A Public History Project

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New Progressive Cathedral COGIC (Church of God in Christ)

Author: Daniel Gorman Jr.

This map shows the location of the New Progressive Cathedral (COGIC) from 2006 to present.

In November 2005, the Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward, a cost-sharing venture of four neighborhood churches, concluded a process of pastoral planning. Three churches — Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Augustine, and Ss. Peter and Paul — would be closed and sold. Parishioners would report to St. Monica, which would also become home to Emmanuel Church of the Deaf.[1] Once St. Augustine closed, the Diocese of Rochester sold the church to the New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), which converted the building into the New Progressive Cathedral.[2] Originally named the Progressive Church of COGIC, the congregation was first located at 537 Post Avenue in the 19th Ward from 1981–84, and then at 270 Cumberland Street (near the Rochester Amtrak station and main post office) from 1984–2005.[3]


St. Augustine Closing Mass Information (2006), c/o the St. Monica Archive.


Royal Chamberlain, Photo of St. Augustine Stained Glass (2006), c/o the St. Monica Archive.

COGIC is a Pentecostal denomination. Pentecostalism emerged from the holiness movement of the late nineteenth century. Protestant holiness adherents believed in a theology of sanctification, or a growing disinclination to sin, leading one toward spiritual perfection. Biblical literalism and a belief in miraculous practices akin to those of the Biblical apostles — speaking in tongues, healing through prayer, etc. — characterized the holiness Christians. Two cases of spiritual gifts galvanized the movement. Theologian Charles Parham reported in 1901 that the Holy Spirit empowered him to speak in tongues. In 1906, his student, African American preacher William J. Seymour, reported that the Holy Spirit had given him and his multiethnic parishioners extraordinary abilities at the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles. Seymour’s revival is generally accepted as the point at which Pentecostalism solidified as a separate form of Protestantism. marked the beginning of the Pentecostal movement.[4] Charles H. Mason, the African American founder of the Church of God in Christ, accepted Pentecostal theology in 1907. Under Mason’s leadership, COGIC became wildly popular, with millions of adherents by century’s end. Mason’s followers were primarily, but not exclusively, African American.[5]

In 1917, Mason tasked three female administrators, Sisters Maydie Payton, Charlotte Brown, and Maude Jackson, and a male Elder with running the first New York COGIC congregation in Lackawanna, near Buffalo. The number of churches in Western New York eventually grew so large that the church leadership split the region into two jurisdictions in 1969.[6] Today, the New York Western First Junction consists of 90 churches spread across much of Upstate New York.[7] Bishop Leroy R. Anderson ran the First Junction (including Rochester) from 1969 to April 2004, when Bishop James R. Wright Sr. took over from him as jurisdictional prelate.[8] Wright had founded Rochester’s Progressive Church in 1981, while he still worked as the director of the city’s Phyllis Wheatley Library.[9] As such, Wright has directed Rochester’s New Progressive Cathedral, in its three iterations, for almost forty years. He received a Renaissance Award from Mayor William A. Johnson Jr. in December 2005 and participated in the interfaith invocation at Mayor Robert Duffy’s inauguration on New Year’s Day, 2006.[10]

As detailed on the New Progressive Cathedral’s website, COGIC members believe in Biblical infallibility, the rapture at the end of time, spiritual gifts from the Holy Ghost, and a process of personal sanctification, or an increasing resistance to temptation after being saved. COGIC church doctrine also reflects a complementarian conception of gender.[11] Only men are ordained as ministers, but ministers’ wives are accorded great respect as the first ladies or mothers of their congregations. Mother Maritha J. Wright, Bishop Wright’s wife, is the First Lady of the New Progressive Cathedral. The Western First Junction has a separate Department of Women, with a female executive who serves under the bishop. From 2013 to the time of this writing (spring 2019), Mother Althea Chaplin has run the Department of Women. Women also serve as evangelists and missionaries in the community.[12] Distinct ministries for men, women, and youth are offered at the New Progressive Cathedral.[13] Esteemed City Court judge and civil rights activist Roy W. King served as the cathedral’s assistant pastor and chairman of the Board of Trustees from his retirement to his death in January 2018.[14]

