Growing population brings variety of approaches to shared beliefs
Forty-three percent of the population of Fishers identifies as religious. Many faiths are present in the growing community, now with a population of over 80,000 residents. Although Christianity is practiced by the majority, other beliefs are also practiced in the fast-growing city. Three local places of worship, seemingly contrasting, offer the same welcoming comfort to those who attend services.
St. George Orthodox Christian Church
St. George Orthodox Christian Church was established in 1926 by Syrian immigrants. The parish ministers to Christians from diverse backgrounds. “We have a tremendous diversity from the very traditional Orthodox lands,” said V. Rev. Father Nabil L. Hanna, pastor. Roughly one-third of the parishioners are from Middle Eastern Orthodox backgrounds, one-third are from Russian or Greek backgrounds and one-third have Roman Catholic, Protestant or no prior religious backgrounds.
The church relocated to Fishers from its location on Sherman Drive in Indianapolis to accommodate its parishioner-base shift to Hamilton County. After beginning the search for land in 1998, the property on top of the hill on 116th Street was purchased in 2005. “Construction began in September of 2012, and November 24, 2013 was our first liturgy,” Hanna said. “The first service was glorious. We had over 600 people. We would love it if we had them every Sunday and feast day.” Hanna expects parishioner numbers to grow as the community grows.
Over 15 nationalities are represented by the parishioners at St. George. “Diversity makes us stronger–it’s about conviction,” said Hanna. Unlike Roman Catholic priests, Orthodox priests are usually married. “It’s not a doctrinal difference, it’s a practical difference,” said Hanna, who is married and has three children. It’s a policy, so it’s not as big of a difference as one might think.”
In the Orthodox Christian Church, women are not celebrants of the service. “We’re structured as a family, we value motherhood and fatherhood, so it’s the father’s role to lead the family in prayer,” said Hanna. The orthodox worship service is focused on God and the Holy Trinity. The service lasts one and a half hours, and Orthodox Christians stand during most of their worship service. Sunday-best dress is expected.
Crosspoint is a nondenominational Christian church lead by Pastor Curt Walters. “We’re a puzzle piece in the greater church community; we’re kind of edgy, kind of rock ‘n roll—not everybody’s in to that,” said Walters who is the son and grandson of pastors. Walters hadn’t planned on becoming a pastor but decided to explore ministry after feeling called by God after his second year at Anderson University. “God really gave us a burden to create a church for our friends who had checked out on church,” he said. “Our main goal is to help people see Jesus for who he really is.”
Walters wants Crosspoint to be the place where people seek God at their own pace. “We are constantly trying to change the perception of what church should be,” said Walters. “Church has gotten a lot of things attached to it that aren’t central to Jesus but that are religious.”
Most members of Crosspoint have some kind of church experience. “We’re constantly looking to innovate, constantly looking for what it means for Jesus to be relevant today and we want to be a church where it’s okay to not have it all together,” he said. Before the service begins, the house band performs in The Venue, the sanctuary room with theatre seating and cup holders. Church-goers are casually dressed.
After seven years of holding church at Fall Creek Intermediate School, the Crosspoint building opened in the fall of 2014. “It’s been a 14-year journey at this point,” he said. By design, the building has no icons or crosses. The building is meant for community use during the week. Free coffee and wi-fi are provided, and groups can use the common area for meetings. The location off of Olio Road was chosen so that the church could be directly in the growing community.
Masjid Al-Huda and the Eman Schools
Following the establishment of the Masjid Al-Huda mosque, which is attended by about 3000 worshipers during prayer holidays, a school soon followed. The school began with nine students in 2010. Five years later, classrooms have reached capacity with the school now teaching 225 students. “Fishers has been very welcoming to the Muslim community,” said Principal Imam Shaker Rashid, PhD. “Fishers has the smaller community with all of the benefits of a larger city for Muslims.” Eman schools are fully accredited, and students take the ISTEP test. “We follow the public school calendar and our curriculum is very similar to the public schools,” said Rashid. Islamic teachings and a focus on learning the Arabic language are incorporated into the curriculum.
Because the school has students whose families come from all over the world, tolerance for differences is expected. “We are with them from the time they are 5 years old, so we teach them to accept each other,” he said.