Roger Williams’ Legacy: Rhode Island’s Holy Places

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As every resident knows and every visitor soon discovers, the Ocean State is blessed by an almost unimaginable array of holy places.  Touro, North America’s oldest surviving synagogue, first brought Betsey and me as summer visitors to Newport in 1983.  But even after living in Little Rhody for more than three decades, there are few pursuits I more enjoy than exploring our state’s synagogues, churches, and meetinghouses – especially with my camera.

Of course what I seek to capture is transitory.  What improves over repeated visits to one place or another is only my understanding of this dilemma.

Regrettably, during the pandemic, we have been unable to enter our own religious dwelling places and our neighbors’.  Perhaps this has made us only hungrier for messages and rituals of hope as well as sounds of joy and laughter. 

My photo quiz may suggest that there are not as many architectural differences between synagogues and other houses of worship as is often imagined.  Yes, for architectural experts and enthusiasts, there may be considerable differences of quality, but these are not limited to one tradition, period or style.  Through light and darkness, intimacy and grandeur, I believe that houses of worship share so many aspirations and yearnings – though primarily those for peace. 

Perhaps this ecumenical outlook is also governed by Judaism’s timeless and universal embrace. Many of Judaism’s holiest places are fragmentary or exist only within our dreams or memories.  Alas, a more beautiful and just world will soon be built, but never completed in our lifetimes.

Please try to identify these holy places.