If you open the doors, the crowds will come.
That s the way it seems to work for Toledo Area Ministries and its annual Houses of Worship Summer Tours.
This year s series of tours begins its 16th season on Tuesday morning.
Last year there were over 100 people at all of the tours and a couple of times there were 200 or 300 people, said Polly White, one of the event organizers. They are still very popular and people really turn out for them. And I m thrilled that they re still going strong.
Ms. White came up with the idea of the summer tour program in 1994 and has helped plan the program ever since. Also helping organize this year s lineup were Steve Anthony and Donnajean Stockmaster.
I thought that there are so many beautiful churches around and people are interested in seeing them, Ms. White said of her initial inspiration, but you can t get in a lot of them now because they have to be locked up during the day.
What started as a tour of Christian churches has been expanded to include Jewish synagogues, the local Hindu Temple, and Islamic mosques, reflecting the religious diversity of northwest Ohio.
While Toledo Area Ministries schedules the tours and makes arrangements with local religious leaders, it is up to the tour hosts to decide who will be the guides and what they want to highlight for visitors.
Admission is free and the tours, which start at 11 a.m. each Tuesday, last about an hour. Ms. White said she attends the tours whenever she s in town.
They are always interesting because the hosts are in charge of the tour and you never know what you re going to get, she said.
This year the six churches and one mosque are located throughout the Toledo area and cover a broad cross section of the religious community. Here are brief looks at the seven destinations on the 2009 summer tour:
wUnity United Methodist Church in Northwood was formed in 2002 through the merger of Oakdale and Euclid United Methodist Churches in East Toledo. It later added congregations from Bethany and Grace UM churches.
Ground was broken on the 12,300-square-foot in May, 2007, and the church was dedicated a year later.
The church, which was built for $1.5 million, includes a sanctuary that seats 250 plus classrooms, a fellowship hall, nurdersy, and a full kitchen.
wSt. Andrew s Episcopal Church in West Toledo, the second stop on the summer tour, will open its doors to guests on July 14.
The church was established in 1890, fostered by Trinity Episcopal Church downtown, principally for Toledoans of Scottish and English ancestry.
Originally located in Toledo s Auburndale neighborhood, the church was destroyed by fire in 1942.
The congregation held services in the basement of St. Mark s Episcopal Church on Collingwood Boulevard until it moved to West Central Avenue in 1951. Rapid growth led to expansion of the Gothic sandstone structure in 1958.
St. Andrew s was part of TAM s summer tour in 2002.
wMasjid Saad Foundation will welcome visitors for a tour on July 21.
The only Islamic mosque on this year schedule, Masjid Saad was founded as a prayer group for University of Toledo students in 1979.
The members met in homes until 1994 when they moved into a business complex on Secor Road.
In July, 2007, Masjid Saad moved into the former Cathedral of Praise on West Alexis Road after that church bought the former corporate headquarters of Aeroquip-Vickers and changed its name to the Church on Strayer.
Masjid Saad s facility has room for 1,500 worshippers and the building, located on 15 acres, also is home to the Toledo Islamic Academy.
wMessiah Lutheran Church, the fourth stop on the tour, traces its origins to 1924 when 17 people met to discuss forming a congregation in Point Place. The church was formally organized the following year with 35 members.
Ground was broken on Messiah Lutheran s current church in 1954 and the building was completed for a cost $175,000, plus $10,000 for furnishings and equipment.
Made of concrete and cinder block with steel beams, Messiah s exterior consists of light red brick and sandstone. Its design includes a tower over the main entrance and a triangular transept.
A stained-glass window from the previous church was incorporated into the 1954 design.
wSt. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church, which was organized in 1936, first met in a church at Huron and Mulberry streets near downtown Toledo. The church held a groundbreaking ceremony on its current seven-acre site in Sylvania in 1976.
In June, 1977, Patriarch Elias IV of Antioch blessed the property during a historic visit to the United States.
The $1 million Byzantine-style church was completed in 1979 and features a 24-foot copper dome with 12 small Gothic windows and a large icon of Jesus painted in the dome s interior.
In April, 1988, St. Elias held a mortgage-burning celebration after the congregation paid off a 25-year loan in just eight years.
Six classrooms were added on the north side of the building in 1989 and a landscaped garden was dedicated in 1999.
wCedarCreek Church was founded by 25 people in 1995 and has quickly become one of the largest churches in northwest Ohio.
The nondenominational church met at Perrysburg Junior High school until it moved into its sleek, contemporary facility on Lime City Road in August, 2002.
A seeker-sensitive church that strives to attract visitors with little or no religious background, the $6 million building was designed to look like a conference center or a movie cineplex, according to the Rev. Lee Powell, lead pastor.
The sanctuary has 1,400 theater-style seats and state of the art electronics for audio and video.
In 2005, the church built a $5 million addition with a cafe, bookstore, chapel, and more room for children s ministries.
CedarCreek opened a Toledo campus on Easter weekend, 2008, in the DeVeaux Village Shopping Center and last year broke ground on a 30,000-square-foot satellite campus in Whitehouse.
wSt. Joan of Arc Catholic Church got its start in July, 1976, as Parish 166.
The parish did not have a name for more than two years, until Bishop John Donovan chose St. Joan of Arc in September, 1978. The new parish, the first in the Toledo diocese in 14 years, forced the redrawing of boundaries for six existing parishes.
Built on nearly 12 acres of farmland, the first St. Joan of Arc s facility to open was a school in 1980.
The Rev. Richard Wurzel celebrated Parish 166 s first Mass in the chapel of St. John s Jesuit High School s in July, 1978, which was attended by 188 people.
Ground was broken for the main church in September, 1983, and the church, whose sanctuary seats 750, was completed for a cost of $1.6 million.
More information on the 2009 Houses of Worship Summer Tours is available from Toledo Area Ministries, 419-242-7401 or online at TAMOhio.org.
Contact David Yonke at:email@example.com or419-724-6154.