I love lists. And I bet most of you do, too.
So here are 10 cool facts about Charlotte’s rich religious history and its increasingly diverse spiritual landscape circa 2016.
1. Charlotte’s most famous native son got his first religious education at Chalmers Memorial Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, at the intersection of South and East boulevards. Born in 1918, he was a member of the graduating class of the church’s Beginner’s Department in 1924.
I’m talking about: Billy Graham. He went on to become a globe-trotting evangelist and pastor to U.S. presidents. But he never forgot his hometown, returning to headline crusades here in 1947, 1958, 1972 and 1996. And in 2007, the museum-like Billy Graham Library opened off Billy Graham Parkway. (Grace Covenant Church now occupies the Chalmers Memorial ARP building.)
2. The founder of this Christian denomination was born Marcelino Manuel da Graca in the Cape Verde Islands. But for African-American believers in Charlotte who flocked to his revival tent at Third and Caldwell Streets in 1926, he was Bishop “Sweet Daddy” Grace.
I’m talking about: The United House of Prayer for All People. Today, the city has several House of Prayer churches – including the towering “mother house” on Beatties Ford Road. The churches are known for their brassy “shout” bands and their mass baptisms.
3. Starting in 1986, members of this Catholic church – named for the patron saint of bankers – worshiped for three years in the Tower Place movie theater in Pineville. Today it’s one of the largest Catholic parishes in the country.
I’m talking about: St. Matthew Catholic Church. Now in Ballantyne, the church is the spiritual home to 9,800 families – or about 38,000 members. Many of them came to Charlotte from someplace else, like the Northeast and Midwest.
4. This uptown Charlotte church still marks the pew where Mary Anna Morrison Jackson sat during her years as a member. When she died in 1915, this widow of legendary Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was honored with a military funeral in the church.
I’m talking about: First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte. In recent decades, this historic church on Trade Street – “For Christ in the Heart of Charlotte” – has been a leader in helping the city’s needy. And its fellowship hall is adorned with a fresco of The Good Samaritan by artist Ben Long.
5. When it opened in 1986, this 54-acre campus off Providence Road became a national model for Jewish communities around the country.
I’m talking about: Shalom Park. This center for Jewish life in Charlotte is where you’ll find Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue, and Temple Beth El, a Reform congregation. It’s also home to the Levine Jewish Community Center, religious schools, a library, and a Holocaust memorial.
6. With the Civil War over, 66 ex-slaves tired of being steered to the balcony in Charlotte’s white First Baptist Church founded their own house of worship church in 1867.
I’m talking about: First Baptist Church-West. The urban renewal of uptown Charlotte in the late 1960s and early ‘70s meant the church had to relocate to Oaklawn Avenue, a few miles northwest of uptown. Today it’s home to traditional hymns, stained-glass symbols and learned, dynamic preaching.
7. Its first service 10 years ago drew 121 people. Now this megachurch attracts about 20,000 worshipers – many of them millennials – to its 10 (and counting) Charlotte area campuses every weekend.
I’m talking about Elevation Church. Pastor Steven Furtick, wife Holly and seven other couples left a Southern Baptist church in Shelby to start one in Charlotte. Now Elevation is one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in America. Among its draws: Christian rock music, state-of-the-art media, and the charismatic Furtick.
8. This historic church founded by immigrants made a cameo on “Homeland,” Showtime’s hit CIA drama. In the scene, agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) holds a clandestine meeting with a shady go-between in the sanctuary.
I’m talking about: Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Founded in 1923, the church still hosts the popular Yiasou Greek Festival every September. And that sanctuary? It’s one of Charlotte’s most stunning, with its awesome icons.
9. In 1892, Sister Katherine Drexel – a Philadelphia heiress who became a nun – agreed to donate money for pews at this church in uptown Charlotte. She had one stipulation: Some pews had to be reserved for black worshipers.
I’m talking about: St. Peter Catholic Church. Drexel, who dedicated her life to helping African-American and Native American communities, was canonized a saint in 2000. At St. Peter, a bas relief sculpture honors the big-hearted sister.
10. Last year, 10,000 people – many from out of state – visited this Charlotte house of worship to see a statue carved from a rare 18-ton boulder of translucent jade.
I’m talking about: Minh Dang Quang, a Vietnamese Buddhist monastery and temple. The fact that the touring statue – the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace – included a stop in Charlotte is a testament to the city’s growing religious diversity and changing demographics.
Tim Funk covers faith & values for the Observer.