MIT Chapel, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Completed in 1955, the MIT Chapel is a non-denominational place of worship located on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, the modernist style cylinder-shaped brick structure has no windows in the sanctuary, except for a round skylight which casts daylight onto an unembellished marble altar. The reredos or altarpiece screen, designed by Harry Bertoia, is made of slim rods of brazed steel with joined crossplates that diffuse light throughout the chapel. Saarinen’s intimate space coupled with Bertoia’s gentle sculpture creates a tranquil reprieve for one to contemplate, reflect and reconsider.

Arlington Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts

Founded in 1729 as the “Church of the Presbyterian Strangers”, the Arlington Street Church is a Unitarian Universalist church, which draws from a variety of religious traditions. While the Unitarian Universalist congregations “tend to retain some Christian traditions, such as Sunday worship with a sermon and the singing of hymns. The extent to which the elements of any particular faith tradition are incorporated into personal spiritual practice is a matter of personal choice for congregants.”(1) Unitarian refers to the belief in one God.

In 1861, the church’s current structure was completed and was the first public building to be constructed on newly filled land in Boston’s Back Bay, sitting on 999 wooden pilings driven into the tidal mud. Architect Arthur Gilman drew inspiration for its exterior from London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields and its basilica type interior from the Church of the Annunciation in Genoa, Italy. As part of the church’s mission, congregants gather “in love and service for justice and peace.”(2)

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism
2. http://www.ascboston.org/about/index.html

The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

The African Meeting House on Beacon Hill is the oldest African American extant church in the United States. Built in the Colonial style in 1806 largely by black laborers in the heart of Boston’s African American community, the meetinghouse was a magnet for the free and self-emancipated black community in the new republic’s formative years. The African Meeting House served as a center for the community as a church, school, and public space for celebrations, political and social reform meetings. Its walls hosted key figures in the Abolitionist Movement including William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart, and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. As the black community migrated to other neighborhoods in the late nineteenth century, the African Meeting House became a Jewish synagogue until 1972 when the Museum of African American History acquired it. Returned to its mid-nineteenth century appearance, the African Meeting House is a testament to black craftsmanship and a symbol for equality and freedom of speech.

The Temple, Ocean Park, Maine

Dedicated to self-improvement, the camp meeting movement in the late nineteenth century gave rise to hundreds of buildings for multipurpose community assembly throughout the United States. However, few survive today. The Temple, originally known as “Way of Truth Temple” was built in 1881 to be used for an array of religious, cultural and educational programs in Ocean Park. Its unusual octagonal design was typical of the time and common for “Chautauqua” sites. The natural wood post and beam interior structure harnesses its visitors underneath its umbrella, solidifying a sense of community, nature and peace of mind.

Vesper Hill Children’s Chapel, Rockport, Maine

An “all-denominational” outdoor chapel located in Rockport, Maine, the Vesper Hill Children’s Chapel was conceived and funded by Mrs. Helene Bok in 1960. Her dream was to build a refuge that would be open for all people and “speak in and of itself of the beauty, goodness and truth of nature, life and God.”