Neighboring Faith Communities: A Process Guide
A curriculum for grades 6-8
Compiled by Dan Harper, v. 0.8.3
Copyright (c) 2014-2016 Dan Harper
LIST OF FAITH COMMUNITIES IN AND NEAR PALO ALTO
A: Baha’i faith communities
B: Buddhist faith communities
C: Christian faith communities
CC: Post Christian communities
including Unitarian Universalism
D: Confucian communities
E: Daoist faith communities (Taoist)
F: Hindu faith communities
G: Islamic faith communities
H: Jain faith communities
I: Jewish faith communities
J: Native religions and cultural traditions
K: New Religious Movements
including Humanism and Neo-Paganism
L: Orisa devotion
M: Other traditions
Note: General taxonomy of world religions modified from that of the Pluralism Project (here, and here).
Above: Unity Church, New religious movement based on Christianity, Palo Alto, California
A: Baha’i faith communities
Founded in the nineteenth century as a reform of Islam. As of 2016, there are nine continental “Houses of Worship,” serving broad areas. Many local faith communities meet in members’ homes.
Baha’i of Palo Alto
Meets in members’ homes.
Trivia: One of their prophets spoke at the old Palo Alto Unitarian Church in 1912. Web site
B. Buddhist faith communities
Therevada Buddhism uses as its core texts books in the ancient Pali language. Therevada Buddhism is strongest in Southeast Asia, particularly Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, etc. In the U.S., many Therevada Buddhist groups consist of immigrants from these areas, so Therevada Buddhist faith communities are separated here by dominant ethnic group.
Sri Lankan: Buddhivara
402 Knowles Ave., Santa Clara
Resident monks. Web site
Thai: Wat Buddhanusorn
36054 Niles Blvd., Fremont
Vietnamese: Chua Giac Minh
763 Donohoe St., East Palo Alto
Visited 2012-2013. Services mostly in Vietnamese. Web site 1 Web site 2
Why visit: The services are entirely in Vietnamese, and the service allows you to experience Vietnamese culture.
Western culture: Vipassana movement: Insight Meditation Center of the Mid-Peninsula
108 Birch Street, Redwood City
A meditation group begun in 1986 in Palo Alto; this center tends to separate Buddhist meditation from Asian cultural forms.
The largest division of Buddhism, which includes a number of smaller subgroups. Mahayana Buddhists generally accept a larger number of sacred texts than do Therevada Buddhists. Mahayana Buddhism was historically strongest in China and Chinese-speaking countries, Japan, Korea, etc.
B-2.a: Pure Land
In Pure Land Buddhism, entering the “Pure Land” is equivalent to attaining enlightenment.
Amitabha Pureland: Amitabha Buddhist Society of U.S.A.
650 S. Bernardo Avenue, Sunnyvale
Regular 2 hour meditation sessions, as well as “whole day mindful chanting.”
Buddhist Church of America: Palo Alto Buddhist Temple
2751 Louis Rd, Palo Alto
Visited during centennial celebration 2014-2015. Organized in 1914, mostly by persons of Japanese descent. Web site
Why visit: A friendly congregation with Japanese roots, gives you an insight into Japanese culture.
The Buddhist Church of America was founded over 100 years ago by Japanese immigrants to the U.S. Theologically fairly liberal.
Zen Buddhism (Japanese), or Chan Buddhism (Chinese), emphasizes direct practice through a form of meditation called zazen. It is the most familiar form of Buddhism to most Americans, to the point that many Americans assume that all Buddhists are like Zen Buddhists.
Soto Zen: Kannon Do Zen Meditation Center
1972 Rock St., Mt. View
Why visit: Zen Buddhism is what many people think of when they say “Buddhist,” so a visit here is a chance to find out what Zen is really like. A big part of what they do is sit in silent meditation for extended periods of time.
B-2.c: Other Mahayana
3910 Bret Harte Drive, Redwood City
Web site for the whole denomination (no separate Web site for the Redwood City location)
A small Buddhist denomination founded in Japan in the 20th C.
Chong Won Sa Korean Buddhist Temple
719 Lakehaven Drive, Sunnyvale
Tibetan Buddhism, as its name implies, was historically centered on the region around Tibet and northern India. Oral transmission of beliefs and practices is an important feature of the tradition, and many adherents of Tibetan Buddhism will refer to their “lineage,” that is, the line of transmission, from one teacher to the next.
Bodhi Path Buddhist Center
2179 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park
Dechen Rang Dharma Center
1156 Cadillac Ct., Milpitas
Why visit: They do a “Life Release” service on a Sunday each month in Half Moon Bay. It’s a short service when they release of thousands of beings (i.e., fish).
Karma Thegsum Choling Buddhist Meditation Center
677 Melville Avenue, Palo Alto, CA
No Web site, phone 650-967-1145
Shambhala International: See New Religious Movements with roots in Indian Religions
C. Christian faith communities
The different divisions of Christianity is taken from the World Council of [Christian] Churches on its Web site here. Christianity is a wildly diverse religion, and local faith communities may belong to a group not listed here; or belong to two or more groups; or in some other way not fit into these divisions.
C-1: African Instituted Churches (or African Independent Churches)
A loose grouping of Christian churches that were organized by Africans and for Africans, in response to white missionary work on the continent of Africa. Beliefs and organizations vary widely. A few AIC churches have started congregations in North America.
Celestial Church of Christ (Aladura): Oakland Parish
4001 Webster Street, Oakland
Page on denominational Web site
The Church of the Lord (Prayer Fellowship) Worldwide:
Zion Christian Church:
C-2: Anglican churches
Anglican Church of Nigeria: Oversees a few local congregations, mostly on the East Coast, which preferred to leave The Episcopal Church (USA), often over same-sex marriage and ordination of women.
