Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church and Hellenic Cultural Center, Livonia, Michigan


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This place holds one special memory as my high school prom was held at the Hellenic Cultural Center.  The church itself was not on the grounds at that time.  I won’t go into the details, but things that changed me forever occurred at prom, so the space itself holds meaning for me.

I’m personally fascinated by Greek Orthodoxy.  I really only know of it historically, but would really like to experience an Orthodox service at some point.

Other than the memories of prom, I didn’t pay much attention to the church itself until very recently.  I’ve always been drawn, at least artistically, to iconography, though I hold some serious spiritual reservations about the emphasis put on icons and statutes by the Orthodox and Catholics.  But I digress…

St. Constantine, or Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome, is one of my favorite historical figures.  His mother, Helen, was an important figure in Church history.  Thus, I like that this church, in name, honors them.

The building itself is…oh… I’m not sure if I love it or hate it.  I imagine that if George Lucas had somehow built Orthodox Christianity into his Star Wars stories, the churches on whatever planet would look like this one.  It reminds me of the architecture on the planet Tatooine.  Decide for yourself whether you like it or not.

The church’s history is nicely laid out on its website.  Normally, when I re-post histories on this blog, I take the bits about the congregation itself.  In this instance, though, I like the “prologue,” which paints a picture of the Greek immigrants who first began settling in the USA 100 plus years ago.

The story of the Greek Community of Detroit is essentially the story of Hellenism in America. It was in the early nineties that the promise of America began to attract the younger men, first from the villages around Sparta and the uplands of Arcadia, then from the remaining villages of the then tiny Greece, and finally from the other Greek lands still under foreign rule. A cross-section of Hellenism gradually formed in many American cities, very much like Detroit, whose Greek Community in 1892 numbered about one hundred young men under thirty.

To better understand the life and work of these immigrants, we should know what manner of men they were. They grew up in villages where life, despite the turmoil and upheaval of the centuries, continued much as it did in the days of Homer. Tilling the soil and tending the flocks brought them a meager living, however abundant the sweat of their brow. They were passionately attached to home, family, Church and village. Deeply imbued with the “Greek Spirit,” they loved the sunbathed land and the unique beauty of every living thing in it; the legendary folklore combined with the grandeur that was Golden Greece; and life itself in the festive religious holidays, the folk songs and the dances.

These young men arrived in America with only the treasures of their heritage and the spirit of their race in their hearts. Many could barely read or write and very few had studied beyond the village school. They had no knowledge of English or of the way of life in the new world. Consequently, they were at the very bottom of the social and economic ladder. For us today, it is difficult to visualize the long climb from those beginning days of the menial laborers, through the days of the roving vendors’ “trade,” to the days of factory workers. But they felt a deep spiritual need, too. In the early 1900’s, they traveled many miles (from as far away as Ohio) to the “Evangelismos” Church in Detroit. This inner need led them on to expand and to found communities such as Sts. Constantine and Helen. However humble its beginnings, what follows here is the Liturgy of the struggles that brought this Community to its day of Consecration.

The Hellenic Cultural Center, Livonia, Michigan

Sts. Constantine & Helen Church, Livonia, Michigan

Sts. Constantine & Helen Church, Livonia, Michigan

Sts. Constantine & Helen, stained glass

Mosaic icons, Sts. Constantine & Helen

Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Detroit, Michigan


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In the heart of southwest Detroit sits the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer.  Like many of Detroit’s other historic churches, Church of the Most Holy Redeemer has served waves of immigrants since its founding in 1880: Irish, Germans, Polish, Arabs, Mexicans and Central Americans.  The church serves what is now primarily a Latino community, and is in or close to what is now referred to as “Mexicantown.”

The building is striking.  The features I found most interesting were the large bell tower and the mosaics above the entrances.  I asked if there was a chapel in which  to pray, but the church itself only opens for mass and special services.

