Some brides and grooms, New Yorkers as well as those coming to the city for a destination wedding, would like to marry in a church. Yet even in a place like the Big Apple–with a bountiful array of houses of worship, it is a surprisingly difficult task to find a church that will allow these ceremonies. Many churches require that the brIde and or groom belong to their church, in order to secure the venue for a ceremony. In certain cases, there is a mandatory pre-marital counseling that must be completed, too. And in nearly every situation, there is a fee to use the facility–and often a hefty one! However. I am happy to report that there is an outstanding exception to this rule; All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I can’t heap enough praise on this wonderful worship community and their beautiful church. For those not familiar with the UU denomination, it grows from the Judeo-Christian tradition. All Souls and other UU congregations are filled with interfaith families, “spiritual but not religious” members, and people who practice all manner of faith traditions. As the beloved long-time pastor of the church, the incomparable late Forrest Church would say, “We are people who have more questions than answers.”. (On a side note: yes his surname really was Church. He was the son of the Late Senator Frank Church of Idaho who ran for the presidency decades ago). Not only do they adopt an embracing, inclusive approach, they organize awesome social outreach programs ranging from feeding the hungry to lobbying Congress for just legislation.
All Souls provides their Sanctuary and Chapel for rental for marriages and union ceremonies at a very affordable price. They also provide options to secure the organist and other staff members. However, couples are allowed to bring other clergy to the church to perform their ceremonies. I, for instance, was allowed to officiate a wedding there in December.
I include photos here which don’t do it justice. It was originally constructed as a Congregational Church (a mainline Protestant denomination in New England and on the east coast). As such the architecture is simple (from the Georgia tradition, perhaps) with beautiful lighting, windows and simple chandeliers. Throughout the church are plaques of remembrance. The altar is simple as well. And perched above the pulpit, one will find the familiar mathematical symbol for infinity, a representation the life force in all–welcoming people of all faiths. As Mr. Church would say, the beautiful windows show the streams of various faiths. Many paths to one truth.
So not only is All Souls a rare option to unaffiliated couples, it is an excellent choice for all.