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Riverside Today

The Nave of the Riverside Church

Riverside's magnificent nave, June 2014.

“Cities nowadays groan under the weight of uncommonly heavy social and economic problems. The temptation is strong in such times to see the country as God’s place and the city as belonging to the devil. The Riverside Church is committed to the belief that God’s love goes out to all in equal measure regardless of place or time.”

                                             -Dr. Ernest D. Campbell, Riverside Minister 1968-1976


     When Rev. Fosdick and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. founded Riverside in 1930, they determined that the church's mission was interdenominational, interracial and international.[1] Over the years the church has hosted an impressive list of activists and reformers who have striven to fulfill that mission- Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against the Vietnam War at Riverside in 1967 (following in Fosdick’s anti-war footsteps); the Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered an impassioned eulogy for Jackie Robinson at Riverside in 1972; and, more recently, then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke at Riverside following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Hudnut-Beumler has asserted that “most people in the city and elsewhere assume that this church is the proper place to host major public celebratory events, and the following dignitaries have been honored at the church: Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Olaf Palme, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr., Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, and Coretta Scott King, to mention only a few.” He also notes that an overflow audience of thousands attended a moving interreligious service of mourning following the 9/11 attacks, “in which Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist clergy and laity united in proclaiming messages of comfort and hope to a grieving city.”[2] Riverside has been committed to serving the Morningside Heights community religiously and socially since it first opened its doors and it remains one of the most iconic places in New York City’s skyline and history.

[1] Matthew A. Postal, “The Riverside Church; Designation List 313; LP-2037” (Landmarks Preservation Commission, New York, 2000), 1.

[2] James Hudnut-Beumler, “The Riverside Church and the Development of Twentieth-Century American Protestantism,” in The History of the Riverside Church in the City of New York, ed. Peter J. Paris, et al. (New York:  New York University Press, 2004), 17.