If you want more information on this parish, check out its Facebook page:

St. Francis D’Assisi Catholic Church, Detroit, Michigan


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I wouldn’t have known of this lovely church had I not happened to see its spires reaching over the tops of the neighborhood homes while just driving through the city (as usual) for work.  She sits north east of Michigan Avenue and Livernois, on the west side of Detroit.

The building is pleasing to the eye, at least mine.  It don’t feel peace as much as strength when studying it.  Probably what I like best are the sandstone reliefs, especially the eagle.  They give the church a sense of power and regalness.

The church itself sits in what is mostly a Latino part of the city.  A mass is given in  Spanish, not surprisingly.  The church’s website gives a lengthy, interesting history of the congregation and building that I’ll not here repeat in detail.  But, a link to the history page is found below.  Suffice it to say, this parish was established in 1889, to serve the Polish Catholic community in Detroit.  It was the fifth Polish church in the city.  The church has held on through tough times, avoiding closure in the 1980’s.  Hopefully it will continue to serve the needs of the people of its neighborhood.

St. Francis D'Assisi

St. Francis D'Assisi

St. Francis D'Assisi

St. Francis D'Assisi, eagle


St. Francis, relief

St. Francis, relief

St. Francis D'Assisi

St. Francis, eagle


St. Alphonsus, Dearborn, Michigan


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St. Alphonsus of Dearborn is a beautiful church.  It’s one of the oldest Roman Catholic parishes in the area and, unusual for an urban-suburban setting, had a graveyard on the grounds.

The website was clearly designed by someone with a “less is more” approach.  It’s simple, but, I suppose, tells you what you need to know about this church.

Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan


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Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopalian is located West Chicago, near the Jeffries Freeway (I-96) in Detroit.  It’s one of the oldest black churches in Detroit and has served the African-American community in the city for 137 years or more.

Affectionately called “The Big E,” it has a storied history in the city:

About The Big E

The name “Ebenezer” means “Stone of Help.” The church has the distinction of being the sixth oldest Black congregation in Detroit, and was organized to serve as a harbor for the City’s newly freed Black Americans. It’s name was established on the scriptural reference in 2 Samuel 7: 12-“Then Samuel took a stone, and set [it] between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” It has existed  for 137 years in Detroit, MI.

The rich history of Ebenezer AME Church is entrenched in the traditions of social and political issues that have faced the Detroit Community as well as the nation.  From its role as “Champions of Freedom” to its role in Civil Rights,  Ebenezer has made known her responsibility to the community and constantly engaged in cooperative efforts to help make Detroit a better place.

But this history does not supplant the ongoing preaching and teaching ministry that eminates from the Word of God. Pastor Byron C. Moore, and his wife, Assistant Pastor Sharon Moore, truly believe that our latter days will be greater than our past.  At our church, Pastor Moore leads our congregation in the whole experience of Christian disipleship- preaching, teaching, fasting, praying, ministring to the sick and shut in, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the poor.

It is a place where His Love Makes the Difference…Welcome to “the Big E.”

Ebenezer AME, Detroit

Ebenezer AME

Ebenezer AME

Tower, Ebenezer AME

Welcome (but watch out for the pylon)

St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Freeland, Michigan


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Sometimes we take the back roads to my mother-in-law’s house in Freeland.  It’s easier to drive down empty country roads, surrounded by farm land, than fight traffic in the commercial areas of Saginaw.

I’ve passed St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Freeland several times over the years, usually on the holidays.  It’s out in the middle of a number of working farms just outside of Saginaw.  I imagine this place to be attended by old German-American farmers; quiet, hard-working people.

I’ve wanted to get a better look at this church because it is a classic American country church.  According to the church’s website, it’s been there for 150 years.

I think I would like worshiping there as the style is traditional.  The musical accompaniment is with an organ and old hymns are sung.  It has a large bell tower and bell.  Let the bell ring, I say.



Bangor Abbey, Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland


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Bangor Abbey is incredibly significant historically as it was one of the first Irish abbeys from which came numerous preachers and monks that preserved and spread Christianity across much of Europe.

