Glimpses into the diversity of northwest Ohio's religious community will be offered each Tuesday morning for the next seven weeks as Toledo Area Ministries begins its 13th Annual Summer Houses of Worship Tours.
The architectural styles among this year's tour stops include Gothic, contemporary, and even a converted retail store, and the religious groups that built them also span a broad range of styles.
One family that plans to explore the diversity of the local religious community is the Zarnicks of Moncolova.
Terri Zarnick said she and her husband, Ed, lived overseas for years and want to expose their children to northwest Ohio's cultural diversity. Their daughter, Danielle, was born in Malaysia and their adopted son, Robert, is from Vietnam, she said. Both children are 7 years old.
"Diversity is important for everybody, and that's one reason we are looking forward to the tours," Terri said.
The Rev. Larry Clark, executive director of Toledo Area Ministries, said the tours not only showcase architectural gems, but seek to span the geographic region and to examine different kinds of faith expressions.
He said the summer tours have developed a strong core following over the years. All tours start at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, last approximately an hour, and are free and open to the public. Some of the churches and temples provide refreshments to the visitors.
This year's tour includes an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, Congregation Etz Chayim; three mainline Protestant churches, a Baptist church, and a Pentecostal church.
The Rev. Michael Pitts, pastor of Cornerstone Church, said he is excited to be participating in the Summer Tours program for the first time.
Cornerstone's children's ministry, with a 22,000-square-foot wing, has several themed rooms - including a rain forest and a 1950s diner - designed by former Disney employees, Mr. Pitts said. There's also an NRG Zone, where kids can "burn off energy" playing video games and indoor sports.
Renovation will likely still be under way in the 2,300-seat main sanctuary when the tour comes to Cornerstone July 18, Mr. Pitts said.
Visitors can also visit Cornerstone's state-of-the-art, $1.8 million Performing Arts Center that opened in 2003. With seating for 400, the theater offers Christian concerts, dance, recitals, lectures, and more.
Further information on the 2006 Summer House of Worship Tours is available by calling Toledo Area Ministries, 419-242-7401, or online at www.tamohio.org.
- David Yonke