The Episcopal Church (USA): Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church
600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto
Visited 2012-2013. Web site
The Anglican church began in England, and split from the Roman Catholic church c. 1530. Anglican churches range from “high church” or “Anglo-Catholic” congregations, where the services look a great deal like Roman Catholic services, to “low church” congregations, where the services are much simpler. Communion takes place every week.
Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church: Mar Thoma Church of Silicon Valley
3275 Williams Rd, San Jose
C-3: Assyrian Church
Though similar to other Eastern Christian churches, services of the Assyrian Church of the East differ in details. The liturgy is typically given in Aramaic, an ancient predecessor to the Syrian language.
Mar Yosip Parish
680 Minnesota Ave., San Jose
C-4: Baptist churches
Baptists tend to value congregational independence, so services and beliefs may vary widely. In general, Baptist churches believe that adults (or teenagers who are considered old enough), but not children, should be baptized; thus, Baptist churches may have baptisms of teens or adults during a Sunday service.
American Baptist: First Baptist Church of Palo Alto
305 N. California Ave., Palo Alto
According to the Web site, “a welcoming, inclusive community of faith.” Web site
American Baptists split from Southern Baptists during the period leading up to the Civil War. American Baptist beliefs vary widely, with some very conservative congregations, and some congregations that are more liberal than conservative Unitarian Universalist congregations.
National Baptist Convention: Jerusalem Baptist Church
398 Sheridan Ave., Palo Alto
Visited 2012-2013. A historically Black church. Web site
The National Baptist Convention is a historically Black denomination.
Southern Baptist: Avenue Baptist Church
398 Sheridan Ave., Palo Alto (in Jerusalem Baptist Church, above)
A new “church plant” with a Korean-American pastor. Web site
Southern Baptist: Cornerstone Community Church
701 E. Meadow Dr., Palo Alto
Self-described as “mostly comprised of Korean-Americans.” Web site
One of the largest Christian groups in the U.S., Southern Baptists tend to be more conservative theologically than American Baptists. But if Southern Baptists tend to be more conservative in their beliefs, their worship services range from conservative Protestant to innovative (praise bands, hi-tech projection systems, etc.). Some Southern Baptist congregations are aimed at specific ethnic groups, e.g., Cornerstone Community Church above is aimed at Korean-Americans.
Primitive Baptists use no musical instruments in their services; many Primitive Baptist congregations sing all hymns in four-part harmony. (Primitive Baptist Universalists, sometimes called the “No-Hellers,” constitute a sub-group of Primitive Baptists; they are not closely related to Universalists.)
C-5: Disciples of Christ (Christian Church)
The Disciples of Christ seek to be inclusive of all Christians, and since they creeds as divisive they do not use creeds.
First Christian Church of Palo Alto
2890 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
C-6: Evangelical churches
The World Council of Churches (WCC) Web site notes: “It took until the middle of the 1940s before a “new evangelicalism” began to emerge, which was able to criticize fundamentalism for its theological paranoia and its separatism. Doctrinally, the new evangelicals confessed the infallibility of the Bible, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, vicarious atonement, the personality and work of the Holy Spirit, and the second coming of Christ. These are the theological characteristics which are shared by the majority of Evangelical churches today in the world. The other distinctive feature is the missional zeal for evangelism and obedience to the great commission (Matthew 28:18-19).” The WCC further notes: “In regions like Africa and Latin America, the boundaries between ‘evangelical’ and ‘mainline’ are rapidly changing and giving way to new ecclesial realities.”
Within the U.S., the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is one body that promotes cooperation among Evangelical churches. For member denominations of the NAE, see this Web page; most of these denominations are listed under other categories for the present listing.
See also: C-22: Non-denominational churches
According to the Web site of the Lutheran World Federation, “To be Lutheran is to be: Evangelical [i.e., they ‘proclaim the ‘good news’ of Christ’s life”]; Sacramental [i.e., they center their worship in both proclamation and celebration of the sacraments]; Diaconal [i.e., they believe in service to the world]; Confessional [i.e., they confess the Bible as the “only source and norm” for Christian life]; Ecumenical [i.e., they promote Christian unity].” Lutherans acknowledge their commonality with other Christians, and their uniqueness: “While the central convictions of the Lutheran tradition are not uniquely ours, its distinctive patterns and emphases shape the way in which we respond to the challenges and questions we face today.”
ELCA: Grace Lutheran Church
3149 Waverly St., Palo Alto
According to their Web site, “an inviting and diverse Christian community.” Web site
Why visit: They have been very welcoming to UUCPA visitors in the past. Lovely Advent services. A Yelp review mentions the good music.
ELCA: First Lutheran Church
600 Homer Ave., Palo Alto
According to their Web site, “we welcome people diverse in sexual orientation and gender identity.” Web site
Missouri Synod: Trinity Lutheran Church
1295 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
No Web site.
C-8: Methodist churches
Methodism grew out of the reform movement started by John and Charles Wesley. “The Wesley brothers held to the optimistic Arminian view that salvation, by God’s grace, was possible for all human beings. … They also stressed the important effect of faith on character, teaching that perfection in love was possible in this life.” — World Council of Churches Web page on Methodist churches. The Wesley brothers wrote hundreds of hymns, some of which are among the most popular English-language hymns.
African Methodist Episcopal: —
African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion): University AME Zion church
3549 Middlefield Rd. Palo Alto
Visited 2015-2016, during anniversary celebration. A historically Black church. Web site
Why visit: Pastor Smith is an excellent speaker. The music director is incredibly talented. People are very welcoming. The congregation gets excellent Yelp reviews.
Christian Methodist Church: —
United Methodist Church: First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto
625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto
C-9: Holiness movement churches
Began as a reform movement within American Methodism in the early nineteenth century. “Instead of only some especially gifted persons in the church entering into a carefully disciplined life of holiness, all believers were to do this; they were to present themselves to God as living sacrifices in the midst of the regular routines of life.” — World Council of Churches Web page on Holiness churches.
The Salvation Army grew out of this movement, but it has a unique structure and mission, and is listed separately below.
