The Rev. Fred Plumer, left, smiles as Mir-Javid Jalai speaks at a reception welcoming the Muslims. Kevin P. Casey photo/Los Angeles Times.
Since 1988, members of Irvine UCC in Irvine, Calif., have shared their home with the Jewish congregation of the University Synagogue. Recently, Irvine UCC went a step further with their diversity by inviting the Unified Mosque of Irvine to "join in the family."
Now there are Christians, Jews and Muslims each practicing their faith and studying and worshiping under one roof.
Irvine UCC's pastor, the Rev. Fred Plumer, describes the experiment as part of the quest for understanding of what it means to be "children of one God."
Before the arrival of the Unified Mosque, the UCC and Jewish congregations held separate worship services, but often came together.
Their members performed volunteer work in the community, observed Thanksgiving services each November and shared in two Jewish Rosh Hashana observances when the holiday fell on a Sunday. With the Muslim congregation on board, these traditions are apt to become even more significant.
The combination makes for busy weekends in the southern California church, located between Los Angeles and San Diego.
The Muslims will gather on Fridays in the church's multi-purpose room to pray to Allah.
Four hours later the members of University Synagogue will gather in the sanctuary. They also will return on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, members of the UCC congregation will install the moveable cross for their services.
The relationship with the Jewish congregation will last only one more year, though, because the fast-growing congregation will move into its own building not too far away.
According to Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, the Reconstructionist congregation could not have grown from 11 families to 450 families without the UCC church's support.
"We're really grieving that they'll eventually be leaving," Plumer told the Los Angeles Times. "Living with a synagogue and modern-day Jews is unbelievably eye-opening. I suspect it will be the same thing with the mosque."
He says both he and his congregation have profited from their relationship with University Synagogue, "gaining a greater understanding of Judaism, which is the foundation of Christianity." Now he views the new relationship with the Muslims as another learning experience.
"I'm amazed at how often doing the obviously right thing generates so much news," says Plumer.