Welcome to the Religion in Western New York Project at Canisius College. Since 2011 my students and I have been investigating religious diversity in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding region through oral histories, visits to congregations, and archival materials.  We have learned a lot about the history of religious groups in Western New York state and have heard some intriguing stories.  For more background information about this project, please view the Welcome page.

This website will present the results of this research, with new components to be uploaded on a regular basis. I will use the blog component of the project to highlight materials in the website, comment on issues related to interfaith dialogue, and share other relevant resources. I hope to post new blogs at least twice a week, but there will be some times that I post more often about special events and developments.

While this project is focused largely on the history of religious diversity in a small region, it has a broader context in time and place.  A better understanding of our history will help us better understand our current situation.  The ways we have experienced religious diversity in Buffalo have been affected by national and international influences.  Events in Buffalo have sometimes influenced developments elsewhere.  In other words, this is a project about religious diversity in Buffalo, but it is also about religious diversity on a broader historical and geographical scale.

Most of the material currently used in the project has been collected by me and my students.  In the future I hope to engage in a sort of “public history” which will allow visitors to the website to contribute their own archival materials and memories related to religion in Western New York.  I did not coin this phrase and will talk in future posts about other examples of public history.

Rev. Dr. Jonathan David Lawrence

As my biography in the Welcome page indicates, I am an educator, a pastor, and an interfaith community organizer.  I often joke about having different hats and that much of the time I’m wearing several at once.  At the same time, these roles are not just hats that I can take on and off at will.  I try however to be clear which hat I’m wearing and what role I’m playing at different times.  I tell my students that I am a pastor but my role in the classroom is not to tell them what to believe or judge them for their beliefs or lack of beliefs.  When I preach or participate in interfaith dialogues, I’m still wearing multiple hats but am highlighting one or the other.

One of my primary goals in this project is to share the stories and material we have found by allowing people to speak for themselves.  The interviews and other videos in this website have not been edited for content.  The supporting materials in the website will help contextualize the stories shared here, but the stories can speak for themselves.  Many of my blog posts will highlight these stories and comment on their contexts with an academic focus, but sometimes I will speak in a more personal sense.  I will try to make it clear when I have changed hats.

I hope that you will find the posts and material in the website interesting and that it will promote interfaith understanding and discussion.  I invite comments on blog posts and messages to me, but I will insist on a certain level of respect.  Any comments that are disrespectful, offensive, or otherwise problematic will be removed and repeat violators will be blocked from commenting on future posts.

This website is still under construction.  Additional features and components of the project will be added soon and formatting changes may be made to some existing pages.  I will attempt to preserve the permalinks for these pages even as I make changes to the website.  Please let me know if you find any broken links or other technical issues with the website.  Thank you for your patience.

Here are some upcoming projects:

  • Virtual reality exploration of the stained glass windows at Christ the King Chapel at Canisius College
  • Curated collection of oral history videos and recordings of religious services
  • Interviews with nuns from a local convent
  • Highlights from a visit to the Hill Cumorah Pageant, an annual performance presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
  • Videos from Kaleidoscope, a locally produced television show about religion in Buffalo

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

I hope you find this site and the blog useful and look forward to a fruitful conversation.

Since I teach at a Jesuit college, I will close with the Jesuit motto – AMDG – ad maiorem dei gloriam – to the greater glory of God.