Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

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.”

St. John’s Catholic Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

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.

St. Mary’s Assumption Albanian Orthodox Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

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”.

Old South Church, Boston, Massachusetts

The congregation of Old South Church in Boston was gathered in 1669 to serve all who seek a spiritual journey in Christian faith. Completed in 1875, the church’s highly ornate Gothic Revival Style is atypical of a traditional New England congregational church. While architects Charles Amos Cummings and Willard T. Sears‘ design intention was to, “radiate the opulent taste and the sense of optimism and progress of the Industrial Revolution following the Civil War”, the congregation has been recognized for equality and social justice, with such notable congregants as Samuel Sewall who published the first anti-slavery writing in the United States in 1700, The Selling of Joseph. As poet John Greenleaf Whittier eloquently wrote, ‘So long as Boston shall Boston be, And her bay tides rise and fall, Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church, And plead for the rights of all.”

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.