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St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church

Author: Daniel Gorman Jr.

Note: This essay is intended to complement Victoria Schmitt and Sr. Anna Louise Staub’s 1998 history of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, which appeared in two parts in the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, N.Y.’s Rochester History journal.

This map shows the site of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church from 1929 to 2006. As of spring 2020, the site is the location of the New Progressive Cathedral (COGIC).

As Robert McNamara explains in his history of the Rochester diocese, Bishop McQuaid created St. Augustine as part of a larger expansion of Rochester Catholic churches. St. Augustine opened first as a wood-framed mission of St. Patrick’s Cathedral at Chili Avenue and Hobart Street in 1898, and became a full-fledged parish in 1906.[i] The new parish reduced the distance that Irish, English, and German Catholics in southwest Rochester would have to travel to attend Mass or Catholic school.[ii] The Sisters of St. Joseph staffed St. Augustine’s school, although the first principal, Sr. M. Regina Flaherty, was soon reassigned to open St. Monica’s Catholic school.[iii]


SA Chili Ave Photographs from 1907. Scanned at 600 DPI.


St. Augustine Parish Map (No Date)

After a fire damaged the original wood-framed mission church building in the fall of 1906, Fr. John H. O’Brien, the first full-time pastor, opted to build a new facility. Architect Joseph Oberlies designed a single building consisting of both the church and its school.[iv] According to church historians Victoria Schmitt and Sr. Anna Louise Staub, SSJ, this “duplex structure” enabled St. Augustine “to grow, and then build a separate church. After that, the whole duplex building could be used as a school.”[v]

To mark the opening of the new church-school building, parishioners hosted a public fair. Photographs show that the church basement was filled with local vendors and American flags. The flags reflect Catholics’ (especially immigrant Catholics’) attempts to overcome Progressive-Era anti-Catholicism and show that Catholics were sufficiently patriotic, despite their veneration of the Roman pope.[vi] Although tensions existed in this period between Catholics of different national origins, the institution of the Catholic parish, Schmitt and Staub note, “provided a fortress to offset the cultural influence of the dominant Protestant community. It provided spiritual life and familiar rituals, education, an active social life, and welfare.” With that said, I disagree with Schmitt and Staub’s claim that Catholics “sought to impress outsiders, but not necessarily … attract or transform them.”[vii] Rather, by fusing Roman Catholic ritual with signs of democracy, American Catholics tried to claim their place in the republic and change the minds of Protestants who viewed them with suspicion.


“St. Augustine’s Fair,” The Courier Journal, May 3, 1906

Building on the idea of Catholic churches as advocates of local welfare, a 1995 oral history interview with Mary Kavanagh McMahon recounts how the parishioners of St. Augustine might help neighboring parishes during crises:

1920: When fire destroyed the west wing of St. Patrick’s Girls Orphan Asylum (6/2/20), the families of St. Augustine’s opened hearts and homes to the older orphaned girls, whose dormitory had been utterly destroyed. Even after repairs had been completed on the building, some of the parents [at St. Augustine] asked for the girls to remain with them during the summer vacation, and in a few instances paid the tuition for them to attend Nazareth Academy.[viii]

St. Augustine’s hybrid church-school building remained in use until the mid-1920s. Since the parish population continued to grow, especially once Portuguese families moved into the area, Fr. O’Brien collaborated with architect James Arnold on a new church, which was located on Chili Avenue between Hobart and Lozier Streets. This third St. Augustine opened in 1929.[ix] Church bells were not installed until 1938, when O’Brien, returning from vacation, discovered that associate pastor Edward Waters and parishioners had put them in place during his absence.[x] In 1929–30, Bishop J.F. O’Hern ordered the creation of a mission church, St. Helen’s Chapel, on Renouf Drive in the nearby suburb of Gates. This mission church operated under the oversight of St. Augustine until 1940, at which time St. Helen’s became an independent parish.[xi]

Schmitt and Staub have found many anecdotes noting O’Brien’s compassion for his parishioners.[xii] Holly Peer’s 1974 oral history interview with Louise M. Leschander, who had attended St. Augustine since its opening, gave another interpretation of O’Brien’s pastorate, noting changes in Catholic culture between the World Wars:

“[O’Brien] believed in telling people what was right[,] and it was right … in those days.” He insisted that his parishioners name their children after Saints, and he lost a few parishioners for criticizing their choice of names. When hemlines were shortened, Father O’Brien commented one day at Mass that he was tired of seeing “shanks” and that it was good to see people with “their limbs covered.” Miss Leschander declares that he was a “wonderful man, but to tell the truth, if you lead a good life, that’s all…. There’s only one God for everyone. Some people take things so seriously, they’ll wind up on South Avenue [a reference to a local psychiatric center].”[xiii]

The 1995 Rochester Museum and Science Center oral history with Sr. Anna Louise Staub contains a similar description of O’Brien and his conception of gender: “Father O’Brien, the first pastor, was Irish. A crackerjack. He’d get up on Sunday and scold the women with their pimply arms showing.”[xiv]

O’Brien remained the pastor until his death in January 1945, nearly forty years after he began his tenure. Fr. John Duffy replaced O’Brien.[xv] Duffy continued to modify the St. Augustine physical plant. Notably, in 1948–50, Duffy fundraised and oversaw the construction of a new convent for the parish’s Sisters of St. Joseph.[xvi] The new St. Augustine convent later housed nuns from Our Lady of Good Counsel.[xvii] Fr. Duffy remained at St. Augustine until his mandatory retirement at age 75 in 1968, at which time Fr. Edward Tolster succeeded him.[xviii] Tolster was popular with parishioners, but he died suddenly in 1972.[xix]


“Miss Gunter,” Negative of St. Augustine Church Front (Sept. 1948)

During the 1960s, the Vatican II ecumenical council inspired substantial changes in Catholic worship around the world. Masses were now conducted in the vernacular, instead of the mandatory Latin; communion rails were generally removed; and priests faced the congregation for the entirety of the service. American churches experimented with new practices such as Masses scored with folk music and new committees providing lay Catholics a greater role in church governance. St. Augustine was no exception to either trend. A school board was formed in 1967, and a parish council was formed in 1972.[xx] Fr. Tolster approved the formation of the Sun Folk Group, led by Dennis Caiazza and Mike Ciminelli, in 1971. In 1996, David Caiazza recalled, “Sun’s unique approach to its musical style was to find spiritual meaning in the popular songs of the day as well as traditional melodies and apply them to worship…. This inspiring presentation of meaningful music, enthusiastic young people, and dedication helped make the weekly 9:30 a.m. Sunday mass by far the best attended service of the week at St. Augustine’s.” Sun Folk Group recorded its first album, Sun, to benefit the church in 1973.[xxi] Although the original group broke up in 1979, a second album, Reprise, was produced in 1998 to mark St. Augustine’s centennial.[xxii]


Sun Folk Group History by David Caiazza (1996)

In many regards, St. Augustine did well in this period. Parish mothers raised funds for a new, state-of-the-art library with multimedia holdings and a full-time librarian.[xxiii] Sisters of St. Joseph ran the school and the music ministry.[xxiv] Youths from St. Augustine performed in the original musicals that Anthony Falzano and Sr. Sheila Walsh, SSJ, produced at St. Monica under the auspices of the Upstairs Youth Agency.[xxv] Several 19th Ward churches, including St. Augustine, combined to form SWEM, the Southwest Ecumenical Ministry, which continues to provide social services in the 19th Ward.[xxvi] Yet the community was in turmoil. Schmitt and Staub detail how African Americans moving into the neighborhood encountered open hostility from white residents. White realtors engaged in block busting, by which they provoked white residents into moving away and then flipped the houses to African American customers, typically at a mark-up.[xxvii] The 19th Ward Community Association, founded in 1967 with assistance from local churches, promoted a message of multiculturalism and home ownership to counteract block busting.[xxviii]

The regional magazine Upstate New York ran a racially alarmist article in November 1973 about white flight in the 19th Ward, “Parishes in Trouble: Diminishing White Catholic Congregations in Changing Neighborhoods.” The article claims that St. Monica “disintegrate[ed] as blacks migrated into the neighborhood,” notes that a parishioner angry at local black youths broke into St. Monica and threatened Rev. Zimmer (a supporter of integration), and suggests that the 19th Ward’s changing racial demographics would bring financial disarray to St. Augustine. Despite its problematic racial elements, the article is useful for detailing the dispute over who would succeed Fr. Tolster as St. Augustine’s pastor. Parishioners wanted Fr. Robert Bradler, but instead got Frs. Paul McCabe and Neil Miller. Parishioners also lobbied against the appointment of Sister Marietta Hanss, R.S.M., as a pastoral associate — a role that would involve sharing administrative duties with the male priests. The petition failed, and Hanss assumed her post in September 1973. McCabe and Miller told Upstate that they felt St. Augustine could survive the closure of its school, whereas many parishioners viewed the school as essential.[xxix]


Ron Robitaille, “Parishes in Trouble: Diminishing White Catholic Congregations in Changing Neighborhoods,” with photos by Jim Laragy, Upstate New York, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Sunday, Nov. 4, 1973

Rapid pastoral turnover continued through the 1970s. Fr. Miller stayed only until 1975, after which Fr. David Simon replaced him. In 1978, both Simon and McCabe departed, and Fr. Elmer McDonald became the pastor. McDonald was only at St. Augustine for a year, after which Fr. William Trott began his decade-long tenure.[xxx] The 1970s were also notable for the changing racial, ethnic, and age demographics in the 19th Ward. A parish profile from November 1977 described St. Augustine as having “a large number of elderly people, a significant population of Portuguese and Italian immigrants, a growing but still very small number of black families, a stable number of young families with young children, and a declining number of middle-aged families.”[xxxi] A memo from the diocesan personnel board to St. Augustine in November 1977 predicted that 15–20 parishes in Rochester would soon need staff fluent in both English and Spanish.[xxxii]

In the early 1980s, the increasing number of African American residents and Catholic school students continued to discomfit older, white parishioners at churches such as St. Monica’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel. It cannot be coincidence that St. Augustine School, led by Sr. St. Luke Hardy, took proactive steps to emphasize social justice and racial cooperation in the same period. On March 5, 1985, St. Augustine School hosted an event called S.C.O.R.E. — the Student Conference on Racial Equality. The conference featured guests from the Urban League and the Colgate Rochester Divinity School (a Protestant seminary), screenings of the films Now That the Buffalo’s Gone and Bill Cosby on Prejudice, and remarks by Melissa Mercendetti, whom the program described as a “Spokesperson for Native American Rights.” Students’ programs contained excerpts from the Psalms and Gospel of Luke, passages from Proverbs captioned “Personal Reflection — Social Justice,” and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s speech from the 1984 Democratic Convention. The program also featured the lyrics to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and Albert King’s “Hold Hands with One Another,” positioning the soul classics as secular hymns. Sr. St. Luke and her colleagues’ efforts reflect the work of clergy at St. Monica and OLGC to improve the racial climate in the neighborhood, while not giving up on an activist orientation. On the administrative level, at least, these were liberal Catholic churches.[xxxiii]


SA School Student Conference on Racial Equality Booklet (3-5-1985)

St. Augustine School closed in June 1986. At the closing ceremony, principal Sr. St. Luke wrote in the church bulletin, “All of our students, Kindergarten through Grade 8, will be missioned in a personal way to their new schools.”[xxxiv] Before the closure, the school hosted one more social justice program — a conference exploring what youth thought about nuclear war. Noted Catholic peace activist Jerry Berrigan was one of the speakers. According to City Newspaper reporter Lou Buttino, Berrigan “told the students to spiritually clasp hands with seventh and eighth graders from around the world. The conference was a lot like career day, since peacemaking is also a career — ‘a way of life.’” Buttino’s article preserves many poignant statements from St. Augustine students as they mulled what nuclear would do to the planet, and what they would say to loved ones in their final moments.[xxxv]

A 1996 oral history interview, apparently with Sr. St. Luke (although the editors, Schmitt and Staub, do not formally identify the sister), discusses the closing of the school. Note that the transcript mixes the editors’ voice with that of the interview subject:

She knows she had an influence, as did Fr. Trott and the faculty on coming to deal with this in a positive way. She remembers about some of the earlier meetings — there was a wonderful mix of pastor and concerned parents. A couple came hoping the school would be there for their kids. A wonderful mix of people — black and white, Catholic and non-Catholic.

Father Trott was a wonderful spiritual leader in the sense that he instilled in all the people that were there the message that we need to be discerning to know where God’s leading us as a community. Not saying you can’t pray that the school won’t close, make the school stay here. Helped people get above that and discern where is the Lord leading us? That was a powerful thread that carried through that whole time. It was like a lifeline. Not be griping that the Diocese didn’t do this, or we’re better than this other school, etc. The focus was, this is where we are, where is the Lord taking us. Let’s not fight it[;] it may be hard. People hated it, were upset, and emotional. It was a hard situation — where do we find life in this. A lot of similarities with the death situation — the denial, the arguing, etc. A big loss in many lives. Sister came at it from that same instance. She was an instrument along with Bill Trott. They had lots of assistance from many good people who could pick up on that spirit and move in that direction.[xxxvi]

The church bulletin for June 22, 1986, which contained Sr. St. Luke’s farewell message, also reported that St. Augustine parishioner Brian McNulty had become a Catholic deacon. Soon, his wife Lynne would become a deacon at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. Fr. Bill Trott invited the congregation to attend Lynne’s ordination ceremony at St. Stephen’s: “This is another opportunity to reach out to our Episcopal neighbors in a spirit of evangelical love, learning more about another expression of true faith and bringing the dream of Jesus, ‘that all may be one,’ another step toward fulfillment.”[xxxvii] Trott’s support of Lynne McNulty’s ministry reflected, on a local level, Pope John Paul II’s increased outreach to the global Anglican Communion, including the U.S. Episcopal Church.[xxxviii] Schmitt and Staub describe Trott’s commitment not only to ecumenical relations, but also to social justice; Trott was active in SWEM’s Project Reach evangelization initiative, formed a prison ministry, and pushed for stronger relations with the 19th Ward’s youth and African American residents.[xxxix]

In the late 1980s, St. Augustine and St. Stephen’s collaborated on Elisha House, a hospice for cancer and AIDS patients, although St. Augustine was the legal owner of the facility. Deacon Lynne McNulty was the first director of Elisha House.[xl] Simultaneously, Sr. Eileen Conheady, SSJ, of the Catholic Family Center worked with Trott and St. Augustine Building Committee chair Christine Schramm, among others, to turn the former St. Augustine convent into Women’s Place, a shelter for women who suffered from homelessness or domestic violence, and for their children. Women’s Place opened in 1989.[xli]

