Made of red sandstone, St. James United in Montreal runs the length of a full city block and is a major landmark in the city’s downtown. Soon, you’ll be able to walk in and access a groundbreaking multifaith library. Thanks to a partnership with the Canadian Multifaith Federation (CMF), multiple collections of books from a vast range of religious traditions will be housed in a specially renovated space.
The CMF, one of North America’s largest organizations in the field of spiritual care and religious rights, keeps a base of operations in North York, Ont., where there is currently a research and general reading library of around 3,500 religious volumes. “We have, for example, a full set of the Sikh holy books — Sri Guru Granth Sahib — and virtually every expression of holy scriptures in the Canadian religious mosaic,” says United Church minister and CMF ambassador Rev. Jim Christie.
However, with the rising use of virtual resources, the organization began looking into other options for its physical collection. St. James United is a perfect fit, Christie says, as a protected national historic site that is also close to major institutions of religious and multifaith scholarship like McGill and Concordia universities.
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“Despite itself being a small wing of St. James, [the library] will be right in the heart of the city,” Christie notes.
The CMF isn’t the only organization contributing books to the project. The Sisters of Zion, which once had a major presence in Montreal, are providing a collection of over 600 volumes from Kansas City, as well as around 100 volumes from Toronto. “It seemed as though the stars were being aligned,” says Christie.
When the library is ready to open sometime this year, the CMF is planning a major symposium to celebrate.
To Christie, the story behind this library highlights “how the differences amongst us — particularly our religious differences — can be complementary and build new avenues of community.”
This story first appeared in Broadview’s March 2022 issue with the title “Groundbreaking library coming to Montreal church.”
Jadine Ngan is a writer in Toronto.
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