'This Is Our Community'

By Johnson, Lottie | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), February 25, 2017 | Go to article overview

'This Is Our Community'


Johnson, Lottie, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


By Lottie Johnson

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY -

Heavy winds and bouts of rain and snow didn't deter community members from exploring houses of worship in the Salt Lake area this week.

About three dozen people embarked on what has become an annual interfaith bus tour that navigated from the All Saints Episcopal Church in Salt Lake to the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah in South Jordan on Feb. 21. The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable organized the tour as part of its Interfaith Month events.

All Saints Episcopal Church

The tour's first stop was at the All Saints Episcopal Church, 1710 S. Foothill Drive. The Rev. Trace Browning, who provided a brief history, said that the Episcopal Church was one of the first churches after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to arrive in Salt Lake City.

The Episcopal Church has been ministering to its members in Utah since 1867, but the All Saints Episcopal Church wasn't established until the mid-1950s, according to the Rev. Browning.

The church has greatly expanded throughout the years, growing to be "huge by Episcopalian standards," he said. The church's current sanctuary was constructed in the mid-1990s, and elements of the old worship hall can be seen with its stained glass windows and wooden pews.

The Rev. Browning pointed out significance of the sanctuary's stained glass windows. In contrast to most chapel windows, portions of the church's windows are transparent, allowing members of the congregation to view beautiful scenery as they worship.

"You can see clearly through the windows and look at the sunset, or at the mountains," he said. "(This is a) worship space, but (it is) still connected to everything else."

The Rev. Gabriel Atem, who is from Sudan, also shared part of his story that led him to the steps of the All Saints Episcopal Church.

The outbreak of a civil war forced the Rev. Atem to flee from his south Sudan home in 1987. He was 7 years old, and he spent years running for his life throughout Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, staying in countless refugee camps until he was permitted in the early 2000s to enter the United States, he said.

He had been a part of the Episcopal Church in Sudan, and worship played a significant role in his life, especially during his time in the refugee camps, he said. He sought to find the "same spiritual connections" in Utah that had been a source of strength for him in Sudan.

"(The All Saints Church) was a natural home for (him) when (he) arrived," Browning added.

The Rev. Atem now serves as a priest for the Sudanese congregation at the All Saints Episcopal Church. The hymnals and scriptures are written in his native Dinka language, and traditional chants are regularly incorporated in their services.

"(The Sudanese community) is very lively," the Rev. Browning said. "They know how to do church."

He said that the church's worship hall represents a blending of traditional and Sudanese cultures. An alcove on the west side of the sanctuary displays portraits of Christian saints, while an alcove on the sanctuary's east side features a recent painting that commemorates the martyrs of Sudan.

"We try to honor their tradition," the Rev. Browning said. "We really try to preserve that the hospitality that the Sudanese congregation shows everyone is amazing. …

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