Unity in a time of division

Rebecca Allen, multimedia editor

In the midst of religious division and turbulence throughout the country, a church and a temple in Carlsbad show the possibility and benefits of worshiping in the same space.

In 2000, Pilgrim Church opened its doors to Temple Etz Rimon and the two congregations have been sharing a worship space ever since.

“I don’t want to and never have thought of this as a tenant-landlord relationship. We’ve used the language of ‘sharing a sacred space,’” Reverend Shockley said.

Through their relationship, Reverend Shockley of Pilgrim Church and Rabbi Sherman of Temple Etz Rimon found that their congregations share similar goals.

“Our faith motivates us toward a lot of the same kinds of actions and behaviors, such as our social justice commitments, so we started exploring what opportunities there were for our congregations to engage one another,” Reverend Shockley said.

One opportunity the congregations found to work together on is their annual homeless shelter.

“For two weeks we convert Pilgrim hall into a space for our guests. We opened that program up to the Temple and they were more than glad to participate as their own outreach,” Reverend Shockley said.

Interacting with each other and working toward a common goal has created strong relationships between the communities.

“I come in early on Sundays when church is still going on and when church gets out, they shake my hand and treat me like their pastor,” Rabbi Sherman said.

In this time of rising anti-semitism, the relationship between the temple and the church has opened the eyes of the church members to the threat that their partner congregation faces.

“One thing that I think is really important is when Jewish communities are under threat, as they have been recently, now their threat is our threat. We feel it in a much more visceral way and we actually share that threat with them, and that makes a huge difference in our awareness of the threat to Jewish communities,” Reverend Shockley said.

Despite the religious divisions nationwide, the warm environment shared by Temple Etz Rimon and Pilgrim Church remains intact.

“People discriminate against a group when they don’t know people of that group. They have no information. They just discriminate based on their own assumptions,” Rabbi Sherman said.  “Anti-semitism is not an issue here because we know each other personally and not just as groups of people.”

The key to maintaining the close relationship between the Temple and the Church could also be the solution to the nation’s division.

“The key is good will, that we both know we each are trying our best to work together and live together,” Reverend Shockley said.

Sharing a worship space may not solve anti-semitism across America, but there is something to be said for getting to know people of different cultures.

“As far as anti-semitism, that’s been going on for a long, long time, like forever, and it changes. The key is that we know each other and we have relationships with each other,” Rabbi Sherman said.

Temple Etz Rimon and Pilgrim Church show that religion does not have to divide people and that coexisting peacefully does not have to mean living separately.

“It’s important to reinforce the reality that we’re all God’s children,” Reverend Shockley said,  “However we happen to worship.”