WNPR

Historic Bridgeport Church to Become Mosque

Dec 23, 2016

A historic Christian church in Bridgeport will be reborn as a mosque following a $1 million purchase by the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center, or "BICC."

The United Congregational Church on Park Avenue was having difficulties paying to upkeep the large building. "It's glorious. It's magnificent," said Reverend Sara Smith on WNPR's Where We Live. "We love it."

But Smith said the building was constructed when there were 3,000 members just after World War II. Today, that number is down to 300 and the 22,000 square foot building was too much for the smaller congregation to survive.

"I just couldn't let that happen," said Smith. "I thought it was unethical and irresponsible as a spiritual leader to let my wonderful congregation -- pass into another history book."

Mohamed Hamada, a community board member at BICC, said his organization was looking to expand and was approached by the UCC. "It was a great honor for us to be considered as the next owners of that beautiful building," said Hamada.

"On the outside of our building is a wonderful quote from the Jewish scriptures -- from Isaiah --- and it says, 'This house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,'" Smith said. "We are living out that prophet. We are living out those wonderful words of wisdom."

Mohamed Hamada, Board Member of the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center, and Reverend Sara Smith, Senior Minister of the United Congregational Church in Bridgeport.
Credit Julie Freddino / WSHU

Despite recent hate crimes against Muslims, Hamada said he personally hasn't received any negative feedback about the sale of the church, but thinks society can't ignore anti-Muslim sentiment.

"After all the vicious events that happened in the past years -- since 9/11, or even before -- Muslims were faced with two choices: either hide and go into a shell, or come out and show themselves and show what true Islam is," Hamada said.

Hamada said very minor changes are needed to the building, and that the facility will still host its food pantry, soup kitchen -- and other services to the community.

The sale is expected to be completed by May.