The Project's reach extends far and wide, as evidenced by the following letter from reader Michelle H:
Dear Philly Church Project,I have never been to Philadelphia. However, a few months ago, I stumbled across your website when doing research on Philadelphia. At the time, I was in the process of applying to go to a graduate school in Philly and was doing some research on the city. Now, I am indeed going to grad school in Philly! I have been studying the website to learn about the different churches and I am really looking forward to seeing these beautiful (mostly old) churches. I have even made a list of the ones I intend to visit.
I hail from Seattle where our church architecture cannot hold a candle to Philadelphia's. Seattle does have several nice ornate churches (mostly from between the 1880s and 1920s), but being a younger and smaller city, we have far fewer than Philly has. On the plus side, there are far fewer abandoned churches in Seattle than in Philly. I can't think of a single Catholic parish that is no longer in existence (although I'm in my mid-20s, so maybe some closings happened before my time.) Having grown up in a parish with a beautiful Italian Tuscan-style church dating from around 1910, the church building is an important part of where I choose to worship. Attending services in an older, pretty church is much more meaningful than in a modern church that looks modern.
I'll be in Philadelphia in a couple of weeks and will start my church-viewing then. I think I might be attending a couple of Sunday masses, one at the parish I choose to attend and another one at a different church so I can see that church's architecture. Thanks so much for all of the work you do. If I take some good pictures or learn good information, I'll pass it along to the Project.
Ok, so Michelle doesn't come right out and say that we're responsible for bringing her here, but come on. We're just that darn good. What, you think she'd base her decision on trivial things like education and city amenities? Please.
On a more serious note, let's applaud her decision to seek out a church with appropriate architecture. But architecture, as wonderful as it is, isn't by itself a religious means to an end. You can have boring masses in beautiful churches the same as you can have exciting masses in ugly churches. Trust me, I've seen both.
The key is to find a parish that's both structurally beautiful and ecclesiastically engaging. Hint: focus on the poorer areas. Well-to-do neighborhoods put you at too much risk for the Hot Girl Principle, and believe me, you do not want to go there.