Faith in a City: Exploring Religion in Somerville, MA

Faith in a City is a project exploring religion in Somerville, Massachusetts through music, photography, interviews, video and history as a way of better understanding the City. The project includes concerts, talks, panel discussions and an exhibit at the Somerville Museum.

November 17, 2019-January 26, 2020 | $5 admission; Members free
Gallery Hours: Thursdays 2-7 | Fridays 2-5 | Saturday + Sunday 12-5
Closed for events Jan 11, 12 + 26. See our events calendar for details. All welcome.


Faith in a City: Artist + Curator Talk

Saturday, January 11th, 2 pm | Somerville Museum | $10 admission; Free for Museum members and members of participating congregations

Join us for a talk with some of the artists and the curator of the Somerville Museum’s Faith in a City exhibit!

Somerville’s Ambassador of Harmony: The Spiritual Music of Henry Hadley

Thursday, January 16th, 6:30 pm | Somerville Museum | $10 admission; Members free A Talk by Professor Dan Breen (Brandeis University) featuring a live performance by Professor Mina Cho (Emerson College). Please join us for an evening of history and music!

Composer Henry Hadley (1871-1937) was one of the most performed and published American composers of his day. Born in Somerville, MA to a musical family, Hadley’s mother was active in local church music as a member of Somerville’s First Congregational Church, then located on Franklin Street. Henry Hadley became the church’s music director at the young age of 16.  He went on to compose religious music that was performed across the country. A film music pioneer, he conducted the New York Philharmonic for the soundtrack to the 1926 film Don Juan with John Barrymore — the first feature film with synchronized music and sound. Hadley also composed an original score for the 1927 Barrymore film When a Man Loves. He received an honorary doctorate degree from Tufts University and founded the National Association for Composers and Conductors. During the Great Depression, Hadley worked with Gertrude Robinson Smith to start the permanent summer classical music festival that became known as Tanglewood.

Many thanks to the generosity of Professors Dan Breen and Mina Cho!

Somerville resident, Daniel Breen has taught at Brandeis University’s Legal Studies program since 1998, and in the American Studies programs since 2015.  He is the winner of the 2017 Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Professor Mina Cho is a classically trained jazz musician. Cho is also Contemporary Music Director at Somerville Community Baptist Church. Cho holds a doctoral degree in Jazz Studies–Composition & Musicology from the New England Conservatory and is a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology at Brandeis University. She teaches at Emerson College. 

Tickets can be purchased here

“Fire and Roses” – A Talk by Dr. Nancy Lusignan Schultz on the 20th Anniversary of her Award-Winning Book

Sunday, January 26th, 2 pm | Somerville Museum | $10 admission; Members free

In 1834, an Ursuline Convent on Mt. Benedict, in what is now Somerville, was vandalized and then burned to the ground by an anti-Catholic mob. Join us for a talk by Salem State Professor Nancy Lusignan Schultz on the 20th Anniversary of her book Fire and Roses: The Burning of the Charlestown Convent, 1834. Professor Schultz will explore the tensions over class, gender, religion, ethnicity, and education that fueled the convent’s destruction. Schultz’s 1997 Somerville Museum exhibit about the convent’s history was named one of year’s ten best exhibits by The Boston Globe.

Tickets can be purchased here

Faith in a City: Showcasing local Religious Music

Sunday, October 6th, 7:30pm | Tufts University Distler Performance Hall | $5 donation; $3 discounted Museum member ticket

Get tickets and information HERE

Faith in a City: Opening Reception

Sunday, November 17th, 1pm–4pm | Somerville Museum | $5 admission; Museum members free

Faith in a City: Talking about Religion (Panel Discussion)

Thursday, November 21st, 6:30pm | Somerville Museum | $10 admission; Museum members free

How can we talk about religion with our neighbors, friends or children (and should we do so)? How can we learn more about the religions of people across our community? How can we start a dialogue with someone who holds different beliefs than our own? What if such a conversation doesn’t reveal a sense of commonality, but seems to draw us apart? If you are religious or secular, join us for a thoughtful discussion on Talking about Religion. The panel features educators Dr. Celene Ibrahim and Megan Brady. We thank them for their generosity and participation!

Dr. Celene Ibrahim, Ph.D:  a widely published scholar and Muslim faith leader. She is a faculty member at the Groton School and served as Muslim Chaplain at Tufts University (2014-2019). She is the editor of One Nation Indivisible: Seeking Liberty and Justice from the Pulpit to the Streets (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2019) and the author of Women of the Qur’an (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2020).   

Megan Brady: teaches middle school social studies at Somerville’s John F. Kennedy School. As part of her 7th grade curriculum, she teaches a comparative religion unit on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Megan has taught in Somerville for six years, and previously taught in Springfield, MA and the Bronx, NY.

Faith in a City: Concert at the Armory

Saturday, December 7th, 6:30pm | Center for the Arts at the Armory | Admission $5; Somerville Museum members free | Buy Tickets

Please join us as the Somerville Museum presents its second Faith in a City community concert on Saturday, December 7th at 6:30 pm at The Center for the Arts at the Armory (191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA). Tickets are $5. All are welcome to attend, including families.