Parish and diocesan budget problems intensified in the 1990s. In 1992, St. Augustine joined a cost, facilities, and priest-sharing venture with St. Monica and Our Lady of Good Council called the FIRST Cluster, later known as the Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward (RCC19).[xlii] The churches in the cluster maintained their individual identities. A 1998 planning document for the Community called for “a Catholic spiritual presence in the 19th ward in the three distinct and vital locations represented by the three parishes…. There is still abundant life and spirit in the communities and each community has something significant to offer to its immediate neighbors, to the cluster and to the larger urban community.” Even so, church budget deficits continued to grow.[xliii] A series of violent crimes, including muggings and murders, in the 19th Ward unsettled residents and galvanized Catholic officials from the Community to lobby against gun violence.[xliv]

Several priests, including Bob Ring, Bob Werth and Ghananian priest Peter Enyan-Boadu, served at St. Augustine during the 1990s; Werth became the nominal pastor from 1992 to 2004.[xlv] The Roman Catholic Community launched a number of innovative programs, notably an LGBT ministry facilitated by Fr. Raymond Fleming of Emmanuel Church for the Deaf and affiliated with Mary Ellen Lopata’s larger Catholic Gay & Lesbian Family Ministry in the Diocese of Rochester.[xlvi] Against this backdrop of diocesan transition, St. Augustine celebrated its centennial in 1998. Volunteers collected oral histories, and Victoria Schmitt and Sister Anna Louise Staub wrote a history of the parish, which the Rochester History journal published in two parts.[xlvii] In an anonymized oral history document from this period, one parishioner wished that St. Augustine would “stay opened” in the future.[xlviii]

The Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward added Ss. Peter and Paul, which shared its building with Emmanuel Church of the Deaf, in the early 2000s.[xlix] Per Bishop Clark’s mandate, the four RCC19 churches would have three weekend Masses at two locations, but only one priest would serve all the churches.[l] St. Augustine became a member of Interfaith Action, a coalition of churches that aimed to beautify and improve living conditions in the city’s west side. Interfaith Action, operating out of office space in the St. Augustine rectory, lobbied the city in spring 2002 to expand policing in the 19th Ward. A May 14, 2002, town hall meeting at St. Augustine reflected Interfaith Action’s multi-pronged approach. Attendees discussed the city’s “Raise a Roof!” home ownership program, but St. Augustine pastoral minister Joachim Flores made an impassioned speech about the need for the police to crack down on 19th Ward gang activity.[li]

In 2003, RCC19 undertook a new round of pastoral planning, led by the 19th Ward/Corn Hill/Bull’s Head Planning Group. This review process built on the 1990s “Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium” initiative, which required each parish to assess its condition. In fall 2004, Bishop Clark called for the reduction of RCC19 to one priest, three weekend Masses, and a single administrative staff.[lii] Officials from RCC19 canvassed parishioners and developed a downsizing plan. In November 2005, the Planning Group recommended the closure of OLGC, St. Augustine, and Ss. Peter and Paul. Parishioners took a vote and agreed to this plan. After the closures, parishioners would report to St. Monica, which would also become home to Emmanuel Church of the Deaf. Some parishioners of the closing churches reported a feeling of loss, while others accepted the change, given the city’s declining Catholic population.[liii] Longtime St. Augustine member Kathy Murty focused on organizing her church’s archive, which was then moved to St. Monica.[liv]

St. Augustine’s final Mass occurred on Sunday, April 23, 2006.[lv] Diocesan reporter Rob Cullivan noted that St. Augustine had continued to diversify in its final years:

Koreans, Haitians, Sudanese, and many other immigrants have called St. Augustine’s home, a fact acknowledged when the congregation sang a hymn with verses in 15 different languages. Judith Ekiyor, a native of Nigeria, observed that the parishioners welcomed immigrants. “They’re trying to know you, to make you feel comfortable, supporting you in any way they can.”[lvi]

Once St. Augustine closed, the diocese sold the church to the New York Western First Junction of the Church of God in Christ, which converted the building into the New Progressive Cathedral.[lvii] The cathedral remains operational as of this writing.[lviii]


St. Augustine Black and White Church Photos (Aug. 8, 1969), Batch 1

St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church Photo by Royal Chamberlain.


In the endnotes that follow, SMA stands for the St. Monica Roman Catholic Church Archives, 34 Monica Street, Rochester, N.Y., 14619. Open-access back issues of The Catholic Courier, in its various iterations (Courier Journal, etc.), are available at http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/ and http://lib.catholiccourier.com/.

[i] Daniel Gorman Jr., interview with John Curran, 20 Sept. 2018; Robert F. McNamara, The Diocese of Rochester in America, 1868–1993, foreword by Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, 2nd ed. (Rochester, N.Y.: Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 1998), 187; Victoria Schmitt and Sr. Anna Louise Staub, SSJ, “Building an Urban Faith Community: Centennial History of St. Augustine Church, Part One,” Rochester History 60, No. 2 (Spring 1998): 3.

[ii] SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet (Oct. 24, 1948), 5, copy in SMA; Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 4. See also: Rev. John H. O’Brien, “History of St. Augustine’s Church, 1898–1924, Rochester N.Y.” (1924), 15–16, SMA. Note: The ethnicity of Catholics routinely affected the creation of new parishes. For instance, in 1929–30, Bishop O’Hern created new mission churches that were largely intended to minister to Italian Catholics, while St. Helen’s Church in Gates, a mission overseen by St. Augustine, was meant to serve all Catholics in the immediate area [see: McNamara, Diocese, 345; SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 13–14].

[iii] SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 5–7; Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 6.

[iv] SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 5–7. 

[v] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 10.

[vi] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 13; “St. Augustine’s Fair. Preparations Made to Open on Monday Evening,” The Catholic Courier Journal (Rochester, N.Y.), circa 1907, copy in SMA; St. Augustine’s Fair photographs (1906), SMA. A handwritten note on the SMA copy of the Courier article gives the publication date as May 3, 1906, but this is incorrect, since the article says, “The building to be used as a church and school by the members of St. Augustine’s parish is now completed.”

[vii] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 10.

[viii] Personal Interview with Mary Kavanagh McMahon (Nov. 20, 1995), edited by Sr. Anna Louise Staub and Victoria Schmitt, in Schmitt-Staub Research Notes (compiled 1990s), SA files, SMA.

[ix] SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 9–13; SA House Tour Flier 1991, copy in SMA; Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 18; Schmitt and Staub, “Building an Urban Faith Community: Centennial History of St. Augustine Church, Part Two,” Rochester History 60, No. 3 (Summer 1998): 2 [“By the 1950s, the campus of St. Augustine occupied the block of Chili Avenue between Hobart and Lozier Streets”].

[x] SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 14.

[xi] Daniel Gorman Jr., interviews with John Curran, 20 Sept. 2018 and 20 Dec. 2018; SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet (Oct. 1973), 8, copy in SMA. I also consulted copies of newspaper articles, which I scanned as “SA Newspapers 1929–30 (Courier).pdf” and gave to SMA and the Diocese of Rochester Archives.

[xii] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part One,” 18–20.

[xiii] SA Louise Leschander Oral History (May 4, 1974), edited by Holly Peer 23, in Schmitt-Staub Research Notes (compiled 1990s), SA files, SMA. 

[xiv] “Meeting with Sr. Anna Lousie Staub, at the St. Joseph Mother House” (Aug. 22, 1995), Rochester Museum and Science Center, copy in Schmitt-Staub Research Notes (compiled 1990s), SA files, SMA.

[xv] SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 16–17.

[xvi] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 13; SA Golden Jubilee Pamphlet, 19; Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 4.

[xvii] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 26.

[xviii] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 15.

[xix] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 16.

[xx] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 23.

[xxi] David Caiazza, SA Sun Folk Group History (1996), copy in SMA.

[xxii] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 12; Sun Folk Group (St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, Rochester, N.Y.), Reprise: To Benefit St. Augustine Centennial, 1898–1998, audio CD, copies in SMA.

[xxiii] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 14.

[xxiv] SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 27–28.

[xxv] Gorman, interview with Curran, 20 Dec. 2018; Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 11.

[xxvi] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 8–9.

[xxvii] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 6–7.

[xxviii] Gorman, interview with Curran, 20 Dec. 2018. For further information on the 19th Ward Community Association, please consult the 19th Ward Community Association of Rochester Papers, University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, & Preservation, https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/finding-aids/D271.

[xxix] Ron Robitaille and Jim Laragy, “Parishes in Trouble: Diminishing White Catholic Congregations in Changing Neighborhoods,” Upstate New York, Sunday, 4 Nov. 1973, 4–9, copy in SMA; quote from page 4. Further reading: Schmitt and Staub discuss the McCabe, Miller, and Hanss episode in “Building, Part Two,” 9–10. For an “official” account of McCabe, Miller, and Hanss’s hiring, omitting the parish tensions altogether, see the SA Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet, 18–22. Page 30 of the Diamond Jubilee Pamphlet calls McCabe and Miller “young, dedicated and zealous priests.”

[xxx] James Sarkis, “St. Augustine,” Rochester Churches, accessed 15 Mar. 2018, http://dorchurches.com/staugustine.

[xxxi] “Saint Augustine Parish Profile” (Nov. 1977), SA Parish Profiles Folder, SMA.

[xxxii] “Memoranda from Personnel Board” (Nov. 11, 1977), SA Parish Profiles Folder, SMA.

[xxxiii] St. Augustine School Student Conference on Racial Equality Booklet, March 5, 1985, copy in SMA; see also St. Augustine School Teacher Conference Program, Sept. 28, 1984, copy in SMA. For the films: Bill Cosby and Thomas Mossman, Bill Cosby on Prejudice, KCET-TV, 1971, Internet Archive, Public Domain Mark 1.0, acc. Mar. 30, 2018, https://archive.org/details/BillCosbyOnPrejudice. There are several short films titled Now That the Buffalo’s Gone, but the likeliest result is: Burton Gershfield, “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone,” UCLA Student Film 1967, entry in Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945–1980, edited by David Lebrun, acc. Mar. 30, 2018, https://www.alternativeprojections.com/films/now-that-the-buffalos-gone/#section-description.

[xxxiv] St. Augustine Church Bulletin, June 22, 1986, 3, copy in SMA. For further information on the school closure, see Fr. Bill Trott’s pastoral letter in: St. Augustine Church Bulletin, June 29, 1986, 2, copy in SMA.

[xxxv] Lou Buttino, “Boys and My Rabbit,” City Newspaper Journeys (Rochester, N.Y.), June 5, 1986, 12, copy in SMA. For more information on Berrigan, see: Ed Griffith-Nolan, “Jerry Berrigan: A Life in Activism,” Syracuse New Times, Aug. 5, 2015, accessed Mar. 18, 2018, https://www.syracusenewtimes.com/jerry-berrigan-life-activism/.

[xxxvi] Oral history interview [Sr. St. Luke Hardy?], edited by Sr. Anna Louise Staub and Victoria Schmitt, in Schmitt-Staub Research Notes (compiled 1990s), SA files, SMA.

[xxxvii] St. Augustine Church Bulletin, June 22, 1986, page 2, copy in SMA.

[xxxviii] See: “Address of the Holy Father John Paul II to H.E. Edmond Lee Browning, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America,” Monday, 12 Jan. 1987, The Holy See, accessed 15 Mar. 2018, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1987/january/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19870112_episcopal-church.html.

[xxxix] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 15–18.

[xl] SA Elisha House Documents (1989–91), SMA; SA Elisha House Documents (1991–93), SMA; SA House Tour Flier 1991, copy in SMA.

[xli] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 18–19; SA Women’s Place Documents (1986–89), SMA; SA Women’s Place Documents (1989), SMA.

[xlii] St. Monica 2003 Booklet, SMA. For detailed documents on the transition, see: Brian McNulty, documents for St. Augustine parish archive, plus eight photographic slides, received Apr. 23, 2006, SMA.

[xliii] “SA 19th Ward Roman Catholic Community Planning Documents 1998” [electronic PDF file], copy of original pamphlet in SMA.

[xliv] Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 24.

[xlv] Rob Cullivan, “St. Augustine Marks Last Day,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), May 6–7, 2006, 3, copy in SMA; Schmitt and Staub, “Building, Part Two,” 21–23.

[xlvi] Kathleen Schwar, “‘Always Our Children’: Parish Ministries Set Welcoming Tone,” The Catholic Courier 109, No. 52 (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Sept. 17, 1998, 1–2, copy in SMA. Schwar mentions that Corpus Christi was one of the first Catholic churches in Rochester to have an LGBT ministry. Six months after this article was published, members of Corpus Christi broke away to form Spiritus Christi, an independent Catholic church with female clergy and a pro-LGBT stance. See: “About Spiritus,” Spiritus Christi Church (Rochester, N.Y.), accessed Apr. 10, 2018, http://www.spirituschristi.org/#/welcome/about-spiritus.

[xlvii] Sr. Anna Louise Staub, “Writing a History on St. Augustine Church,” Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester Newsletter, Nov. 20, 1998, copy in SA files, SMA.

[xlviii] SA Centennial Committee Oral Histories (Circa 1997–98): “Personal Recollections of Parish Life,” 2, copy in SMA.

[xlix] Mike Latona and Tamara Tirado, “City Churches Cope With Change,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), November 2005, copy in SMA; Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward Lent Schedule (“Be Still… and know that I am here”), 2003, SMA; Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward Lent Schedule (“Shatter the Hardness of Our Hearts”), 2004, SMA; SA Formation of 19th Ward Roman Catholic Community 2002, copy in SMA. Note: As The Catholic Courier noted in 1998, Emmanuel Church of the Deaf rented space from OLGC [Rob Cullivan, “Neighborhood Concerns Focus Urban Cluster’s Effort,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Sept. 24, 1998, 6, copy in SMA].

[l] Gorman, interview with Curran, 20 Sept. 2018.

[li] Rob Cullivan, “Federation Wants to Save Rochester’s West Side,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, May 23, 2002, copy in SMA. Further reading: Rob Cullivan, “Campaign Improves Lives of Many,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Nov. 7, 2002, copy in SMA.

[lii] John Curran, email to Daniel Gorman Jr., 26 Apr. 2019; Gorman, interview with Curran, 20 Dec. 2018.

[liii] Curran, email to Gorman, 26 Apr. 2019; Gorman, interview with Curran, 20 Dec. 2018; Marketta Gregory, “Catholics to Shut Down 11 Churches,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Marketta Gregory, “Closures Sadden Resigned Faithful,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Latona, “City Churches.”

[liv] Gorman, interview with Curran, 20 Sept. 2018.

[lv] Cullivan, “St. Augustine Marks Last Day,” 1–3; Marketta Gregory, “Church to Close; More to Follow,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, April 22, 2006, copy in SMA.