Church of God (Anderson, IN): —
Church of the Nazarene: Crossroads Community Church
2490 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
The Christian Holiness Partnership (CHP) is an international organization which facilitates cooperation between Holiness churches.
C-10: Moravian and Historic Peace Churches
A grouping of churches that all have a historic commitment to non-violence and peacemaking. “In 2013, the Moravian and Historic Peace Churches, including Mennonites, Brethren, — and Friends (Quakers), decided to be represented in the governing bodies of the WCC as one confessional family and gather as such during confessional meetings at WCC events.” — World Council of Churches Web page on Historic Peace Churches.
C-10.a: Church of the Brethren: —
C-10.b: Mennonite: —
Mennonite Church USA: First Mennonite Church of San Francisco
290 Dolores St., San Francisco
Mennonite Brethren: —
Old Order Amish: —
C-10.c: Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)
There are several Quaker groups in the U.S., but Quakers may be roughly divided into “unprogrammed meetings,” in which the majority of the service is silence, and people may stand to speak briefly “if the Spirit moves” them to do so; and “programmed meetings,” in which the services have hymns, a sermon, etc., as well as a time of silence. Most programmed meetings are affiliated with Friends United Meeting (FUM); most unprogrammed meetings are affiliated with Friends General Conference (FGC). Unprogrammed meetings may call themselves a “Quaker Church” instead of a “Quaker Meeting.”
The majority of Quakers do not believe in “outward forms of religion”; that is, they do not believe in having rituals like communion, baptism, etc. While Quakers have a wide range of beliefs, from conservative Christian to atheists, they are pacifists who do not believe in war and avoid violence.
Friends General Conference (FGC): Palo Alto Friends Meeting
957 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto
Visited 2012-2013. Web site
Why visit: Palo Alto Friends Meeting shares many social values with UUCPA. But worship at Palo Alto Friends is very different from UUCPA, because you sit (mostly) in silence for an hour. Trivia: in the 1940s, Palo Alto Friends and UUCPA combined Sunday schools.
Local Quaker meetings that are affiliated with FGC are often (but not always) unprogrammed meetings — that is, they have silent meeting for worship.
Friends United Meeting (FUM): Berkeley Friends Church
1600 Sacramento St., Berkeley
Most Quaker meetings and Quaker churches affiliated with FUM are programmed meeting — that is, they have a sermon as well as unprogrammed time for spoken ministry. They tend to be more conservative theologically.
C-10.d: Unitas Fratrum, or Moravian Church
Moravian Church in America: Guiding Star Fellowship
Meeting location: 957 Colorado Avenue, Palo Alto (Palo Alto Friends Meeting)
Page on denominational Web site
C-11: New Church movement (Swedenborgianism)
Churches that draw inspiration from the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. “The life of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) was steeped simultaneously in the rational world of the physical sciences and a deep Christian faith.” — from the Web site of the Swedenborg Foundation
Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco
2107 Lyon Street, San Francisco
C-12. Old-Catholic churches
Catholic church bodies (mostly national churches) that separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Clergy and bishops are permitted to marry; women may be ordained.
Ecumenical Catholic Communion: —
Polish National Catholic Church: —
C-13: Orthodox Churches (Eastern)
Eastern Orthodox Churches are distinguished from the Roman Catholic Church in a number of ways. First, Eastern Orthodox Churches do not recognize the supremacy of the Pope. Eastern Orthodox churches are organized into independent national churches or language groups, each under the leadership of a Patriarch; the Patriarch of Constantinople has a position as “first among equals” but does not have supremacy over the other Patriarchs.
Eastern Orthodox differ from Roman Catholics in other ways. The Eastern Orthodox do full immersion baptisms of infants, and children are also confirmed as infants, thus allowing them to partake of the eucharist (take communion). Many Eastern Orthodox churches venerate icons, and some of the most beautiful objects in Orthodox churches are the icons, pictures of saints. Unlike Roman Catholic priests, Eastern Orthodox priests may marry; women may become diaconesses (but not priests).
C-13.a: Antiochian Orthodox (Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America of the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East)
The Antiochian Orthodox church “traces its roots to first century Antioch (modern-day Antakya, Turkey), the city in which the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26),” according to their Web site. An excellent description of their services may be found here: http://www.antiochian.org/content/first-visit-orthodox-church-twelve-things-i-wish-id-known
Orthodox Church of the Redeemer
380 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos Hills
This congregation was originally affiliated with The Episcopal Church (USA), but beginning in 1960, “disturbed by the controversial teachings of Bishop Pike, which strayed from traditional Christian theology,” they eventually discovered the Antiochian Orthodox church and changed affiliations (as told on their Web site).
C-13.b: Armenian Orthodox
C-13.c: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
The services are meant to be full of beauty, with many beautiful ritual objects, elaborate vestments (ritual clothing for those who preside at the worship service), and beautiful music. “Worship is not simply expressed in words. In addition to prayers, hymns, and scripture readings, there are a number of ceremonies, gestures, and processions. The Church makes rich use of non verbal symbols to express God’s presence and our relationship to Him. Orthodoxy Worship involves the whole person; one’s intellect, feelings, and senses.” — description of worship on the Archdiocese Web site Congregants stand for the entire 3-hour service.
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
1260 Davis St., San Jose
C-13.d: Orthodox Church of America
Originally Russian Orthodox, but became independent in 1970. The services are much like the Greek Orthodox services (see above).
Nativity of the Holy Virgin Church
1220 Crane St., Menlo Park
C-13.e: Patriarchal Parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church in the USA (Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate)
These are the Russian Orthodox congregations that chose to remain under the administration of the Patriarch of Moscow, when the Orthodox Church of America was granted independence.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
2005 15th Street, San Francisco
C-13.f: Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia split from the Russian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate after the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the latter pledged support to the Bolsheviks.
