Welcome to the Religion in Western New York Project Website


Welcome to the Religion in Western New York Project at Canisius College. Since 2011 Rev. Dr. Jonathan David Lawrence has been documenting religious diversity in Buffalo, NY. Working with his students and research assistants, they have collected oral histories, visited local congregations and historical sites, and examined archival materials to explore religious diversity, interactions, and influences in the region. This website will share these and other materials along with a blog discussing religious diversity. While this site is focused on diversity in Buffalo, it will consider diversity on a broader scale as well – on state, national, and global levels. Our experiences in Buffalo reflect broader patterns and just as we can learn from other religions in our community, we can learn together with interfaith communities in other places.

In one sense, this site explores history – the history of the arrival and interactions between religious groups in Buffalo, the history of these religious groups in America, and the long history and development of these groups since their beginnings. At the same time, these religious groups are living traditions, interacting and developing and responding to new events. This project explores both aspects of religious diversity in Buffalo – history and the present. Dr. Lawrence and his students can attempt to be as objective as possible but that is not completely feasible since we are part of this community we are studying.

If you have photos or other archival materials related to religion in Western New York, please let us know and we will work with you to incorporate them into the project.


Rev. Dr. Jonathan David Lawrence

I grew up in the Western New York area and was introduced to interfaith dialogue at a young age. My father is a retired American Baptist pastor who worked with leaders from many religious groups to support residents of Love Canal. I remember meeting priests, rabbis, nuns, and many others through his work. I left the area for college and came back fifteen years later to teach at Canisius College where I am an

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Canisius College.

I studied at Haverford College, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and the University of Notre Dame where I received a Ph.D. in Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity – Hebrew Bible. My dissertation, Washing in Water – Trajectories of Ritual Bathing in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature examined the textual and archaeological development of miqva’ot, Jewish ritual baths.

I was ordained as a pastor in the American Baptist Churches, USA and have been serving as a pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in the Buffalo area. I am a board member of the Network of Religious communities, Buffalo’s interfaith organization and served for two years as its president.

This project has allowed me to blend my interests in teaching, history, dialogue, and ministry. We have uncovered some fascinating aspects of religious diversity and have heard some intriguing stories of complex interactions between communities.


List of Presentations at Conferences coming soon

  • This project is an affiliated research project with the Pluralism Project at Harvard University
  • With support from the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Canisius College, Canisius College Office of Mission and Identity, Network of Religious Communities in Buffalo and Western New York, and the Interfaith Youth Core
  • Thank you to the research assistants and students in the “Religious Diversity in Buffalo” course who have conributed to this project
  • This project has been reviewed by the Canisius College Institutional Review Board


Community Guidelines

This project is intended to promote respectful dialogue and better understanding about religious traditions.  Comments and questions that further that objective are welcomed.  Comments that are disrespectful, offensive, or otherwise problematic will be removed at the discretion of the project director.  Individuals who continue to violate these guidelines will be blocked from commenting.

Views shared in interviews do not reflect the views of Canisius College or the Religion in Western New York Project.