It is of great personal significance to me as some of my Irish ancestors — Protestants likely transplanted hundreds of years ago from Scotland — hail from Bangor.  Some of my ancestors are buried in Bangor Abbey’s cemetery.

Bangor Abbey, Northern IrelandBangor Abbey

Bangor Abbey bulletin case

Bangor Abbey at dusk

Bangor Abbey boneyard

Bangor Abbey, headstone of some ancestors

Bangor Abbey, headstone of my distant relative, Jane Barr

The church’s history is nicely summed up here:

The ancient Abbey of Bangor was one of those renowned Irish monasteries, which gained for Ireland the title of “The Isle of Saints and Scholars “.

Our Founder, Comgall, was born at Magheramorne, Co. Antrim in 517 A.D., of the race of Fiacha Araidhe, founder of the kingdom of Dalaradia. Comgall’s father was Setna, a Pictish warrior; his mother’s name was Briga. Having shown early promise of a vocation to the Christian ministry, he was educated under St. Fintan at Clonenagh, and also studied under Finian at Clonard and Mobi Clairenach at Glasnevin. He was ordained deacon and priest by Bishop Lugidius, either at Clonmacnoise or Connor.

Comgall founded his most famous monastery at Bangor about 558 A.D. The ancient Annals differ about the exact year, giving various dates between 552 and 559. The earliest, the Annals of Tighernach, and the Annals of Innisfallen, give 558 A.D. as the date of the foundation.

Here Comgall gathered round him a band of monks, whose saintly life and scholarly attainments became the wonder of their age.  

Life in the monasteries was very severe. Food was scant and plain. Herbs, water, and bread was customary. Even milk was considered an indulgence. At Bangor only one meal was allowed, and that not until evening. Confession was in public before the community. Severe acts of penance were frequent. Silence was observed at meals and at other times also, conversation being restricted to the minimum. Fasting was frequent and prolonged.

Worship held the foremost place in the life of the community. The divine services and the daily offices (five during the day and three at night) were scrupulously observed. 

It is clear that music was a prominent feature of the worship of the Bangor monks. But of its exact nature in this remote age little is known.

St. Bernard, writing in 12th century, states that, at Bangor, “the solemnization of divine offices was kept up by companies, who relieved each other in succession, so that not for one moment, day or night, was there an intermission of their devotions”. This refers to the monastic “laus perennis”‘. But there is no evidence from the Antiphonary of Bangor or other early sources that this was in fact the practice at Bangor.

Comgall died on 10th May, 602, and was buried at Bangor. So ended the memorable earthly life of one whose fame has come down to us over fourteen hundred years as “one of the greatest fathers of Irish monasticism”.

How well indeed does he deserve the tribute —

“Christ loved Comgall,
Well too did he, the Lord”.

Nothing now remains of the original buildings of Comgall’s monastery. In the Private Chapel at Clandeboye, however, may be seen, built into the wall, the shaft of a Cross, which was found in the Abbey precincts. This is a fragment of a Celtic High Cross, which may have stood on “the Cross Hill” adjacent to Bangor Castle, and which is indicated on a 17th century map. This fragment probably dates from about the 8th century.

Spirit of Hope Church, Detroit, Michigan


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My business Friday necessitated that I make a stop along Trumbull Avenue before returning to my cozy office in the suburbs.  I figured I would explore Trumbull a bit by driving north.  The plan was to hit Grand River and take that to I-96 and back home.  I knew I’d see beautiful buildings and dilapidated buildings that were once proud, graceful, like the city.  Fortunately I ran across Spirit of Hope Church, at the corner of Trumbull Street and Grand River Avenue, on a nice, sunny autumn day.

The church’s gothic architecture grabbed me.  I first saw the tower at the rear of the church and it reminded me of an old castle.  After taking a closer look, I was enthralled to find gargoyles and carved men watching over God’s house.

