FAITH COMMUNITY CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AWARD
New Haven, Connecticut
Eight congregations around Greater New Haven engineered a pioneering program that developed in-depth learning and relationship-building experiences using the vehicles of sacred space and architecture. The group included congregations from the faiths of Islam, Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, United Church of Christ, and The Society of Friends.
The program activities involved a series of multilayered architectural/religious tours of each congregation’s house of worship. This included deciphering theology in space; reflection on theological/spatial boundaries; feelings in the context of bounded space; ties between architecture and community and each space’s communal narrative; a ritual demonstration; spiritual journeys by members; and a shared meal.
The architecture of each sacred space was vastly different and provided excellent teaching tools for religious beliefs and practices. The social and civic value of these spaces was a common core across them. The experiences culminated in 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, the group chose to write an interfaith protocol on how to respond to acts of hate exacted against houses of worship and their congregants. In the wake of violence against faith communities, the protocol empowered quick, practical, and appropriate responses supporting those affected.
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.
Project Team Members
Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel – “BEKI”
St. Mary Parish
Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church
New Haven Society of Friends
Chinmaya Saraswati Ashram — Devi Temple
Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ
New Haven Zen Center
Ms. Suzanne Morgan, Architecture and Liturgical Design
Rev. Dirk Ficca, Interreligious Community-Building and Engagement
Dr. Vanessa Avery, Project Lead
Paul Duda, Studio Duda, Photography
Paul Bloom, Photography