The power of Positive Yelping!

Yelp, the user-generated business review site, has drawn both admiration and ire since it began. Personally, I’ve been a devoted Yelper and Yelp Elite member since January 2007.

User reviews, like comic book superpowers, can be used for Great Good or Great Evil. I’ve always tried my best to keep my reviews fair and, in some cases, have opted to not Yelp if I really didn’t have something good to say. (A number of my friends and family own small businesses, so I guess I am especially sympathetic to their struggles!)

I’ve been lucky enough that, as an Elite Yelper for four years, a few of my reviews have been deemed worthy enough for Boston-area “Review of the Day.”

There’s one review I’m particularly proud of that I’m sure will never gain that distinction, but as of yesterday it gained the best unintended praise I could ever have hoped for.

On a whim in 2008 I wrote a review for the church I grew up in, the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Lowell, Massachusetts. My parents took me to this church during all my formative years, almost every Sunday and every holiday without fail. I will always have a fondness for this church as my second childhood home, and I wanted to pay tribute to it, especially since it holds an amazing, beautiful secret:

Photo courtesy of Hellenic Communication Service.


Photos by New Hampshire Public Radio on Flickr. View their full set of photos here.

It is one of the most ornate and beautiful Orthodox churches ever made. Wall-to-dome, it is covered in handmade glass and gold mosaic Byzantine iconography. My review goes into detail about this — you can read it here. My home church is a treasure of Byzantine art and you’d never know it from looking at it from the outside. It’s located in a rough neighborhood of Lowell, and the exterior yellow brick is rather unassuming.

Apparently someone from my home church found my review on Yelp (or they found it via their daughter — I’m still not entirely sure), and from there things spread like wildfire — the link was passed around to the current Transfiguration priest and then on to the iconographer himself, whose work I can’t praise enough.

From there, someone dug around the church records and found my father’s contact information, and a thank-you phone call was sent his way. (Of course, my dad had absolutely no idea about Yelp, let alone my review on there, but he knows his daughter well enough to know that writing a review online about a church? Oh yeah, totally something I would do!)

When I wrote that review several years ago, my hope was that it’d pique the curiosity of folks who might attend the church’s annual food festival and–instead of making a bee-line straight for the souvlaki and spanakopita–might opt for a church tour as well.

Somehow it’s all come full circle. Kind of blows my mind!

Additional resources:

  1. New Hampshire Public Radio did a fantastic story on the Transfiguration church, specifically the work of the amazing iconographer Robert J. Andrews. Read the story here.
  2. –or you can download the mp3 of the story itself.
  3. Hellenic Communications Services has a comprehensive article on Robert J. Andrews’ career. (The article mentions his work on scaffolds — as a kid in the 80s I remember seeing these scaffolds in the church. I always wondered what he was up to!)