The trees surrounding All Saints Church, like the driveway weaving around them, were frozen. A dusting of snow atop the ice made people’s walks from their cars to the church’s side door precarious. None of this is uncommon for Omaha in January. Still, it requires fortitude to brave the bitter temperatures and precipitation for a Monday-night religious meeting. Yet there they were; eighty-plus people—more than expected—walking across the frozen ground to the church’s large first floor meeting room where they chose seats around circular tables in groups of eight to ten.
Leading the throng is John Goldman, an architect from San Francisco who is one of the planners for Omaha’s newest faith community, being built on a 35-acre plot of land west of the city. From landscaping to worship space, playgrounds to bathroom facilities, he is probing this community about their expectations for the facilities and hopes for what the building itself will say to the community at large, leaving nothing to chance.
Understandably, the atmosphere is charged with excitement and flush with expectations at what will arise from the site. But this is tempered by a sense of peace—dare one say, “providence?” For these folks are raising more than a building, they are raising a new way of being religious in America. It’s a reality that some of them have been growing into since the turn of the millennium. Each person is conscious of the significance, and risks, that accompany their plans. These plans will lead to not one but three different houses of worship—a synagogue, mosque, and an Episcopal Church—and a fourth building, an interfaith center, that serves the wider community.