Monday, January 2, 2012

Church Census

At Christmas Eve dinner, a guest remarked that there were hundreds of churches on 16th St. NW, then somebody said at least a hundred. I thought not, estimating that 16th St. runs about 65 blocks (nearer 75) from Lafayette Square to the Maryland line, and that the density was much lower than 1.5 per block.

My best count over the last couple of days is about 35 religious institutions: 30 churches, two synagogues, two Buddhist temples, and the Ethical Culture Society*. The count is uncertain for a number of reasons:
  • The status of some of the churches. Are the 7th Day Baptists here to stay, or does all that digging mean that something else will replace their building? What about the Third Church of Christ Scientist at 16th & I, where the congregation has fought a battle to be able to demolish the structure? Should we count the Mormon church under construction?
  • Whether one counts buildings or congregations. There is an Ethiopian church sharing space in the Presbyterian church at Carter Barron; and an independent Jewish community, Fabrangen, meets at the Ethical Culture Society.
  • The ease of missing a small church, such as Trinity Religious Temple Church, in a rowhouse between Florida and U.
  • The question whether to count churches not actually on 16th St. but visible from it and probably considered by the passers by to be on 16th. I have in mind Shrine of the Sacred Heart, and St. Francis and the Ascension, within a couple of blocks of each other in Mount Pleasant.
As I reckon it, going by buildings, the Baptists have the lead with five, followed by the Methodists with three; after that it is the Buddhists, Christian Scientists, Episcopalians, Jews, Lutherans, Orthodox, and Unitarians with two each, then everybody else, subject always to the cautions above.

* I don't know whether the Ethical Culture Society would object to being counted as a religious institution.

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