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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Malls connect faith groups

Since Sept. 11, many Americans are seeking more connection to an interfaith community. John Chell, a retired ELCA pastor, thinks malls are a perfect place to connect.

Chell co-founded the Mall Area Religious Council — developed to create a presence in the Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn.

"A mall is the main street of America," Chell says. "A spiritual presence in nontraditional formats will be mushrooming in malls. Since Sept. 11, the next level of involvement will be interfaith."

At mall management's request, Chell says a prayer/meditation room for employees was dedicated in February. For five months, the religious council also staffed a kiosk where people of all faiths could talk, buy books and learn about local congregations, temples and mosques.

The New York Times on March 2 said 100 of nearly 1,200 of the country's enclosed malls have a religious presence, "typically bookstores with religion themes but occasionally churches."

But while much has been made of worship in malls, Chell says, "We already have enough places of worship in America. We have learned instead to direct people to their places of worship. People live in neighborhoods, and that's where they need to worship."


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