We’re in the final throes of preparation for our 11th Annual Sacred Sites Open House next month. We’re calling it “With You in Spirit.” This will be our second virtual event, as religious institutions across the State are not uniformly open.
The advantage is that we will feature tours of diverse religious institutions throughout New York City and State. You’ll see many more than you could manage in person. We’ll have some local virtual tours and other programs as well. And our latest issue of Common Bond is already available on our website.
Of course, there’s nothing like seeing these magnificent buildings in person and hearing about their history and community programs. That’s why we started Open House in 2011–the 25th anniversary of our Sacred Sites Program.
I suggested a statewide Open House, having no idea of the amount of work and number of staff it would involve. The proverbial village has assembled to pull this together each year since. The payoff has been having upwards of 10,000 persons touring on past weekends and hearing from persons excited to discover the architectural riches in their communities.
We’ve all had to adjust to difficult circumstances over the past 15 months. Clergy were not immune. From Zoom vespers, shivas, and book clubs to streaming worship services on cell phones, religious institutions have helped their congregations through these trying times. They continued to help their communities as well with food distribution, outdoor concerts and even serving as vaccination sites.
Our Sacred Sites staff—Ann Friedman and Colleen Heemeyer—kept our grant program going. They had virtual meetings with applicants, biked to outdoor meetings in the City, and ensured that our Sacred Sites Committee could award 42 grants in 2020 totaling $603,600. These helped restoration and repair projects totaling $9.3 million.
Since we began in 1986, we’ve awarded 1,578 grants to 836 religious buildings totaling just under $15 million.
You don’t have to be religious at all to appreciate these buildings. I hope you’ll take part in our virtual programs. And I hope we’re back strolling through neighborhoods next year. Till then…we’re with you in spirit.