Churches are not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about or visits New York City - a place which is a national and international locus for so many activities and industries. On January 4, 2010, I wrote We Got Religion, and, of course, we have to have churches too. But a surprise to many is that New York City is home to two of the world's largest cathedrals and churches: Riverside Church, seen in today's photos, at 392 feet, is the tallest church in the United States (26th in the world), and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the world's largest cathedral. These are not often seen by the visitor or resident, as they are located quite off the beaten path.
Riverside Church prides itself on its interdenominational, interracial and international congregation with a long history of activism, progressive causes, and political debate. It is affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches. From their website:
The Church commits itself to welcoming all persons, celebrating the diversity found in a Congregation broadly inclusive of persons from different backgrounds of characteristics, including race, economic class, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, family status and physical and mental abilities.
Past speakers at Riverside have included Martin Luther King, Jr. voicing opposition to the Vietnam War, Nelson Mandela after being released from prison, Fidel Castro during one of his rare visits to the U.S. in 1999, and Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The Gothic structure was commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1922 and designed by the architecture firm Allen, Pelton and Collens. The Gothic design is based on the 13th century Chartres Cathedral in France. The huge single bell tower is modeled after one of the towers at Laon Cathedral. The Carillon’s 20-ton Bourdon bell is the largest turned bell in the world. Church construction was begun in 1927 and completed in 1930. Riverside Church received New York City Landmark status in 2000.
The church is located at one of the highest points of New York City in Morningside Heights, west of Harlem, between Riverside Drive and Claremont Avenue, between 120th and 122nd Street, overlooking the Hudson River.
It is nice to see that whereas the dogma of organized religion is often divisive, Riverside Church has an articulated mission of getting people with very different perspectives to come together :)