FAITH COMMUNITY CIVIC ENGAGEMENT / GENERAL
The Interreligious Community Project New Haven , Connecticut
• Sharing Sacred Spaces , Inc .
Eight congregations around Greater New Haven came together to develop a program of in-depth learning and relationship-building that use the vehicles of sacred space and architecture to forge community and reflection . The group included communities of faith from Islamic , Judaic , Eastern Orthodox , Catholic , Hindu , Buddhist , United Church of Christ , and Society of Friends traditions .
The program activities involved a series of multifaceted architectural and religious tours of each congregation ’ s house of worship . The tours covered themes such as deciphering theology in space ; reflecting on theological / spatial boundaries ; feeling in the context of bounded space ; and relating architecture to community . The tours included ritual demonstrations and culminated with a shared meal .
The vastly different architecture of each sacred space provided excellent tools for teaching religious beliefs and practices . Tours frequently returned to themes of social and civic value in religious spaces . The endeavor culminated with participants taking on a civic project about sacred spaces conceived and implemented by the congregations together . In the wake of the tragic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh , PA , the group chose to write an interfaith protocol on how to respond to acts of hate against houses of worship and their congregants . The protocol empowers quick , practical , and
appropriate responses supporting those affected by violence against faith communities .
“ It is refreshing to see a program like this , and how it has been made to happen . It is highly appropriate in this time of division and conflict . The program recognizes that there is a big difference between reading about someone else ’ s faith and physically crossing paths with that person in their faith space . It uses architecture to learn about the practice of a faith .”
Paul Duda , Studio Duda
FAITH COMMUNITY CIVIC ENGAGEMENT / VISUAL ARTS & CREATIVE COLLABORATIONS
St . John ’ s Episcopal Church / Downtown DC Business Improvement District ’ s “ Mural March ” Washington , D . C .
• St . John ’ s Episcopal Church
• Downtown DC BID
• the PAINTS Institute collective
This collaboration facilitated an impactful and historic act of beauty . In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic , St . John ’ s Episcopal Church had temporarily closed its doors ; the welcoming traditions , public ceremonies , and community interaction shifted online . Another inflection point was George Floyd ’ s murder in Minneapolis , MN , which had ignited massive demonstrations near the church , mere steps from the White House . Subsequently , the violent clearing of protestors hampered St . John ’ s from forming community connections and promoting reconciliation during politically volatile times .
Across the nation ’ s capital , the PAINTS Institute , a collective of local artists , adorned shuttered building windows with symbols of unity and reclamation . St . John ’ s and Downtown DC Business Improvement District saw the PAINTS activities as a powerful , synergistic opportunity . Artists created vivid murals on the plywood boards covering the priceless nineteenth- century stained-glass windows of St . John ’ s . Hundreds of people streamed by the church during the event . And in the weeks and months that followed , thousands more viewed the images of love , unity , and peace on the walls of the church . Today , St . John ’ s has become a pilgrimage site and people stop and behold the murals that remain . St . John ’ s rector Rev .
Rob Fisher notes that the “ Mural March ” allows the church to send rays of hope and reconciliation streaming outward .
“ At a time of racial strife , instead of ‘ circling the wagons ’ this church and its collaborators reached out to the community at the scale of the city and the nation . They changed the narrative and made something very positive out of a very negative act . It is important that this project is ongoing , and the work here is historic . It brings multiple voices to this place .”
The Rev . Rob Fisher
26 SACRED PLACES • SUMMER 2022