Interfaith centers—small congregations seeking to draw people from all religions—are reportedly increasing in the US, according to the Harvard University-based Pluralism Project.
The establishment of interfaith centers surged after the 9/11 attacks and now there are about 550 such groups in the US, with the largest numbers in New York, California, Massachusetts and Illinois. A Christian News article (Nov. 3) profiles a New York interfaith center called Faith House, which is led by three co-leaders who are Jewish, Muslim and Christian.
The service features includes rituals from these and other faiths, including the “blessing of atheism.” Most of the 50 or so attenders came to the center to learn more about other faiths and foster interfaith understanding. The participants are mainly between 30 and 50 years old, and half come from Protestant backgrounds. About one-third do not attend other services during the week. Research from the Pluralism Project also notes that these groups create new roles for women.
Interfaith groups provide “opportunities for women’s leadership in a way that oftentimes the religious traditions themselves do not, simply because those positions do not need to be sanctioned by any religious head or body,” says Kathryn Lohre of the project.