CCJN Exclusive: Latter-Day Saints find temporary home at Temple Sinai
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known colloquially as the Mormons because the major book of their canon is the Book of Mormon, have had a quandary for much of the past year. Plans for a church expansion in the 3600 block of St. Charles Avenue grew ever closer to fruition. The costly construction would put permanent pews into their sanctuary space and increase available seating with expansive accordion doors, but the work would render the sanctuary and virtually all of their other meeting rooms out of commission for the foreseeable future – at least three to four months. They needed to find an accommodation somewhere. But where to go?
Other Christian churches were meeting on Sundays as well and few had available space to take on an extra 150 or more souls. So, knowing the Jewish day of Sabbath is on Saturday, the LDS Church laity began to make inquiries of their Jewish neighbors along St. Charles Avenue as to availability of space. Both nearby Touro Synagogue and Temple Sinai, located a bit further away near Audubon Park, were contacted. But the two Reform synagogues rebuffed any attempt to take in the church at a time when to do so would interfere with the Religious School activities held on Sunday mornings. Temple Sinai administrator EllenRae Shalett recalled that the LDS Church had used their facilities while they awaited the initial construction of their facility on the plot on which once sat the fabled Victorian mansion previously owned by Jewish philanthropist Isidore Newman. She was interested in helping, but Sunday mornings would not work at all. Would Sunday afternoons be on the table, she wondered?
LDS Church member David van Dam, one of the church leaders who worked out the original deal with Temple Sinai 12 years ago, was hopeful. He recalled that the previous time the church used the synagogue facilities had, indeed, been in the afternoons. A consultation with the Temple Sinai executive board and the facilities committee for the LDS Church brought about an agreement and a lease for Temple Sinai Chapel and at least two other classrooms. Following the completion of a contract, the LDS members began meeting at Temple Sinai last Sunday from 1:30-4:30 p.m. and Shalett was there. “Sunday went great,” Van Dam beamed. “There were a few, hitches, but I was really impressed with the way it worked out and it’s really a good thing.” Due to a large turnover in the LDS Church, Van Dam said that only as few as six of the church’s current 150 members were active the last time they used Temple Sinai’s facilities. With a projected completion date of November 25, Van Dam is thankful they will be able to meet as a congregation in a well-appointed meeting space. Shalett was quoted: “Temple Sinai is proud to welcome our friends from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to use our building for their services during their construction.”