Religious music and recitation abound in Somerville’s places of worship, but congregation members are often the only people who get to experience them. As a part of the Faith in a City project, the Somerville Museum is presenting community concerts, providing an opportunity to hear some of the City’s religious music and recitation. We give tremendous thanks to the artists and religious leaders for sharing their talents, and to their congregations.

The December 7th concert features:
– Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz and members of the congregation of Temple B’nai Brith
– St. Benedict Parish Girls’ Choir–Mayra Lemus, Choir Director
– Mission Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ Gospel Choir–Franklin Wright, Music Director; Dennis Wright, Choir Director
– Recitation by Keyzom Bhutti, Buddhist
– Imam Mohamed Nabil, Islamic Society of Boston

The concert will also feature photography by Massachusetts Cultural Council Photography Fellowship Finalist and Somerville Arts Council Board Member Yorgos Efthymiadis with support from Mass Humanities.

We hope you will consider attending! The reduced ticket price for the event is thanks to The Boston Foundation’s Live Arts Boston grant program. 

Admission $5. Free to Somerville Museum members and members of participating congregations. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Somerville Museum.

Faith and Community: A Panel Discussion

Sunday, January 5th, 2 pm | Somerville Museum | $10 admission; Free for Museum members and members of participating congregations

Featuring participating panelists:
Aliza Arzt, Havurat Shalom
Faye Dupras, Somerville Baháʼí  
Vijay Selhi, Shivalaya Temple of Greater Boston
Priya Rakkhit Sraman, Buddhist Chaplain, Tufts University
Haiti Thomas, Missionary Church of the Haitian Community

Please join us for a panel discussion featuring members of local religious congregations discussing how they think about and build community! Panelists will talk about the importance of community in their congregations, how they work to build community, and also how they see the role of their congregation in the broader Somerville/Boston community (and beyond). There will be time for questions from the audience. After the panel, stay for a reception and conversation!

Thank you to the Somerville Journal for covering this event.

More Information About Faith in a City

Faith in a City features photographs from 20 local religious groups. Yorgos Efthymiadis photographed religious sanctuaries and buildings. Carlos Arzaga, Mara Brod, Amber Davis Tourlentes, Charan Devereaux, Keiko Hirmoi, Alonso Nichols and Claudia Ruiz Gustafson photographed religious services, community events, congregation members, public service projects and prayer.

Faith in a City also includes a playlist of local religious music and recitation. Music abounds in Somerville’s places of worship, but congregation members are often the only people who experience it.

Faith in a City recorded music and recitation in 14 local religious groups. The recordings are the soundtrack to the museum exhibit. Project recording engineers were Joel Edinberg, Claire Goh, and Michael Healey with thanks to Q Division Studios. In addition, Faith in a City presented concerts at Tufts University’s Granoff Music Center, the Center for the Arts at the Armory and the Somerville Museum, providing the wider community an opportunity to hear some of the City’s religious music.

The music recording process was documented by The Loop Lab, a non-profit organization that trains people of color for jobs in the audiovisual industry and media arts. Loop Lab staff, alumni and trainees filmed the recording session and interviews with congregation members about why music is important. Thanks to Matt Malikowski, Christopher Hope, Tevin Charles, Niko Manigat and Aaron Saidizand. 

Faith in the City’s religious histories are based on information provided by the congregations, the Somerville Library, interviews and university archives. Some people shared why it is meaningful to be a part of their religious congregation. Many of the histories are translated into the language people use to worship.

Tremendous thanks to the participating congregations for their generosity, assistance and patience: Keyzom Bhutti, Boston Japanese Christian Church, Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, First Church Somerville, Gurudwara Sikh Sangat Boston, Havurat Shalom, Islamic Society of Boston, Mission Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Missionary Church of the Haitian Community, St. Anthony of Padua Church, St. Benedict Church, St. Catherine of Genoa Church, St. Joseph Church, Shivalaya Temple of Greater Boston, Sion SDA Church, Somerville Bahá’í, Somerville Community Baptist Church, Temple B’nai Brith, and Vida Real Internacional.

Special thanks to designers Stefan Economou and Bill MIller. Many thanks to concert producers Mina Cho, Ranbir Kaur, Wylsner Bastien, Mayra Lemus, Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz, Imam Nabil, Dennis Wright, Franklin Wright and Keyzome Bhutti. Thank you to advisor Nancy Lusignan Schultz.

Photograph printing by Acorn Editions, Framing by Stanhope Framers and text printing by Cambridge Reprographics.

Faith in a City is produced and curated by Charan Devereaux.

Faith in a City is supported by Mass Humanities, the Boston Foundation Live Arts Boston program, the Passim Iguana Fund, the Somerville Arts Council, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the members of the Somerville Museum.

Curator Bio: Charan Devereaux

Charan Devereaux is interested in the intersection of community, history and art. Her projects explore communities or bring people together to learn about or support each other. She grew up near Cleveland, Ohio and currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.  

Charan studied photography at the Massachusetts College of Art, the New England School of Photography, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and Harvard University. Her projects have received support from the Boston Foundation, Mass Humanities, the Somerville Arts Council, the Harvard Business School Business Plan Competition (social enterprise track) and the Passim Iguana Fund and have been recognized by the Points of Light Foundation, the Boston Music Awards, and the AASLH Leadership in History Awards.

Charan has also curated the highly acclaimed exhibit Union Square at Work at the Somerville Museum in 2015.

The Faith in a City project is supported by: