Finding God in Midtown

BY and

St. Patricks

Even while undergoing a $175 million renovation, St. Patrick’s Cathedral still retains a sense of majesty. Photos by David G. Palacio.


Opportunities to worship in Midtown West are as varied as the population itself. Here, a list of some of the largest houses of worship in the neighborhood.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

One of midtown’s oldest Roman Catholic structures currently sits encased in scaffolding, with workers constantly scurrying across walkways and planks, pounding or drilling with power tools.  St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City’s largest house of worship, is currently undergoing a $175 million renovation to restore worn stonework throughout the cathedral, but remains open for services and tours throughout the process — but despite the noisy renovation of the aging façade, a step inside reveals a sacred place that still exudes serenity through its shrines, stained glass windows, and other holy objects.

Entering St. Patrick’s, visitors find a place of worship similar in grandeur to the great cathedrals of Europe, which hosts five million visitors over the course of the year, according to the cathedral website.  The interior is cavernous and the walls are adorned with shrines to various Catholic saints.  Wooden pews run the length of the floor until they reach the elevated altar from which services are celebrated.

The church, which opened its doors in 1879, has stood watch through historic events that altered the city and the nation, from the Civil War to the 9/11 attacks.The church is open daily and is spiritual home to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York.  To many, St. Patrick’s is a place to experience spiritual awe, even in a place as busy as Manhattan.  Beth Robinson attends St. Patrick’s for worship whenever her busy schedule allows.  “It inspires me to become humble and have a sense of humility,” said Robinson.

“People come to church for the peace and quiet,” said Robinson, “but that isn’t what life’s all about.”

Address: 460 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022;

Phone: (212) 753-2261



Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan

Surrounded by the busy Midtown backdrop, the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan offers Muslims a quiet place to pray and study religious texts.

Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan

Near St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Islamic Society of Mid-Manhattan stands as a spiritual center for the Muslim community. Opened in the 1990s in the basement of an office building on West 44th Street, in a space that barely held 350 people, the society’s current space, on East 55th Street between Lexington and Third avenues, accommodates 1,000 worshippers.

The mosque entrance is modest; two green awnings jut forward on the southern end of East 55th Street to signal the center’s entrance. A narrow white tiled corridor leads to an elevator that carries worshipers to the multiple levels of the mosque. The second floor holds a prayer area covered in intricately patterned red carpeting that covers the entire space, while the third floor offers more prayer space for female worshippers.  The fourth floor provides an area for the offices and the Imam, the mosque’s spiritual leader.

Throughout the mosque, Muslim men can be found praying or reading the Qur’an, Islam’s holy text.  One of the mosque’s members, Hussein Bah, who immigrated from Guinea, said he has attended the mosque for the past 10 years. Bah found himself drawn to the Imam’s abilities and teaching.  “The Imam is very good, he knows the Qur’an by heart,” said Bah. “Without learning it you cannot be a good Muslim.  You have to learn it and follow the rules.”

In contrast to the upscale designer stores just outside the building and the busy streets that surround the mosque, the Islamic Society offers visitors the chance to  escape to a place where they can speak to God.  “I’ve prayed here for many years,” said Bah, “it’s a place I can find peace.”

Address: 154 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022

Phone: (212) 888-7838


Front of Times Square Church

Originally the Mark Hellinger Theater, the Times Square Church provides visitors a way to experience services that only a church located on Broadway could offer.

Times Square Church

Times Square Church resides beside various Broadway theater houses, which would be strange if the church weren’t housed in a theater itself. The founder of the church, David Wilkerson, was inspired to start his congregation after a walk through Times Square in 1986.  The experience of passing by drug dealers, pimps and prostitutes so disturbed that he was moved to start a church.

Times Square Church holds services at the Mark Hellinger Theater on 51st Street, just west of Broadway, welcoming more than 8,000 worshippers a week. True to the experience that spurred its creation, Times Square Church works to fulfill its mission of “giving aid to the poor, the hungry, the destitute, and the addicted,” according to its website’s mission statement.  The church assists residents of New York as well as the poor and hungry in the international community.

Address: 237 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019

Phone: (212) 541-6300



The Sixteenth Street Synagogue

Located on West 16 Street, the Sixteenth Synagogue has served the Manhattan area since 1945. The Orthodox synagogue emphasizes the ideals of modern orthodoxy: study of the Torah and a life philosophy based on its lessons.

The synagogue—opened seven days a week—includes a diverse community of followers comprised of men and woman of different cultural and economic backgrounds. Prayers in the morning, called Scharit, are conducted a 6:45 a.m., while Shema—prayers based on the book of Deuteronomy—begins at 9 a.m.

Interim Rabbi Gavriel Z. Bellino leads the family-oriented community. There are also divided Torah study opportunities for women interested in forming a sisterhood—also the name of the synagogue’s women’s division.

Address: 3 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

Phone: (212) 255-4826



Kadampa Meditation Center New York City 

New Yorkers interested in the teachings of Buddha are welcomed to meditate at Kadampa Meditation Center in Chelsea. The center, on West 24 Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, is open Monday through Friday as well as Sunday.

Opened 20 years ago, Kadampa Meditation Center is named after a branch of Buddhism founded in India between 982 and 1054 A.D. Leaders of the community at the Chelsea center promote enlightenment and integration of the faith’s principles in everyday life. Newcomers in the New York City area are welcomed to attend the center’s Sunday morning and afternoon classes with emphasis on a Saturday course called “Awakening the Heart.” Kadampa Meditation Center also offers weekend retreats.

Address: 127 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 924-6706


The Church of Scientology New York

In 2004, the International Association of Scientologists opened the Church of Scientology on West 46 Street and Eighth Avenue. The formal religion, born in the late 1950s, has been surrounded by secrecy and controversy; however, staff and church members welcome curious New Yorkers in the heart of Times Square.

Rev. Verlene Cheeseboro, 67, is currently a pastor at the Church of Scientology. Cheeseboro, a Harlem native, grew up in the Baptist church, but converted to Scientology in 2003. According to Cheeseboro, the staff promotes individual happiness and service to the community. “As a church we do community outreach with services can help them live a better life,” said Cheeseboro.  “We do anti-drug campaigns, anti-violence, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.”

The church is open to the public Monday through Sunday. Screenings of a short film on the religion are played every hour for visitors.

Address: 227 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036

Phone: (212) 921-1210