Come, all ye faithful, to worship

cclick@thestate.com June 24, 2012 

FILE PHOTO: (June 2010) A crane raises the 45-ton dome in place on the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Columbia.

TRACY GLANTZ — The State

  • A tour in faith Think of it as the 2012 Rockin’ Church tour. Here, stops on the Columbia congregational tour you won’t want to miss: Trinity Episcopal Cathedral: The gothic exterior of this church, modeled after York Cathedral in England, is a treat to see. But enter and be prepared to be in awe of the eye-popping stained glass windows and a beautifully painted nave. If you have time, arrange for a tour Shandon Baptist Church: This Forest Acres area church provides ministries for all ages, from youngsters to young at heart. The congregation, led for more than 20 years by the Rev. Dick Lincoln, seeks to be a welcoming, missional church with opportunities that extend beyond the two distinctive Sunday worship services, one traditional and the other contemporary. Established in 1795, First Presbyterian Church has a storied congregation and a history to match. It is the oldest congregation in Columbia and its 180-foot spire was once the tallest structure in Columbia. The current sanctuary was built in 1853, and along with the church’s historic graveyard, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A walking tour of the graveyard, encouraged by the congregation, will lead to the burial places of soldiers from the American Revolution, Mexican War and Civil War, as well as university presidents, judges, lawyers, merchants and ordinary citizens who settled in the Midlands. The Jewish corridor: Along Trenholm Road and up Decker Boulevard, the city’s three synagogues provide rich spiritual life for Midlands Jews. Beth Shalom, a Conservative congregation, is just blocks away from the Reform Tree of Life Congregation. Around the corner, Congregation Beit Midrash provides a worship space for Orthodox Jews. Columbia boasts a well-reformed Jewish Day School, housed at Beth Shalom and supported by all three congregations. St Joseph Catholic Church on Devine Street and St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Assembly provide historic and ornate sanctuaries for area Roman Catholics. Both have wonderful Stations of the Cross, stained glass windows and architectural touches.

Welcome to the land of Wednesday night church suppers, ornate steeples, the Big Nosh, prayer, and that ubiquitous, cheery salutation: “Have a blessed day!”

If South Carolina is the buckle of the Bible belt, then Columbia is the middle notch, sandwiched between the evangelical Baptist Upstate and the hybrid Lowcountry with its mix of high church Episcopalians, AMEs and Pentecostals.

Newcomers are asked where they are from and to what faith they belong. If there is the slightest waffling, never fear, an invitation to worship or to break bread will be forthcoming.

Southern Baptists dominate but the mix of other Protestant Christian denominations is breathtaking. Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, African-Methodist Episcopals and black Baptists, among others, found their way here to establish outposts, eventually raising distinctive, architectural gems of churches that dot corners of downtown Columbia.

Roman Catholics and Jews first arrived in Charleston and then migrated west to establish flourishing congregations. In modern times, Muslims have come, adding to a growing interfaith mix. They have introduced the five-times daily call to prayer as well as fragrant foods for Ramadan that had never been tasted before.

Our congregations are the lifeline to the homeless and less fortunate, often the first to volunteer in times of disaster. Their work is evident in places such as the Soup Cellar at Columbia’s Washington Street United Methodist Church, the Transitions center providing homeless services in downtown Columbia and St. Lawrence Place, a ministry of Trinity Cathedral. In West Columbia, Brookland Baptist Church, one of the area’s largest African-American congregations, ministers to prisoners, the homeless, the aged, students and others. The 9,000-strong Bibleway Church of Atlas Road in Lower Richland has an equally impressive listing of ministries.

Sometimes, congregations have served as the conscience of the city and the region, speaking out against video poker and Sunday liquor sales and for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the dome of the capital.

For many in Columbia, a life lived out in faith seems the best path to take.

Carolyn Click writes about schools, faith and history for The State.

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