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Religion IN GREATER GAINESVILLE

Greater Gainesville is alive with many faiths and religions. With over 100 different houses of worship, there is a place for everyone to celebrate their faith. There are more than 10 Christian denominations offered in the area, from Episcopal to Pentecostal. Our region is also home to one of the largest Islamic Centers in North Florida and the largest Hare Krishna Temple outside of India, according to the Hoda Center website. Conservative, traditional, reform, or any other group of religious individuals can find a community of worship in the Greater Gainesville area.

Our area’s places of worship are accepting and strive to make a strong community. Gainesville Baptist Church is rooted in the scripture and the teachings of the Bible. The church begins its Sunday services with songs of worship and then the lead pastor, Brad Noble, gives his sermon. The church offers a children’s ministry, a youth ministry, a couple’s ministry, a men’s and women’s ministry and a senior adults’ ministry.

Greenhouse Church, with its five locations, brings together Christians from throughout Greater Gainesville, with campuses in the Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and East areas of Gainesville. They also offer Sunday night services on the University of Florida Campus. According to its website, the church strives to create community in Gainesville, create thoughtful and devoted followers of Jesus and to love people.

Why green? Church members envision their devotion (worship) toward God with the color yellow and their devotion toward people with the color blue. Together this makes green, and they call people to live in this green reality of the Kingdom of God.

The Islamic Center of Gainesville, Inc. is a Florida non-profit corporation devoted to communication with others on the message of Islam. The center, located on University Avenue near the UF campus, was built for any type of religious, educational and charitable activities.

Gainesville is also home the Hoda Academy of Quranic Studies, the largest Islamic Center in North Central Florida. Established in 1999, the Hoda Center is located by the Sweetwater Wetlands Park. The center’s goal is to guide others in the teaching of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. It also serves the growing Muslim community in Gainesville with weekly Friday prayers and a Sunday school for children, which is held between September and May. The center also gives back to the Gainesville community with an organic garden, a food pantry and a free medical clinic.

Alachua Hare Krishna Temple offers the opportunity to explore Bhakti yoga. The yoga practice is a loving service to Krishna, or God. The philosophy of the Hare Krishna movement is rooted in ancient Vedic texts, including the Bhagavad Gita, which contain essential teachings on how to achieve the highest perfection of life.

This Temple serves over 500 families on a 127-acre property 20 minutes north of Gainesville, making it the largest Hare Krishna community outside of India. The Temple hosts a daily meditation program in the morning and traditional ancient ceremonies are performed six times a day. The temple offers arts and pottery classes, yoga classes, the Holi Festival of Colorsand music lessons. The Hare Krishnas also serve food to 2,500 people at weekly Sunday open house programs.

Congregation B’nai Israel helps the Greater Gainesville community deepen its connection to Judaism. With about 100 attendants at its weekly services, this synagogue offers a more conservative service of teachings to Northeast Gainesville. Rabbi David Kaiman leads the congregation by establishing core values, including community, pursuit of justice, studying the Torah, practicing Mitzvot and having a covenant with God. There are weekly services on Fridays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. A major tenant of the congregation is social action projects that give back to the community. Jenifer Petrescu, executive director of the congregation, said that the congregation hosts holiday drives and serves food twice a month at the St. Francis House.

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Temple Shir Shalom expresses the values of Reform Judaism, inclusion and Jewish education in their services. The temple holds evening services on the first Friday each month at 6:30 p.m. and all other Fridays at 7:00 p.m. Temple Shir Shalom also hosts an active sisterhood organization, adult education, a youth group and a religious school, which takes place every Sunday during the school year.

The Unitarian Universalism Fellowship of Gainesville is open to people of all religious faiths. The Unitarian Universalist (UU) website describes its congregation as a “diverse religious community committed to lifelong spiritual growth and service to each other, our own community and the earth.” UU congregations include agnostics, theists and atheists among their membership.

This liberal church is the only Unitarian Universalist congregation in Alachua County and serves the entire Greater Gainesville area, with the addition of other regional cities like Starke, Ft. White and Chiefland.

The diversity of worship in this region reflects a community with a wide array of faiths. There are more religious centers than those listed here, so whether you call Greater Gainesville home or are here visiting, you are certain to find a place of worship for your beliefs.

For a complete listing of places of worship in Greater Gainesville visit guidetogreatergainesville.com/directory.

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