Jews, Christians and Muslims make holy ground in America’s heartland

170616134549-03-tri-faith-initiative-exlarge-169Omaha, Nebraska (CNN) When most people think of Omaha, they imagine sizzling steaks, billionaire Warren Buffet or even former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning calling out before the snap. (Remember “Omaha-Omaha”?).

But if a group of clergymen have their way, Nebraska’s largest city will soon also be known as the home of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding.

A rabbi, a reverend and an imam (no, it’s not a setup joke) are partners in a decadelong quest to bring together the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — to share and worship on the same property.

It’s called Tri-Faith Initiative.

The $65 million project, launched in 2006 and funded through donations, may be the first time in US history that the three faiths intentionally build their houses of worship side by side.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Historic Bridgeport Church to Become Mosque

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—One of the oldest Christian congregations in this community said it would sell its historic church to a regional Islamic center.

The United Congregational Church said Monday it plans to sell its brick Georgian-Revival style church, built in the 1920s, to the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center for $1 million.

The two groups will also form a partnership to provide community programs including a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter from the site of the current church.

bn-rb957_nybrid_m_20161205165020In recent years, more Muslim communities across the U.S. have begun to engage in the types of fundraisers and social-service projects that Christian congregations and Jewish synagogues often host or organize, said David Grafton, professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford.

“As the national landscape has become much more suspicious of Muslims, and as Islamophobia has become more common, Muslim communities have consciously engaged in the process to normalize—or become part of the religious landscape of organizing into voluntary associations that form the bedrock of American civil and religious life,” he said.

The lineage of the United Congregational Church dates back to colonial days. It was first established in 1695 and called the Ecclesiastical Society of Stratfield. It later merged in 1916 with another congregation to form the United Congregational Church. Rev. Sara Smith said the Bridgeport church had 3,000 members when the main structure was built, but the numbers have now dwindled to 300. She said it made financial sense for the congregation to look for a new home.

The United Congregational Church will be renting space in another part of Bridgeport until it finds a new space to buy, Rev. Smith said. “We are not dying, we are just moving,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 

Sign of the times? Canadian Church becomes a mosque

WINDSOR, ON. AUGUST 19, 2015. -- The former Lincoln Road United Church is seen in Windsor on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The church is now the Masjid Noor Ul Islam.                           (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

WINDSOR, ON. AUGUST 19, 2015. — The former Lincoln Road United Church is seen in Windsor on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. The church is now the Masjid Noor Ul Islam. (TYLER BROWNBRIDGE/The Windsor Star)

The long-standing Lincoln Road United Church has been sold and the historic building that was erected 100 years ago for Protestant Christians will now serve Windsor’s Muslim community.

The Masjid Noor-Ul-Islam Madressa and Cultural Centre of Windsor is not yet in full operation, but crosses came down and new signs recently went up for the mosque.

The building, constructed in 1915 as a Methodist Church, had been for sale for almost three years. It sold in February for under $500,000, significantly less than the United Church’s original asking price of $895,000.

“It was very sad when we closed but our resources were dwindling and the congregation was getting older and reducing in size,” said Ross Mitton, chair of the finance and property committee of the United Church Essex Presbytery. “Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of the next generation — and I’m talking about 60 years old — taking the (church director) positions. So it had to close.”

Mitton, who attended the neo-gothic church for 25 years, expects to see the impressive stained-glass windows, which depict Biblical scenes and which were custom made for the space, eventually covered.

“Their religion is different than ours, but it’s still going to be used as a house of God,” Mitton said. “So we were OK with that.”

The Masjid Noor-Ul-Islam Madressa and Cultural Centre of Windsor, established in 1983, was a longtime neighbour of the church, operating in a cramped house in the 700 block of Lincoln Road for years.

The building is listed under the heritage act but not designated, which means the new owners can renovate the property but cannot demolish it.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WINDSOR STAR 

Q&A: How would you respond if your Christian daughter became a Muslim?

18775Alana Raybon was baptized as a child in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She attended youth activities and vacation Bible school and even sang in the choir. But today, she wears a headscarf and worships Allah.

Her mother, Patricia, describes Alana’s conversion to Islam as “heartbreaking,” and yet, they’ve found a way to love each other despite the faith divide. They share their struggles in “Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace,” a book that begs a vital question: “How would you respond if your Christian child converted to Islam?”

Religion News Service talked to them about their experience. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Alana, tell us the story behind your conversion.

Alana: I developed a love and reverence for God in church, but I couldn’t connect with the idea of the Trinity. I didn’t let my mother know about these feelings, and patiently waited to feel a connection to this concept. In my 20s, I began searching for spiritual enrichment and came upon the concept of Islamic monotheism — the idea of God being one, solely, without any associate. I became inspired to learn more about Islam and converted to the faith as a junior in college and called my mother to share the news.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DESERET NEWS