[lvi] Cullivan, “St. Augustine Marks Last Day,” 3.

[lvii] Amy Kotlarz, “Ministries Continue in 19th Ward,” The Catholic Courier Weekly (Rochester, N.Y.), Sept. 8–9, 2007, 2, copy in SMA.

[lviii] “New Progressive Cathedral Church of God in Christ,” Facebook, accessed Jan. 22, 2018, https://www.facebook.com/New-Progressive-Cathedral-Church-of-God-in-Christ-216936488977/; “Our History,” New York Western First Junction [Church of God in Christ], accessed Jan. 22, 2018, http://www.nywfj.org/about-us.html.

Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship

Author: Daniel Gorman Jr.

This map shows the location of Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship 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.[i] Although the Catholic footprint in the 19th Ward shrank, the shuttered churches remained in use. St. Augustine became the COGIC New Progressive Cathedral. St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church and St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Monastery in Henrietta purchased Ss. Peter and Paul as a Coptic mission. Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship, the subject of this report, purchased Good Counsel, located at 640 Brooks Avenue.


Our Lady of Good Counsel Closing Mass Program (May 7, 2006), c/o the St. Monica Archive.

Glory to Glory does not claim a denominational identity, but its views appear to fuse evangelical Christianity and Pentecostalism. 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. As the twentieth century progressed, Pentecostal denominations attracted a large number of African American Protestants.[ii]

Mark Mills, Glory to Glory’s founding pastor, has participated in a number of Protestant groups with a literal interpretation of the Bible. Mills suffered from heroin addiction as a young adult. He gained sobriety after joining the Rochester chapter of Teen Challenge, David Wilkerson’s evangelical rehabilitation service, in September 1992. According to a biography of Mills released by Rochester-area ministry His Branches, Mills was born again within two weeks of joining Teen Challenge.[iii] Over the next ten years, Mills worked as a drug counselor with Teen Challenge and was ordained at Rochester’s Calvary Chapel. Calvary is part of the national network of Calvary Chapels founded by Chuck and Kay Smith, pioneers of the “Jesus movement” who first preached to California beachgoers. Although Calvary Chapel supports common evangelical beliefs, notably complementary gender roles for men and women, Calvary’s “continuationist” belief in spiritual gifts provided by the Holy Spirit indicates a Pentecostal influence.[iv] Pastor Mills also became involved in His Branches, Dr. William Morehouse’s nondenominational ministry that provides spiritual formation and family health care services in the 19th Ward.[v] After his ordination, Pastor Mills began a pilot Bible study program in the 19th Ward. In August 2005, he reorganized this program as Glory to Glory Fellowship, which initially met at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Chili Avenue. The purchase of Good Counsel provided Glory to Glory with its first permanent facility.[vi]

In the ensuing years, Glory to Glory gained a multiracial and multigenerational congregation. The church sponsors regular ministries and periodic retreats for adults as well as young adults and small children.[vii] Major church teachings include expository preaching, Biblical literalism, the coming tribulation and rapture, and complementarian gender roles.[viii]Every Wednesday night, the church hosts religious education classes for entire families.[ix] The church is a supporter of Gospel for Asia, which operates evangelical missionary programs in “South Asia” (i.e, India), and promoted relief efforts for the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[x] Glory to Glory also participates in the Spencerport, N.Y., Assembly of God’s Samaritan Harvest food pantry, which distributes food to the needy in Rochester and sends food shipments abroad.[xi]

In Christ Alone Bible College, a small religious college opposed to “neo-orthodoxy, liberalism, and naturalistic philosophies,” operates out of the Glory to Glory complex. The college offers two religious degrees, the Associate of Christian Studies and the Bachelor of Ministry and Theology, and lacks academic accreditation, but Whitefield Theological Seminary in Florida will accept ICABC alumni as graduate students.[xii] The ICABC faculty reflects Pastor Mills’s combinative spiritual background. ICA director and Glory to Glory assistant pastor Dan Vacco studied theology at Whitefield, which is affiliated with the mainline Protestant Reformed tradition.[xiii] Ken Beaton studied at the Pentecostal Northpoint Bible College, and Sean Andersen studied at the Northeastern Seminary of Roberts-Wesleyan College, Rochester’s conservative Free Methodist college.[xiv]

Pastor Mills began teaching at ICABC by 2016, while studying for a bachelor’s degree from North Star Bible Institute in Hilton, N.Y. Like ICABC, North Star is unaccredited and run in conjunction with a church, in this case First Bible Baptist Church in the northwest Rochester suburb of Hilton.[xv] Such independent colleges are part of the religious right’s creation of a distinctive Christian culture over the last 50 years. What constitutes the “religious right” is often in flux, but the term usually describes the members of evangelical, Pentecostal, nondenominational, and/or fundamentalist churches that seek to advance conservative values and Christianity in U.S. society. Members of the religious right have created their own colleges and social organizations, parallel to but separate from “secular” and mainline-Protestant institutions.

ICABC participates in Biblical Training, an online consortium that uses the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) model to promote evangelical Christian education. The Biblical Training description of ICABC is clear about the school’s distance from mainline Protestantism and commitment to advancing a conservative form of Christianity:

ICABC was created due to the tremendous amount of disconnect that can occur between theologically conservative seminaries and the local church regarding beneficial instruction in theology and ministry. The passion of the teachers is to see local church members more equipped with the theological, philosophical, apologetical, and pastoral tools that are necessary in order to stand strong for Christ in the contemporary church and secular culture.[xvi] 

The Glory to Glory website was redesigned in late 2018. Previously, when I first began this report, the website had a simple homepage, but an extensive multimedia publishing initiative was found in the site’s subsections. Most of Pastor Mills’s sermons were available on the church website in Microsoft Word format. Mills had also published an iTunes podcast for six months in 2017.[xvii] The church’s “Media Ministry” offered free recordings of workshops, sermons, devotional lessons, panel discussions, and retreats.[xviii] ICABC offered free recordings of entire courses, so that members of the church can participate in simple, homework-free versions of MOOCs.[xix] Much, though not all, of this multimedia content has been ported over to the updated Glory to Glory website.[xx]

Glory to Glory’s devotion to multimedia programming reflects the sophisticated media efforts of First Bible Baptist Church, which livestreams its services, maintains a digital archive of video and audio sermons dating back to 1976, and has produced a professional documentary about its history.[xxi] The Internet therefore connects Rochester churches such as Glory to Glory to a larger movement of conservative American Christians, while also providing Rochester’s nondenominational churches with new followers beyond their physical locations.


[i] 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, 24 Mar. 1994, 5A, copy in SMA.

[ii] Paraphrased from: Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religions and Religion, 5th ed. (Boston: Cengage, 2013), 112, 125–28, 148.

[iii] “About Adult and Teen Challenge USA,” Adult & Teen Challenge, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, www.teenchallengeusa.com/about; “Non-Profit Report: Teen Challenge,” Rochester Business Journal (Rochester, N.Y.), 12 Apr. 2002, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://rbj.net/2002/04/12/non-profit-report-teen-challenge/; “Pastor Mark Mills Bio,” His Branches (Rochester, N.Y.), uploaded Feb. 2016, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, http://www.hisbranches.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/BioPastorMarkMills.pdf.

[iv] “Calvary Chapel History,” Calvary Chapel.com, last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://calvarychapel.com/about/calvary-chapel-history; “Pastor Mark Mills Bio”; website for Calvary Chapel (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, www.calvaryrochester.com; Christmas M. Beeler and Geraldine Wilkins, “Touching Hearts in New York: Calvary Chapel of Rochester,” Calvary Magazine No. 37 (n.d.), last modified 2017, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://calvarymagazine.org/PDFs/Issues_31-40/Issue_37/Calvary_Chapel_Rochester_and_Syracuse_37.pdf. “Continuationist,” complementarianism: “Statement of Faith,” Calvary Chapel.com, last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://calvarychapel.com/about/statement-of-faith. Note: In “Touching Hearts,” Rochester Calvary pastor Geoff Brede cites Glory to Glory as a church success story, in contrast to Rochester’s liberal Protestant seminary and churches that prioritize works over faith.

[v] “About Us: Extending the Love of Jesus to Our Community,” His Branches (Rochester, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, www.hisbranches.org/site/about-us/; “Family Health Care: Comprehensive Family Medical Care,” His Branches (Rochester, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, www.hisbranches.org/site/programs/health/; “His Branches Annual Banquet of Blessing [featuring Pastor Mark Mills],” His Branches (Rochester, N.Y.), 6 Mar. 2016, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, http://embracingoptions.org/site/hbi-2016-banquet/; “History: Establishing a Presence in the City for Faith-Based Service,” His Branches (Rochester, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, www.hisbranches.org/site/about-us/history/; “Pastor Mark Mills Bio”; “William R. Morehouse, MD [LinkedIn Profile],” LinkedIn, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.linkedin.com/in/wrm340/.

[vi] “Pastor Mark Mills Bio”; website for St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (Rochester, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, http://www.ststephensrochester.org/.

[vii] “The Fragrance of Christ [Ladies Spring Day Retreat, Saturday, April 29th, 2017],” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180424161104/http://www.glory2glory.org/ministries/the-fragrance-of-christ/; photos from the 2012 “Castle” retreat, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809013834/http://www.glory2glory.org/whats-happening/2012-castle/; “Rejoice: In Thy Presence is Fullness [2013 Women’s Spring Retreat Day flyer],” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.); “Women’s Fellowship,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809021243/http://www.glory2glory.org/ministries/womens-fellowship/.

[viii] “Expository Preaching,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180812010443/http://www.glory2glory.org/welcome/about-us/; “Men’s Fellowship,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180418061936/http://www.glory2glory.org/ministries/mens-fellowship/; “What We Believe,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809020808/http://www.glory2glory.org/welcome/what-we-believe/; “Women’s Fellowship.”

[ix] “Children’s Ministry,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809023512/http://www.glory2glory.org/ministries/childrens-ministry/; “Youth Ministry,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180420082549/http://www.glory2glory.org/ministries/youth-ministry/.

[x] “Gospel for Asia,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809025635/http://www.glory2glory.org/missions/gospel-for-asia/; “Helping Haiti,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), Internet Archive Wayback Machine, captured 2 Jan. 2011, acc. 20 Apr. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20110102135858/http://www.glory2glory.org:80/helping-haiti/.

[xi] “Who We Help,” Samaritan Harvest, Spencerport Assembly of God (Spencerport, N.Y.), acc. 15 Apr. 2018, http://samaritanharvest.com/Who_We_Help.html.

[xii] “In Christ Alone,” In Christ Alone Biblical College, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809014028/http://www.glory2glory.org/bible-college/.

[xiii] “Dan Vacco [LinkedIn Profile,” LinkedIn, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.linkedin.com/in/dan-vacco-01120318; Whitefield Theological Seminary homepage, Reformed.info, last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://seminary.reformed.info. Note that I borrow the term “combinative” from Albanese, America: Religions and Religion.

[xiv] “About Benjamin Titus (B.T.) Roberts,” Roberts Wesleyan College (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.roberts.edu/about/history/bt-roberts/; “FAQ,” Northpoint Bible College and Graduate School (Haverhill, MA), last modified 2017, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://northpoint.edu/primary-faq/; “Teachers,” In Christ Alone Bible College, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809023237/http://www.glory2glory.org/bible-college/teachers/; “What We Believe,” Roberts Wesleyan College (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.roberts.edu/about/what-we-believe/.

[xv] “About Us: Message from the Director,” North Star Bible Institute (Hilton, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, www.nsbi.info/about-us/; “Pastor Mark Mills Bio.”

[xvi] Block quote from: “In Christ Alone Bible College,” Biblical Training.org, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.biblicaltraining.org/lp/icabc. For more information on Biblical Training, see: FAQ,” Biblical Training, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.biblicaltraining.org/partners.

[xvii] Mark Mills, “Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship,” iTunes, last modified 18 Nov. 2017, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/glory-to-glory-christian-fellowship/id370848778?mt=2. Note that this link is no longer functional and the podcast is no longer on iTunes as of April 2019. See also: Mark Mills, “Pastor Mark’s Archives,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809021445/http://www.glory2glory.org/pastor-marks-desk/pastor-marks-archives/.

[xviii] Mark Mills, John Piedmonte, and Ken Beaton, “Fundamentals of the Faith [Audio Course],” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809023506/http://www.glory2glory.org/messages/fundamentals-of-the-faith/; “Media Ministry,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809022738/http://www.glory2glory.org/ministries/media-ministry/; “Men’s Fellowship”; “Midweek Studies,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809021737/http://www.glory2glory.org/messages/midweek-studies/; “Sunday Morning Sermons,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180315200857/http://www.glory2glory.org/messages/sunday-morning-sermons/; “Sunday Evening Archives,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809022507/http://www.glory2glory.org/messages/sunday-evening-archives/.

[xix] “The Book of Acts [Audio Course],” In Christ Alone Bible College, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809021433/http://www.glory2glory.org/bible-college/the-book-of-acts/; “Church History [Audio Course],” In Christ Alone Bible College, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180812010313/http://www.glory2glory.org/bible-college/church-history/; “The Doctrine of Man [Audio Course),” In Christ Alone Bible College, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20180809023742/http://www.glory2glory.org/bible-college/the-doctrine-of-man/.

[xx] Homepage, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship (Rochester, N.Y.), acc. 29 Apr. 2019, https://glory2glory.org/index.html.

[xxi] Examples of First Bible Baptist Church’s media: “FBBC — The First 50 Years,” YouTube, uploaded by “First Bible Baptist Church” [YouTube account], uploaded 4 Dec. 2016, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=YYDXyTJaACk; “First Bible Baptist Church [YouTube Channel],” YouTube, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnRyW3E83DvaBwVYPNq290A; “First Bible Baptist Church Sermon Library,” First Bible Baptist Church (Hilton, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.fbbc.info/sermonlibrary/; “Media,” First Bible Baptist Church (Hilton, N.Y.), last modified 2018, acc. 10 Jun. 2018, https://www.fbbc.info/media/.

Photo Tour of the Megiddo Mission

Photographs and Captions by Sophia McRae

Church exterior.
Office space adjacent (and connected) to church building: This used to be the site of the 6-in-1 Ladder hardware store, owned by a Megiddo member.
Interior of Church.
Interior of Church — back panels.
Detailing on the back panel of Church.

