The Minneapolis Sacred Space Tour

 

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Twin Cities are home to unique collection of houses of worship, but shifting demographics and influx of immigrants are reshaping the religious landscape of the metro area.

A pre-conference tour hosted by the Religion and Media Interest Group offered a glimpse of these changes as well as a look back at the area’s religious history. Packed in a 12-passenger, participants viewed on of the largest Hindu temples in the United States, a Beaux Arts Catholic treasure, a growing inner-city Muslim religious center, and an historic Episcopal cathedral.

 

The daylong tour started at one of the largest Hindu temples in the United States in Maple Grove, a Minneapolis suburb. To be correct, the single structure houses many Hindu “temples” devoted to separate deities and has a large central tower created by artists from India. It’s rural juxtaposition to nearby farmhouses and corn fields surprised observers.

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Next the group paid homage to Jewish culture by visiting the famous Cecil’s Deli in St. Paul serving a long menu of traditional deli cuisine including matzo ball soup, kosher meat, latkes, Reubens, bagels and unique breads.

 

Next up was the Cathedral of St. Paul, which is also known as the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul. The cathedral is unique because of its ornate Beaux Arts styling.   At the Cathedral, RMIG “tourists” also had a question and answer session with the communications director for the Archdiocese and communications director of the cathedral. The archdiocese has recently been embroiled in settlings priest sex abuse claims that resulted in bankruptcy of the archdiocese.

 

The next sacred space hearkened to a Catholic heritage in inner-city St. Paul, but dwindling Catholic numbers force the church to sell the parish church and adjacent school. Now a diverse and growing Muslim population have remade the old church into a mosque and religious center.  Where pews once lined the sanctuary, an expansive piece of carpet, with two layers of padding for kneeling adherents, is the site for daily prayers and other worship services. The center serves a mix of Somali and Bosnia Muslims, most of them immigrants. Conversation about the influence of ISIS on local teens was one of the topics raised during the visit as well as statements about Muslim immigrants by Donald Trump, GOP presidential candidate.

 

The group travelled back to Minneapolis and to St. Mark’s Cathedral. The Episcopal cathedral dates its beginnings to 1858 and its current Gothic-inspired home was built in 1910. Group members listened intently as a docent lead them on a tour of the sanctuary and then to basement which houses a mausoleum with both marked vaults for ashes of the dead and a common vault for those who want to share a common grave with the ashes of many.

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