Abraham’s Tent

What an amazing experience tonight! The Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, meeting at a conference center near Omaha, Nebraska, heard from a group of local interfaith partners with an astounding dream.

An 800 family Reformed Jewish temple needed to relocate from an older city building to the growing suburbs. A visionary president of the synagogue reached out to a growing Islamic center to see if they might be thinking about building a mosque in the same area. Both of them then contacted the Roman Catholic Church (the largest Christian communion in Omaha) who turned them down flat.

Their next stop was the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska which was looking to start a new mission congregation in this burgeoning area. The interest was immediate and converations began in earnest!

They are now looking for property on which to build three worship sites and a “middle building” tentatively called “Abraham’s tent” which can be a gathering space, coffee shop, educational and outreach center for the larger community. They are clear that each community needs to tend to its own internal needs of formation, nurture, “life cycle” issues like births and marriages and funerals and more.

So there is “enlightened self interest” driving a common effort. But engaging in that common effort has forged bonds of friendship and even love between people of different, but vibrant, faiths. And “dialogue” has happened — not in the sterile environment of the classroom or conference center — but in the context of a shared dream and hard, painstaking work!

I believe this is a vision for the future which could be duplicated in countless communities across our land. We are told that Abraham kept all four sides of his tent wide open, the better to see and welcome the stranger. These courageous children of Abraham are his worthy descendents. Join me in praying that Abraham’s God and ours may richly bless their endeavors!

For the sake of the world!       

7 Responses to “Abraham’s Tent”

  1. thomas bushnell, bsg Says:

    what a splendid idea and opportunity.

    here in the wilderness of orange county, california, we have these little “religion areas” where city planners have plopped down a few religious buildings. it’s all the rage. each orange county city of recent vintage has this, perhaps three or four little areas, each with a series of churches/synagogues/kingdom halls/whatevers. it feels so much like they have sequestered religion carefully away from the commerce and the government, which each also have their own separate little areas.

    in theory, this arrangement might mean that groups encounter eachother. in practice, it just means they can annoy each other by wanting to park at the same times in the same limited spots. (not a problem in the case you describe!)

    so it’s really delightful to see this not as the urban planners trying to “organize” things in disastrous ways, but instead, as a spirit-filled opportunity of the relevant leaders to make something new. i always wonder about such things whether it will last into the next and the next and the next leader of these communities, but that is no strike against it now. it just sounds wonderful.

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Yes, we actually asked the question about the “second generation” problem — the fact that such things work as long as the founders, who are full of zeal for the project are around, but can weaken and even disappear when they pass from the scene.

    One of the great things about this group is that they are so clear-eyed about this project. They know that risk is there, but intend to be very intentional about bringing “the next generation along” from the very beginning.

    And also about “sticking to their knitting” in terms of each of the three communities being very intentional about ministry to their own community, as well as joint efforts, so that the temple, church, and mosque carry out their unique roles for each community in a healthy way.

    No guarantees, of course, but I was impressed with their realism as well as their vision!

  3. Ann Says:

    Hope abounds.

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  7. John McCann Says:

    John McCann says: how do I get involved in such a project? I am currently a lay minister for Interfaith Dialogue at Trinity Church in New York. I want to work on the local level here in NYC and the international arena of Lebanon and Syria, where there is some hope of religious reconcilation. I have 10 years background in fundraising, now I am very active in my church, studying, learning Mandarin and Arabic, an speak fairly fluent French.

    Please contact me! I would love to heare more about your project

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