Fort Wayne is often called the “City of Churches,” which is a fair evaluation.
According to the City’s 2018 fact sheet, there are more than 360 churches here, but it’s easy to forget that traditional Christian churches aren’t the only type of worship centers in and around northeast Indiana.
There are also Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu meeting places throughout the region, and instead of “churches,” they’re called synagogues, gurdwaras, temples, and mosques.
Although these worship centers are often less publicized than traditional churches, they are equally as important to our local culture, and in many cases, you don’t have to be a member to attend their services or learn about them.
Regardless of your religion, visiting northeast Indiana’s diverse places of worship can expose you to new experiences and offer a deeper understanding of concepts that shape world thought.
Input Fort Wayne went inside a variety of the region’s worship centers to give you a better understanding of what being a City of Churches—or rather worship—looks like.
Trinity English Lutheran Church in downtown Fort Wayne.
Trinity English Lutheran Church
Religion: Christianity, Lutheran
Location: Downtown Fort Wayne, 450 Washington Blvd., Fort Wayne, IN 46802
Trinity English Lutheran church is, geographically, in the middle of the city of Fort Wayne. Because of this, head pastor Gary Erdos says he feels he has a responsibility to be deeply involved in the community. Head Pastor, Gary Erdos, at Trinity English Lutheran church.
Trinity is invested in the concept of integrating itself into Fort Wayne. Rather than a private club, it wants Fort Wayne to think of its church as their church.
Head Pastor, Gary Erdos, and the Director of Family Ministries, Kiersten Kellermeyer say that they’re willing to put in the work it takes to help more people feel at home in the church.
Pastor Erdos speaks of an evolving definition of “church”—meaning turning it into more of an open community here for everyone.
The church has plans to bring in more youth, more people in general, and to become more involved in local activism through events like their weekly Dialogue on Race, which takes place Wednesday nights from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. in room 111 of the education wing, now through May 9.
The church’s website is thorough, including blogs from the pastor, information about volunteer opportunities, and even illustrated sermons all designed to reach more people.
A meditation service at the Indiana Buddhist Temple.
Indiana Buddhist Temple
Location: Roughly 25 minutes Southeast of Fort Wayne, 7528 Thompson Road, Hoagland, IN 46745
The Indiana Buddhist Temple is a temple in Hoagland, Indiana, on the first floor of the Abbott’s house, where it hosts a variety of services, including a meditation service on “Mindfulness of Breathing.”
Before and after meditation, worship leader Bhante Devananda does a chant in Pali, which is the Buddhist language. Meditation is done sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and listening.
The meditation time consists of sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and listening to a few instructions: “Let go of school; work; responsibilities; negative emotion. You cannot take this with you to achieve happiness.” Or “Take one mindful breath in…. and let a mindful breath out.” (A mindful breath is a deep breath that you concentrate on really feeling.)
Meditation may sound intimidating at first, and in some ways it is. Even regulars say you can meditate for years before you’re able to do it properly.
But while many who attend the Temple’s services are Buddhist, you don’t have to be Buddhist to meditate. Buddhism can be more about the philosophy of happiness, peacefulness, and kindness, worship leaders say.
People of all religions (or lack thereof) attend meditation services. On our visit, we met a woman who was Catholic, and a man who was Agnostic.
Bhante Devananda, who was doing the chanting and blessing, blessed us a few times with the phrase, “May you be well, happy, and peaceful.”
Both Bhante Devananda and the regular worshippers welcome to newcomers into the community, with food and tea, offered knowledge, and invitations to return for their Sri Lankan New Year activities at 11 a.m. on April 29th.
Inside the Sikh Gurdwara of Fort Wayne.
Sikh Gurdwara of Fort Wayne
Location: Roanoke about 25 minutes Southwest of Fort Wayne, 11431 Lower Huntington Road, Roanoke, IN 46783
A Gurdwara is a Sikh place of worship, and there are several in the region, including the Sikh Gurdwara of Fort Wayne.
Sikhism is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak, whose main point is that there is only one creator of everything. The three basic concepts of Sikhism are meditating on God, making an honest living, and helping the poor and needy.
