Riverside Church in New York City
The Riverside Church in the City of New York is an interdenominational (American Baptist and United Church of Christ) church in New York City, famous for its elaborate Neo-Gothic architecture—which includes the world's largest tuned carillon bell. It is located in Morningside Heights between Riverside Drive and Claremont Avenue and between 120th Street and 122nd Street.
The tallest church in the United States and the 24th tallest in the world, it was described by The New York Times in 2008 as "a stronghold of activism and political debate throughout its 75-year history ... influential on the nation’s religious and political landscapes." The church received New York City Landmark status in 2000.
In 1922, the congregation of the Park Avenue Baptist Church, with the major financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a member of the church, and its modernist Baptist pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick, decided to create a large, cathedral-like church in New York City.
This church was to be built around three main principles advocated by Rockefeller and Fosdick: a church in an interdenominational setting, a large church in a neighborhood important to the city, and a church open to all who profess faith in Christ. Based on these requirements, land was purchased by Rockefeller and construction was completed in 1930.
Modeled after Chartres Cathedral in France, Riverside Church remains not only an important landmark for tourists, but also an important center for lively political discussion. Past speakers at the pulpit have included Martin Luther King, Jr. voicing opposition to the Vietnam War, Nelson Mandela on his first visit to the United States after being released from prison, Fidel Castro during one of his rare visits to the U.S. in 2000 , and Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In recognition of the quality of its architecture and the church's important social role, it was designated a New York City Landmark in 2000. Its congregation includes more than 40 national, ethnic and other groups. As of 2007, the church had a $14 million annual operating budget and a paid staff of 130.
The 1200–member church adopted a mission statement in 1992 proclaiming:
"... the worship of God, known in Jesus, the Christ, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ... to serve God through word and witness, to treat all human beings as sisters and brothers; and to foster responsible stewardship of God's creation ... The church pledges itself to education, reflection, and action for peace and justice and the realization of the vision of the heavenly banquet where all are loved and blessed."
Harry Emerson Fosdick, who was ordained a Baptist minister in 1903 at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, was the most prominent liberal Baptist minister of the early 20th Century. Fosdick served as Riverside's first senior minister, 1930–46, and established an openness to diversity and strong progressive policy. Fosdick's brother, Raymond B. Fosdick, served as president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1936 to 1948.
Successive senior ministers have been:
- Robert J. McCracken, 1947–67. Past organists at the Riverside Church include Virgil Fox (1946–1965), Frederick Swann (1957–1982), John Walker (1979–1992), and Timothy Smith (1992–2008). Several recordings of the organ and Riverside Choir have been released. The church offers a popular summer organ concert series on Tuesday nights in July and August.<ref name=NYAGO />
In the Riverside Church hang three paintings by Heinrich Hofmann which were purchased by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.: Christ in the Temple (1871), Christ and the Young Rich Man (1889), and Christ in Gethsemane (1890).