Although religious affiliation in the United States is at its lowest point since the 1930s and recent studies show that 20 percent of Americans don’t identify with a faith, Berkeley has always nurtured an aura of religious freedom and encouraged exploration and appreciation of all theologies. As a student, you’ve likely witnessed cultural town festivals such as Persian New Year or a Dia de los Muertos celebration, or, at the very least, you’ve celebrated a religious holiday or two in Crossroads’ dining facilities with festive music playing in the background as you sink your teeth into entrees from “Around the World.” This week, we bring to you a list of faith-based venues in the city of Berkeley for students who want to eat, pray or just be happy:
1. Christ Church of Berkeley
The majority of American adults practice Christianity, making Christ Church a popular destination for its Sunday morning services. Congregation members attest that this church provides a transformative experience to Christians and nonbelievers alike, and visitors can expect to meet young professionals, families and Cal students who are new to the place of worship. The Christ Church of Berkeley, located at the intersection of Cedar and Walnut streets, is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and, according to its website, encourages visitors to “engage the honest questions, doubts, and fears (they) may have about Jesus and Christianity.”
2. Congregation Beth El
Congregation Beth El, located in North Berkeley between Oxford and Eunice streets, is a house of study, prayer and assembly that encourages individuals of all backgrounds to “explore Jewish practice, spiritual growth and learning,” according to its website. Congregation Beth El’s hours vary in accordance with programs and events — you can find the synagogue’s daily schedule here.
3. Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
Affiliated with a Japanese sect of Buddhism, Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple invites all who are interested in Buddhism, dharma or dukkha to enter its gates and explore its garden. The temple offers a popular Thai brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. that reportedly contains an assortment of curries, iced tea and shrimp rolls, and it is preparing to host its annual summer bazaar, prepped with Japanese food, crafts and games, on July 26 and 27. This Buddhist temple serves as a crossroads between spiritual teachings and community engagement and can be found on the corner of Oregon and Sacramento streets.
4. Masjid Al-Iman
Close to Shattuck Avenue and Aileen Street, Masjid Al-Iman is a sizeable mosque that invites Berkelians in with its elegant, Arabic wall scriptures and natural lighting. The masjid is hailed for its gender-unifying nature, as it provides a pleasant seating corner for women and its entrances aren’t separated by sex. Complete with an easily accessible parking lot, the mosque is open on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
5. Hare Krishna Temple (ISKCON Berkeley)
Between Telegraph Avenue and Ellsworth Street and open daily from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., the Hare Krishna Temple is host to a variety of culturally emulsifying events such as dance and song performances and deity showcases. Each Sunday evening brings promise of the temple’s free supper with dishes ranging from lentils to yogurt desserts. The Hare Krishna temple welcomes all visitors to participate in devotional service of Lord Krishna, whether or not they’re familiar with Hindu religious parameters.
6. Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley
Founded with freedom of thought, speech and religion, Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley’s mission is to “create loving community, inspire spiritual growth, and encourage lives of integrity, joy and service,” according to its website. Unlike traditional churches, UUCB doesn’t advocate any religion — instead, it seeks to answer the question, “How can I lead a deeper spiritual life?” In small groups, members explore spirituality and worship through words, music, silence, story and song. In true Berkeley spirit, the church encourages visitors to explore their intrinsic spirituality instead of the fabricated concept of religion. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley isn’t actually located in Berkeley but can be reached by a short drive to Kensington, California. Services are available every Sunday at 10 a.m., and you can browse through the calendar of events here.