The Western First Junction’s Bishop James R. Wright Sr. Institute of Christian Education, which frequently hosts events at Roberts Wesleyan College, regularly coordinates continuing education programs with the cathedral. The Institute supports the “development of children’s and adult’s social, health/wellness and academic-wellbeing, particularly in the Rochester city community.”[15] It has hosted several “NYW#1 Health Fairs,” featuring medical and holistic medicine tutorials, at the cathedral.[16] Rev. Dr. Kenneth and Lady Nicole Newman, who lead the COGIC New Hope Family Life Center in Rensselear, currently supervise the institute.[17]

Preaching at the New Progressive Cathedral tends to be dramatic and punctuated with organ music, reflecting the revivalist origins of the Pentecostal movement. Members of the congregation attend worship in formal attire, unless the service is a baptism, in which case the person to be baptized wears all white. It is common for church members to exclaim, dance, and participate actively in worship, rather than remain seated.[18] Every August, the Western First Junction hosts the “Annual Holy Convocation,” a multi-day conference with worship and sessions on a variety of Christian topics. The cathedral is the primary venue, but events also occur at downtown sites such as the Riverside Convention Center.[19]

Much of the New Progressive Cathedral’s programming prioritizes education, civic participation, and public health in the 19th Ward. The church is a member of Rochester’s Interfaith Action network.[20] In the weeks before Election Day, 2008 — the day Barack Obama was elected president — Bishop Wright urged congregation members to vote. Thirty New Progressive Cathedral volunteers, led by St. Monica Roman Catholic Church administrator Roxie Sinkler, registered voters and publicized the upcoming election. Over 1,000 more residents of the surrounding four city districts voted in 2008 than in 2004.[21] After the infamous 19th Ward mass shooting of August 20, 2015, Rochester mayor Lovely Warren led a “Clergy on Patrol” march from the cathedral to the Genesee Street Boys and Girls Club.[22] The Alzheimer’s Association Rochester & Finger Lakes Region held “Brain Health and Mental Health Seminar: A Community Aging Well Together,” a program for local Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers, at the cathedral in October 2016.[23]

In 2012, the cathedral petitioned the City of Rochester to open the Mary L. Wright Preparatory Charter School for Health and Legal Careers (Wright Prep) at their complex. The application to the New York State Department of Education emphasized the need to support a “student population similar to that in the Rochester City School District,” with particular attention to students who have fallen behind.[24] Wright Prep has not opened as of Spring 2020.


[1] Marketta Gregory, “Catholics to Shut Down 11 Churches,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in St. Monica Archive, St. Monica Roman Catholic Church, Rochester, N.Y. [abbreviated SMA]; Marketta Gregory, “Closures Sadden Resigned Faithful,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Mike Latona, “Newcomer Priests Settle in at Diocesan Posts,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Mar. 24, 1994, 5A, copy in SMA.

[2] Amy Kotlarz, “Ministries Continue in 19th Ward,” The Catholic Courier Weekly (Rochester, N.Y.), 8–9 Sept. 2007, 2, copy in St. Monica Archives, St. Monica Roman Catholic Church, Rochester, N.Y.; “Our History,” New Progressive Cathedral COGIC, Rochester, N.Y., acc. 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.npccogic.com/history.

