2017-12-21 / Around Town

Holiday Tours at Historic Houses of Worship


Channing Church's stunning stained glass is a holiday feast for the eyes. 
(Photo by Meri Keller) Channing Church's stunning stained glass is a holiday feast for the eyes. (Photo by Meri Keller) Nine of Newport’s historic houses of worship will open their doors to the public on Tuesday, Dec. 26 to share their holiday traditions and showcase their holiday decorations and displays.

Each participating house of worship has made its own contribution to Newport’s significant history of religious freedom and diversity. Open house visitors will be able to experience that history and the beauty of these structures, while learning how each brings its own traditions to the holiday season.

Historically, holiday traditions at Newport churches varied widely. At Newport Congregational Church, for example, visitors can learn how this denomination’s religious ancestors, the Puritans, not only did not observe Christmas but actually banned its celebration by law in 17th-century Massachusetts.

Newport’s Unitarian congregation has moved from a traditional Christmas observance to a very different way of honoring the season. Both of these churches have stunning sanctuaries featuring stained glass and other works by John La- Farge and other great artists.

First Presbyterian Church adds to the beauty of its remarkable stained-glass windows with dozens of red poinsettias and a large Christmas tree, decorated with white lights and white ornaments, called “Christ monographs” or "Chrismons," symbolizing attributes of Jesus Christ.

St. John's features a carved Gothic case containing an Italian Crèche, or Nativity scene, with figures dating to the 17th century. Visitors will have a rare opportunity to see it up close during the open house.

Touro Synagogue observes the traditional Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. How did this “Festival of Lights” come about? Why was this synagogue dedicated on the first day of Hanukkah in 1763? Visitors of all faiths are welcome to discover the history of both the holiday and the synagogue, as well as to enjoy holiday cookies and hot drinks, during the open house.

Doors will open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following houses of worship: . Channing Memorial Unitarian Church, 135 Pelham (across from Touro Park) . Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 42 Dearborn Street (at Spring) . First Presbyterian Church, 4 Everett Street (at Broadway) . Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church (Van Zandt Avenue at Congdon) . Newport Congregational Church, 73 Pelham (at Spring) . St. John’s Episcopal Church, 42 Poplar (at Washington) . St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 5 Mann (at Broadway) . Touro Synagogue, 72 Touro Street (enter at 52 Spring) . Trinity Episcopal Church, 141 Spring

Parking at some locations may be limited, especially at those near Washington Square. Visitors to Touro, Trinity and Newport Congregational are encouraged to park at the Gateway Center and walk the short distance to these locations. Others, such as Emmanuel, Mt. Zion, St. John’s, and St. Joseph’s, have parking lots at or near their sites.

This holiday celebration of Newport, America’s cradle of religious liberty, is free and open to all. The event is sponsored by the 4 Faiths Walking Tour of historic houses of worship. For more information, visit 4Faiths.org or call (401) 290-7535.

NTW Staff

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