thought Movement, so keep reading to learn more about this. Now as you may have surmised, four months have gone by since we were first given this lead, but back in January 2013 is when I first reached out to Christ Church Unity via email and much to my pleasant surprise, Reverend Eleanor Celentani wrote me back. Reverend Celentani informed me that she was very open to having Chris and I come for a tour but it would have to be several weeks out, which we were agreeable to. In the meantime, Reverend Celentani became quite a fan of our blog and just like the Christian Scientists referred us to her, Reverend Celentani has also given us many new ideas of places to visit that our readers will soon read about over the next few months. Read more
Categories: #ROC, New Thought
Tags: #ROC, Charles Fillmore, Christ Church Unity, Christian Science, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Mary Baker Eddy, Myrtle Fillmore, New Thought, New Thought Movement, Unity, Unity Church
First Universalist Church of Rochester
Having heard that a popular and celebrated minister of Universalism was passing through their home town of Rochester, New York, members of the First Universalist Church saw an opportunity and kidnapped this clergyman as their own… Okay, maybe this didn’t actually happen. But what did actually happen was that two members of the First Universalist Church of Rochester, New York were posted at the station to intercept the minister, which they did and mentioned to him the idea of coming to their church to stay. After some convincing, the minister actually agreed. By May of 1846, fifty-six believers joyfully signed a charter of incorporation, and the church they began building was dedicated, debt-free, the following year. This first church was located on South Clinton Street near Main Street, across the street from the current Chase Bank building. However, today the First Universalist Church of Rochester, New York is located at 150 South Clinton Avenue and this is where Chris and I went for our tour.
Categories: #ROC, Universalist
Tags: #ROC, Clara Barton, Claude Bragdon, First Universalist Church, George De Benneville, Hagia Sophia, James Sargent, John Murray, Rochester, Unitarian Universalist Association, UUA
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witnesses Sign
(English & Spanish)
When you hear of Jehovah Witnesses, what’s the first thing you think of? Have you ever invited them inside to hear what they have to say? So now ask yourself this, how much do you actually know (not what you’ve heard, what you actually know) about the Jehovah Witness faith? If you’re anything like Chris and I, then perhaps you don’t know a whole heck of a lot. Jehovah Witnesses are one of many sects of Christianity that fall under the umbrella term of Adventism. Adventism began during the Second Great Awakening, and is a core part of the story of the Burned Over District. I don’t want to get into the origins of Adventism too much because we plan to bring this to you in a future post, but just know that Adventism originated with a guy named William Miller right here in New York State, and it refers to the belief in the imminent Second Coming (or “Second Advent”) of Jesus Christ. Of course, like all other faith systems, Adventism has split many, many times, with one of these splits being the Jehovah Witnesses.
To be completely honest, Chris and I were a bit hesitant to visit any Kingdom Hall, but we finally got over it and I called the closest one to my house that I could find on the internet. A woman answered the phone and introduced herself, so I did the same. Like most times when I cold-call a place, I explained why I was calling and what I was hoping they could do for me. This time however, the woman who answered the phone did not seem overly concerned about what I wanted, but seemed completely thrilled that two non-Jehovah Witnesses wanted to come visit them. I again reiterated to the woman that I hoped to be able to really talk to somebody about the Jehovah Witness faith and their history, but again the woman simply explained that if we came someone was sure to help us. I ended the conversation with the woman and was feeling a bit unsure about whether I still wanted to visit the Jehovah Witnesses at all, because I definitely had my pre-conceived ideas as well and after this conversation, I felt like they were coming true. Read more
Categories: #ROC, Adventist
Tags: Adventist, Bible Study Movement, Charles Taze Russell, Field Service, Jehovah's Witnesses, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, Nelson Barbour, purple triangle, Rochester NY, The Burned Over District, The Watchtower, Upstate NY, William Miller, Yahweh
Finding new places, meeting new people and discovering new things, are three of the biggest reasons Chris and I continue this journey. With that being said, we have never come upon something that ‘nobody’ knows about, but I will go out on a limb and say, I don’t think too many people are aware of the Megiddo Church, right here in Rochester, NY. The Megiddo members actually are aware that they are “not very popular” (their words, not mine) and are small in number, but their history in Rochester is over 100 years old and the argument could be made that the Megiddo Mission was instrumental in the establishment of the 19th Ward, where they continue to have a strong presence.