[3] “Leaders,” New Progressive Cathedral (COGIC), Rochester, N.Y., acc. 29 Apr. 2019, http://www.nywfj.org/leaders.html; “Our History,” New Progressive Cathedral COGIC; 270 Cumberland Street today is home to the Prayer House of the Church of God by Faith, another Pentecostal denomination [“Articles of Faith,” Church of God by Faith, Inc., acc. 6 Jun. 2018, www.cogbf.org/index.php/about-us/our-fellowship/beliefs; “Prayer House Vision,” Northwestern New York Church of God by Faith (COGBF) District, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, www.nwcogbfdistrict.org/prayer-house.html]. A church called the Word of Life Fellowship Ministry occupies 537 Post Ave, but little information about the ministry is available online [“Jeff Anderson [Obituary],” Legacy.com, last modified Nov. 2014, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/jeff-anderson-obituary?pid=173220099&view=guestbook; “Elsie Young [Obituary],” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 12 Jan. 2014, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, http://obits.democratandchronicle.com/obituaries/democratandchronicle/obituary.aspx?n=elsie-young&pid=169023184&fhid=27509; “Word of Life Fellowship Ministry,” Cmac.ws, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, http://word-churches.cmac.ws/word-of-life-fellowship-ministry/530/; “Word of Life Fellowship Ministry [Facebook Location Tag],” Facebook, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Word-of-Life-Fellowship-Ministry/113436122024341].

[4] Paraphrased from: Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religions and Religion, 5th ed. (Boston: Cengage, 2013), 112, 125–28.

[5] Albanese, America, 128, 148–49.

[6] “Our History,” New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction (COGIC), Rochester, N.Y., acc. 20 Apr. 2018, http://www.nywfj.org/about-us.html.

[7] “Events/Education,” New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction (COGIC), Rochester, N.Y., acc. 20 Apr. 2018, http://www.nywfj.org/events.html.

[8] “Leaders”; “Our History,” New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction; “Our Pastor,” New Progressive Cathedral COGIC, Rochester, N.Y., acc. 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.npccogic.com/our-pastor.

[9] “Leaders”; “Our Pastor.”

[10] “2005 Mayor’s Renaissance Award Winners,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 7 Dec. 2005, B4, ProQuest Document ID: 441806444; Joseph Spector, “Duffy Team Moves In,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 30 Dec. 2005, A1, ProQuest Document ID: 441808036.

[11] “The Affirmation of Our Faith,” New Progressive Cathedral COGIC, Rochester, N.Y., acc. 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.npccogic.com/about1.

[12] “96th Annual Holy Convocation [Flyer],” New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction (COGIC), n.d. [summer 2015], https://www.facebook.com/216936488977/photos/a.10151873921583978/10153198157053978/?type=3&theater; “97th Annual Ministers & Workers’ Conference [Flyer],” New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction (COGIC), n.d. [summer 2016], https://www.facebook.com/216936488977/photos/a.10151352576403978/10153702832813978/?type=3&theater; “Leaders”; “Our First Lady,” New Progressive Cathedral COGIC, Rochester, N.Y., acc. 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.npccogic.com/our-first-lady; “Mount Calvary to Host Women’s Day Services,” Finger Lakes Times (Geneva, N.Y.), 2 Mar. 2018, acc. 7 Jun. 2018, http://www.fltimes.com/briefs/mount-calvary-to-host-women-s-day-services/article_911f1765-2cb0-57df- a70b-bc7a34b888eb.html [link no longer functional]. 

[13] “NPC Ministries,” New Progressive Cathedral COGIC, Rochester, N.Y., acc. 29 Apr. 2019, https://www.npccogic.com/ministries-galleryPage.

[14] Will Cleveland, “Roy Wheatley King, former Rochester City Court judge, dies at 81,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 5 Jan. 2018, acc. 15 Apr. 2018, https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2018/01/05/roy-wheatley-king-former-rochester-city-court-judge-dies/1009301001/; William Morehouse, “Remembering Roy King,” His Branches, 11 Jan. 2018, acc. 15 Apr. 2018, http://www.hisbranches.org/site/remembering-roy-king/; Amber Roberts, “MLK Day Festivities Recognize Three Kings,” The Highland Echo (Maryville College, Maryville, TN), 30 Jan. 2013, acc. 15 Apr. 2018, http://highlandecho.com/mlk-day-festivities-recognize-three-kings/

[15] “Events.” See also: “Events/Education,” New Progressive Cathedral (COGIC), Rochester, N.Y., Internet Archive Wayback Machine, captured 28 Jun. 2016, acc. 26 Apr. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20160628144840/http://www.nywfj.org/events.html.

