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Home » How a church in Long Island became a place of welcome for other religions

How a church in Long Island became a place of welcome for other religions

by Rev Vicky L Eastland
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Brookville church group
The Brookville Multifaith Campus is hared by a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue and a Muslim study & prayer group, as well as an interfaith group.

Brookville Church was founded in 1732. The earliest documents are all written in Dutch, the language of most of the European settlers of that time in what is now known as Brookville, Long Island. The sanctuary building has been repaired and replaced over the years but still retains its colonial-era charm. 

Fast forward almost 300 years to the dedication of a sign that celebrates the union of four different faith communities who share the same buildings; three religious groups: a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue and a Muslim study & prayer group, as well as an interfaith group which honors the Jewish and Christian heritages of each parent as they educate their children in both faiths.

It was a cloudy, misty afternoon in November as the faith leaders and congregants stood on the front lawn. The year was 2013; we were gathered to dedicate the new sign, to pray together and to celebrate. The Muslim call to prayer was heard over a loudspeaker announcing it was time for prayer. It was chanted in Arabic and a hush fell on those gathered, along with a sense of the Divine in our midst. 

Just 14 months earlier, I had become the new pastor of Brookville Church. I arrived only knowing about the Interfaith Community of Long Island (IFC) who had just chosen our campus as their permanent home. The church’s search team had allowed the Jewish and Christian co-chairs of the IFC to lead my second interview. During that interview it became clear that the role of the new pastor would not only be to shepherd the Christian congregation, but also to help integrate interfaith families into the life of the church. 

Shortly after I arrived as the new pastor, a Jewish synagogue was being formed by Rabbi Stuart Paris to help meet the spiritual needs of these interfaith families. The New Synagogue of Long Island chose our campus as their home. I quickly realized that we were developing into a dual-faith home for interfaith families; a place where they could worship together as Jewish/Christian households. The sanctuary was a church on Sunday mornings and a Jewish synagogue on Friday nights. For these interfaith families their church and synagogue shared the same worship space. Today, a beautiful Ark which houses a hundred-year-old Torah stands permanently behind the pulpit. 

Then to my surprise and amazement, I learned the Muslim Reform Movement Organization, facilitated by Dr. Sultan Abdulhameed, had been holding weekly Quran studies at Brookville Church since 2002! Today, they also hold Friday prayers in our shared fellowship hall. Brookville Church has been the one and only home for this progressive Muslim group. 

Once I began to get to know both Dr. Sultan and Rabbi Paris, I realized that all three of us had a shared vision, to bring reform to our respective faith traditions and to build bridges of peace between world religions. As we began developing friendships with one another, it was a natural progression to come together for occasional shared worship and learning opportunities. We hold a yearly Multifaith Thanksgiving Celebration where the three of us preach from each other’s holy scriptures. 

This important work takes intentionality and commitment while providing the recipe for multifaith and cross-cultural friendships to develop. Each faith group maintains its own religious identity, but our campus fosters an open environment for learning, celebrating and honoring each distinct religion; our progressive faith groups have coalesced into one organization known as the Brookville Multifaith Campus. The campus became its own non-profit organization in 2020. 

We are meeting the needs of those on Long Island that no one else is meeting by providing a place where interfaith families, along with those of differing faiths, can find a spiritual home, one that fully embraces and accepts everyone on their unique journeys with God. 

Because our ministry is so cutting edge, we caught the attention of Pierre Pirard, a Belgium filmmaker who traveled to Long Island, New York to include our story in his documentary titled ‘All of Us’; this film aims to tell the stories of people from different religions who dare to reinvent their communities in order to achieve a real and daily coexistence, despite existing tensions and oppositions. After traveling to Lebanon, Indonesia, Bosnia and Senegal, Brookville, New York was Pierre’s last stop. His film crew had traveled the world recording amazing stories, yet we were told that nowhere else had they seen what we are doing in our little corner of the world. We were the only Christian church that was hosting other faith communities and embracing them as equal partners in our work to change the world for the better. We don’t want to be the only ones doing this life altering work. We believe that the model we have built can be replicated by other churches who can make as great an impact in their communities as we are in ours. 

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