The Megiddo Church
The Megiddo Church
I myself first became aware of the Church several months ago as I was spending one of my aimless nights on the computer trolling the internet for new religious sites to see (yes, that’s what I do for fun). Now if you read the article about us in the Democrat and Chronicle, you already know that we have been cautious in our approach of contacting the Megiddo Church. Chris and I go to great lengths whenever we write a blog post to give an objective account of our experience and to try not to allow any personal bias to any faith system come through, but I must admit, we had some preconceived notions about the Megiddo Church. However, after seeing our guardedness in print, it really motivated us to finally attempt to make contact. I finally called the Megiddo Church directly and feeling a bit surprised at how friendly and welcoming the woman who answered the phone actually was, I began to ask myself, “Why have we been so paranoid about this place?” Chris and I were instantly given an invitation to come to a service and a tour of the grounds.
Categories: #ROC, Restorationist
Tags: #ROC, 19th Ward, Abib, Christadelphian, Christianity, City of Rochester, End Times, L.T. Nichols, Megiddo Band, Megiddo Mission, Mt. Hope Cemetery, Prophet Elijah, Restoration Movement, Rochester NY, The Megiddo Church
Chris, Magur Chana (General Secretary of Sikh Gurdwara of Rochester), and Luke
In December 2011, Luke and I created the initial list of places we wanted to see and made a plan to begin checking them off. We planned to spend every weekend thereafter tirelessly clamoring around Upstate NY knocking on the doors of sacred grounds in hopes to experience them first hand. Our first day out was the first Saturday in January and was a bust–every place we went was locked. We sat in our car and began calling places to see who might be open and received only recorded messages. We realized that we were gonna have to plan a bit better and not just wing it by showing up on a church doorstep uninvited. We sat down at the South Wedge Diner and made a plan, and that’s when things got really serious.
Categories: #BUF, #ROC, #SYR, General
Tags: #ROC, Asbury United Methodist Church, Auriesville NY, basilica, Buddhism, Buddhist, Buffalo, Burned Over District, Catholic, Central NY, Christianity, City of Rochester, Hill Cumorah, Kateri Tekakwitha, Rochester, Rochester NY, Second Great Awakening, Upstate NY
The very first place we went to when we started this blog was the Asbury First United Methodist Church. We knew it had a long history and were interested in seeing the building and learning more. We arrived on a Saturday morning which was to be the first stop of a few on our very first ‘adventure‘ but we were met by a locked door. A little disheartened, we realized we needed to plan a little better and have learned to do just that. Just a few days short of the year anniversary of that visit, we got an opportunity to sit down with the church’s historian Dan Hines, and to be able to get in and see the building. We also became privy to a fantastic wealth of knowledge that we might not have had we just walked in like we intended the first time. Lucky you–this post is filled with way more info than it would have been a year ago!!
View of Asbury First United Methodist church from East Ave in Rochester, NY
The Gothic Revival architecture of the Asbury First United Methodist Church on East Avenue commands attention as you drive down that stretch of East where Berkeley Street ends. The building was finished in 1955, but the history of the congregation itself actually pre-dates the City of Rochester. Buyouts, new buildings, mergers, acquisitions, fires and schisms all have helped shaped the lengthy, meandering history that has helped the church become what it is today. Methodism itself has a long complex history that begins with Francis Asbury arriving in the United States in the 1770′s on mission by the order of John Wesley. In 1784, Asbury was permitted by Wesley to establish the Methodist Episcopal Church of America, a proceeding that took place in Baltimore as part of the historical Christmas Conference. The church is often referred to as the M.E. Church, which should sound vaguely familiar if you read last week’s post, because that church was founded by adding the word ‘African’, and then later ‘Zion’–just one in the countless number of changes and adaptations that the faith would encounter over the 225 years following that meeting in 1784. After the Christmas Conference, Francis Asbury sent out itinerant layman called ‘Circuit Riders’ to spread the word of the faith and like so many others, they found their way to the area that is now known as Rochester, NY.