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A pastor, an imam and a rabbi walk into a community center

A pastor, an imam and a rabbi walk into a community center

Temple Israel
Temple Israel

It’s not the beginning of a bad joke and it can’t happen yet, but soon! In Omaha NE, a campus is taking shape as the Tri-Faith Initiative comes to fruition. The Initiative began as a conversation between Omaha’s Jews and Muslims. As the simple conversation deepened, the two groups invited the third Abrahamic faith into the dialog as they began to envision a joint property shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews. A house of worship for each of the three faith groups and all tied together with a common community center was envisioned. The Initiative involves the religious communities of Temple Israel, the American Muslim Institute and Countryside Community Church.

The Initiative involves the religious communities of Temple Israel, a mosque sponsored by the American Muslim Institute and the Countryside Community Church UCC. Currently, the only house of worship on the property is Temple Israel. The mosque has been designed and broke ground for construction last year. They plan for the mosque to be finished for Ramadan 2017.

Design for the entry to the future mosque for the Omaha community

The Christian member of the Tri-Faith Initiative was originally the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska. As the plans for the Initiative progressed and began to involve three worshiping communities and the need for the diocese to build a church, the bishop, the Rt Revd Scott Barker, began to realize that it was going to be a financial obligation beyond the means of his small diocese. When senior minister of the Countryside Community Church, the Revd Eric Elnes, first heard that the diocese was having trouble raising the funds for the project, he approached the bishop to see what help his congregation might offer. As that discussion deepened, the diocese asked Countryside to become the third partner in the Initiative.

The Revd Elnes presented the idea to the congregation and a vote was taken as to whether there was even an interest in becoming the third partner of the initiative. After a period of discussion and discernment, examining all that the Initiative entailed for the congregation, a vote was taken and 70% agreed to accept the position as the Christian partner. Sadly, the decision was too much for some members and the congregation lost about 100 families after taking the decision to move forward. The congregation needed to raise $25 million to build its worship space on the campus and to date is a little over $1 million shy of the goal. The building is in the design phase with hopes to break ground on the project in the near future.

Entry to the Countryside Community Church UCC.

Tying the project together will be a future community center shared jointly by the three groups. The campus sits on 35 acres bought in 2011. It was formerly the site of the only Omaha country club which accepted Jewish members. Hell’s Creek runs through the property.

Information for this story was gathered from the Episcopal News Service and the Tri-Faith Initiative website.


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Rod Gillis

Very interesting article! Folks interested in this may also be interested in a workshop taking place in T.O. in November, sponsored by Atlantic School of Theology.

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