St. Herman of Alaska
161 N. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale
Visited 2013-2014. Web site
Traditional Russian Orthodox services are in Old Church Slavonic, an old language that is now only used for church services. In many Russian Orthodox services, everyone stands for the entire service (except those who are too old, or who have physical disabilities), and the services can last for 2-3 hours. While some people dislike standing that long, for others standing so long can bring on a meditative or ecstatic state of awareness.
C-13.g: Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America
St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church
18870 Allendale Ave., Saratoga
C-13.h: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
St. Michael Parish
345 7th St., San Francisco
C-14: Orthodox Churches (Oriental)
Each of the Oriental Orthodox Churches — Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, Armenian, etc. — is independent.
C-14.a: Armenian Apostolic Church (Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin)
St. Andrew Armenian Church
11370 South Stelling Rd., Cupertino
C-14.b: Coptic Orthodox
One of the most ancient Christian traditions — probably the oldest still-existing Christian group, dating back about 1,900 years — the Coptic Orthodox church is based in Egypt, and the Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches are its “daughter churches.” According to the BBC, “Coptic services take place in the very ancient Coptic language (which is based on the language used in the time of the Pharaohs), together with local languages. The liturgy and hymns remain similar to those of the early Church” (link).
St. George and St. Joseph Coptic Orthodox Church
395 W. Rincon Ave., Campbell
C-14.c: Eritrean Orthodox
C-14.d: Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
C-14.e: Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
C-14.f: Syriac Orthodox
St. Thomas the Apostle
1921 Las Plumas Ave., San Jose
Mar Thoma Church, see: C-2. Anglican churches
C-15. Pentecostal churches
Pentecostal churches trace their roots back to the Asuza Street Revival, which took place in 1906 in Los Angeles. The name comes from the story of Pentecost, in the New Testament book of Acts, in which the spirit of God came into the followers of Jesus after Jesus’ death. Thus Pentecostals emphasize the workings of the Holy Spirit in the lives of human beings. Currently, Pentecostalism is perhaps the fastest-growing Christian group.
Some Pentecostal churches may include time for spiritual experiences like speaking in tongues, divine healing, etc. Many Pentecostal churches do not have such activities, but they do believe that each person can have a direct experience of God. Many Pentecostal groups are rightly proud of their racial diversity.
C-15.a: “Holiness” churches
“The earliest Pentecostals drew from their Methodist and Wesleyan Holiness roots, describing their entrance into the fullness of Christian life in three stages: conversion, sanctification, and baptism in the Spirit. Each of these stages was often understood as a separate, datable, ‘crisis’ experience.” — World Council of Churches, Web page on Pentecostal churches
Church of God in Christ: Abundant Life Christian Fellowship
2440 Leghorn St., Mountain View
A mega-church with average attendance of approx. 4,500 people per week. (An historically Black denomination, now racially diverse.) Web site
Church of God (Cleveland, TN): Redwood City Church of God
2798 Bay Road, Redwood City
International Pentecostal Holiness Church: —
C-15.b: “Finished work” churches
“Pentecostals, from the Reformed tradition or touched by the Keswick teachings on the Higher Christian Life, came to view sanctification not as a crisis experience, but as an ongoing quest.” — World Council of Churches, Web page on Pentecostal churches
Assemblies of God: Pathway Church
1305 Middlefield Rd., Redwood City
International Church of the Foursquare Gospel: Word of Life Foursquare Church
7160 Graham Ave., Newark
Redwood City Hispanic Foursquare Church / Centro CO3
3399 Bay Rd., Redwood City
C-15.c: “Oneness” or “Jesus’ Name” churches
In the the baptismal formula, “Oneness” Pentecostals use “the formula ‘in the Name of Jesus Christ’ recorded in Acts (cf. Acts 2:38).” — World Council of Churches, Web page on Pentecostal churches
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World: Christ Temple Community Church
884 San Carrizo Way, Mountain View
No Web site, phone: 650-965-7396
United Pentecostal Church: —
C-16: Reformed churches
The Reformed tradition has its roots in the Swiss reformation of John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, etc. Worship services emphasize sermons and the spoken word. Communion may happen monthly, quarterly, or on some other schedule, but there will rarely be communion every week. “There is no stress on a special elite person or group that has received through direct revelation or by the laying on of hands extraordinary powers of authority. … The level of education required for the Presbyterian or Reformed minister is traditionally high.: — World Council of Churches, Web page on Reformed churches.
In congregational churches, each congregation is quasi-independent; there is la relatively flat ecclesiastical hierarchy. Congregations join together in local associations to provide mutual support and guidance; congregations also belong to national bodies or associations of congregations.
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches: Grace North Church
2138 Cedar St., Berkeley
United Church of Christ: See: C-21. United and Uniting Churches
Presbyterians are governed by “courts,” groups or committees consisting of pastors and ruling elders “presbyters”). In the local congregation the “court” is called the “session”; at the regional level, the “court” is called the “presbytery”; the national or highest level, various presbyteries come together in a “synod.” This is a somewhat more formal structure than that of Congregational churches.
Presbyterian Church USA: First Presbyterian Church
1140 Cowper St., Palo Alto
Known as a liberal church with a social justice orientation. Web site
A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO): Menlo Park Presbyterian
950 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park
Recently broke with Presbyterian Church USA to join a more conservative Presbyterian group. Web site
Governed in much the same way as Presbyterian churches.
Reformed Church in America: New Hope Community Church
2190 Peralta Blvd., Fremont
Originally named the Reformed Dutch Protestant Church.
C-17. Restorationist churches
A grouping of loosely related churches, which in some way seek to restore the Christian church to earlier norms.
Latter-Day Saint movement, or Mormon churches: Founded by Joseph Smith, as a movement to restore Christianity to what it was during the time of Jesus and his followers. Most churches in the Latter-Day Saints movement accept the Book of Mormon, as revealed to Joseph Smith, as a scripture on a part with the Bible.
