by Mike Roberts, Church Historian
In its April 1995 issue, Cincinnati Magazine analyzed the state of religion in Cincinnati. Questionnaires were mailed to all churches and from the responses, an overall description was developed.
As to membership, the largest denomination was Catholic with 620,000 persons in the Metropolitan Cincinnati area claiming membership in that faith. Next was Baptist at 71,000 followed by Presbyterian, Methodist and Churches of God. The largest individual church was Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Symmes Township with a congregation of 11,480. The first six churches on this list of size were Catholic churches with the Wise Temple Jewish Synagogue, downtown, being seventh largest with 3,900 members.
The oldest congregation was Covenant-First Presbyterian Church on Elm and Garfield, downtown, founded in 1790. Our Heritage Church was tenth oldest on this list. Others were First United, Milford,1797; Armstrong Chapel, Indian Hill, 1798; Friends Meeting, Indian Hill 1813; St. John’s Unitarian, Clifton, 1814; Christ Church Cathedral, downtown, 1817; St. Xavier, downtown, 1819; Allen Temple AME, Roselawn, 1824 and Rockdale Temple, Amberly, 1824.
A category of “Most Unusual Services” was included in the study. At the top of the list of five was our own “Winter Solstice Bonfire and Spiral Dance” which is still a part of us and thriving. Others mentioned were First Baptist of Milford and the “Living Christmas Tree” of sixty people floor to ceiling; Friendship United’s “Palm Sunday Parade of Donkeys;” a service at Wesley United which includes camels and hide and seek; and, Clifton Church of the Nazarene which conducted “Korean and Cambodian Pageants.”
In this review of approximately 500 Cincinnati area churches, only eight were served by female ministers. One of those was Heritage, being led by Elinor Artman. Another was St. John’s UU in Clifton.
The magazine gave each minister a list of six people and from that list they had to choose which they would most like to invite to speak at their church. The results were as follows: Archbishop Desmond Tutu—33%; Reverend Billy Graham—26%; Jimmy Carter—17%; Bill Bennett—12%; Reverend Jesse Jackson—7%; Reverend Pat Robertson—5%.
The survey also asked each minister to list their favorite authors and books in order to get a sense of what the ministry was reading. The most common choices amongst all those polled were C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters), Charles Swindoll (Living on the Ragged Edge), Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled) and Max Lucado (The Applause of Heaven). The UU ministers cited as their favorite authors W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Buechner and Charles Swindoll.
The largest church library in the city was at the Isaac Wise Temple. Their collection numbered 17,000 volumes. Twenty-three churches reported holdings of over 1,000 volumes. Counting Reverend Bill’s own collection, the Heritage collections numbers about 750 volumes.
It is interesting to speculate 21 years later what this survey would reveal today.
Image source: Cincinnati Magazine via Google Books.