By history, this church is a combination of Faith Memorial Lutheran and Trinity Episcopal Churches.  Like many urban churches of this kind, it has a history of feeding and meeting the needs of the hungry and disadvantaged.

In the late 1990s the congregations of Faith Memorial Lutheran and Trinity Episcopal Churches, located just blocks from one another, began exploring what it would mean to do ministry together and share a pastor.  Times had changed since the congregations’ founding.

Faith Memorial Lutheran Church, founded at the corner of Trumbull Avenue and Alexandrine Street in 1956, was established by the Lutheran Church to serve residents of the Jeffries Housing Projects.  The church became well known as a place of refuge for the hungry, homeless or those who were in anyway feeling rejected because of their income, race or class.  When most of the Jeffries was imploded in 2001, a very large percentage of the church’s constituency left or was forced to leave the neighborhood.

Trinity Episcopal Church, founded at the corner of Trumbull Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. (formerly Myrtle Avenue) in the 1880s, Trinity was established as a neighborhood congregation that reached out first to the local Irish contingency, and then to others as the neighborhood changed over the decades.  Trinity became known as the local home of the Police Athletic League, Sunshine Community Preschool and numerous food programs.  The declining population of the neighborhood led to the declining population of the congregation.

After years of deliberation and prayer, Trinity and most active members of Faith Memorial took a leap of faith in April of 2006 and began worshipping together as one congregation, since known as Spirit of Hope.  Today we worship God in everything that we are, blessed followers of Jesus Christ.

Reflecting a more liberal theology or approach to Christianity, Spirit of Hope seeks “empower all races, genders and gender expressions, sexual orientations, physical abilities, denominational or religious backgrounds, to serve one another as God has gifted us to do.”

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan


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This congregation meets in a beautiful historic building near downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan.  St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is active in the community, particularly in feeding the hungry.

I’ve not been to a service there, but the chapel was open when I visited this morning.  It was a small, quiet place that seemed frozen in the 1960’s.  More important than that, though, was it was a great place to pray.  I felt better having spent a few minutes inside, communing with God.

Unless I’m missing something, the website does not have information regarding the church’s history.  But it does have good information about the church’s present work, both in the community and with its congregants.

Abundant Life Christian Center, 8240 Grand River, Detroit, Michigan


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Abundant Life Christian Center, side

I see this building from the expressway (I-96) every time I venture into Detroit.  It was a beautiful fall day so I knew I had to go out of my way to see this once special place that is little more than ruins.  It was open, so I was able to walk around.  I had no idea when I went through the open front door, and up the stairs into the sanctuary, whether I would encounter a bunch of drug addicts, whether I’d startle a homeless person, or step on a dirty nail.  The worst I saw in there were a few half pints of cheap vodka.

Abundant Life Christian Center, from Grand River, looking northwest

Abundant Life Christian Center, from Grand River

I’m not the poetic of figurative type too often, but this church is one (of tens of thousands) of reminders of the past glory of the City of Detroit.  As the city has gone, so have places like this.  I don’t know whether churches, theaters, businesses, schools and other important places in the community fell completely apart because her people did, or her people fell apart because such places were allowed to lapse into complete and total decay.  As bad of shape as the building is in, I literally had a rush walking around inside it.  I’d like to go back and explore it more thoroughly someday.  Sure, it’s probably trespassing, but I didn’t see any signs, and there were certainly no attempts made to keep people or the elements out.

Abundant Life sanctuary

Abundant Life sanctuary, facing northwest

Given it’s current state, “Abundant Life” couldn’t be a more ironic name for this house of worship.

Abundant Life, stained glass

Abundant Life, stained glass (Memorial to a former pastor)

There are several “Abundant Life Christian Center” churches in the area, one in Detroit, the other in Redford.  I cannot tell whether either of these places was formally located in this particular building.  Oddly enough, though, this abandoned church is still listed in the Yellow Pages online.  My best guess is that the phone there no longer works.