Community of Christ: Formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Community of Christ San Jose Congregation
990 Meridian Ave., San Jose
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon): The largest and best-known Mormon group. Local groups are lay-led (i.e., there are no professional clergy). Members in need can rely on their local Ward (or congregation) for food, financial support, etc.
Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in Palo Alto
3865 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
They host the annual Christmas creche. 650-494-8899 No Web site
Jehovah’s Witnesses: “As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we strive to adhere to the form of Christianity that Jesus taught and that his apostles practiced.” — Jehovah’s Witnesses Web site Jehovah’s witnesses have many distinctive beliefs and practices, e.g., they do not celebrate Christmas or Easter; do not see Jesus as God; have communion only once a year; etc.
Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall
4243 Alma Street, Palo Alto
650-493-3020 No Web site
C-18: Roman Catholic
The Roman Catholic Church is perhaps the most familiar Christian body to many in the U.S., with its distinctive hierarchical organization, and its distinctive worship service, called the “mass.”
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish
3290 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
Visited 2015-2016. Web site
(English mass at 10:30 a.m.)
(Latin mass with Gregorian chant at 12:30 p.m.)
Why visit: Good Yelp reviews: “The church is not that big for a Catholic Church and the parishioners are friendly”; and “The space is lovely, with beautiful neo-Gothic ribbing and a pre-Vatican-II style confessional and back altar.”
This parish has two other locations:
Our Lady of the Rosary Church
3233 Cowper St., Palo Alto, CA 94306
(Spanish mass at 9:30 a.m.)
St. Albert the Great Church
1095 Channing Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
There has been a long tradition in the U.S. of ethnic Catholic churches, where a Catholic church is formed to meet the needs of an ethnic group, often with at least some masses in a language other than English, and/or cultural references. Religiously, these are Roman Catholic churches; but the language, music, and worship style (restrained, exuberant, etc.) can differ greatly. In addition to the non-English masses at St. Thomas Aquinas, above, here are two Roman Catholic churches with masses in languages other than English:
St. Joseph Parish
582 Hope St., Mountain View
In many cases, now a single Catholic church will offer masses aimed at several different ethnic groups in several languages. This parish has masses in English, Spanish, Tamil; and bilingual English/Spanish.
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
5111 San Felipe Rd., San Jose
Services in the Igbo language.
C-18.a: Eastern Catholic Churches
St. Elias the Prophet Melkite Greek Catholic Church
4325 Jarvis Ave., San Jose
Eastern Catholic Churches are churches that were once affiliated with Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox Churches, but are now affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Eastern Catholic Churches typically have worship services that are more like Orthodox services than they are like Roman Catholic services.
C-19: The Salvation Army
A Christian church with a unique organizational scheme, and a unique mission. The Salvation Army organizes itself on quasi-military lines, with the church hierarchy adopting military authority and titles. The mission of the church is strongly oriented to social justice, including help for the needy, disaster preparedness and relief, etc.
The Salvation Army: Redwood City Salvation Army
660 Veterans Blvd., Redwood City
In addition to other services, worship Sundays at 11:00 a.m. Web site
C-20: Seventh Day Adventist and related churches
Seventh-Day Adventists hold worship services on the seventh day, i.e., Saturday. They grew out of the Millerite movement of the early nineteenth century.
Seventh Day Adventist: Seventh Day Adventist Church of Palo Alto
786 Channing Ave., Palo Alto
No Web site
C-21: United and Uniting Churches
C-21.a: United Church of Christ: Formed in 1957 as a merger of the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The United Church of Christ is quite liberal, ordaining women, supporting same-sex marriage, etc.
First Congregational Church of Palo Alto
1985 Louis Rd., Palo Alto
Why visit: UCC churches have much the same social values as UU congregations: they’ve had women ministers about as long as we’ve had, they’ve done same-sex marriages about as long as we have, etc. They run their congregations in much the same way. Their worship services are pretty similar, and their buildings tend to be fairly simple and plain, like UU buildings. The big difference is they talk about God and Christ.
C-20.b: International Council of Community Churches
Havenscourt Community Church
1444 Havenscourt Blvd., Oakland
C-22: Non-denominational churches
These are local faith communities that, for one reason or another, decline to affiliate with a larger denomination.
Peninsula Bible Church
3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Evangelical Christian; theologically, historically associated with premillennial dispensationalism.
Stanford Memorial Church
Visited 2013-2014; 2014-2015. Non-denominational liberal church at Stanford University. Liberal Christian; “Protestant Ecumenical Christian worship.” Web site
Why visit: A deliberately non-denominational church that aims to serve the diverse religious community of Stanford. The building alone is worth the trip. The music can be excellent; the large organ is well-known in the area and worth hearing.
CC. Post-Christian communities
Post-Christian faith communities may defined as those communities that were once considered Christian, but which have diverged from Christianity to the extent that they can no longer be considered Christian. Some scholars class these groups with New Religious Movements, but this classification doesn’t work well. E.g., for Unitarians and Unviersalists, these groups started out in the 18th century as Christian groups, so they are clearly not new religions; yet they are no longer Christian.
CC-1: Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto (UUCPA)
505 E. Charleston Rd., Palo Alto
Our home congregation; we “visit” our services during class time. Web site
The current congregation was founded in 1947. The building was completed in the 1950s, and resembles many of the suburban houses in the neighborhood. Average attendance is about 220 (at services, Forum, and RE programs combined). Weekly guest musicians include diverse musical styles, mostly classical but also singer-songwriter and folk; jazz; world music.
First Unitarian Church of San Jose
160 North Third St., San Jose
Visited in 2012-2013, and in 2013-2014. Web site
Why visit: Unique building; more racially diverse than UUCPA.
Founded as a Unitarian church in 1866, First Unitarian is one of the oldest Unitarian Universalist churches in northern California. Their historic stone building with its distinctive round sanctuary and stained glass windows is very different in appearance from most other northern California Unitarian Universalist buildings. Unusually for a Unitarian Universalist congregation, First Unitarian has made a special effort to welcome Spanish-speaking repersons. Average weekly attendance of about 120.