Industrial kitchen in the basement of church building — site for several church dinners and celebrations.
Entrance way to main houses of Megiddo property (between Flanders Place and West Sawyer Place) — memorial fountains to Maud Hembree pictured right.
Back of the three main (original) Megiddo houses — split into communal meeting room (in the main house, left) and several separate apartments.
Meeting room of the main house — place for Bible study, regular member meetings, etc. See photos of Nichols, Hembree, Skeels, and the Megiddo.
Meeting room of the main house — place for Bible study, regular member meetings, etc. See photos of Nichols, Hembree, Skeels, and the Megiddo.
Study (details) — TV recently installed to project System Logus (Bible study program).
Switch system in the main meeting room (detail) for broadcasting meetings to member houses and apartments. System installed in 1920s by Newton Payne.
Educational building, originally completed in 1958. Now houses recording studio and mechanical equipment for property maintenance.

Informational panel explaining prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 (in old printing room of main house).
Informational panel on the timeline of God’s plan for Earth starting from the birth of Adam and ending in the Return of Christ and Immortality.
Informational panel tracing the travels of Reverend L.T. Nichols from birth to death.

The Megiddo Mission Church

Author: Sophia McRae

Editor’s Note: Scans from the period histories of the Megiddo Mission are published online with the permission of the Megiddo Mission Church and the University of Rochester Libraries, Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, & Preservation.

I. Introduction

The Megiddo Mission Church arrived in Rochester in 1904 and has since been one of the most fascinating parts of the city’s history. Based largely around their own self-reliant community, it is by their own determination that the Megiddos were never wholly integrated into the life of the rest of the city. Their work nevertheless contributed largely to the development and growth of the southwestern quadrant of Rochester, specifically the 19th Ward neighborhood.

The congregation is named after a Biblically-referenced village in Palestine, translated from Hebrew as “place of troops,” or “God is in this place with a band of troops” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 16). Megiddo was a strategically located village along historic trade and military routes, and was cited in the Old Testament as a site of frequent violent conflict (vi). The congregation, however, is more often remembered because of its notable missionary steamship named The Megiddo, which sailed along the waterways of the Mississippi River for two years between 1901–1903. The boat was quite a spectacle, housing the entire congregation as their band spread their message throughout middle America.

Truly unique in its methods and message, the Megiddo Mission is a congregation of its own theology and claims no affiliation with any established Christian sect, “whether Adventism, Mormonism, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses or any of the Pentecostal groups” (vi). The Megiddo Church is still located on Thurston Road in the 19th Ward, on the site where the congregants settled in 1908. Although their population has dwindled greatly since its height in the first half of the twentieth century, they continue to work within their community and in missionary endeavors with unwavering faith and determination.

Megiddo Mission Church exterior.
Megiddo Mission Church exterior. Photo by Sophia McRae.

II. Founder, Leader, Spiritual Emancipator: Reverend L.T. Nichols

The work of the Megiddo Church is based in large part on the revelations of its founder, Reverend L.T. Nichols. Considered by the congregation as their “spiritual emancipator,” L.T. Nichols gathered a substantial following of converts through religious preaching, open sermons, and public debates in the mid- to late nineteenth century. In an autobiographical history of the mission, the author writes that the story of the Megiddo Church is that of L.T. Nichols and his “lengthened shadow” (14).

“L. T. Nichols As he appeared at the time of his public discussions.” Excerpt from Life and Work of the Reverend L.T. Nichols (1944). University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, & Preservation.

L.T. Nichols, named after the initials of his father, Lemuel Truesdale, was born in Elkhart, Indiana on October 1, 1844 (1). The family moved to the frontier of Wisconsin in 1849, where he spent more hours at home helping his mother and sister than in the schoolroom. Nevertheless, he was an earnest student of the Bible, known even as the “boy preacher” for challenging his ministers and teachers on their interpretations of the text (1). He justified this behavior with the principle by which he later preached: “Let God be true, though every man a liar” (2). Nichols believed in the purity of the words of the Scripture, and sought in them the secret of salvation. Of this, he wrote, “The great reason of success in any undertaking in life is expressed by the one term — ‘Earnest devotion to a cause held dear’” (6). He emphasized the importance of a dedicated personal study of the Bible, and adhered strictly to the one text. In discussing his search of the Truth (or what he referred to as True Religion):

It was revealed to His holy Apostles and Prophets, and I, by reading, could understand…I must find the key of knowledge. This I did, as I studied the blessed Bible in Hebrew, Greek and English, that I might attain to a knowledge of its more than wonderful pages. I grasped the key with a firm, unyielding grasp — the fables were discarded as truth was discovered to view (6).

Nichols married in 1864 and was drafted shortly after into the army. Because of his refusal to bear arms, he went on to work in a military hospital before returning to his farm. When Nichols was 30 years old, he moved his wife, sister, and parents with a group of followers to McMinnville, Oregon, where they remained from 1874 to 1883 (Patzwald, n.pag.). From his new home, Nichols printed pamphlets, held public sermons, and engaged frequently in popular debates against other religious leaders, such as ministers from nearby churches. It was at one public debate with a professor in WIllamette Valley in 1877 that L.T. Nichols met the Reverend Maud Hembree, who would become his pulpit assistant and, later, his successor. There had been another somewhat similar Christian sect to the Megiddos known as the “Christadelphians,” founded by Dr. John Thomas in the nineteenth century. However, Nichols’s congregation members distanced themselves from their contemporaries and, upon a revelation by Nichols, officially established themselves as the Megiddo Mission in 1880. He proclaimed that “no man could be saved apart from knowing and keeping every commandment of God” (Patzwald, n.pag.). His message focused on the following convictions:

1.) The search for the Truth and True Religion would only be found through “hidden treasures” in the Scripture, and would be discovered by the Divine command to seek the wisdom of God.

2.) The prophecy of the Apostle Paul that religious teachers “would turn the people from truth to fables,” and the denial that any source (such as other religious groups or sects) aside from the Bible could prophes the Truth (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 7).

In 1883, the congregation moved once again to Dodge County, Minnesota, where Nichols built his new church and home. Soon after, the church established new congregations in the surrounding areas, including in Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio (14).  An apt businessman and inventor along with being a skilled debater and enthusiastic preacher, the Reverend funded church undertakings by manufacturing, selling, and patenting farm machinery. This also provided for two missionary trips to England with his wife. Notably, his second trip in 1897 was on the maiden voyage of the ship, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, said to be “one of the largest and finest passenger vessels afloat at the time” (14). He used the trip back to conduct religious services, during which he admonished Darwin’s theory of evolution. Instead, he preached “God’s evolution,” from man’s original sinful state to Christ, before finally reaching the highest form of life, immortality (14). Missionary work on the sea may have inspired the Reverend’s idea for the next stage of the Megiddo Mission’s evolution (and probably the time in which they attracted the most attention), aboard the iconic missionary steamship The Megiddo.

III. Life on The Megiddo

The Reverend conceived the idea of a missionary steamship at the turn of the century as a way by which the congregation could most cheaply and efficiently contact people in everyday life. The ship would be a place where the “works of the flesh would be overcome” (15). Construction of a boat begun soon thereafter at the cost of $22,000, which the church members and the proceeds of Nichols’ patented technology funded. In the meantime, the brethren sold their farms and properties in preparation for the collective move to the boat. On October 24, 1901, The Megiddo was officially launched from the Godfrey Marine Ways in Iowa with 30 families and with great fanfare and celebration. The spectacle was widely publicized by local newspapers, who wrote of the Megiddo Mission Band playing jovially on the deck of the red, white, and blue-painted ship.

The boat was 205 feet long with a beam of forty feet and included three decks and two 125-horsepower engines (17). Although the congregation of about 90 lived on the boat, there were 52 separate staterooms with “the family lines being as carefully drawn … as in an apartment house. In no sense could the enterprise be termed communistic” (17). Although there was one large dining room, it was sectioned off for each family to eat separately, including individual cupboards and tables. Families were given their own lockers and sections in the refrigerator for individual meal preparation, although the cooking was still done by the women in one large kitchen (20). A complete machine shop for manufacturing and repair work, a carpentry shop, a laundry, and a flour mill were also onboard. The ship included sanitary plumbing, was steam-heated, and was lit with acetylene gas. The centerpiece of the ship was the general meeting room, which could fit over 100 people and an orchestra, and included a piano and a chapel organ (20). The boat towed a barge holding fruits, vegetables, and the Brethren Bandwagon (Patzwald, n.pag.). Religious and patriotic ornamental elements such as inscriptions of missions, mottos, and prayers were found throughout the ship, as it was designed for not only for practicality, but also for comfort.

“The Megiddo Mission Ship, on the waters of the Mississippi.” Excerpt from Maud Hembree’s 1927 History of the Megiddo Mission. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

The Megiddo set off south down the Mississippi River, barely fighting off precarious ice flows before they reached warmer waters. Some locks remained open an extra two weeks into the season in order to let the Megiddo to pass through. The crew settled in Memphis, Tennessee, for their first winter. On March 27 of the following spring, they were able to head back north to stay in St. Louis. Traversing the surrounding waterways, they moved south again on October 9, this time on the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers to Nashville. While docked, the congregation would parade through local towns with the church band playing music and distributing handbills. They carried a large tent in which they would hold open services and perform missionary work. These services included “band music, singing, preaching by Captain Nichols or the Reverend Hembree, and calls for commitment to reformed lives. They were very popular and were reported regularly in local newspapers” (Patzwald, n.pag.). The brethren earned money for their work by selling craft goods made by the women, while the men found seasonal employment in the area (History of the Megiddo Mission 1965, 19). Particularly in Nashville during their second winter, the Megiddos built and rented houses for additional church income (Patzwald, n.pag.). After two seasons of travel along the waterways of the midwest and suffering two sandbar accidents, the congregation opted to pick up missionary work in the northeast, where their fervent leader had relatives.The boat was sold in Paducah, Kentucky, in December 1903 to a river packet company for $15,000 (Democrat, 4 Jun. 1904, 11). It was repaired and renamed the Chattanooga, until it met its unfortunate end on the Tennessee River. It was reported the boat “at 1 o’clock Wednesday morning, May 25th, broke in two parts and went down with all her cargo. The boat is said to be a total wreck, but efforts were made to recover the cargo…. There were twenty-one passengers on board when the boat struck, but they were taken safely to shore in yawls” (Democrat, 4 Jun. 1904, 11). By January 25, however, the Megiddos had all boarded a train to Rochester, NY (History of the Megiddo Mission 1965, 21).

IV. The Mission Moves to Rochester

“Megiddo Mission Home, 481 Thurston Road, Rochester, N. Y.” Excerpt from Maud Hembree’s 1927 History of the Megiddo Mission. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

Reverend Nichols purchased five acres of land on Thurston Road — the same site where the Megiddo Mission can be found today — when he arrived in Rochester. At the time, the land was barely within the city limits, adjacent to farmland and undeveloped state properties. A map of the neighborhood can be seen in figures 1 and 2: The plate is dated from 1910, just a few years after the Megiddo band finished their construction. A Democrat and Chronicle article from April 3, 1904 included an interview with Nichols on his plans for the newly moved-in Megiddo Mission. The five-and-a-half-acre property on Thurston Road included one large house, two cottages, and a barn (Democrat, 3 Apr. 1904, 19). Of their progress, Nichols said,

We have done much work here, but there is more to do. You see, we haven’t papered this room yet. Then, we have the lighting system to install. Our machine for providing light is an invention of our own. We shall use acetylene. Of course, the carbide we shall buy. We are just putting in a system of steam heading now. We have a large range of our own invention, too: and we have yet to put it up. It is the finest range made (19).

Their style of living was truly unique. L.T. Nichols explained, “It is the common opinion that one house won’t hold two families, but there is no reason why many may not live happily together if they have the right spirit. They should be able to get along just as well as the clerks in a large store” (Democrat, 3 Apr. 1904, 19). When he was asked if his goal was to form a community, his response was, “No: our main object is to do good,” and described the upcoming construction of the church bandwagon (19).

While the congregation members built their campus, they rented a large house on the east side of the city and continued using their missionary tent to conduct services. Their first public services were held about a mile away from their property until they moved their work to the Lake Ontario shore, nearby recreational and residential areas. A Saturday Globe article from August 20, 1904, entitled “A Band of Zealous Christian Workers in Rochester” wrote about the new community: “The Megiddo workers have been well received by the press and people of the North and South, as well as in this city” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 23). In 1905, the congregation rented a church on Plymouth Avenue for 18 months, until it was sold to a Spiritualist congregation (Patzwald, n.pag.). A seasoned debater who condemned Spiritualist doctrine, Reverend Nichols presented the newcomers with a challenge during his final sermon in the church on August 5, 1906. He claimed, “I stand ready today to buy the Plymouth Church outright and make the Spiritualists a clean present of it if they will produce one phenomenon which I fail to explain upon reasonable investigation” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 23–24). The Spiritualists, however, ignored the proposition and moved into the space.

The church at Thurston Road was finished by 1907 and officially dedicated on March 22, 1908. The dedication drew 250 people (Patzwald, n.pag.). It was described in a Democrat and Chronicle article: “The edifice is after the style of Plymouth Spiritual Church … though smaller…. The room is handsomely carpeted. An excellent system of electric lighting, which the members declare is the best in the city, has been installed. The windows are beautifully colored” (Democrat, 20. Mar. 1908, 17). The church included a large dining room and a gymnasium, while elsewhere on the property stood a three-story, twenty-one-room building and another nine-room house (Patzwald, n.pag.). The mission members did not all live communally; most lived in separate houses along the two private roads that surrounded the property.

Cooperation and business prowess allowed for their success. Nichols sold lots along their streets to church members, and encouraged each family to build two houses — one for living in, and one to rent. By their dedication in 1908, forty-two houses had already been built and paid for. An article reported on their building projects: “The mission would like to own enough to control the neighborhood, so that no saloon could get in. No disorderly people could rent of the mission” (Democrat,23 Mar. 1908, 11). The church operated along a tithe system of payment, in which all church workers and missionaries, including the minister, organist, choir, or band, would not be paid for their work. The money paid in tithes, however, would cover the costs of missionary work, such as travel and advertising services (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 25). The Megiddos made a point to never rely on any sort of outside funds or services; the church cost of $5,000 was paid in full before the church opened. L.T. Nichols, an experienced businessman, continued to financially advise his congregation:

He advised those in debt to pay what they owed before putting money into the collection box. People shouldn’t give money for religious purposes and leave their grocery bills unpaid, he declared. If the neighbors would put themselves under his leadership, no matter how poor they were, he would guarantee everyone a bank account within six months, and all would be happier than ever before in their lives (11).

In the first few years, the Megiddo band continued as they had during their stops along the Mississippi. Church members worked to sustain themselves and the church, described by Nichols:

Most of the men get work, and the women knit shawls and do fancy work. If anyone gets behind, the rest help him: but this isn’t often necessary. Each one manages his own affairs, but we buy wholesale and, thus, more cheaply than would be possible for single families. But every man has his own purse. A few of us have enough money to keep us (Democrat, 3 Apr. 1904, 19).

