The Diocese of New Westminster is participating in the creation of an "interspiritual centre" with a shared house of worship in a new sustainable urban neighbourhood planned for the southeast corner of Vancouver's False Creek.
The neighbourhood is to be developed during the next 10 years. Part of it will first be used as the athlete's village for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Involved to date besides the Anglican Church are local Roman Catholics, United Church representatives, a new Jewish synagogue, various Muslim groups, Buddhists, Unitarians, Hindus, and Aboriginals.
Appearing before a city council committee recently, the group made a diverse sight: a Muslim Sufi teacher in a colorful flowing robes, the Roman Catholic in black shirt and clerical collar, an Iman in a light blue floor-length Senegalese gown, and Buddhist monks in robes of various colours.
Vancouver City Council has unanimously accepted the idea of the interfaith facility, and asked its planning department to study how it might fit into the overall development of the 110-acre site.
"It was an empowering and hopeful glimpse of what the world will look like when we join together as people all acknowledging and seeking faith and depth in relationship to spirit," said Rabbi David Mivasair of the Ahavat Olam Synagogue.
Representing the diocese in the interfaith project is diocesan Business Administrator Mike Wellwood.
"The vision is at once invigorating and daunting," said Wellwood, who is working on the project with the Rev. Stephen Bailey, a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam.
The group currently envisions a facility about 33,000 square feet in size, which would be about 40 per cent larger in floor space than is Christ Church Cathedral, including its parish hall, meeting rooms, and offices. It is envisioned that the religious groups would hold separate worship services, Wellwood said.
Wellwood said the project includes not only a physical facility, but also the establishment of a society through which the society would jointly promote education, dialogue, and community engagement.
"We think it could be a model for interspiritual cooperation which can serve other communities as well," he said.
Wellwood said that in a world where one hears much about the "frictions between faiths, "It's truly exhilarating to be working so closely together, while honouring our differences."
South East False Creek will be home to 16,000 people in about 7,000 housing units.