include a six-piece band and always begin with gourmet coffee-brewing, fit right in with Austin’s eclectic reputation.
Austin is also home to places for progressive Jews to worship as
well, like the Congregation Kol Halev. Kol Halev, meaning “voice
of the heart,” emphasizes inclusive, meaningful, and joyful rituals,
accessible to both Hebrew and English speakers. The Congregation also features services like a unique B’nai Mitzvah program
that focuses on individual study and varied Shabbat services. It is
located in Southpark Meadows in south Austin.
Another great resource for Jewish Austinites is the Jewish Community Association of Austin. While not actually a worship group,
the JCAA is a community of Jewish people brought together by
the common goal of helping others. The JCAA is not attached
to any one synagogue and offers various arts and fitness classes,
family and youth services, and community events for professional and social groups. “In Austin, you can find your religious
home, no matter who you are and what your background,” says
Rabbi Rebecca Epstein. Rabbi Epstein and Lital Yaacob run the
Outreach and Engagement program at JCAA, which acts as a
“concierge” to the Jewish community, especially for those new
to Austin and looking to get involved.
In the Christian Community, one group that continues to
stand out and reaches out to worshipers from any church is the
Austin Christian Fellowship. Like the JCAA, The ACF focuses
on uniting Christians in the service of others. “Christianity has
never been a spectator’s sport – Jesus has called us each to make
a difference where we are,” says ACF Pastor Steve Shaver. The
ACF has three campuses around Austin, instead of one central-
ized campus, where they offer worship services alongside
opportunities to join other Christians in community service.
While Judeo-Christian faiths still dominate worship in Austin,
a part of Austin’s progressive worship landscape is populated
by Buddhist communities. The Austin Shambhala Meditation
Center, in the neighborhood of Bouldin, teaches Shambhala
Buddhism, which comes from Tibet. The center emphasizes
bringing meditation and peace into one’s everyday life over
retreating from the world in order to meditate. Director Billy
Boyar, in an interview with KOOP Radio Station, said that
rather than focusing on “religious” traditions, The Austin Shambhala Meditation Center focuses on finding and developing one’s
“basic goodness” and radiating that outward into the community
as “compassion.” Shambhala welcomes anyone who is interested
in Buddhism, meditation, or living a mindful existence.
AN INTERFAITH CONNECTION
With Austin’s growing religious diversity, there has also been
a developing trend toward interfaith groups, which encourage
participation from members of all religions. Most Austin interfaith centers focus on bringing people of any faith together for
a shared goal, like supporting the arts, promoting open dialogue
among many faiths, or fighting for religious freedom.
The Interfaith Arts Council (IAC), for example, unifies people
of different faiths by emphasizing art and music as common
Church in Austin. Photo by Jasleen Kaur