The Megiddos’ economic sensibilities were tied closely with a strict, practical outlook on life, their communal lifestyle, and firm religious belief. Similarly to how it was earned, money was saved in a number of ways with community-wide practices. The Megiddos did not buy tobacco, beer, coffee, or tea, for example. This and other displays of abstinence were justified by their physical and spiritual health, as well as their financial stability. Nichols said of this,

We believe that these hurt the stomach. We do not use spices in our foods. Thus, we save a great deal — and it is necessary that we should be economical. We have excellent health. Every morning we take a cold bath, so that grippe, when it is attacking others about us, passes us by. We live on porridge, brown bread, milk, fruits, beef, mutton and distilled water. Yes, we use sugar. We boil even the excellent water you have here (19).

The Megiddos continued to conduct missionary work within Rochester, with about four to twenty members going door to door at any given time. They sent missionaries to various parts of the United States and Canada, as well. Their presence became a powerful factor in the development of the southwestern quadrant of Rochester. L.T. Nichols made deals with the New York State Railways to extend trolley lines and asked the city to introduce sewers, waterways, sidewalks, and paved streets. Soon, new businesses and stores moved in, and the neighborhood began to thrive (Patzwald, n.pag.).

V. End of an Era: The Loss of Founder L.T. Nichols

On Tuesday, February 13, 1912, Reverend Nichols traveled with his wife and sister to Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, where he could recover from a sudden ailment. The Sanitarium had Seventh Day Adventist origins and was directed at the time by the famous Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who supervised the site from 1875–1943 (“Battle Creek”). Prompted by the accidental discovery of breakfast cereal in the sanitarium kitchen, Dr. Kellogg went on with his wife and brother to found the Kellogg corporation and thus became the first cereal mogul. However, Kellogg’s work in the healthcare industry included several health reform ideas, including the importance of diet and various water bath therapies (“Battle Creek”). These treatments may have drawn Nichols to the sanitarium instead of a local hospital.

Reverend L.T. Nichols performed two sermons the Sunday before his travel, but Maud Hembree recorded simply that “he did not feel well — in fact, he had been indisposed for some time” (Hembree, 65). She continued,

On Wednesday morning, February 28, letters came stating that he was better and intended holding services in that city the following Sunday. At two o’clock, a phone message came telling us that suddenly, unexpectedly, without a moment’s warning, the heart had failed and he was sleeping the sleep of death (65).

The reverend was 67 years old, and his death came as quite a shock not only to his community, but also to the city of Rochester at large. The Rochester Herald reported in an article, ”Leader of the Mission Buried by Sorrowing Friends”:

Nor were they [the Megiddo Mission] alone in their sorrow, for hundred of friends and acquaintances, Catholic and Protestant, came to join in the tribute to the genius who built up a part of a city and ruled with gentle force, but sure purpose, over his followers (quoted in Hembree, 65).

Nichols’ funeral procession extended for blocks toward his burial place in Rochester’s historic Mt. Hope Cemetery. City officials even suspended a music regulation in the cemetery in order to allow the Megiddo Mission Band to play. The Herald also wrote that the city”lost one of her most energetic and enterprising citizens, whose ability has during the last eight years built up quite a section of the west side of the city that was destitute of streetcars, sidewalks, gas, electricity, or other conveniences until they were brought into that section through his efforts” (Patzwald, n.pag.).

The Mission’s descriptions of the Reverend are heaped with praise and often compare him to explorers, political leaders, and prophets (such as Jesus). His words continue to echo in the congregation’s religious vision, as his teachings steered the mission in belief and practice. One Mission member wrote of him:

He was a great navigator, and God entrusted to his care the ship of Zion, “megiddo,” to set out on the last voyage He purposed by His foreknowledge would be undertaken in these last days. He was a captain greater than Cook, Magellan or Columbus, one who set out to reach the land of liberty, the Kingdom of God. But he had spent many days beforehand studying, like Columbus, and knew there must be alnad of immortal light ahead (Life and Work, 1944, 82).

Nichols’s biographer, E. Clyde Branham, wrote of him,

At long last, in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, as men count time, an honest man appeared…. We know that without him life would be meaningless; but since the fragrance of his life has been diffused into ours, we have hope…. Only a man possessing this high degree of honesty would be a fit instrument for the tremendous task of ending the long night of darkness and rolling back the frontiers of spiritual darkness. Such a man would be more than a world figure — he would belong to the ages (7).

The following section will cover the work and revelations of L.T. Nichols that so powerfully inspired these words, including his Doctrine of Perfection and True Religion.

VI. Revelation and the Doctrine of Perfection

Reverend Nichols believed in an intense and exclusive personal study of the Bible, for in it he found hidden religious truths. He wrote, “I looked over the field of human thought to see by what means I could accomplish the greatest good, and decided that all of the literature of earth the Bible contains the requisite knowledge which benefits humanity for both this life and the one to come” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 4). Nichols approached his religious study with dismay in the growing number of religious sects and schools of Christian theology, condemning them essentially to the status of infidels:

I did not wonder that the inquirer after truth, bewildered by the confusion arising from jarring sects, began to doubt the infallibility of this blessed Word [the Bible], and infidelity was adding thousands to its ranks. Either the Bible was divine, the work of an infallible God, or the work of fallible man; there was no halfway ground upon which to stand (4).

A great moment of “clarity” during these early studies — and which for the Mission was perhaps the prophetic moment — came when Nichols read Proverbs 2:3–5: “Yea, if thous criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding, if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (4). In the sayings of Apostle Paul, Nichols found the answer to his question about what had obscured the original Truths and turned them to such “hid treasures”:

I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (II. Tim. 4: 1–4) (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 4).

Nichols took from this passage that all religious teachers after the death of Jesus and his Apostles had done nothing but corrupt the original religious Truths of the Bible through scholasticism and interpretations of the texts. The “fables” to which he (and Apostle Paul) refer are the non-literal interpretations, or the far too literal interpretations as in the cases of hellfire preaching pastors, of Biblical stories, therefore increasingly separating Christian followers from the glory of True Religion. In the timeline understood by the Megiddo Mission, upon the deaths of the Apostles (referred to as the twelve “Honest” leaders), the “mystery of iniquity” and superstition began through the work of theologians. Systems of thought were established that diverged from the Truth and grew “as men increasingly refused to adhere to revelation,” until honesty and truth perished completely, and thus began a twelve-century Apostasy. It is written that,

By the early years of the Seventh Century its triumph over true religion was complete, and in a few more centuries, except for what it had lost to its twin delusion, Islam, the power of Rome seemed impregnable…. Truth was long since dead and forgotten, for the reason that there was no man worthy of it (Life and Work, 6).

According to Scripture, Nichols, argued the coming of the dark centuries was out of a “little horn” in the declining Roman Empire (Daniel 7:8, 21; 8:9-12). The apostates would “wage a war of extermination against the saints of the Most High, prevailing until the truth was cast down to the ground” (History of the Megiddo Mission 1965, 8).

Thus the Truth is obscured with “fables mankind had been turned aside to that had covered up the truth, the sound doctrine” (5). The Megiddos’ interpretation of history is not so absolutist, however. The Protestant Reformation is understood as a significant event, if only a pseudo-revolution, in breaking the “Roman monopoly” on Christianity and allowing for Scripture to become more widely accessible. The Megiddo Mission is also singularly patriotic, viewing the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the establishment of the United States as major turning points in history and moments of “tremendous spiritual significance,” as these moments allowed for the Megiddos’ very existence. They even draw comparisons between Columbus’s explorations and Nichols’s own trailblazing work. They write,

The steps toward political and religious liberty, the preparation of a new soil in the land of the free, even the decline of religion with its accompanying tolerance, were all Divinely ordained in anticipation of the appearance of that almost forgotten rarity, an honest man (Life and Work, 7).

However, they wrote, “Inch by inch, through dark tunnels, blind and treacherous passages, amid bitter opposition and at times organized persecution, L.T. Nichols was slowly but steadily progressing toward the light” (History of the Megiddo Mission 1965, 8). The present day is still considered a part of the “long, dark night of total apostasy from true religion,” and only the Megiddo Mission stands in “the full blaze of the light of truth” (7).

Megiddo informational panel on the timeline of God’s plan for Earth starting from the birth of Adam and ending in the Return of Christ and Immortality.
Megiddo informational panel on the timeline of God’s plan for Earth starting from the birth of Adam and ending in the Return of Christ and Immortality. Photo by Sophia McRae.

According to the Mission, the secret to salvation is unfaltering faith and devotion in God, “simple and childlike.” For this discovery, Nichols is portrayed as a hero: ”It has been truly said: ‘Every great cause for which heroes have bled and brave souls have suffered, has once been on coward tongues an impossibility’” (5). In 1880 came the moment of L.T. Nichols’ celebrated and momentous illumination. He worked in the pursuit of the answer to the question of salvation and for the return of Truth to mankind after its fall in the seventh century. The logic follows:

1. Jesus said “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

2. Strive for perfection through hard work, growth, and development.

3. If Sin is the transgression of the law (I. John 3:4), perfection is the upholding of the law.

4. So: “No man could be saved apart from knowing and keeping every commandment of God” (13).

True Reformation, then, is the principle of perfection of character. The religion becomes based on performance, demonstrated specifically by the actions of Jesus Christ. “For the first time in nearly thirteen centuries the lofty principle of perfection of character was being proclaimed” by the Megiddos’ “spiritual emancipator,” L.T. Nichols (13).

VII. The Coming of the Lord and the End of Days

The Doctrine of Perfection and the Megiddo’s belief in True Religion form only one half of Reverend Nichols’ proclamations. The prophecy of the second coming of Jesus, the end of days, and the establishment of heaven on earth also frames the cosmology of the Megiddo Mission. The Megiddos’ anticipation of Elijah the Prophet and Christ continues to define their congregation. Part of Nichols’s illumination of 1880 included the Biblical passage: “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matthew, 25:6). In prophecies 2, 7, and 8 of Daniel, the prophet predicts the rise and fall of the empires of antiquity: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. These four kingdoms, according to prophecy, would “all … be destroyed and supplanted by the eternal empire of Jesus Christ” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 7). According to the Megiddos, we are currently living in the pieces of the Roman kingdom, described by Daniel as a fragmented society made of iron and clay (that is, with some weaker and some stronger states). Similarly, the four beasts described in the vision of Daniel 7 each have analogous features to the ancient empires, further justifying the Megiddos’ anticipation of the fifth and final kingdom to come.

Megiddos consider Earth a part of God’s benevolently constructed universe: This earth is all we know, but it is not unique. According to the Megiddos, God has planned worlds all over the universe, and Elijah the Prophet is currently on some other planet, awaiting the time for which heaven can be established on this earth (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018). Elijah the Prophet will come first to prepare Earth for the coming “renewal of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, both righteous and wicked, the return of Jesus as King, and the Judgment which separates the sheep from the goats” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 68). The battle of Armageddon will occur, its name derived from its location on Mount Megiddo, or Ar Megiddo. According to prophecy, this battle will suppress all evil and subdue by force those who do not submit to Jesus as the King of Kings, until “the Millenial reign, or righteous rule of a thousand years,” prevails. This claim was taken from the passage, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). God therefore has a plan for the world, in which “the earth, purified and glorified–shall be the eternal home of the righteous” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 66–67). This thousand-year period has been described since 1980 as the “Millennium Superworld,” in which people live for centuries, illnesses are cured, all are employed, and music is everywhere. Bountiful food is a result of “advanced methods of agriculture, climate control, and the absence of crop-destroying pests” (Patzwald, n.pag.).  At the end, Satan will be destroyed and Earth will be eternally prosperous and happy. The Megiddos have written of this event: “A spirit of anticipation, a mood of expectancy, prevails among Megiddos. We cannot conceive of a day passing that we do not say to one another, ‘The Lord is coming.’ It is the hope of our life. It is our joy and consolation” (History of the Megiddo Mission 1965, 61).

For the Megiddos today, there is no predicted time when the Millennium Superworld will occur. There was, however, a prediction at one point that was based on L.T. Nichols’s calculations of Biblical chronology. Nichols based his timeline on the Genesis creation story, which the Megiddos understand as purely allegorical. Each of the first six days that God worked signifies an age of human history: literally a one-thousand-year period, deduced from the Bible passage, “With the Lord is a day is like a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8). During each of these periods, “Man shall try to bring order in human affairs, and the seventh, the millennium, when Christ shall come to rule” (Democrat, 4 Jun. 1904, 11). Therefore, Christ will come for the final Millennium Superworld to rule after 6,000 years of human history. In 1904, Reverend Nichols calculated the start of God’s plan from the birth of Adam; his result came through his deductions, shown in the figure 3, as 4,059 years. The 6,000 year mark was therefore to come in 1941. Furthermore, Nichols believed the present year to be calculated seven years ahead of time, so “the true year 1941, he says, will be by the calendar now in use 1948” (11). According to the Rochester Democrat, “Since the millennium is to be ushered in in 1948 … it will be necessary for Christ to come a second time some years before that time, and the Christian Brethren are looking for this second coming in a few years” (11). Although the date has long since past, the Megiddo band today still actively awaits the second coming of Christ with excited anticipation. The Megiddos reject the young Earth theory: They know the world is billions of years old, but calculate God’s plan for the Earth from the birth of Adam. They also recognize that Adam was not the first man. Their beliefs fit within the common understanding of Earth’s biological origins and are supported by a broad knowledge of human history.

Breakdown of L.T. Nichols’s Biblical calculations of the age of the Earth since the birth of Adam (Democrat, 4 Jun. 1904, 11).

Another principal belief of the Megiddo Church is the rejection of man’s immortal soul. To the Megiddos, death is a form of sleep; there is no purgatory or Hell. A righteous and merciful God would never condemn anyone to eternal hellfire, they say: “God is not an archfiend, but a Being of infinite love, mercy and justice. The original words translated ‘hell’ simply mean ‘the grave; destruction; annihilation” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 67). Nor does the Devil exist. Their interpretation is as follows: “The only devil in the world is sin and all sinners. Temptation comes from the desire within, not from an evil spirit outside” (67).  Furthermore, Megiddos believe that each person is responsible for their own salvation or damnation. Adam and Eve, therefore, condemned only themselves as individuals, not all of mankind. The resurrection of the dead is dependant upon Jesus’ return from Heaven. The worthy will return to see the merging of heaven and earth (which exist now as separate entities), and all others will sleep for eternity.

