The New Church
New York City - April 22, 2010
I took pictures of The New Church on 35th Street. The church is small and looks more like a chapel in a hospital or the one I remember we had in college. But as you will see from the pictures, the churchís bright colors make it look warm and inviting -- a welcome break from the traditional Gothic architecture of old churches. As a house of prayer, Iíd say it serves its purpose well. It was unimposing and felt homey.

I also met two people there -- a man who initially was reading a book and didnít look up when I entered the building and walked past him as if to say, “Go ahead, make your way inside our church”, and a woman who looked puzzled when I asked if I may take pictures and said, “Yes, I guess”, as if I need not have asked.

Soon after I was done taking pictures the three of us were conversing about Photoshop and its many bewildering features. I’d say the people I met at the New Church were warm and friendly and never once made me feel like the intruder that I was. They seemed to have a genuine curiosity at what I was doing.

I have not heard of Emanuel Swedenborg before, the Swede mystic whose theology forms the teachings of the New Church. The New Churchís website quotes Emanuel Swedenborg as saying, “All people who live good lives, no matter what their religion, have a place in heaven.”

I wondered if that quote ran counter to many religions’ goal which is to increase converts. It’s like saying that if you already have faith then stay where you are. You don't have to switch religions. Just live a good life and you will be fine.

Then again, maybe the irony is that it is precisely the reason why The New Church has flourished for the past two hundred years in many parts of the world. The freedom to think freely and walk away at any time to find truth elsewhere keeps the flock somehow reined in.

Click on a picture to enlarge.
The sanctuary is about the size of a big room.
The bright colors and spartan furnishings make the church warm and homey.
Foyer. The church is on the left and the bookstore is to the right.
I did not know of the church until I turned left on 35th Street on my noontime walk. A sign on the iron gate said, “The church is open for praying” so I walked in. Through a path in the small garden and past a sign that said, “Bookstore now open”, I went up the steps and nudged the front door. It opened.
The garden is open to the public.
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