Founded in 1869, the Cathedral of Saint Paul has served as the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester since 1950, when the Diocese was established in the city. Its current grand structure, built in the Gothic Revival style, was designed by Elbridge Boyden & Son and completed in 1874. Important events within Saint Paul’s life are narrated within ten monumental stained glass windows located in the sanctuary and nave. The Cathedral of Saint Paul was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Gathered in 1785, the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, Massachusetts was formed by a group of 54 “free thinkers” who left Worcester-based First Parish Church under the leadership of their pastor, Dr. Aaron Bancroft, in a quest to celebrate freedom of belief and religious expression that would help define Unitarian doctrine in the United States. The Church’s current Federal style structure, built in 1850, was designed by Sidney Mason Stone and was inspired by the Center Church on-the-Green in New Haven, Connecticut. Following in the footsteps of its founders, the First Unitarian Church continues, “to preserve the freedom of each of us to determine for ourselves what we believe and how we should live. We are open to the wisdom of world religions. We welcome and honor diversity of belief, culture, lifestyle, and political view as a source of strength.”
Organized in 1838, Church of the Redeemer, United Church of Christ is the fourth congregational church in New Haven. Originally named Chapel Street Congregational Church, it was formed after there was dissent at the Third Congregational Church when a new minister would not accept the “New Haven Theology” of Nathaniel Taylor who founded the church. Taylor rejected the idea of determinism in which God alone was responsible for all activities in the universe. He felt this was immoral because it contradicts the notions of freedom and choice, and thought God not immoral. In 1920, the church moved to its present location and its Federal style main sanctuary was added in 1951—appropriately reflecting Taylor’s ideas. Building upon the philosophical tenets of Nathaniel Taylor, the Church of the Redeemer strives to be an, “inclusive community committed to the worship of God, the work of justice, and the recognition of our common humanity in the struggles of life.”
Founded in 1877, Saint John the Baptist Church was created to serve the French Canadian population in Brunswick and the surrounding area. Designed by Charles R. Greco of Boston, Massachusetts, the church’s current Gothic Revival style structure was completed in 1927. Of particular note are the murals by Giovanni Prampolini depicting Christian symbolism and iconography that reside on the walls and ceiling of the sanctuary. The stained glass windows designed by Zettler Studios of New York complement the paintings, illustrating symbols and stories from the New Testament. The parishioners of Saint John the Baptist Church take great pride in their church, as it “represents the commitment, faith, generosity, and hard work of generations of Catholic people from the greater Brunswick area.”
Formed in 1948, Trinity Lutheran Church is the result of the merger of three nearby parishes: First Evangelical Lutheran Church (1881), Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church (1900) and Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church (1921). Designed by architect and World War I pilot Jens Frederick Larson, Trinity’s structure is inspired by both New England’s traditional architecture and Scandinavian church design, as many of the founding parishioners were of Swedish descent. The sanctuary’s cream colored brick walls include Norman arches supported by limestone columns, allowing for 800 parishioners to be seated in the church’s oak pews at one time. Both natural light and Swedish designed chandeliers in the form of clustered leaves illuminate the nave of the sanctuary. While the flooring of the nave is made of slate from the Green Mountains of Vermont, the ceiling has 128 marvelously painted oak panels depicting both the Old and New Testament by artist Arthur Covey. With the architectural remnants from the congregation’s earlier houses of worship within the chancel of the sanctuary, it is only fitting that a plaque mounted on the church’s wall reads, “This church was erected to the Glory of God and in memory of those pioneers of the nineteenth century who here, sought a new home, bringing with them little, save their faith in God and their trust in America.”
Established in 1834, St. John’s Catholic Church is the oldest Catholic church in Worcester. Its current structure, designed by architect P.W. Ford in the Greek Revival style, was built in 1845 to house its 2,000 parishioners. Inside, however, the sanctuary is designed in the Romanesque Revival style with its notable simplified arches. The Church’s spiritual mission is “to combine the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and daily acts of charity for all”. Since its earliest days, St. John’s has reached out to serve the poor. With providing such programs as free meals to more than 1,000 people monthly, it is evident that the parishioners’ charge has not waned from its beginnings.
With roots dating back to 1674, First Parish Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, is the oldest house of worship in Portland. The current structure, designed by shipbuilder and architect John Mussey, was completed in 1826 of granite from nearby Freeport and is built in the Federalist style. The church has gone to great lengths to keep the original design intact and using only replacements that are as close to the originals as possible. Much like the congregation’s careful attention to maintaining Mussey’s design, the First Parish Church continues its mission to: “nurture the spirit, grow in community and help heal the world.”
In 1911, the Albanians of Worcester organized what is now known as St. Mary’s Assumption Albanian Orthodox Church. The church’s current Byzantine-style structure was completed in 1983 and designed by Andrew Isaak of the architectural firm Isaak & Isaak of Manchester, New Hampshire. Throughout the gold-painted sanctuary are illuminated icon paintings by Worcester-based iconographer Dhimitri Cika. Images of Jesus Christ, Mary, archangels and saints as well as significant biblical events, such as the nativity and resurrection, engulf viewers as their eyes wander throughout the sanctuary. When looking up at the dome beyond the ornate chandelier, Christ, flanked by two angels, looks back down with the appearance of empathy and compassion—reinforcing the nature of Jesus’s calling, “to seek and save the lost”.
Founded in 1717, First Parish Church’s current structure, completed in 1846 and designed by architect Richard Upjohn, is a radical departure from the traditional congregational church design that preceded it. The Gothic Revival design sparked a major shift from “puritan simplicity” that would spread across the country. The Christian Monitor wrote, “It is something of a novelty…yet there is an air of dignity and repose about the whole building, exceedingly appropriate to a Christian temple.”
The Church’s ground-breaking design also acts a metaphor for its many times forward thinking parish. From its inception, First Parish Church had been a place of discussion, debate and reflection. From providing support to the Continental Congress to debating the separation of Maine from Massachusetts to the inspiring moment when Harriet Beecher Stowe on March 2, 1851 in pew 23 envisioned the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which portrayed the evils of slavery, these intangible fragments of First Parish Church’s heritage reflects some of the pinnacle moments in U.S. history.
Founded in 1840, Congregation Mishkan Israel is the oldest Jewish congregation in Connecticut. The Congregation’s current building, which includes a religious school, was designed by Fritz Nathan and Bertram Bassuk in the Modernist style and completed in 1960. The main sanctuary includes an extraordinary ark designed by Ben Shahn, which represents the Ten Commandments in mosaic tile, reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript. Adjoining the ark on both sides are abstracted twenty-five foot high stained glass windows containing shards of blue and purple hues and the names of twelve prophets—six historical and six modern. Since its founding, the Congregation has been committed to serving the community with its liberal religious thought and social activism—especially in the struggle for Civil Rights.