The website describes a Sikh as someone who “has his feet firmly planted on the earth, but his head is always towards God.”
The aim of Sikhism is not to convert people, so non-Sikhs can come and bow respectfully to the Guru to learn more about this youngest world religion, which is only 500 years old.
Before entering the Gurdwara, you must be dressed modestly, cover your head, take off your shoes, and wash your hands.
Worship hours at this Gurdwara are every other Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Murals inside St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church.
St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church
Religion: Christianity, Eastern Orthodox
Location: Northeast Fort Wayne, 3535 Crescent Ave., Fort Wayne, IN 46805
St. Nicholas is an Eastern Orthodox church that serves as a commuter church, meaning people come from a distance to attend (think Lima or Warsaw).
It focuses on four ministries: worship, education, fellowship, and outreach. The first three ministries focus on building the religious community in the church and its neighborhood. Outreach focuses on collaborating with other churches to do volunteer work with local organizations, including the Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana.
Worship leader Father Andrew stresses that St. Nicholas is grounded in community and building relationships. The church community is all about taking things that get in the way of healthy relationships and breaking them down.
He gives an analogy about a bike wheel with Jesus at the center where people are the spokes. The closer they get to Jesus, the closer they get to each other, and vice versa. Father Andrew and Saint Nicholas’s members believe that to be a community is to be close to God.
Art at the Omkaar Temple, a Hindu worship center.
Location: Northwest Fort Wayne, 14745 Yellow River Rd., Fort Wayne, IN 46818
Omkaar Temple is a Hindu temple thats purpose, as listed on its website, is “to promote inter-religious, social and cultural understanding and to support humanitarian causes.”
They do live streams on their YouTube channel of major Hindu events and Poojas, or prayer services.
This makes it possible for anyone to participate in the Temple, regardless of time, distance, or any other constraints that might inhibit someone’s ability to worship and learn.
The Temple welcomes those wanting to know more about Hinduism, those interested in pursuing the religion, and even field trips.
Jewish scholar Arthur Kurzweil speaks at Congregation B'nai Jacob.
Congregation B'nai Jacob
Location: Southwest Fort Wayne, 7227 Bittersweet Moors Drive, Fort Wayne, IN 46814
Bnai Jacob, or House of Jacob, is a Jewish Synagogue in Fort Wayne. It is led by Rabbi Mitchell Kornspan.
Bnai Jacob supports a strong community of members, with activities like Hebrew School, women’s activities, and holiday celebrations.
It is open to visitors from other faiths who may want to learn about Judaism or attend services. They even have a tour guide and historian visitors can ask to see to learn more about the synagogue.
If you’re attending a service for the first time, no worries, you aren’t expected to know everything.
“During our services, you’re welcome to participate as little or as much as you feel comfortable with," the website says.
Guidebooks will also be available to help along the way, as well as head coverings for visiting men in the case that they don’t have their own.
Services are usually on Saturdays, with Shabbat at 9:15 a.m., Kiddush after, and Torah class at 12:15 p.m.
A worship service at the Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center.
Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center
Location: Southeast Fort Wayne, 2121 Seddlemeyer Ave., Fort Wayne, IN 46816
When the Burmese Muslim Education and Community Center was built in Fort Wayne in 2015, it made world history.
It was the first mosque built in the United States by Burmese Muslims, and it was the first mosque built by Burmese Muslims anywhere in the last 40 years.
In Fort Wayne, there are roughly 8,000 Burmese, and about 2,000 of them are Muslims.
The Center’s purpose, as expressed on its website, is “to serve as a central place that empowers the Burmese Muslim community, and strengthens relationships with the community at large by promoting Five core values—Faith, Commitment, Knowledge, Respect and Unity.”
Masjid Noor ul-Islam, the main program of BMECC, offers classes, lectures, congregation, and daily prayers.
Sermons are usually given in Arabic or Burmese. There’s even a "My Masjid" app that tells you things like what time Adhan and Iqamah are. Visitors are welcome, and encouraged to email ahead to schedule a tour or visit.