In America’s heartland, a church, a synagogue, and a mosque are coming together to build a true interfaith campus – the first of its kind in the world – and the most environmentally sustainable church, also the first of its kind in the nation.
The Daily Show recently featured the leaders of the Tri-Faith Initiative (Rev. Eric Elnes of the Countryside Community Church, Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of the Temple Israel, and Syed Mohiuddin, president of the American Muslim Institute) to discuss – and inject some levity into – their groundbreaking plans to build three houses of worship on one campus. One of the leaders involved in the project explained the rationale behind this unprecedented joining of Abrahamic religions: "This is a challenging time, and I think it's an invitation to work, and to love and to educate.” As for their appearance on the Daily show, as Rev. Elnes puts it, “if you can't laugh a little about yourself, then where is the faith?”
Beyond the all-encompassing community of worship, the campus is also important for its emphasis on sustainability. The Countryside Community Church is dedicated to building the most environmentally sustainable church in the nation. They intend to build a church that surpasses LEED standards, and goes far beyond carbon neutrality by giving back to the environment. For Rev. Elnes, this emphasis on sustainability answers the call of Reconciliation with the Earth. Additionally, faith leaders hope that the publicity surrounding the Tri-Faith Initiative will amplify the need to take climate action and care for our creation.
In America's Heartland, Building One Home For Three Faiths
Frank Morris | NPR | December 21, 2015
A mosque, a church and a synagogue go up on the site of an old Jewish country club …
It sounds like the setup to a joke — but it's not. It's actually happening in Omaha, Neb. The Tri-Faith Initiative may be the first place in history where these three monotheistic faiths have built together, on purpose, with the intention of working together.
In a tony suburban section of Omaha, kids at Countryside United Church of Christ are singing Away in a Manger. They're getting ready for the upcoming Christmas program.
Upstairs, in the church's expansive, modern coffee shop, the Rev. Eric Elnes says this is going to be one of the congregation's last Christmases at this location.
"We love our building. There is literally no good reason to move whatsoever, except to follow this Tri-Faith Initiative, which has really, absolutely moved our hearts," Elnes says.
But the congregation will move — to a hilly, 38-acre plot bisected by a creek near the edge of Omaha. The church will sit in one corner, with a mosque in another, facing a beautiful new synagogue, built with stone quarried in Jerusalem.
"This is something God wanted us to do a long time ago, and we were completely blinded by doing other things," says Aryeh Azriel, the rabbi at Temple Israel.
The project has inspired some, and antagonized others.
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