[16] “Events.”

[17] [Spring?] 2014 newsletter, Bishop James R. Wright, Sr., Institute of Christian Education, New York Western First Ecclesiastical Junction (COGIC), acc. 6 Jun. 2018, www.nywfj.org/uploads/1/3/9/6/13966548/institute_journal_cover_letter_newman_final_2014_1.pdf; Homepage, New Hope Family Life Center (COGIC), Rensselaer, N.Y., acc. 6 Jun. 2018, www.newhopeflc.org.

[18] Example: “Bishop Hartsfield preaching @ New Progressive Cathedral COGIC,” YouTube, uploaded by OfficialMTVideos, uploaded 16 Oct. 2011, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRlUd2JF4ZE; “Evangelist Patty Larke, Preaching @ New Progressive Cathedral COGIC – Part 1,” YouTube, uploaded by OfficialMTVideos, uploaded 19 Feb. 2012, acc. 6 Jun. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNNsiWiNKXo; “Prophet Weaver preaching at New Progressive Cathedral COGIC,” YouTube, uploaded by Christian Pavilioncogic, uploaded 2 Jun. 2010, acc. 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWESrBpvg8I.

[19] “92nd Annual Holy Convocation, August 15th–19th, 2011,” Our Lord’s Temple (COGIC), Ithaca, N.Y., uploaded 15 Mar. 2011, acc. 15 Apr. 2018, https://www.ourlordstemplecogic.org/mod/news/print.php?article_id=63; “Prayer, Praise Ring Out at Convocation,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 28 Aug. 2006, B3, ProQuest Document ID: 441871720.

[20] “News Beat,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 25 Oct. 2007, B4, ProQuest Document ID: 441975772.

[21] “COGIC Cathedral mobilizes over 1,000 new voters in Rochester,” PICO National Network, 15 Nov. 2008, acc. 15 Apr. 2018, https://www.piconetwork.org/news-media/news/2008/a-0403 [note: link no longer functional, so see https://web.archive.org/web/20160415173935/http://www.piconetwork.org/news-media/news/2008]; Jim Mandelaro, “Roxie Sinkler ‘Gave Her All’ to Rochester,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), 30 Mar. 2011, ProQuest Document ID: 859231336.

[22] Allison Norlian, “Clergy On Patrol Walks Through Genesee Street Neighborhood,” Rochester First.com, last modified 24 Aug. 2015, acc. 17 Apr. 2018, http://www.rochesterfirst.com/news/local-news/clergy-on-patrol-walks-through-genesee-street-neighborhood/220268104.

[23] “Brain Health and Mental Health Seminar: A Community Aging Well Together, Saturday, October 29, 2016, 8:30 AM–2:00 PM, New Progressive Cathedral, Church of God in Christ, 384 Chili Ave., Rochester, NY… [Flyer],” Alzheimer’s Association, Rochester & Finger Lakes Region, circa 2006.

[24] Mary L. Wright Charter School Proposal, 15 Aug. 2012, New York State Department of Education, acc. 17 Apr. 2018, http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/documents/marylwrightRedacted.pdf; quote from page 3.

Sun Folk Group of St. Augustine

All primary sources are published with the permission of the St. Monica Archives (SMA).

Sun Folk Group History by David Caiazza (1996)


Excerpts from the Sun Folk Group CD Reprise: To Benefit St. Augustine Centennial, 1898–1998 (1998)

Editor’s Note: The full Reprise CD features 15 tracks. Copies of the original CD are available in the St. Monica Archives. The tracks were imported to a computer as M4A files. For WordPress compatibility, the M4As were converted to MP3 files.

