Monday, May 20, 2013


So, tell me about Interfaith Centers.  Do you go to one? Did you grow up going to one?  Or do you belong to a church in a traditional church building? Do you go to church at all?

I must admit that I have attended a church service in an Interfaith Center only once since moving to Columbia.  Additionally, I have attended services at Christ Episcopal Church, Lake Kittamaqundi Community Church, and Abiding Savior Lutheran Church.

There was a bit of an uproar when St. John Baptist built their new church on the corner of Tamar and 175. Some people seemed to suggest that James Rouse had forbidden church buildings as a part of the Columbia Plan. That sounds rather Soviet to me. Fill me in. Is it possible that the creation of Interfaith Centers and participation in them by various denominations was encouraged, rather than actual church buildings forbidden?

Abiding Savior Lutheran Church will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this Fall.  It is my understanding that they were offered an opportunity to be a part of the Interfaith Center in Hickory Ridge, but declined. So it seems there is room for both independent, single-denomination churches along with the multipurpose ones outlined in Mr. Rouse's plan.

Multipurpose. Part of me shudders at the word. It brings to mind shiny linoleum, acoustical tile, slide-across temporary "walls", stackable or folding chairs. It feels painfully dated. While intellectually I believe that faith and spiritual practice aren't dictated by physical things, in my heart I will admit that beautiful architecture and a sense of place in a house of worship mean something to me. The Interfaith Center model seems to turn diversity into "no-diversity."

How are Columbia's Interfaith Centers faring in 2013? How have they responded to changes in their Villages? Is this an idea that continues to thrive, one whose time has passed, or one that missed the mark from the outset?

What do you think?


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