There is no Holy Trinity for the Megiddos. The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God, which operated through Jesus and his Apostles. Since their deaths and the start of the Apostasy, the power of the Holy Spirit has disappeared from Earth. It is understood as a “temporary institution” that was not needed on Earth after the Bible was written. God works in different ways for the time being, although the Megiddos believe the Power will return along with Jesus Christ (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018). Baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit were inseparable, and so, “with the cessation of miraculous powers,” baptism no longer held spiritual significance and is not practiced by the Meggidos (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 68).

The Megiddo Mission, with their absolute faith in True Religion, feel they have found a source of suffering in the world: “The immense void in the world today is caused by the absence of true religion…. False religion which outrages reason and intelligence, which contradicts nature and science, has driven thinking men from the Church, from the Bible, from God. And thus it is that we behold the sad spectacle of millions upon millions who are stranded upon the rocks of infidelity and atheism” (vii). The following mission statement was written by Percy J. Thatcher, the president of the Megiddo Mission from 1945–1958:

The purpose of the Megiddo Mission is to prove to whomsoever will believe, that there is a God in Heaven, in whose hand is the destiny of all mankind; that the Bible is His inspired World — our only connection with the Divine Mind and Will; that is it is the source of all truth and free from all error; that is in in no way responsible for the mass of false religion which theologian have contrived and handed out in its name; that it reveals God’s plan of salvation; that obedience to its glorious immortal principles is the law of life, and the only means of escape from death…. (vii).

The Megiddos’ mission and theology lead the life of the congregation, including their missionary work, their relative communal isolation, and even their style of dress. This can be better understood by looking at the community’s progression and incorporation of technology and media into missionary work after Nichols’ death in 1912.

VIII. Life after Death: Missionary Work after L.T. Nichols

“Rev. Maud Hembree, present pastor of the Megiddo Mission.” Excerpt from Maud Hembree’s 1927 History of the Megiddo Mission. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

Reverend Nichols was succeeded by Maud Hembree, who had worked closely with Nichols since her conversion at one of his popular debates in 1877. She was born in 1853 in Amity, Oregon, and raised a strict Catholic before becoming Nichols’s pulpit assistant and church organist. Hembree led the Megiddo Mission for twenty-three years. Under her tutelage, the campus and the missionary work thrived.

After their settlement in Rochester, the Megiddos increased their circulation of missionary pamphlets and sent out missionaries. The Megiddo Progressive Workers was established in 1913 to “spiritually advance” and prepare men for missionary work. These missionaries, still making use of their iconic large tents, covered the upper Hudson River and Lake Champlain areas with approximately eight men at a time. They would travel on foot and by bicycle, distributing books and pamphlets and “carrying the message of the soon coming of Elijah and Jesus” (35).

Two new boats, Megiddo II and Megiddo III, smaller than the original Megiddo and perhaps described more accurately as missionary yachts, gave the travelers access to the waterways of New York State, notably the Erie and Barge Canals, after 1915 (Life and Work, 1944,60). These boats were the result of long work and fulfilled another of Nichols’s visions. As early as 1904, he laid out plans for a second missionary boat. Nichols was quoted that year as saying, “We intend to build a fine boat. It won’t be as large as the other boat: the canal wouldn’t permit of it, but it will be a good one. We shall do work in it all along the canal from Buffalo to Albany—perhaps to New York. When the new canal goes through, we’ll build a larger one” (Democrat, 3 Apr. 1904, 19). The “new canal” referred to the Barge Canal, which intersects the Genesee River just a mile from the Megiddo Church. The Megiddo III, a complement to the second boat, had living accomodations for about six people and was used until 1924 (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 34).

“Mission Yacht, Megiddo III.” Excerpt from Maud Hembree’s History of the Megiddo Mission. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

During this time, “Thousands of miles were traveled, tens of thousands of man-hours spent in this branch of the service. Bicycles were replaced as auxiliaries by motorcycles and automobiles” (61). In fact, by 1924, the boats were replaced with a large bus that carried out missionary work in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Equipped to carry six missionaries, the so-called “Gospel Car” sat on a two-and-a-half-ton truck chassis (35). These volunteer missionaries were also mechanics and businessmen, and were prepared for life on the new roads. Sticking to the Megiddo tradition, they held public meetings in churches and great halls, which resulted in a number of converts to the Rochester congregation (35). It was written of the bus,

As the automobile came more and more into daily use, the Megiddo Band found it an invaluable tool in the dissemination of the Gospel. Brother Nichols was no die-hard conservative, fearing new things and condemning such modern inventions as automobiles as “works of the devil.” He owned a car himself, a White Steamer, amusing now but very good in and for its day (Life and Work, 61).

In 1926, another large tent was added to the car and the missionaries continued to traveled around the United States and Canada. Missionary work by means of the “Gospel Car” was halted around the time of Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entrance into World War II (61).

One of the most crucial additions to the Megiddos’ missionary work was their production and circulation of print media. Print — newspaper advertisements, pamphlets, an ongoing magazine, and books — became the new platform by which the church could most effectively spread their message. Their magazine, The Megiddo News (later renamed The Megiddo Message), began circulation on March 31, 1914 (35). This magazine was at times produced at a deficit; some issues were even sent out for free; but by 1965 there were about 3,000 in circulation from subscribers in various regions of the US and Canada. The Megiddo Message continues to be printed today. Although it is now a quarterly publication and produced through an outside printer, the subscriber list still includes 2,800 people from across the country (Interview, 16. Apr. 2018).

Next for the Megiddos came mail-order advertising, which British convert Alex Ploughwright started in the early 1920s. The Megiddos realized that personal missionary work was starting to be replaced in order to reach larger audiences: “We could advertise! Wherever Uncle Sam’s mail went, we could go” (Life and Work, 1944, 62). Notices were published in popular national magazines, simply written as, “Elijah Coming Before Christ, Wonderful Book Free, Megiddo Mission, Rochester, N.Y.”(35). The mission sent out thousands of books this way, to anyone who responded to their advertisement, over several decades. It came to be known as the “Elijah Campaign,” of which Megiddos wrote, “The response was gratifying. Thousands upon thousands of booklets were sent out in this way, and many of them proved to be keys to a deeper interest. This branch still functions, especially in Canadian territory in recent years” (62).

One of Maud Hembree’s monumental achievements was the publication of two of her own books toward the end of her life. The most impressive was a volume of 816 pages, finished shortly before her death and entitled The Known Bible and Its Defense (Megiddo, 38). Reverend Hembree died on November 22, 1935. The mission wrote of her, “Our organization suffered the greatest loss since the founder’s death, when Reverend Mrs. Hembree fell asleep in death” (38). Shortly later, memorial fountains were installed in front of the main meeting house on Thurston road as a “symbol of the ever flowing water of life.” They were dedicated July 4, 1936: “The fountain is elaborately landscaped, set in the middle of a large rock mound upon and around which many varieties of flowers bloom in great profusion, with a background of evergreens. Changing lights enhance its beauty by night” (39). Hembree was succeeded by L.T. Nichols’ youngest sister, Ella M. Skeels. She lead the congregation for the next 10 years and through World War II, until her death on November 12, 1945 (40).

IX. The Megiddos and Modernity

The mid-twentieth century was a time of great expansion for the Megiddo Mission. In 1938, a two-story wing that included a classroom, cloak rooms, and storage space for musical instruments was added to the church building (51). By 1951, the church was given a new ceiling, painted wall panels, pews, and furnishings. A year later, two more classrooms were added (51). On January 5, 1950, an educational building was finished, which held a printing plant, the Megiddo Message mailing department, and the school. A palimpsest of a city map from 1952 shows the updated Megiddo property (Map of 19th Ward Neighborhood, updated 1952, Sandborn Map Company, 1952). This plate includes the correct naming of the private roads owned by the Megiddo Mission, Flanders Place and W. Sawyer Place, as well as the development of the surrounding streets since the Megiddos’ arrival decades earlier. Keeping up with modern technology and architecture, their new building was described as follows:

All rooms are sunny and cheerful, and the interior is attractively painted and decorated, in keeping with the handsome appearance of the exterior. Such modern features as radiant heating from coils embedded in the floors, and the latest in fluorescent lighting, are incorporated in the building (47).

With their updated facilities, and with the sponsorship of one Mrs. Ruth E. Hughes, the Megiddos began to print their own children’s literature using new materials, color printing facilities, and photography equipment. They felt this was necessary for their children: “With the temptations of the world all around and ahead of them, and the corrupting influence of the comic book and the television, exposure to higher ideals cannot be too early or too frequent” (42).

Much of this new work was finished under the leadership of the Reverend Percy J. Thatcher, who became the pastor and president of the mission after the death of Ella Skeets. Thatcher had been a member of the Megiddo Mission Band since 1905, and his wife, Edith Damon Thatcher, was highly involved in all levels of the church as a Megiddo Day School teacher and organist. Reverend Thatcher suffered a heart attack and passed away on November 13, 1958 (48). He was succeeded by Pastor Kenneth E. Flowerday, Ruth E. Hughes’s brother and a member of the band since his childhood days aboard the steamer.

The Megiddos were no doubt selective about their technological influences. For example, ”The coming of the radio was the last straw. It was no longer necessary to read or even to think, and a great invention became a mental anesthetic” (Life and Work, 1944, 62). Nevertheless, certain technologies have been adapted enthusiastically by the congregation to further their religious and community-building work. Gari-Anne Patzwald wrote of the mission in 1997, “In recent years, electronic musical instruments and audiovisual materials, some requiring the use of computers, have been used to enhance holiday worship. Services are recorded and duplicated onto cassette tape, VHS, and CD, and sent to distant members” (Patzwald, n.pag.).

Their church building has been recently rewired to include a large television and speaker system, which is controlled by a computer in the back of the room. Services feature an audio-visual slide presentation, created in an onsite recording studio, and each service is live-streamed and uploaded to the Megiddo website. Church members continue their Bible study with the aid of a computer program known as Software Logus: a program that provides searchable Biblical passages in several languages and is used by religious scholars (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018). This program is hooked up to a large television in the Bible study area and provides another visual aid to church members.

Computer, recording, and broadcasting system at the back of the Megiddo church building.
Computer, recording, and broadcasting system at the back of the Megiddo church building. Photo by Sophia McRae.

The Megiddos’ technological literacy is deeply ingrained in their history. Starting in 1922, a young member, Newton Payne, came up with a fascinating use for new speaker technology. Many members of the mission lived along the two private streets adjoining the Thurston Road church, Flanders Street and West Sawyer Place, either in their own houses or in the upper apartments of the three main houses. Depending upon the congregants’ proximity, Brother Newton installed a system of loud speakers into family houses, apartments, or rooms. These speakers connected to microphones in the church and the meeting room of the main house, providing a live-feed of services and meetings to those who cannot be in attendance. The system is still in place, used principally by sick or ailing members to remain connected to the workings of the congregation. The speaker network is hooked to a broadcasting system in an adjoining room of the main meeting house.

Embracing technology into the Megiddo community was one step toward modernity, although they remain conservative and isolated from many other aspects of the world around them. They were dissatisfied with a general turn away from religion in the first quarter of the twentieth century, which they blamed on the rising influence of media technologies and corrupting entertainment culture. They explain their position:

True, we refrain from all worldly pleasures: we are never found at the theater, in the dance hall, at the card table, or before the television watching scenes which are nonsensical and immoral. Yet we do not consider that the Almighty denies us any lawful enjoyment; all pleasures of righteousness are ours to create and enjoy to the full (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 56).

Their dress remains modest: Women wear long sleeves and skirts and keep high necklines, while men wear functional suits. Long hair is often worn pinned back in buns. Although there is no official dress code, it is understood that clothing revolves around practicality and conservatism. Dress has generally remained unchanged, with the rationale that, “If it was good in 1900, it is good in 2000.” One member of the congregation explained, “When Elijah comes, I don’t have to be ashamed…. Whenever it happens, we want to be in the position to be ready for it” (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018).

Following in the footsteps of their founder, the Megiddos are conscientious objectors to war. When L.T. Nichols was drafted into the Civil War, he took a position in the military hospital in order to not take up arms. During World War I, Reverends Maud Hembree and Ella Skeels traveled to Washington DC to obtain a Conscientious Objection Status for the Mission (Patzwald, n.pag.). Just after World War II, the Megiddo Mission noticed events in the cultural and political climate which they felt echoed the events of the prophecies regarding the coming of the end of days. The first prophecy comes from Joel 3:9–11, that there will be a great preparation for war. The second comes from Paul (I. Thess. 5:1-3), contradictorily saying that there will be talk of Peace: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them … and they shall not escape” (History of the Megiddo Mission, 1965, 60). Regarding the first prophecy, the Megiddos spoke of the world “bankrupting itself in a frenzied armament race,” referring to the emerging weapons of mass destruction, atomic and hydrogen bombs, guided missiles, atomic submarines, long-range jet bombers, supersonic fighter planes, and chemical and biological warfare. The Cold War arms race was a preparation for more war, with “billions upon billions spent only to kill and to destroy” (60). Of the second prophecy, the Megiddos wrote, “Never in the history of the world there been such a desperate longing for peace, and such elaborate international machinery to that end,” referring to the establishment of international organizations and efforts at diplomacy after the end of World War II. Nevertheless, claims the prophecy, no one will escape from Armageddon, “because it would presume to resist His power” (60).

The Megiddos have a strong belief in hard work while they await the coming of Elijah. This not only includes productive work and intelligent managing of individual finances, but also an intense personal study of the ways of Jesus and responsibility for one’s own moral growth. They want to “live the way we are taught in the Bible, the way Jesus lived” (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018). Marriage, reproduction, and childbirth, then, are somewhat discouraged, as they are seen as distractions from the Megiddos’ ultimate goal of perfection of character. Although they anticipate the coming of Christ drawing near and find the cultural climate somewhat inappropriate for children, the Megiddos nevertheless welcome new families into the church (Patzwald, n.pag.). This low birthrate probably explains why the Megiddo Day School closed in 1964. However, in 1984, “The church converted one of its homes into a home-care facility, providing around-the-clock care, short- or long-term, for elderly, ill, or convalescing members. Church members have never utilized state or local social assistance” (Patzwald, n.pag.). Even today, the congregation remains incredibly self-reliant and interconnected. The Megiddos have been caring for one another for decades, and consider themselves a large family. Although they live separately in family units, it is not uncommon for members, some of whom have known each other since childhood, to share meals regularly.