Sunnyvale UU Fellowship
1112 S. Bernardo Ave., Sunnyvale
Visited in 2015-2016. Web site
The Sunnyvale Fellowship began as a spin-off from the Palo Alto Unitarian Church (as it was then called) in 1962. In those days, a “fellowship” was a UU congregation with no minister, although now the Sunnyvale Fellowship does have a minister. They have never owned their own building, and currently they rent space from a Congregational church. Average weekly attendance of 85.
Redwood City UU Fellowship
2124 Brewster Ave., Redwood City
Another fellowship that was spun off from the Palo Alto Unitarian Church, in 1959. The congregation is similar in many respects to UUCPA, but a bit smaller. Average weekly attendance of 130.
D: Confucian communities
No known Confucian temples in the Bay Area.
N.B.: The Confucius Institute at Stanford is not a faith community, but rather a scholarly group dedicated to promoting Chinese culture and Confucian values. Web link
E: Daoist (Taoist) faith communities
Daoist temples may be dedicated to a specific Daoist deity, such as Guan Yin. Many Daoist temples have been set up by Asian immigrants, and in these temples adherents may carry out rituals and practices passed down over the generations. There are also a few Daoist groups organized by persons of Western descent, and these are more likely to practice their religion based on their own interpretations of Asian texts and practices.
Kong Chow Temple
855 Stockton St, San Francisco
Dedicated to Guan Di. Wikipedia page
Why visit: According to Yelp reviews, it’s a very spiritual place, in spite of the tourists.
Tah Teh Taoist Temple
361 Sea Horse Court, Foster City
650-573-1495. No known Web site; it is a registered nonprofit and has filed IRS form 990 at least through 2013. Not clear if it is still in existence.
F. Hindu faith communities
Hinduism is a complex religion, that includes many different deities and many different practices; but there are religious goals, texts, and practices held to be important by most Hindus. Geographically, Hindus are a majority in India, Nepal, and Bali (Indonesia). In the U.S., Hindu temples may have a variety of deities, or a given temple may be devoted to only one or two deities.
F-1: Temple Hinduism
Hindu Temple and Community
450 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale
Visited 2012-2013; 2014-2015. Variety of deities. Web site
Why visit: This traditional Hindu temple has lots of deities, so you can experience many different Hindu gods and goddesses (some Hindu temples have only one or two).
Shirdi Sai Darbar
255 San Geronimo Way, Sunnyvale
F-2: ISKCON: Known colloquially as “Hare Krishnas.” ISKCON Silicon Valley has a charitable free meals distribution program called “Free Veg Meals for All”; more info here.
ISKCON [International Society for Krishna Consciousness] of Silicon Valley
1965 Latham Street, Mountain View
Why visit: ISKCON Silicon Valley has a charitable free meals distribution program called “Free Veg Meals for All”; more info here.
F-3: Vedanta Society: The Vedanta Society is the oldest form of institutional Hinduism to be established in North America. Founded by Swami Vivekananda in the 189s, and part of the Ramakrishna Order of India.
Vedanta Society of San Jose
1376 Mariposa Ave, San Jose
Web site (shared with 2 other Bay Area Vedanta Societies)
Why visit: The Vedanta Society is the oldest form of institutional Hinduism to be established in North America.
F-4: Other Hindu groups
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
1430.California Circle, Milpitas
“Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is a socio-spiritual Hindu organization with its roots in the Vedas” (link).
G: Islamic faith communities
Muslims may consider Islam to be non-sectarian. Yet some Muslims also find discernible sectarian differences. The different types of Islam here are taken from Salatomatic.com, which designates types simply as a way for practicing Muslims to determine where they might feel most comfortable praying.
G-1.a: Barelwi Sunni
G-1.b: Hanafi Sunni
G-1.c: Deobandi Sunni
G-2.a: Ismaili Shia
G-2.b: Bohra Ismaili Shia
998 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto
Web page on Salatomatic | Related Web site
Why visit: Our closest Muslim neighbors. They have a spectacular new building. N.B.: They welcome visits on Saturday mornings, when they do NOT have services.
The Dahwoodi Bohra are primarily from a region of India. They have distinctive dress for both men and women.
G-2.c: Jafari Shia
Masjid Al Rasool
552 South Bascom Ave., San Jose
Predominantly Persian. Web site on Salatomatic
G-3.a: Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi
Jamil Islamic Center
427 S. California Avenue, Palo Alto
Web page on Salatomatic
G-3.b: Jerrahi Sufi
There are a number of “nondenominational” Muslim groups in the U.S. These often have formed because there are too few Muslims to have separate groups.
Taha Services Masjid
1285 Hammerwood Ave., Sunnyvale
Predominantly Indian/Pakistani. Web page on Salatomatic
Muslim Community Association
3003 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara
Toured the mosque in 2014-2015. Web page on Salatomatic (called the “largest and most active” mosque in the Bay Area) | Web site
Why visit: They have the reputation of being welcoming.
L: Jain faith communities
Jainism is best known for the principle of ahimsa, which may be translated as non-violence, or as doing no injury to other living things. Lay Jains are typically vegetarians, so as to prevent them from doing injury to other beings. Monks take ahimsa further than that: wearing cloths over their mouths to prevent them from inhaling and thus harming small insects; not eating vegetables such as carrots where harvesting the vegetable kills the plant; etc. There are two main divisions of Jains: “white-clad,” in which the monks wear distinctive white garments; and “sky-clad,” in which the monks reduce possessions to a minimum by not even owning or wearing clothing.
Jain Center of Northern California
722 S. Main St., Milpitas
I: Jewish faith communities
Jews trace their history back for thousands of years, but contemporary “rabbinical Judaism” emerged from “Temple Judaism” after the Romans destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Jewish sabbath lasts from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Worship services involve reading from the Torah, in Hebrew.
