1902 Encyclopedia > New York City > Churches, Religion and Charities

New York City
(Part 6)

Churches, Religion and Charities.

In the absence of official returns as to churches and religious denominations, the most trustworthy statistics are those of the City Missionary Society, which puts the number of places of religious worship in the city, including halls, chapels, and missions, at 489. Of these, 349 are churches properly, so-called, each with a fixed congregation, and a settled pastor and a building appropriated to its own use. They are divided as follows among the various denominations: - Protestant Episcopal, 72; Roman Catholic, 57; Methodist Episcopal, 48; Presbyterian, 41; Baptist, 38; Jewish synagogues, 25; Lutheran, 21; Dutch Reformed, 20 African Methodist Episcopal, 7; United Presbyterian, 6, Congregational, 5; Universalist, 4; Unitarian, 3; Quakers, 2; "miscellaneous," 23. This last term covers spiritualist and radicals of various shades, who, without having any fixed creed, or definite object of worship, meet on Sunday for speculative or ethical discussion.

The Roman catholic church lays claim to 500,000 worshippers, or nearly half the population, which is probably a considerable exaggeration, as its hold, on the natives is, beyond question, very slight, and the total foreign population of the city does not reach 500,000. The Irish are almost wholly Catholic, as are the majority of the Germans, and nearly all the French, Italians, and other persons of foreign birth. The catholic increase, too, is derived almost exclusively from foreign immigration. The priests mainly Irish and German, the higher clergy being almost exclusively Irish either by birth or parentage. There is, too, a considerable Catholic element in social life, composed of the well-to-do French and German and Irish and Spanish, who, however, confine themselves very much to the company of persons of their own creed.

All the places of worship in the city of one sort or another, taken together, are supposed to contain 375,000 sittings. The Protestant denomination lay claim to 83,400 communicants and 400,000 attendants or supporters. The value of all the church buildings, including the ground on which they stand, is estimated at $40,000,000. The annual church expenses, including the ministers’ salaries, are supposed to be $3,000,000. There are connected with the churches 418 Sunday schools, with an average attendance of 115,826 pupils. There are also in the city 326 local charitable institutions, of which 261 are Protestant, 38 are Roman catholic, k18 are Jewish, and the rest are not classified. They disburse annually about $4,000,000. The most remarkable and successful of these charities is undoubted the Children’s Aid Society, which was founded in 1853 by Mr. Charles Loring Brace, the present secretary for the purpose of helping friendless street children, especially street boys, both by sending them to the west and by opening schools and lodging-houses for them in the city. Since it began its work 67,287 children have been, by its agency, sent away from the city to country homes. During the year 1882 the society gave 14,122 boys and girls 230,968 lodgings in its six lodging houses, of which 173,152 were paid for by the lodgers themselves; and it furnished them with 305,524 meals at low rates or free. The income of the society has risen from $4,732.78 in 1853 to $237,624 in 1882 from subscriptions and endowments.

The richest and most fashionable denomination is the Protestant Episcopal, and it is the one which seems to grow most by accretion from the native population. On the other hand, while the Baptists and Methodists have always flourished in New York, the two denominations which owed their origin in the United States chiefly to New England- the Unitarians and Congregationalists – have never taken deep root in the city.

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