Hidden behind the Megiddos’ main houses, and laying at the heart of their property, is their garden. This treasure of land has been in use since their arrival to Rochester and continues to supply almost all of their food. Because they still rent out about twenty-seven of the properties on their streets, they offer a plot of land for each of their tenants to maintain. Each family has its own rows (or half rows), in which residents plant potatoes, beets, beans, peppers, corn, and a number of other crops. Sisters Ruth and Margaret also maintain rows of raspberry and blackberry varieties, kiwi trees, an herb garden, and flower beds, along with their own garden plot. Although the harvests from this great production can be preserved and provide a source of food for the entire year, extra fruits and vegetables are often gifted to other church members, business partners, friends, and even primary care doctors. Sisters Ruth and Margaret explained their fondness for gardening partly because it provides amazing evidence of God’s work and nature’s unfaltering adherence to His laws. They now hire a team of three maintenance workers, all non-members, to help care for their streets and properties throughout the year (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018).

Megiddo Mission community garden.
Megiddo Mission community garden. Photo by Sophia McRae.

X. The Megiddos on Thurston

Members of the Megiddo Church have referred to themselves as somewhat of an island: They feel that they are singular, isolated from other Christians, as well as from the rest of the world. For this reason, they are incredibly self-sufficient and industrious, often selecting employment in which they can work somewhat independently, or simply starting their own businesses. They explain that having their own companies allows them to control their own work environment. Having a “Christian property” also means that they can enforce rules about behaviors such as swearing. One member owned a 6-in-1 Ladder Hardware Store adjacent to the church, while another owned a commercial electrician company. In 1977, current pastor Ruth Sisson and Sister Margaret started their own business in printing, art, and accounting called Digitech. This company was sold only relatively recently, and had about seven to thirty-five employees at various times (Interview). Other members found work in somewhat solitary positions. One longtime member and associate to pastor Ruth, Brother Gerald Payne, worked at Kodak performing mechanical repairs. Although he mentioned that there were often too many people around, he had his own lab, saying, “I had my own atmosphere” (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018). Another, Brother Clifford, moved to Rochester in 1956 and worked as a postal carrier (“away from people and situations”). Although members have said about working with others that, “If we had to, we would,” they generally describe themselves with a feeling that “we don’t blend in” (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018).

The Mission now has about twelve to twenty active members, almost all of whom are well past retirement age, although two new families from Texas and Idaho recently moved in. The oldest member is Sister Elva, who is 93 years old and has been with the Megiddo church since 1945. Coming from northern Canada, Elva and her eight siblings came into contact with Megiddo travelers staying at their father’s hotel. She waited until the end of the war to cross the border into the States, and at 18 years old came to Rochester with her sisters. She became a caretaker and an adopted daughter of sorts to Pastor and President Kenneth E. Flowerday, successor to Percy Thatcher (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018).

Most other members came with similar stories — people of religious backgrounds who were seeking answers to life and a place to study the Bible. Brother Gerald, for instance, is originally from Georgia. His family found the Megiddos’ newspaper ad for the book on Elijah when he was at a young age and continued to study the Bible. Gerald’s wife Barb is from a strict Baptist family in North Carolina, but converted when Gerald courted her. She described being absolutely terrified of descriptions she had learned in church of hell and the devil, and found comfort in the Megiddos’ vision of a merciful and loving God. Brother Daniel is from Ohio and raised a Catholic, but found “it was empty.” He, too, found the Elijah campaign and came to Rochester to stay at age twenty-seven. Biological sisters Margaret and Pat are from a family of missionaries with five children, who had lived in Puerto Rico and Germany before being allowed to settle with the Megiddos in Rochester. They had met Pastor Ruth Sisson at a young age, even living together at their farm in Upstate New York for a winter. Pastor Ruth spent much of her childhood between New York, where her father was a farmer, and Florida, where her family would maintain a family property during the winters. Ruth would come to Rochester for some services at the Megiddo Church, and otherwise studied and memorized Bible passages with her father. She is well-versed in musical education and continues to play organ and piano during regular church services and meetings.

The Megiddos are as determined and faithful as ever. They hold consistent and exhaustive Bible studies and frame each meeting with hymns and musical performances. They believe that their religion finds harmony with historical and scientific truths, and that they can fit together “like a puzzle.” Stories of hell and the devil, they have said, are an “outrage to your intelligence” and “sounds [sic] like fairy tales!” (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018). They find, instead, that the words in the Bible are not completely literal, and that their original translations can help to find their true meanings. The universal flood, for example, is understood as a local occurrence, but by no means one which engulfed the entire world.

Perhaps the most noteworthy example of the Megiddos’ historical and religious teachings occurs during Abib — their celebration of the birth of Christ and the start of the New Year. According to their calendar and as evidenced by the Bible, this occurs on the full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of Spring). They call this celebration True Christmas. Evidence from historians and passages in the Bible support the theory that Jesus’ birth occurred sometime in the spring, rather than on December 25. The corruption of this holiday is attributable to the subsequent change in laws and the measurement of time that occurred during the Roman Empire, while the dating of Christmas in December (according to our Gregorian calendar) is attributed to Christianity merging with older Pagan celebrations. In 2018, Abib occurred from Monday evening to Tuesday of April 16–17. This celebration has been historically accompanied by a festive display of flowers, sometimes filling the entire church room, Christmas music by the Megiddo Mission Band, and dramatic performances and plays written and performed by members of the church. Their capacity has dwindled significantly since their first Abib celebration in Rochester in 1906, but remains nevertheless one of the most important events of the year.

The Megiddos today do not worry about the future of their mission: They have faith that there will be someone to welcome the Lord when he comes. They have no prediction of when the Resurrection will come, but they continue their outreach work with unwavering faith in God’s plan for the earth. They are just starting the mission that Elijah will continue — changing people’s minds and faiths. Pastor Ruth said, “We don’t have fear, the world will not be destroyed. God has a plan, this is exciting!” (Interview, 16 Apr. 2018).

Works Cited

“Band Will Soon Begin its Work.” Democrat and Chronicle, 4 Jun. 1904, 11.

“The Battle Creek Idea.” Heritage Battle Creek. Last modified 2009. Web. Accessed 29 Mar. 2018. http://www.heritagebattlecreek.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=95&Itemid=73.

“Has New House of Worship.” Democrat and Chronicle, 20 Mar. 1908, 17.

Hembree, Maud. History of the Megiddo Mission: Founded 1880. 12th ed. Rochester, N.Y.: Megiddo Mission Church, revised Nov. 1, 1927. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Print.

History of the Megiddo Mission. Megiddo Mission Church: Rochester, NY, 1965. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Print.

Life and Work of the Reverend L.T. Nichols: Founder of the Megiddo Mission. Rochester, N.Y.: Megiddo Mission Church, Oct. 1, 1944. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Print.

“Mission Boat Will be Built.” Democrat and Chronicle, 3 Apr. 1904, 19.

“New Megiddo Church Dedicated.” Democrat and Chronicle, 23 Mar. 1908, 11.

Nichols, L.T. History of the Megiddo Mission. Rochester, N.Y.: Megiddo Mission Church, 1912. University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. Print.

Patzwald, Gari-Anne. “The Megiddos Wait in Mount Hope for the Prophet Elijah.” Epitaph: The Friends of Mount Hope Newsletter 17, No. 4 (Fall 1997): 1–8. Web. Accessed 29 Mar. 2018. http://www.lib.rochester.edu/IN/RBSCP/Epitaph/ATTACHMENTS/17_4.pdf.

“Plate 39.” Atlas of the City of Rochester, New York. Philadelphia: G.M. Hopkins Company, 1910. Print.

“Plate 360.” Insurance Maps: Rochester, New York, Vol. 3. New York: Sandborn Map Company, 1912. Print.

Sisson, Ruth, et al., Megiddo Mission Church. Personal Interview by Sophia McRae. 16 Apr. 2018.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church

Author: Daniel Gorman Jr.

This map shows the site of Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church from 1928 to 2006. Today, the property is the site of Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Roman Catholic Church had a relatively short history (1927–2006) compared to other Catholic churches of southwest Rochester. In fall 1927, Bishop Thomas Hickey authorized a new parish to accommodate the swelling 19th Ward population and reduce the geographic territory that St. Monica and St. Augustine had to serve. The diocese purchased a lot featuring an old schoolhouse on July 26, 1928. Hickey chose Rev. Edward T. Meagher to serve as Good Counsel’s first pastor.[1] Meagher had an academic background, having taught philosophy at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester for several years.[2] Unlike today, when rectories typically house priests and no one else, Meagher had a cook, Margaret, and a housekeeper, Molly, living with him in the rectory at 75 Ernestine Street.[3] A frame church near the intersection of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Park Boulevard was built in just three weeks. Construction began in September 1928 and Hickey led the first Mass on October 6.[4] Sisters Assunta and Josina (religious order unknown) presided over the first school session on November 10.[5] The initial parish population consisted of approximately 1,800 Irish and German Americans.[6]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish Boundaries Discussion (1928)

The creation of Good Counsel’s community happened on an accelerated timetable. Over the next nine months, male and female social societies formed, and the church hosted its first public events.[7] Plans for a proper school building began in 1929 and ground was broken on March 1, 1930.[8] The fact that Meagher’s brother Dan was a prosperous contractor (who had already erected the church) surely expedited the school’s completion.[9] Various parish histories affirm that men who were unemployed due to the Great Depression worked on the school, although unspecified labor disputes slowed construction.[10] The school opened in September 1930 and graduated its first class in June 1931.[11] The parish purchased 595 Brooks Avenue in 1929 to accommodate the Sisters of St. Francis of Allegany, N.Y., who were sent to Rochester to manage Good Counsel’s school.[12]

By August 1931, the church was nearly $250,000 in debt, so parishioners began to host fundraiser after fundraiser to pay off the amount.[13] Examples of fundraisers include boxing matches (plus a rentable boxing ring), bowling and bingo competitions, and amateur minstrel shows.[14] Given the high rate of foreclosures nationally, the possibility of losing the church must have weighed heavily on Meagher and his staff. Good Counsel’s experience resembles that of Genesee Baptist Church, another 19th Ward religious site whose pastor reported that President Roosevelt’s moratorium on mortgages saved his church from foreclosure.[15] The Works Progress Administration affected Good Counsel tangentially. Arthur T. Purtell, an agent for the Survey of State and Local Historical Records, visited the parish and assessed its archival holdings in 1936. Purtell mentions that Good Counsel housed extensive records of church sacraments, but the status of these files today is unknown.[16]


Works Progress Administration Local Historical Records Survey for Our Lady of Good Counsel (1936)

Men and women from the parish served in World War II. After the war ended, the church installed a plaque bearing the names of parish veterans.[17] The diocese looked to the postwar age with some anxiety. As Bishop James Kearney asked in the Society for the Rochester Propagation of the Faith’s 1945 report,  “Will it be an ‘Atomic Age’ of fear and hate and death or a ‘Christian Era’ of faith and hope and life eternal?”[18] Parish leaders, preferring a Christian era, launched a debt fund campaign in December 1945. Parishioners would donate $100 war bonds to Good Counsel; the church would repay $74 of each bond to parishioners; and the remaining $26 would go into a fund for the church’s future expansion.[19]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Debt Fund Campaign (Fall 1945)

When Fr. Meagher died in November 1946, Fr. Leo Smith succeeded him.[20] Smith oversaw improvements to the physical plant, but, according to Good Counsel’s fiftieth anniversary pamphlet, Smith was averse to deficit spending.[21] By 1952, Smith succeeded in eliminating the parish debt.[22] Unfortunately, improvements to the school in 1957 and the convent circa 1962 sent the church back into debt.[23] By other measures, the parish was prosperous. In 1956, for instance, 159 students from Good Counsel who attended public schools were released from school for religious instruction.[24] By 1959, the parish had roughly 3,000 members and to date had presided over 2,762 baptisms, 1,956 first communions, 2,034 confirmations, 826 marriages, and 801 deaths. Curiously, the same 1959 report conveying these statistics had “No Comment” about the parish’s non-white population.[25] The construction of the Rochester-Monroe County Airport in 1953 also led to the nearby Good Counsel receiving the nickname of “The Airport Church.”[26]

The Franciscans withdrew their nuns from Rochester’s Catholic schools in 1962, as fewer women were opting to join the order. Consequently, the Sisters of St. Joseph took over Good Counsel’s school.[27] Vernacular Masses replaced Latin Masses, per Vatican II instructions, in 1966.[28] Fr. Smith retired due to old age in 1967. His successor, Fr. Paul Wohlrab, oversaw the creation of a parish council, new fundraising efforts, and continuing modifications to the physical plant — including the removal of the altar rail.[29] The fiftieth anniversary pamphlet, narrated in the church’s voice, says, “Each time a rail was removed I wanted to scream in agony as if someone was tearing me apart.”[30] This statement is apparently an oblique reference to parishioners who opposed the changes of Vatican II. This opposition did not stop reform-minded parishioners from forming a folk song group, reflecting the national “folk Mass” movement.[31] The church also welcomed a Kenyan priest, Raphael Ndingi, who was later promoted to bishop and became a passionate advocate for Kenyan democracy.[32]

As part of renovations, Good Counsel added a small Marian shrine in the early 1970s.[33] Youth sport programs, consisting of school athletics and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball leagues, became a new parish initiative.[34] Documents from the 1970s indicate that the parish culture did not change completely, but there were competing traditional and progressive elements. Consider the contrast between the students who attended a disco night at Good Counsel’s school in 1978, and the adults who formed a new chapter of the Legion of Mary, a longstanding organization in the diocese.[35] Newspaper photos about CYO and disco night reflect the parish’s changing demographics. Many African American students were now present, in contrast to the parish’s original Irish and German composition.