Generally more conservative in practice and belief. In Orthodox synagogues, men and women are often seated separately. Only men may be rabbis.
Congregation Emek Baracha
4102 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
The name “Conservative” means that this group aims to conserve Jewish tradition, while bringing into alignment with modernity. Conservative Jews affirm the religious equality of women, and women may become rabbis.
4175 Maneula Ave., Palo Alto
A liberal religious Jewish group that is often aligned with Unitarian Universalists on social issues.
Congregation Beth Am
26790 Arastradero Rd., Los Altos Hills
I-2,3: Conservative and Reform
Congregation Etz Chayim
4161 Alma St, Palo Alto
Visited Purim festival in 2014-2015. They “meld Reform and Conservative traditions.”
Why visit: Many Yelp reviews mention that it is a warm and welcoming community. Another Yelp review mentions the variety of music: “Beatles, 60’s, Motown, musicals, etc.”
Reconstructionist Jews hold that Jewish law and custom should be aligned with modern thought and life. Very liberal in terms of both practice and belief, many Reconstructionist Jews interpret Jewish practices broadly, and may not adhere to traditional theism.
Most services are at Kehillah Jewish High School, 3900 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
According to their Web site, “Reconstructionist Judaism may be considered a ‘maximalist liberal Judaism’.”
J: Native religions and cultural traditions
In the Bay area, this will include the religion of the Ohlone people; it may also include the religion of other Indian tribes or First Nations or indigenous groups, when people of those groups have settled in the Bay Area.
Scholar Stephen Marini distinguishes between “high sacred rituals of tribal religion” and expressions of “traditional spirituality on social occasions.” Marini further points out that inter-tribal powwows are a type of social occasion, “a public ritual gathering of one or more clans or tribes dedicated to skill competitions, feasting, and dancing” where outsiders can experience first-hand the power of Native sacred song, dance, etc. See: Stephen Marini, Sacred Song in America (University of Illinois Press, 2005), p. 18.
Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS)
Organization for LGBTQ natives. Sponsors annual powwows in San Francisco.
Berkeley Indigenous Peoples Day Powwow and Market
Annual powwows in October (Columbus Day weekend), for nearly 25 years.
Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations (SKINS)
San Francisco State University
Sponsored a powwow in 2016; check http://calendar.powwows.com for future events.
K. New Religious Movements
The categories in this section are taken from Christopher Partridge, New Religions: A Guide: New Religious Movements, Sects, and Alternative Spiritualities (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). There is a huge diversity of New Religious Movements, and just a few examples are given for the categories below; see Partridge’s book for additional examples.
K-1: New religions with roots in Christianity
Church of Christ, Scientist: Christian Scientists do not have paid clergy. Instead, lay people known as Readers lead their worship services. The Readers read from Christian Science texts, and from the Bible. There are set readings for each week of the year. The congregation also sings hymns during worship services. Services take place on Sundays and Wednesdays. At the Wednesday services, members of the congregation may give testimonials about how their faith has helped them in their life, including how their faith has helped them cure physical ailments. Christian Scientists avoid most medical care, believing that physical ailments can be cured through religious practice.
Church of Christ, Scientist: First Church of Christ, Scientist
3045 Cowper St., Palo Alto
Why visit: Christian Scientists do not have professional clergy, so you get to see laypeople leading the service.
Unity: A combination of Christianity and “New Thought,” Unity uses insights from all world religions, sort of like Unitarian Universalists, but they still consider themselves Christian. They place an emphasis on meditation, which is always part of their services.
Unity Palo Alto
3391 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto
Why visit: Unity uses insights from all world religions, sort of like Unitarian Universalists, but they still consider themselves Christian. They place a great emphasis on meditation, which is always part of their services.
Some scholars consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a New Religious Movement; see C-17. above.
Some scholars consider the Jehovah’s Witnesses a New Religious Movement; see C-17. above.
Some scholars consider the New Church a New Religious Movement; see C-11. above.
K-2: New religions with roots in Judaism
Some scholars consider Reconstructionist Judaism a New Religious Movement, see I-4. above.
K-3: New religions with roots in Islam
Nation of Islam: Muhammad Mosque No 26
5277 Foothill Blvd., Oakland
Some scholars consider Baha’i a New Religious Movement; see section A. above.
K-4: New religions with roots in Zoroastrianism
M-5. New religions with roots in Indian religions
Ananda Church of Self Realization: Ananda Palo Alto
2171 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
Visited 2013-2104. Web site
Why visit: This faith community bases its practices Hinduism, and they trace back to a Hindu teacher, Yogananda. But they also consider Jesus Christ a holy person. Yoga is a part of what they do.
Dhammakaya Foundation: Dhammakaya Meditation Center Silicon Valley
280 Llagas Rd., Morgan Hill
Shambhala International: Shambhala Meditation Center of San Francisco
1231 Stevenson St., San Francisco
Followers of the teachings of Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Web site
Some scholars consider Vedanta Societies (Ramakrishna movement) a New Religious Movement; see F-3. above.
Some scholars consider ISKCON a New Religious Movement; see F-2. above.
K-6: New religions with roots in East Asian religions
Cao Dai: a syncretic Vietnamese religion founded in the 1920s.
Cao Dai Temple of San Jose
947 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose
Predominantly Vietnamese language. Web site
Rissho Kosei-kai: A liberal religion from Japan based on Buddhism. Listed here primarily because Rissho Kosekai and UUism had strong ties in the 1960s-1970s.
Rissho Kosei-kai of San Francisco
1031 Valencia Way, Pacifica
K-7: New religions with roots in indigenous and pagan traditions
Native American Church:
Neo-Pagan and Wiccan: A diverse group, some of whom are solo practitioners, others of whom gather into small groups. There is no standardization, but many Wiccans and Neo-Pagans have ceremonies on the solstices and equinoxes, as well as on the “cross-quarters.” Many Neo-Pagan groups are quite small, some Neo-Pagans experience discrimination; thus these groups may not welcome a visit from a class.
