52 Churches

The goal: visit 52 places of worship in one year — mainly on Cape Cod and the Islands with digressions to other places if travel and circumstance dictate.

The reason: this is not a spiritual discovery/quest for meaning sort of thing,; but more an exercise to satisfy my curiosity about new religions, the interior architecture of churches seen hundreds of time from the outside, and the subtle differences in denominations, say what differentiates a Methodist from a Presbyterian, a Unitarian from a Catholic. The idea came to me in the parking lot of the Greek church in Centerville during the annual summer Greek Festival. I was chewing on a souvlaki and baklava when it struck me that some pretty cool stuff must happen inside the church on any given Sunday.

Icon by Andrei Rublev

The rules: no Michelin ratings or overly snarky judgments. As a former barkeep, I take seriously the admonition of Uncle Bob at San Francisco’s Balboa Cafe that only an idiot talks politics or religion with a customer and expects a tip to follow. I will attend with the utmost respect as a guest, will not participate in any “altar exercises”, e.g. communion, baptism, circumcision, flagellation, Pebbles of Joy, handling of snakes,

Personal disclosure: confirmed and baptized as an Episcopalian. Do not attend services. Do not take communion. Believe in God, but a more of an Einsteinian/Pynchonian blend of quantum physics and the laws of thermodynamics. Philosophical influences are Wittgenstein, Aristotle, and Kant. Most spirituality is directed at environmental concerns and in that regard would count Thoreau as a big influence.  Politics are ambivalently Independent: I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008.

I was ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church in 1982 thanks to a classified ad in the back of Rolling Stone. I also bought from those same classified a stack of adhesive “screw” stickers to affix over the heart on random bumper stickers that said “I (HEART) MY DOG” as well as a NIPCO fake ID.

Personal religious experiences: After three days of no-sleep, somewhere off the coast of North Carolina’s Cape Fear, I saw lines of green CRT-style (Hercules graphics adapter, circa 1984 PC DOS monitor) text rise slowly out of the tops of 20-foot following seas while delivering a decrepit 60-foot plywood catamaran from Falmouth, Mass. to Lake Worth, Florida.  The text was not religious, but the experience did make me fervently pray for my life as I was convinced death was imminent.

Spiritual Advisors: I owe a lot to the late Reverend George F. Vought of The Brooks School. He looked the other way on several incriminating occasions and had more joie de vivre and cynicism about “The God Squad” than any man of the cloth I have met since. Paul Noonan of Cotuit is an amazing source of theological knowledge and is the only person who can attempt to explain to me the centuries old battle over the filoque, proof to me that religion is an amazingly potent force for weirdness.

The Churches: I’ll tag all relevant posts “52 Churches” and build a directory of posts here.

  1. Kick off: St. Barnabas of Falmouth, and …
  2. United Church of Christ/West Parish Rooster Church
  3. Unitarian Church of Barnstable
  4. Quaker Meeting – East Sandwich
  5. Victory Chapel, Christian Fellowship – Hyannis
  6. The Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod – West Barnstable
  7. Grace Cathedral – San Francisco (Xmas eve 2009)
  8. St. Gregory of Nyssa – San Francisco
  9. Saints Peter and Paul Church – San Francisco
  10. Osterville Baptist Church – Osterville
  11. Hagia Sofia – Istanbul
  12. Church of St. George – Constantinople
  13. The Blue Mosque – Istanbul
  14. Christ the King – Mashpee
  15. Cape Cod Synagogue – Hyannis
  16. Jehovah’s Witnesses – Falmouth
  17. Seventh Day Adventists – Osterville
  18. First Lutheran – West Barnstable
  19. Touro Synagogue – Newport, Rhode Island
  20. Zion Union Church – Hyannis
  21. St. Peter’s Episcopal – Osterville
  22. St.Barnabas Episopal – Falmouth
  23. St. Michael the Archangel – Cotuit
  24. St. George Greek Orthodox – Centerville
  25. Cape Sangha, Buddhist – Hyannis
  26. Duomo, Catholic, Firenze
  27. Basilica Cattedrale Patriachale di San Marco, Venice
  28. Cotuit Federated Church, Cotuit

0 thoughts on “52 Churches”

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  2. David,

    Your 52 churches project is highly intriguing. My compliments.

    I was raised in a Catholic community that was truly a community. We were encouraged to visit other churches and participate. I probably spent equal time in our church’s youth program and the one at the Presbyterian church. I was unaware of invisible walls between Christian groups until I moved to the South, and was offered a seminar on defending one’s faith against “fundamentalists.” This tragic separation among people with the same fundamentals of belief is one of the more motivating issues for me.

    I continue to color outside the lines, at least within the Christian family: I meet with some friends (non-Quakers) at Methodist church and send daughters to their youth program; participate in mass and organizations at our local parish; send a daughter to the Newman Center (also Catholic) youth program; support a sister-in-law’s family in Africa with Youth With A Mission (and formerly Southern Baptist Mission Board); and serve on the support committee of Young Life, a non-denominational program for high school kids.

    Your example inspires me to learn more about other non-Christian faiths, and to continue to try to bridge gaps among Christian groups.

    Regarding your stated intent, which excludes a spiritual goal, I humbly submit that it may be unavoidable, if you remain intentionally open to what God may reveal as you attend these 52 churches. That may be the greatest good.

    Sincere best wishes.

  3. This project of yours is very intriguing. I am moving to Cape Cod from another country where I just found a church I really enjoy attending about 2 years ago. I’m looking for a similar experience with a church on Cape Cod and am hoping that I find it. I’ll keep checking your blog to see if you report something that sounds like a good fit for me.

    Best regards.

  4. Great idea! I go here and there to different churchs as the spirit moves me ;). I have been to the Cape Sangha, like it alot, and mostly go now to the UU in Falmouth and to Onset Spiritualist. Make sure you get to a Spiritualist service, the “psychic” church, they communicate with spirits who have passed and may hook you up with a grandfather or 2. They have alot of guest ministers doing services in the Spiritualist tradition, but try to go when Reverend Kathleen is officiating, she is the minister and she is great, very upbeat, positive person and talented psychic. Happy trails.

  5. Please consider attending the First Light Church on Rt.137 in Chatham at 10am on Sundays it is a non denominational, bible teaching, charismatic church. Peace be with you.

  6. Dave! You’ve had a rest. Write us another one! Otherwise we’ll have to assume you’ve become Buddhist…;-} Unity of Cape Cod — where the Cape Sangha was held — has refreshing services at 10 on Sunday, grounded in the religious transformations of the 1800’s in America, that brought us Christian Science, Universalism (as in Unitarian Universalism), and others…or Spiritualism sounds good too…

  7. I started the journey April 2011. 102 in a year. Now 113. Many states and faiths. As soon as I believe i understand, I am shown differently. Amazing. HE IS…….

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