“Good Counsel team runs up 10-0 season,” City West, Mar. 23, 1978, with photo of Our Lady of Good Counsel CYO Boys’ Basketball Team


“Good Counsel students catch ‘disco fever,'” City West, May 25, 1978, page 8, with photo of female student dance teams

Diocesan budget problems, particularly high levels of debt held by each parish, were apparent by the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.[36] Bishop Matthew Clark shifted the diocese’s emphasis from maintaining parochial schools at each church to maintaining a smaller number of regional Catholic schools. This shift meant, of course, that existing schools would close.[37] In March 1989, as part of this reorganization of Catholic education, Good Counsel pastor Rev. Louis Sirianni announced that Good Counsel Elementary School would merge with Holy Family Elementary. Genesis Catholic Junior High, which Good Counsel had operated since 1987, remained open until 1991.[38] A new regional Catholic middle school, housed at Bishop Kearney High School, absorbed Genesis’s students, while the Genesis building at Good Counsel became Rochester School #54.[39] In another reflection of the diocese’s consolidation of its physical plant, Emmanuel Church of the Deaf began to meet in Scutari Hall, Good Counsel’s basement space.[40]

In 1992, Good Counsel joined a cost, facilities, and priest-sharing venture with St. Monica and St. Augustine called the FIRST Cluster, later known as the Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward (RCC19).[41] The churches in the cluster maintained their individual identities, however. For example, as Good Counsel prepared for its sixty-fifth anniversary in 1992–93, longtime parishioners Betty Conheady and Debbie Millet gave public speeches that combined oral history with their spiritual experiences as members of Good Counsel’s community.[42] This combined interest in spiritual and practical concerns is also apparent in the 1990 “Commitment to Ministry Parish Report.” The report notes Good Counsel’s “lively sense of prayer and community present in our parish,” as well as social justice initiatives, “which exhibit the parish’s sense of the apostolate. They include participation in the monthly SWEM collection of food and money for the poor, participation in the Giving Tree Project at Christmas, attendance at Soup Suppers and other formal and informal ways of outreach to others.”[43] Citing the strength of the parishioners’ character, the report expresses the following long-term goals:

1. That there will be more vocations for service in the church.

2. That there will be increased involvement of parish members in all areas of parish life.

3. That there will be a strengthening of peoples’ faith.

4. That young people will be drawn back to church and become involved in the life of the Church.

5. That our church will always remain as a parish church.[44]

A sixth goal, stated later in the report, is the need for expanded elder care, “since over 22% of the parish are age 70 or over.”[45]

The 1990 report is striking for its honesty about the anxieties of Good Counsel’s parishioners:

Fear, especially among the older people, seems to be the prominent emotion regarding change. There is the fear of a shortage of priests and seminarians. There is a fear that people will opt not to become involved in the parish. Losing a grip on our religion is feared by some as well as a loss of our identity as Catholics through amalgamation with other religions. Loss of young adults is a concern. Finally, closing of our parish church and the loss of our parish identity is feared.[46]

The report authors admit they “do not think that the parishioners are ready for change.”[47]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Commitment to Ministry Parish Report (May-June 1990)

The cluster arrangement brought unavoidable changes, however. Priests served multiple churches within the Community, instead of working at single churches. Father Peter Enyan-Boadu, a Ghananian priest who became one of these “pastoral vicars,” told the Catholic Courier in 1994, “The Blacks and Hispanics — many a time, they feel uneasy in our church. I want to see that they feel welcome.” Enyan-Boadu’s outreach to Haitian Catholics was an example of his commitment to bringing greater racial diversity to cluster churches, including Good Counsel.[48] This need to increase the cluster/Community’s racial diversity continued into the 2000s; a 2003 leadership summit, which cluster leaders such as Fr. Ray Fleming attended, explicitly considered how to make urban Catholic churches welcoming to African Americans.[49] An Islamic-Catholic unity service occurred at Good Counsel, as part of Community-wide interfaith programming, in January 2004.[50] Additionally, the Roman Catholic Community’s leaders petitioned the Rochester District Attorney in 1995 to deter local shop owners from allowing criminal activities, such as drug sales or selling alcohol to minors, at their establishments.[51] This incident reflects the depressed economy of the 19th Ward as Rochester deindustrialized.

By the early 2000s, Good Counsel was very different from its configuration a decade earlier. The Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward had added Ss. Peter and Paul.[52] Fr. Bob Werth, as overall pastor for the Community, was optimistic about the future of the conglomerate, but individual churches like Good Counsel lacked full-time priests.[53] Sister Marie Suzanne “Sue” Hoffman therefore became Good Counsel’s pastoral administrator, running daily business matters.[54] The parish celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2003 — complete with a Mass led by Bishop Clark — against this backdrop of diminished resources.[55] In fall 2004, Bishop Clark called for a new process of pastoral planning — assessing the future viability of urban churches — that built on a late-1990s initiative, “Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium.”[56] The 19th Ward/Corn Hill/Bull’s Head Planning Group, formed to consider RCC19’s future, canvassed parishioners and developed a downsizing plan. In November 2005, the group recommended the closure of Good Counsel, St. Augustine, and Ss. Peter and Paul, and parishioners upheld this measure in a vote. Parishioners would report to St. Monica, which would also become home to Emmanuel Church of the Deaf. Some parishioners of the closing churches reported a feeling of loss, while others accepted the change, given the city’s declining Catholic population.[57]

The Catholic Courier ran a feature article on Good Counsel’s closing. Fr. Ray Fleming, the new pastor of St. Monica, presided over the final Good Counsel Mass on May 7, 2006. Parishioners interviewed for the article described an acute feeling of pain that accompanied the dissolution of the Good Counsel community. Nicholas Reeder said, “It’s like being at a funeral, mourning the loss of a dear friend, a dear family member.”[58] Reeder’s statement echoes the fear of change from the 1990 report.

Bishop Clark could not attend the closing Mass, but sent a letter thanking parishioners for sacrificing their parish so that the greater diocese might benefit. The Bishop quoted the parish’s recent Vision Statement for the Rochester diocese: “We work to build communities of faith that are open, welcoming, warm, flexible, and spontaneous, where hospitality is not only felt among those who previously were alienated and who presently worship with us at Sunday Mass, but also with those who live in the neighborhoods.” Clark wanted parishioners to believe that this spirit from Good Counsel would endure at the new St. Monica.[59]

Today, the former Good Counsel complex is the site of a Pentecostal church, Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship. The fellowship runs the small, unaccredited In Christ Alone Bible College from these premises.[60] The former Our Lady of Good Counsel School building currently houses a charter school called True North Rochester Preparatory Middle School.[61] After processing Good Counsel’s old statuary and artifacts in 2008, the Diocese of Rochester gave the equipment to Fynders Keepers, a church supply company, for redistribution to other churches.[62]


Our Lady of Good Counsel Closing Mass Program (May 7, 2006)


In the endnotes that follow, SMA stands for the St. Monica Roman Catholic Church Archives, 34 Monica Street, Rochester, N.Y., 14619. Our Lady of Good Counsel is sometimes abbreviated as OLGC. Open-access back issues of The Catholic Courier, in its various iterations (Courier Journal, etc.), are available at http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/ and http://lib.catholiccourier.com/.

[1] “Bishop Hickey To Bless New West Side Church,” Rochester Times-Union (Rochester, N.Y.), Friday Evening, 5 Oct. 1928, photocopy in SMA; Robert F. McNamara, The Diocese of Rochester in America, 1868–1993, foreword by Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, 2nd ed. (Rochester, N.Y.: Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, 1998), 302; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1, SMA; OLGC “A Parish is Born” Draft (n.d.), SMA; OLGC Church History Questionnaire for Robert McNamara’s Book (July 31, 1959), SMA. Note: Joseph J. Hagler says that the original building on the parish land was a farmhouse, not a schoolhouse [“The Founding of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish” (1952), 1, SMA]. This point needs clarification.

[2] Hagler, “Founding,” 1.

[3] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1; “Parish is Born,” 2.

[4] “Bishop Hickey”; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1–2; OLGC Undated Historical Files (n.d.; pastor Ed Meagher), including what appears to be a transcript of Hickey’s remarks. Note: A 1959 historical report lists the church’s address as 75 Ernestine Street [OLGC Church History Questionnaire], but an older insurance file lists the church’s address as 650 Brooks Avenue [OLGC Insurance Assessment (n.d., but typewritten), SMA].

[5] Hagler, “Founding,” 3; OLGC “A Brief Parish History,” n.d. (circa 1957), SMA.

[6] OLGC Church History Questionnaire.

[7] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 3.

[8] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 4.

[9] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 1, 4; “Parish is Born,” 2–4.

[10] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 5; “Parish is Born,” 4.

[11] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 5; McNamara, Diocese, 346.

[12] “Brief Parish History”; Hagler, “Founding,” 4; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 4; “Parish is Born,” 4.

[13] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 6–7; “Parish is Born,” 4–5.

[14] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 7; “Parish is Born,” 5.

[15] Cherishing Our Diversity: Celebrating Our 130th Anniversary, 1871–2001 (Rochester, N.Y.: Genesee Baptist Church, 2001), 10, University of Rochester Libraries, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections, & Preservation, BX6480.R6 G448 2001. Permalink.

[16] Arthur T. Purtell, Church Records from Our Lady of Good Counsel, Survey of State and Local Historical Records, Works Progress Administration, 1936, copy in SMA. 

[17] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 8–9.

[18] Bishop James E. Kearney, in Society for the Propagation of the Faith (Rochester) Annual Report, Jan. 1–Dec. 31, 1944 (Rochester, N.Y.: St. Bernard’s Institute, n.d. [1945]), copy in Rush Rhees Library stacks.

[19] M. Alvah Halloran and Mrs. Theodore F. Florack, “Our Lady of Good Counsel Debt Fund Campaign, December 1st to 15th, 1945” (Nov. 28, 1945), SMA.

[20] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 9.

[21] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 9. See also: “Parish is Born,” 6.

[22] Hagler, “Foundation,” 6.

[23] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 11; OLGC “For a Better Tomorrow” Fundraising Booklet (1957), SMA; “Parish is Born,” 6.

[24] “Released-Time Religion,” The Courier-Journal (Rochester, N.Y.), Friday, Mar. 2, 1956, copy in SMA.

[25] OLGC Church History Questionnaire.

[26] Daniel Gorman Jr., interview with John Curran, 20 Dec. 2018.

[27] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 11; “Parish is Born,” 7.

[28] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 11–12.

[29] Foley Associates, “Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Rochester, New York, Church Renovation Program: Final Report,” Jun. 26, 1970, SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 12–14, 16–17; “Parish is Born,” 7.

[30] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 12.

[31] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 14.

[32] “Archbishop Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki,” The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, accessed 18 Jan. 2018, http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bndi.html; “Bishop Kearney Slated by Good Counsel Men” (newspaper cutout, n.d. [1967–68]), copy in SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 15, 22; Daniel Wesangula, “Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki personal struggles with old age and fading memory,” Standard Digital (Kenya), 23 Mar. 2014, accessed 18 Jan. 2018, https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2000107595/raphael-ndingi-mwana-a-nzeki-personal-struggles-with-old-age-and-fading-memory.

[33] “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 17–18.

[34] “Good Counsel Team Runs Up 10-0 Season,” City West (Rochester, N.Y.), Mar. 23, 1978, copy in OLGC Papers, SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 13.

[35] “Good Counsel Students Catch ‘Disco Fever,’” City West (Rochester, N.Y.), May 25, 1978, 8, copy in SMA; “Our Lady of Good Counsel 1928–1978,” 17.

[36] For detailed period discussion of diocesan financial problems, see the digitized files “OLGC School Closure Etc Newspapers (1988–89)” and “OLGC Newspaper Cutouts 1988–89,” PDF copies of which are available through SMA and the Diocese of Rochester Archives. These files consist of scanned copies of newspaper articles from SMA that discuss school closures, the diocese’s inability to meet proposed pension responsibilities, and how to care for elderly clergy. I also drew on information gained during my 20 Dec. 2018 interview with John Curran.

[37] John Mulligan, public letter and press release on Catholic schools, Jan. 5, 1989, copy in OLGC papers, SMA.

[38] John Curran, email to Daniel Gorman Jr., 24 Dec. 2018; Gorman, interview with Curran; Louis A. Sirianni, School Closure Letter to Bishop Matthew H. Clark, Mar. 7, 1989, copy in SMA. See also: OLGC Genesis Catholic Junior High School Flyer (n.d. [1980s]), SMA; Teresa A. Parsons, “Genesis: Collaboration Unites Community Under New Name,” The Courier-Journal (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Aug. 27, 1987, copy in SMA.

[39] Curran, email to Gorman, Dec. 24, 2018; Mulligan, public letter.

[40] Gorman, interview with Curran.

[41] St. Monica 2003 Booklet, SMA.

[42] OLGC Betty Conheady & Debbie Millet Talk (1992), SMA.

[43] OLGC “Commitment to Ministry Parish Report” Section II (May-June 1990), SMA.

[44] “Commitment to Ministry” Section III.

[45] “Commitment to Ministry” Section III.

[46] “Commitment to Ministry” Section V.

[47] “Commitment to Ministry” Section V.

[48] Mike Latona, “Newcomer Priests Settle in at Diocesan Posts,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Mar. 24, 1994, 5A, copy in SMA.

[49] Jennifer Burke, “Exploring Issues of Diversity,” The Catholic Courier 114, no. 47 (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, September 4, 2003, 1, 6, copy in SMA.

[50] Mike Crupi, “Religious Unity Celebrated,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), Jan. 22, 2004, 9, copy in SMA.

[51] Rob Cullivan, “Social Action Network Raps Monroe District Attorney,” Diocesan News [presumably part of The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.)], Thursday, Oct. 12, 1995, copy in SMA.

[52] Gorman, interview with Curran; Mike Latona and Tamara Tirado, “City Churches Cope With Change,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), November 2005, copy in SMA; Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward Lent Schedule (“Be Still… and know that I am here”), 2003, SMA; Roman Catholic Community of the 19th Ward Lent Schedule (“Shatter the Hardness of Our Hearts”), 2004, SMA.

[53] Rob Cullivan, “Many Parts, One Body, Many Gifts, One Spirit,” The Catholic Courier 112, no. 26 (Rochester, N.Y.), Thursday, Apr. 5, 2001, 1, 14, copy in SMA.

[54] James Sarkis, “Our Lady of Good Counsel,” Rochester Churches, accessed Jun. 22, 2017, http://dorchurches.com/goodcounsel.

[55] “Our Lady of Good Council 75th Anniversary Celebration” Program, SMA.

[56] Gorman, interview with Curran.

[57] John Curran, email to Daniel Gorman Jr., 26 Apr. 2019; Gorman, interview with Curran; Marketta Gregory, “Catholics to Shut Down 11 Churches,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Marketta Gregory, “Closures Sadden Resigned Faithful,” Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 19 Nov. 2005, copy in SMA; Latona, “City Churches.”

[58] Rob Cullivan, “Good Counsel Says Goodbye,” The Catholic Courier (Rochester, N.Y.), May 20–21, 2006, 1, 3, copy in OLGC papers, SMA; quote from page 1.

[59] Bishop Matthew J. Clark, open letter to Our Lady of Good Counsel Parishioners, May 7, 2006, in OLGC Closing Mass Program (May 7, 2006), SMA.

[60] “About Us,” “Finding Us,” “In Christ Alone,” and “What We Believe,” Glory to Glory Christian Fellowship, accessed Jan. 22, 2018, http://www.glory2glory.org/#/welcome/about-us, http://www.glory2glory.org/#/finding-us, http://www.glory2glory.org/#/welcome/what-we-believe.

[61] “True North Rochester Preparatory Charter School,” SUNY Charter Schools Institute, acc. Dec. 20, 2018, www.newyorkcharters.org/suny-authorized-schools/true-north-rochester-prep-charter-school/.

[62] Gorman, interview with Curran.

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