Churches and temples generally welcome everyone in the community, but entering unfamiliar holy spaces with the intent of merely looking around can feel uncomfortable.
The annual Houses of Worship Tour offers the opportunity to view the interiors of these buildings and learn about different faiths on guided tours by religious leaders. For the next eight weeks, each Tuesday at 11 a.m., a different place of worship will open its doors to the public.
The tours, sponsored by Toledo Area Ministries and the Erase the Hate campaign, will showcase seven churches of different denominations as well as a Buddhist temple. At most stops, the pastor or priest will explain what happens during a typical service and give an overview of the building's history and architecture.
Attendance for the tour has grown steadily since its start in 1995.
"I think every year the crowds get just a little bit larger. We had one tour that was standing room only last year," said Donna Jean Stockmaster, a community connections director at Toledo Area Ministries who helped arrange the sites.
"They just embrace everything. They're always amazed and engaged and interested," Ms. Stockmaster said. "People love to see the architecture of the buildings and learn about differences in faith and religion. They're so interested in where others worship and how they worship and who they worship."
Tours this summer will feature:
Tuesday: Warren African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest predominantly African-American church in northwest Ohio. Founded in 1847, its first members included former slaves who had escaped via the Underground Railroad to Cincinnati. In the summer of 1864, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth spoke at the cornerstone-laying ceremony on North Erie Street. The church moved to its current site on Collingwood Boulevard in 1993.
July 3: The Buddhist Temple of Toledo on Angola Road in Holland. Formerly the Toledo Zen Center, the facility was renamed this April. Jay "Rinsen" Weik and his wife, Karen "Do'on" Weik, both ordained Buddhist priests, opened the Zen Center in 2001 shortly after moving to Toledo. The temple's diverse visitors come from a range of religious backgrounds and include college students gaining credit for classes in world religions and devoted long-term members.
July 10: St. Elias Church in Sylvania. Founded in 1936, St. Elias, is one of two Antiochian Orthodox Christian parishes in the Toledo area. It moved to its seven-acre site on Harroun Road in 1976. Patriarch Elias IV of Antioch blessed the site in 1977 during a trip to the United States.
July 17: Christ the King Lutheran Church in Lambertville. The new church on Sterns Road was built in 1995. Christ the King, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is one of more than 6,000 congregations in the 2.5 million-member Missouri Synod headquartered in St. Louis.
July 24: Sylvania First United Methodist Church. The congregation, which has met since 1836, moved to its current site on Erie Street in 1969. The gray limestone building includes a main sanctuary that holds 300 people and a special worship space for Saturday evening services called "Common Ground." Painted depictions of biblical scenes cover the corridors and classrooms.
July 31: Toledo Area Ministries. TAM moved into its 17,000-square-foot headquarters on Monroe Street last year, taking over the offices of a former advertising firm. The oldest and largest ecumenical organization in northwest Ohio, it partners with more than 125 churches in programs to assist the needy in Toledo. The tour will lead guests around the new offices, warehouse, and conference room.
Aug. 7: Aldersgate United Methodist Church. The church held its first service in 1948 before a congregation of 70 charter members, and some of those families have continued to attend services at the church over four generations. Aldersgate moved to its current building on Douglas Road in 1955.
Aug. 14: Cedar Creek South Toledo Campus on Byrne Road. The campus opened in a former grocery store in November, although the nondenominational Cedar Creek church started in 1995.
Contact Sophie Broach at: email@example.com or 419-724-6210.