If you need any further proof that the world is getting smaller, consider that, in addition to its Judeo-Christian roots, the Richmond region is a land of a thousand religions from around the globe. "The tremendous diversity that is here, Richmonders are not aware of," says David Bromley, project director for Virginia Commonwealth University's World Religions in Richmond Project.
Services at The Hindu Center of Virginia (6051 Springfield Road, Glen Allen, 346-9954, hinducenterofvirginia.org) are open to all individuals, who may come and go as they please. The Hindu Center offers educational programs on Hinduism as well as language classes, including Hindu and Sanskrit.
Sikhism is one of the newest world religions, established in 1469. Although Hindusim also originated in Asia, Sikhism is distinct because of its lack of a caste system. Sikhs generally meet on Sundays at Sikh Gurdwara of the Sikh Association of Central Virginia Inc. (4500 Marty Blvd., 271-1771, richmondgurdwara.org), although the temple is open every day for praying.
Founded centuries before the birth of Christ, Jainism is one of the oldest world religions. The local Jain community holds all major holy festivals at The Hindu Center of Virginia. There are approximately 500 Jains in the region. Jainism teaches salvation through good karma, gained by following a pure lifestyle.
The Islamic Center of Virginia (1241 Buford Road, 320-7333, icva1.com) is the largest mosque, or Masjid, in the Richmond area. The center offers study circles to educate people about the Islamic faith, and the Islamic Center of Virginia is an active contributor to institutions such as Habitat for Humanity.
As a central world religion, Judaism is well represented in the region. The Richmond area has seven synagogues, and the largest one is Beth Ahaba (1111 W. Franklin St., 358-6757, bethahabah.org), a thriving Reform Jewish congregation. Orthodox Judaism is practiced at Congregation Kol Emes (4811 Patterson Ave., 353-5831, youngisraelofrichmond.com), which is deeply rooted in the Richmond's Jewish history and is the fourth-oldest active congregation in Richmond. Messianic Judaism is the belief that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah while maintaining Jewish traditions and lifestyles. In the Richmond area, this is mainly practiced at Tikvat Israel (2715 Grove Ave., 355-5709, tikvatisrael.com).
Among the dozens of Christian communities in the Richmond region, Baptists comprise the largest denomination, Bromley says. The Fourth Baptist Church (2800 P St., 644-1013) holds the distinction of being the first African-American Baptist church in the Richmond community. For more information on the Baptist denomination in the Richmond area contact The Baptist General Convention (1214 W. Graham Road, 228-2421).
"Most of the city is Christian," Bromley says. "Still, at the same time, every major tradition is represented here."
For those interested in broadening their understanding of other faiths, The Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond (782-6860, icgr.org) offers a good way to get exposed to the basics of numerous religions. The organization includes about 70 different congregations and groups across 19 different religious denominations in Richmond and the surrounding counties. They aspire to educate on religious beliefs and strive to better the community.