As Queens awaited the pope’s visit to Manhattan and the Bronx, the borough produced its own kaleidoscope of different religions in motion tending to congregations from all over the world.
In Flushing, hundreds of the Hindu faithful poured into the streets for a procession celebrating the birth of Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles who assumes the form of an elephant. The colorfully dressed worshipers followed a holy statute of Ganesha placed on top of a 15-foot silver chariot by the Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapatri Devasthanam Temple.
On a recent weekend in Elmhurst, hundreds flocked to the Rock Church for an open-air baptism. A giant blue banner with the block letters “Baptism” was stretched across the front of the church, which occupies the former Elmwood Theatre, a Golden Age movie palace. On the day of baptism the diverse members of the nondenominational church appeared to represent most parts of the globe as they were immersed in the outside pool.
In Queens Village the Masjid Ar-Rahman congregation has decided to build one of the largest mosques in southeast Queens to accommodate nearly 800 parishioners mostly from Guyana. It started out in 1998 in a home in Jamaica with just under 100 members. Scheduled to be completed in October 2016, the mosque will operate a soup kitchen open to all faiths in the neighborhood.
In Forest Hills, the Havurat Yisrael congregation has just moved into a new synagogue, 17 years after a fire destroyed their temple. The Modern Orthodox members bounced from spot to spot until Havurat Yisrael received a substantial settlement for its insurance claim and built a large new home for Russians, Israelis and Jews of other nationalities.
Several Christian churches with deep roots in Queens are also marking milestones this year.
The Church of Douglaston, St. Anastasia in Douglaston and the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church in Astoria are holding centennials, while St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Long Island City is celebrating 150 years and the First Reformed Church of Astoria has its 180th birthday next month.
We think the People’s Pope, as Francis is known, would appreciate the rich tapestry created by the followers of many religions who have brought their teachings to Queens. He has appealed to all faiths to help the poor, share their wealth in a more equitable manner and save the environment for future generations. He has also preached the gospel of peace.
Each of these institutions share at least some of his goals and practice religious tolerance in a place where everyone belongs.