South Bay Circles
Meet at various locations
Best to arrange a visit by a guest speaker. Web site
Some scholars consider Santeria, Condomble, and Vodou to be New Religious Movements. See section L. below.
K-8: New religions with roots in Western esoteric traditions
Spiritualism: Spiritualists believe that it is possible to communicate with those who have died. National groups include National Spiritualist Association of Churches. Listed here because in the late nineteenth century, some prominent Universalists became Spiritualists, and through the twentieth century some Unitarians and Universalists held spiritualist beliefs.
National Spiritualist Association of Churches: Golden Gate Spiritualist Church
1901 Franklin St., San Francisco
K-9: New religions with roots in modern Western cultures
Ethical Culture Society: Ethical Culture Society: Unitarian Universalism and Ethical Culture Society have historical connections; some local congregations are affiliated with both Ethical Culture and UUism. Some observers have termed Ethical Culture a “post-Jewish” religion (analogous to a “post-Christian” religion like Unitarian Universalism).
Ethical Culture Society of Silicon Valley
Meet in member’s homes and other locations.
Unitarian Universalism and Ethical Culture Society have historical connections; some congregations have dual affiliation. Web site
A small congregation, best to arrange a guest speaker.
Humanist communities: Some Humanist communities may have originated as splinter groups from UU congregations.
Humanists in Silicon Valley
1180 Coleman Ave., San Jose
Sunday Assemblies: A new group similar to Humanists. Calling themselves “a secular community service organization,” they have monthly “assemblies” that loosely resemble Protestant or Evangelical Christian services (congregational singing, a light rock band, etc.) but with no mention of a deity or the supernatural.
Sunday Assembly Silicon Valley
Meets at various locations.
L: Orisa devotion
A syncretic religion, combining aspects of Yoruba and perhaps other African religious traditions with Western traditions. A central feature of this extremely diverse religious tradition is Orisa devotion; an orisa (also spelled orisha or orixia) is a deity that is one embodiment of the ultimate deity.
Adherents of Orisa devotion may avoid contact for a variety of reasons. For example, speaking of Santeria, Michael Atwood Mason, author of Living Santeria: Rituals and Experiences in an Afro-Cuban Religion (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Inst. Press, 2002) writes, “…immigrants to the United States have often hidden their involvement in the religion in an attempt to assimilate themselves into American soceity. Within the religion itself, secrecy also protects ritual knowledge.” (p. 9). Anthony Pinn, in Varieties of African American Experience (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1998) points out that when Vodou came to New Orleans it was characterized as “evil,” and public celebrations were banned.
About Botanicas: A botanica is a store that sells supplies for practitioners of Orisa devotion, and often for other traditions as well. Followers of Orisa devotion may not belong to formal religious organizations, and/or may not welcome contact (see above). However, the Harvard Pluralism Project lists botanicas as religious centers for this religious tradition; a botanica may host or sponsor classes or events or ceremonies.
Terminology: The term “Orisa devotion” is used here as being the most inclusive; this follows in the scholarly tradition of books such as Orisa Devotion as World Religion ed. Jacob K. Olupona and Terry Rey (University of Wisconsin Press: 2008). The Harvard Pluralism Project calls this “Afro-Caribbean” religion, a term which may exclude African-trained Yoruba practitioners in the U.S., and/or Brazilian Candomble practitioners. Scholar of religion Stephen Prothero calls this “Yoruba religion,” though other West African peoples such as the Fon also venerated Orisas.
L-1:Yoruba tradition (origins in contemporary Nigeria and West Africa)
L-2: Santeria (origins in Cuba)
Botanica El Trebol
1864 W San Carlos St., San Jose
La Sirena Botanica
1918 Brewster Ave., Redwood City
Why visit: This botanica gets excellent Yelp reviews.
L-3: Vodou (origins in Haiti)
a. Hatian Vodou
“Haitian Vodou services and supplies” based in San Francisco; the store is onlin, though, so no publicly accessible bricks-and-mortar location in SF
b. Louisiana Vodou
L-4: Candomble (origins in Brazil)
M: Other traditions, including Shinto
Shinto: Konko sect
Konko Church of San Francisco
1909 Bush St., San Francisco
Page on denominational Web site
N: Sikh faith communities
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in northwestern India, which in his day included both Hindus and Muslims; Nanak was famous for saying there are neither Hindus nor Muslims, implying that all persons have access to the divine. Many Sikh gurdwaras (temples) are devoted to providing food to anyone who needs it, and many gurdwaras have a communal meal after the service that is open to anyone.
Types of Sikh communities are taken from W. H. McLeod, Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
N-1: “Orthodox” Sikhs
3636 Murillo Ave., San Jose
Visited 2013-2014; 2014-2015. Web site
Why visit: A Sikh service is very different from western religions. You sit cross-legged on the ground. Music and singing are a big part of the service. During the service, you get a piece of pudding. After the service, there is a vegetarian lunch, because Sikhs believe in feeding whoever needs to eat.
N-2: Nirankari Sikhs A reform movement, which recognizes Baba Dayal as a renewal of the line of Gurus, without, however, disputing the orthodox doctrines of (a) the succession of the first ten Gurus, and (b) the presence of the eternal Guru in the sacred scripture.
N-3: Namdhari Sikhs A reform movement which holds to a different succession of Gurus than do the orthodox; distinctive ritual and dress.
Nihang: a quasi-military order; not different in belief from orthodox Sikhs, the Nihangi are typically unmarried so that they might devote themselves to defending the Khalsa.
O: Zoroastrian faith communities
An ancient religion, originating in Persia. Central rituals involve fire.
San Jose Darbeh-Mehr
10468 Crothers Rd., San Jose
An ancient religion, quite different from anything else we visit. The only Zoroastrian community in the Bay area, they feel friendly towards UUCPA. Note that non-Zoroastrians are NOT allowed in Fire Temples.