The Faith Project

An exploration of the state of faith in Connecticut

Beyond the crush of the shopping malls, the sweet smells emanating from kitchens in every town and the warm embraces of a grandparent or friend, we wanted to understand that which is behind the holidays: Faith.

We set out to find the condition of faith in Connecticut. Not organized religion, per se, but the deep beliefs that drive people.

The story is purposely incomplete. We want you to participate and be a part of the discussion. We welcome you to read, view and experience these stories of faith and contribute your own.


The Journey of Faith

It’s a bitter cold Monday morning in December. As a steady stream of drivers make their way to their desks in New Haven by 9 a.m., well over 1,000 people are gathering at an Ivy League field house.

The young and old are marking an event the major organized religions agree on: Abraham offered his only son as a sacrifice to God.

Those huddled around the track are Muslim-Americans, and to them the day is the important Festival of Sacrifice.

“Abraham, just the figure and persona, is so deeply embedded in Christianity, Islam and Judaism,” Yasir Qadhi said. “He showed his dedication and service to God.”

Qadhi is the group’s spiritual leader, the Imam.

Their celebration of faith, like so many others, is a powerful yet humbling one. In line with tradition, the men are stationed at the front of the gymnasium, the women at the back. As another Imam leads in prayer, many bow their heads or fall to their knees in worship.

“This is the primary purpose of our religion,” Yasir said. “The purpose of life is to worship God.”

In the turbulence that followed Sept. 11, 2001, Yasir Qadhi did what others would not. He left Saudi Arabia where he was studying Islamic studies and returned to Connecticut. He says he felt a higher calling.

"It was a very personal moment in my life," he said. "I just felt the need to help everyone make sense of everything going on."

On this day devoted to Ibrahim (in Arabic), he senses struggles are parallel.

“Abraham managed to live not just a righteous life, but also did it in a Godless society. Generations upon generations look up to him, people of all faiths recognize what he did,” Yasir said. “To some degree, we all face the trials and tribulations that he underwent.”

Now More So Than Ever

It makes sense: While economies are in decline and wars are continuing, there seems to be a steady rise in faith, according to William Goettler, Assistant Dean for Ministerial Studies and Assessment at Yale Divinity School.

“In times of war, political change, people are hopeful. People are expecting that God will give them strength,” he said. “Faith has always been comfortable with doubt. It provides them a place to bring their hurt, their anxiety, their struggle. Those are beginning places for the journey of faith.”

He’s written about faith and morality in today’s economy, but also sees it first-hand as a Presbyterian pastor.

The struggles people face today, from stock market woes to parenting concerns, are something that do not know religious boundaries.

“In every time, faith is a very important part of people’s lives,” he said. “It gives them some understanding of their own lives and of the world around them. Most importantly, it gives them a reason for hope in both a better world and in the place of God in their lives and in the world.”

To Each His Own

Three elderly women, a reformed drug dealer and an Indian healer… 

It’s not the start to a joke. These are three distinct perspectives of faith:

“I know I’m not going to die. I’m going to be reborn in heaven.”

Read how Elaine Lynch and her sisters spread the words they hear each day in church.

“On the same street I was druggin’ and thuggin on, I’m now fasting and praying on.”

Read James Jackson’s story of redemption through haircuts.

“It somehow, in someway, (it) brings me closer to a clarity.”

Read about the way Tapasvi Ji is helping people look inside for answers.

The Future of Faith

Many of the people we spoke with said they lacked faith early on. But when they found it, it changed their lives. It’s given them strength and clarity.

What does it all mean for you?

"It doesn't matter what religion you are, you'll find strength by having God in your life,“ said Elaine Lynch, who ministers to the homebound. “If I had recognized the true saving power of God earlier, I would have been a stronger person.”

Deacon Jackson, the man who went from slinging drugs to selling scripture, said had he found his faith earlier, he may have been a stronger person. But were it not for those mistakes, he would not be in such a good place.

"In the end, nothing on this earth will stand except for God and your faith in God,” he said.

“Everything else is coming down. We’re in a time of economic need. The country is in turmoil. Everything’s going backwards. Yet God is doing great things. Faith is growing like never before. And I'm blessed to be a part of that."

Yasir, who helped build a community of Muslim-Americans, believes faith stands not to dictate where we have been, but where we’re going.

“There are no signs that faith is declining. More and more people are turning to faith,” he said. “Faith gives us strength and compassion. It also gives us a reason to keep going."

It is faith that will help people weather the storms that face them, said Yale Divinity School’s Goettler.

“In the midst of real anxiety and hurt, we are better off if we don’t encounter those things alone,” Goettler said. "If we can care for one another through these tough economic times, care for people who've lost their jobs and houses, come together as a community to help those less fortunate around us, then we have a promising time in front of us.”

His hope is that in the new year, we might see a changing world.

“With faith, I have a great hope for that coming," he said.

The story is purposely incomplete. We want you to participate and be a part of the discussion. We welcome you to read, view and experience these stories of faith and contribute your own.  Add your comments in the section below or e-mail us here.

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