Church Stories

 

One of the goals of Multi-faith Matters is to tell the stories of churches practicing multi-faith neighbor love in their communities. We are pleased to present them below. Please click on the links to learn more. Get in touch with us if you have a story of your own church you'd like to see shared as we expand this network and movement.

 
 
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The Church Lab     |   Austin, Texas

Led by: Rev. Carrie Graham                                                                                                                      

Affiliation: None                                                                                                                

Who: Currently a church plant with 3 small groups: about 30 total active members. Working with individuals who identify as Protestants, Catholics, Latter-day Saints, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Agnostics and Atheists.

Carrie Graham, pastor of The Church Lab, hosts multi-faith conversations. They exercise two-and-a-half hours of concentrated empathy, and hope to venture back into their homes, workplaces, and places of worship having practiced listening, seeking understanding, articulating their personal experience, and exchange experiences with someone from another perspective.  

 

Cole Community Church    |    Boise, Idaho

Led by: Jackson Cramer, Senior Pastor; Asher Sargent, Global Outreach Pastor; Nick Armstrong, Co-Director of Glocal Community Partners                                                                           

Who: We have worked with an estimated 30 churches in the Boise area, about 75% are evangelical and the others have a wide range of denominational backgrounds. We work with the Islamic Center of Boise on peacemaking initiatives. We have trained over 500 volunteers to walk with refugees in friendship and service, with 35 friendship teams coming from those. (1,500 members)  

After 23 years of living and working in a predominantly Muslim country, Nick and Laura Armstrong returned to Boise — and were startled by Americans’ animosity toward Muslims because it was so contradictory to their experience in Indonesia. They started Peace Feasts as a way of building bridges between Christians and Muslims — finding commonalities, asking questions, sharing their deep faiths and listening intently — over a shared meal. 

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The Gathering at Salem    |    Salem, Massachussets

Led by: Pastor Phil Wyman; Other contacts within the church significant to its multi-faith engagement: Dennis Huxley, Jeff Menasco, April Alario, Stef and Mike Crockett

Affiliation: Non-denominational Christian Church – began as a Foursquare Gospel Church in 1999      

Who: We engage with Pagans (Witches, Druids, Pagans, Heathen, Wiccans, and a wide variety of other Pagan traditions), and Atheists. (Church membership 30-50 people)

Salem, MA capitalizes on the city's infamous witch trials of 1692, along with the popularization of Halloween and the revival of Paganism in the US. As you might imagine, local Christian leaders have tended to picket and pray against the occult stores and celebrations. But The Gathering at Salem, assembled 15 years ago by pastor Phil Wyman, try a different approach to set up alongside practicing withces, Wiccans, and atheists. It's the classic Christian "love your neighbor" approach Halloween edition.


The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins   |   Portland, Oregon

Led by: Paul Louis Metzger; Student Intern: Alexander Jonathan O’Leary

Affiliation: None; Parachurch organization, affiliated with Multnomah Biblical Seminary

Who: [Zen] Buddhists

What better way exists to build mutual trust and a sense of neighborliness than through potlucks and table fellowship? Everyone brings a favorite dish to share, sits down at the same table at eye level, and tastes from the respective foods and drinks. With his late colleague, Zen Buddhist priest, Abbot Kyogen Carlson, Paul Louis Metzger of Multnomah Seminary, helped put together potluck gatherings between Evangelicals and Zen Buddhists.


New Harvest Church of God     |    Knoxville, Tennessee

Led by: Senior Pastor, Tony Richie; Other contacts within the church significant to its multi-faith engagement: Sue Richie, Spouse/Pastoral Partner, Danny Davis, Youth Pastor

Affiliation: Church of God

Who: Although we’ve been involved with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others, New Harvest is more directly involved primarily with Jews and Muslims. (New Harvest has about 150 members with an average attendance of around 100.)

Tony Richie worked with others in the spring of 2015 to begin an interfaith focus group in Knoxville, Tennessee. Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership approached him about the possibility of bringing together a group of Evangelical pastors to study Christian-Muslim relations in the area. Others joined him to set up “A Seat at the Table”—interfaith “dinner and dialogue” encounters. 


Northwood Church    |    Keller, Texas

Led by: Senior Pastor Bob Roberts, Jr.; Kurt Pafford

Affiliation: Southern Baptist

Who: Muslim imams in Afghanistan. (Church has 3,500 members).

Bob Roberts is pastor of NorthWood Church in Keller, TX. He's a conservative Baptist, so he's the first to say that it's sort of odd that his 30-year journey as an evangelical ministry would lead him to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most prominent Muslim clerics in the world. He prays with them in their mosques, "breaks bread" with them, Texas-style, at his home, and has become one of the leading Christian ministers of any persuasion in what he calls the fight against Islamophobia. 

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Otter Creek Church     |    Brentwood, Tennessee

Led by: Senior Pastor, Dr. Joshua Graves, Duane Dixon

Affiliation: Church of Christ

Who: Local Muslims. (Church has 1,800 members).

A group of Muslims and Christians have been coming together to better understand each other in Brentwood, TN. They call their group "A Path Toward Meaningful Christian-Muslim Relationships. This has included events with panels, and small group discussions.


Redemption Church     |    Gilbert, Arizona

Led by: 10 Lead/Senior Pastors (Frank Switzer. Arcadia Congregation); Other contacts within the church significant to its multi-faith engagement: Tyler Johnson, Lead Pastor; Josh Prather

Affiliation: None - Multi-congregational. (Redemption - Gilbert has 4,000, and members and Redemption Scottsdale (in planting stage) has 75).

In response to a shooting in Garland, TX related to an inflammatory "Draw Mohammed" cartoon protest, a gathering of individuals with guns encircled a mosque in Phoenix. Pastor Jim Mullins, along with many other Christians in the great Phoenix area, came together to respond. Their aim was to create a barrier of protection, and to have a response marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


River City Christian     |    Sacramento, California

Led by: Led by: Jesse Smith, Senior Pastor; Mark Shetler, Executive Pastor; Stephen Rodriguez, Global Outreach Coordinator

Affiliation: Evangelical Covenant

Who: Local Muslims & Refugees. (Sunday attendance approximately 1800; official membership 884).

River City Christian Church, formerly First Covenant Church, has helped resettle several hundred Muslim refugees. Because of this, they received a thank you from the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims, and received its Distinguished Award for Exceptional Interfaith and Community Service. More than 200 guests, including local, state, and federal officials, stood to applaud Pastor Mark Shetler for promoting friendships between Christians and Muslims and for offering support for refugees fleeing violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.


Smoke Rise Baptist Church     |    Stone Mountain, Georgia

Led by: Rev. Dr. Chris George, Senior Pastor, Rev. Kathy Dobbins, Minister of Spiritual Formation, Rev. Bart McNiel, Associate Pastor, Wayne Martin, Retired Baptist Minister, Colin Harris, Retired University Professor

Affiliation: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Who: The Indian-Islamic (Shia/Ismaeli sect) community & Reformed Jewish Community. (Church attendance: 600 average Sunday; 1800 active members).

A local convenience store was burglarized, and the congregation of Smoke Rise Baptist Church, under the leadership of senior pastor Chris George, reached out to help. Rather than just sending cards and prayers, they "wanted to be a congregation that is committed to being a good neighbor," said pastor George. Read their story of how they assisted this business, owned by an Ismaili Muslim.