Who We Are
Our motto is Fides Opera, which is Latin for “Faith and Works.” This motto embodies The Church of the Transfiguration’s historic commitment to putting our faith into action to serve our community.
The Church of the Transfiguration is a community committed to faith in action (Fides Opera), embracing all who seek God’s inclusive love.
A Brief History
Founded in October 1848, The Church of the Transfiguration is one of the most famous Episocopal parishes in the United States. For more than 160 years, The Church of the Transfiguration has been known for its inclusivity – welcoming individuals from all races, classes, sexual orientations, and other backgrounds. Established on what had been the outskirts of New York City in the mid-19th century, the church today is a visible worshipping community near the geographic center of Manhattan.
The Church of the Transfiguration was founded by the Rev. George Hendric Houghton, sometimes called one of the Saints of the American Church, who served as its rector for 49 years. In his ministry to those in need, he sheltered escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad and African-American families during the Draft Riots of the Civil War and welcomed members of the theater profession, something not common at the time.
The Church of the Transfiguration is often called “The Little Church Around the Corner.” The nickname dates back to 1870, when Joseph Jefferson – famous for his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle on stage – had requested a funeral at another church for his fellow actor and friend, George Holland. Upon learning that the deceased had been an actor, the priest refused. At the time, many considered actors to be unworthy of Christian burial. After some prodding by Jefferson, the priest suggested that “There is a little church around the corner where it might be done.” Jefferson responded, “Then I say to you, sir, God bless the little church around the corner.”
To this day, The Church of the Transfiguration maintains close ties to the theater. The church has served as the national headquarters of the Episcopal Actors' Guild since its founding in 1923, by the third Rector, Dr. Randolph Ray. The church itself was designated a United States Landmark for Church and Theater in 1973.
Our historic buildings and lovely garden have drawn couples from all over the world to be married here. These couples are members of the "Little Family," and many have continued to stay in touch with us over the years. Continuing its long tradition of inclusiveness, the "Little Church" celebrated the first same-sex wedding in the Diocese of New York in July 2012 and is proud to have performed several since the formal rite of Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant was adopted by the General Convention..
We invite you to stop by for a visit, join us in worship, or simply contact us for more information.