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Sacred Spaces: Boston

Basilica & Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help - The Mission Church (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)

Basilica & Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help - The Mission Church (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)

Introduction
Coming to Boston as an outsider, I used the Zen idea of "Beginner's Mind" as a tool to identify the most powerful, recognized and well-used sacred spaces in the city and across the Charles River in Cambridge. After creating a long list, Fran Hoerrmann and I polled local people we met to make sure our newcomers' perspective matched that of the people that lived here. Our friends at WGBH pointed us towards many of the historic sites represented in the documentary "God in America." We spent a lot of time in advance of our trip to narrow down sites to visit. We planned to include the Rose Kennedy Greenway - a new landscape site built on top of the recent "Big Dig" project. We felt it was not yet well used enough or "imprinted" into the city fabric to qualify as a "sacred" site. Neither was Boston Common a "sacred" site. As a breathing space in the city, and a well-used and well-loved park, it works well. A sacred space it is not. All of these decisions represent our own perspective.

We have come to terms that we are outsiders with a stranger's view but also the objectivity granted by that perspective. We propose this list as a curated selection of welcoming spaces whose leaders are interested in interfaith work. Our background in architecture compelled us include the MIT Chapel by Eero Saarinen, the Interfaith Center at Northeastern University by Office dA and the Old North Church. One of these did not make our final cut.

From the modesty of the Beacon Hill Friends House to the superlative grandeur of The Mother Church of Christ, Scientist, we hope you enjoy and learn from our final selection -- even start a conversation if you question our choices.

Deirdre Colgan
Executive Director, Sacred Space International
Chicago, 2010


Download the Boston Sacred Spaces Guide
The guide includes maps and three suggested tour routes. The following Sacred Spaces are featured:
• The Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help -- The Mission Church
• Beacon Hill Friends House & Meeting
• The Cathedral Church of St. Paul
• The First Church of Christ Scientist -- The Mother Church
• Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Courtyard Garden
• Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
• Kevin W. Fitzgerald Park [Puddingstone Park]
• MIT Chapel

MIT Chapel (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)

MIT Chapel (Credit: Deirdre Colgan)

• Mount Auburn Cemetary
• Northeastern University Spiritual Life Center
• Old South Church
• St. Stephen's Catholic Church
• Temple Ohabei Shalom
• Trinity Church

Download the Boston guide here (PDF).

Tell us about your experience on the tour or your favorite Sacred Space in Boston. Create a page in the God in America Faithbook or submit a video to WGBH Lab's Open Call, or leave us a comment below.


About Sacred Space International
Sacred Space International was founded in 2002 by Suzanne Morgan to promote interfaith education and dialogue through the understanding of religious architecture. Morgan, a retired architect with expertise in liturgical design, started the organization in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent climate of social tension, cultural misunderstanding and fear. She conceived the idea of religious architecture as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue and education. Without promoting any single faith or tradition, the organization seeks to use the common language of architecture as an educational means to foster reciprocal respect, awareness and appreciation of the different traditions that comprise our pluralistic society.

Visit Sacred Space International's website for more information.

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Major funding for God in America provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John E. Fetzer Institute, Inc.  Additional funding provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. God in America is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.
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Published October 11, 2010

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