We’ve shared tracks that are in the public domain — for instance, “Medley of Spirituals,” but not George Harrison’s “Give Me Love,” or the Godspell song “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”

Track 06, “Medley of Spirituals.”
Track 10, “Man is Free.”

Full Reprise: To Benefit St. Augustine, Centennial, 1898–1998 Tracklist

01. Here Comes the Sun.
02. I Believe.
03. O Happy Day.
04. Reflections on a Central Commitment [written by Rochester deacon Ray Defendorf].
05. Allelu.
06. Medley of Spirituals.
07. Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.
08. He Ain’t Heavy.
09. Get Together.
10. Man is Free.
11. He’s Got the Whole World.
12. To Be Alive.
13. Day is Done.
14. Give Me Love.
15. We’ve Been to the Mountain.

Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Newsletters Related to St. Augustine Church

The documents featured here are reproduced with the permission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Archives. The hardcopies of these documents are held at the St. Monica Archives (SMA).

Beatrice Ganley, SSJ, “In the Interests of Life: School Closing at St. Augustine’s,” Re:Union, Sisters of St. Joseph, Rochester, New York No. 5 (Spring 1987), Pages 2–4


Sr. Anna Louise Staub, “An Interview with Marian Schaefer Smith,” Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Newsletter 31, No. 9 (May 23, 1997), Pages 43–44

Note: Readers may also be interested in an article on page 46 of this issue — “Death penalty just begets more violence” by Sister Francis Cecilia English.


Sr. Anna Louise Staub, “Writing a History on St. Augustine Church,” Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Newsletter, Nov. 20, 1998


St. Augustine Social Ministries

All primary sources are published with the permission of the St. Monica Archives (SMA).

St. Augustine Newsletter with Episcopal Deacon–Ecumenical Relations Article (Jun. 22, 1986)

Note: This bulletin describes how, in June 1986, St. Augustine parishioner Brian McNulty became a Roman Catholic deacon, while his wife Lynne McNulty became an Episcopalian deacon.


St. Augustine Women’s Place Documents (1986–89)


St. Augustine Women’s Place Documents (1989)


St. Augustine Elisha House Documents (1989–91)


St. Augustine Elisha House Documents (1991–93)


Rick Stoffel Sermon (Circa 1990s), St. Augustine Copy


Victoria Sandwick Schmitt & Anna Louise Staub, SSJ, Research Notes for St. Augustine

This page features the files that Victoria Sandwick Schmitt & Anna Louise Staub, SSJ, compiled while writing their two-part centennial history of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church. Schmitt and Staub’s work appeared in the spring and summer 1998 issues of Rochester History. The research files contain unique items such as oral history transcripts, pew rent rosters, and baptismal records.

All primary sources are published with the permission of the St. Monica Archives (SMA).

Holly Peer, Louise Madeleine Leschander (3/13/1883–8/5/1977) Oral History, May 9, 1974

Note the caption on the first page: “This belongs to Helen McNamara[.] Lent to me for centennial history, 1997.”


Mary McMahon & Betty Grant Oral Histories Regarding St. Augustine Church (1990s)


Schmitt & Staub, “Chronology of important dates in St. Augustine’s church history”

This document contains extensive transcripts of and citation information for newspaper articles about St. Augustine Church.


Schmitt & Staub Miscellaneous Notes and Oral Histories Regarding St. Augustine Church


Schmitt & Staub Oral History Transcripts Regarding St. Augustine Church

The interviews in this file are conducted with Sr. Anna Louise Staub and Sr. St. Luke Hardy.


Schmitt & Staub Research Notes for St. Augustine Parish History (Late 1990s)

This file contains baptismal and pew rent information for the early 1900s.


St. Augustine Fact Sheet (No Date)


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