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Clergy and Scholars Explore Sacred Space at Interfaith Forum

What makes a space sacred? Do we need to build a large temple or sanctuary to feel close to God? Do Jewish and Protestant houses of worship have anything in common? On May 10, more than 75 clergy and scholars met to study these questions and one of Los Angeles’ most stunning new synagogues, Temple Judea in Tarzana. The seminar and luncheon, “Sacred Spaces,” was hosted by Rabbi Don Goor and organized by the Board of Rabbis of Southern California/The Jewish Federation in partnership with Fuller Theological Seminary. The program drew participants from the Jewish, Mormon, Presbyterian, Baptist and other faiths—as well as architecture enthusiasts.

“A sanctuary comes in many shapes and sizes,” said Susie Coliver, the award-winning San Francisco architect whose firm designed the new Temple Judea campus. “Abraham Joshua Heschel introduced the idea of ‘the architecture of holiness’ that appears in time—not space.

“There is something wonderfully mysterious about the sacred—and the sacred parts of ourselves,” said Coliver, who led the group on a tour of the new sanctuary, chapel and grounds. Scholars from Fuller Theological Seminary said they found great inspiration in the modernist, sunny grounds and worship spaces. Dr. Richard Mouw, seminary president, celebrated the opportunity for collaboration.

“We need to be talking about these things,” said Mouw, a philosopher, scholar and author who has helmed the seminary since 1993. “Evangelical Christians have worries about sacred space. We need to think about ways we can enter into the presence of God, to experience the beauty of God’s holiness.”

Speakers and panelists on sacred architecture also included Rabbi Goor; Dr. William Dyrness, professor of theology and culture at Fuller; Dr. Joshua Holo, dean of the LA campus at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; and Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis.

In the fall, Fuller and the Board of Rabbis will co-sponsor part two of the Sacred Spaces series—this time at a church. “In a world in which we are increasingly seeing isolationist trends in faith, it’s wonderful to come together as Jews, Christians and other faith communities,” Diamond said. “We have so much to learn from each other.”

Read on for Fuller Seminary’s take on the event.

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