The Swaminarayan sect has purchased a 30-year old Church in Portsmouth in the US state of Virginia and it is going to be converted into a Hindu temple soon. After the Church is converted into a temple, the pran pratistha (consecration) ceremony for the idols will be done. The Swaminarayan sect has already converted eight churches into temples across the world. This 30-year old Church is, therefore, the sixth Church in the US and ninth Church across the world to be converted into a temple by the Ahmedabad-based Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan.
Apart from Virginia, churches in California, Lewisville, Pennsylvania, Los Angeles and Ohio in the US and London and Bolton near Manchester in the UK have been converted into temples by the sect. The sect has also acquired a 125-year old property in Toronto, Canda. Bhagwatpriyadas Swami, the mahant of the Sansthan reportedly told the Times of India that the 30-year old church would be refurbished into a temple under the guidance of Purshottampriyadas Swami, the spiritual head of the Sansthan. He said, “Not many changes would be mandated in the church at Portsmouth, as it was already a spiritual place of another faith. This would be the first temple for Haribhakts in Virginia.”
According to Swaminarayan temple sources, Virginia has an estimated population of 10,000 Gujaratis, predominantly from North Gujarat, Charotar and Kutch. The Virginia Church which is to be revamped into a temple is reportedly spread over a large area. The Church complex is spread over five acres and the built-up area is 18,000 sq. feet. The complex has a parking space which can accommodate 150 four-wheeler vehicles. The Church has been reportedly purchased at a cost of $1.6 million.
This significant story sums up the rise of Hinduism and the Indian community in the US in a big way. In 2011, this trend of Hindu community becoming significant in the US came to light. According to HuffPost, Santa Barbara, California based Institute of American Religion discovered some 1,600 temples and centres with an estimated 600,000 practicing Hindus. This census brought into focus the emergence of Hinduism in the United States. In 2015, it was reported that according to the Pew Research Centre’s “Religious Landscape Study”, America’s Hindu population had reached 2.23 million. This meant an increase of 85.8 per cent or one million in absolute numbers since 2007. Hinduism, thus became the fourth largest faith in the United States.
Currently, the Hindu population in the United States stands at around 0.7 per cent. However, it is set for a further rise. As per an earlier report from Pew Research Centre, the Hindu population is set to increase upto 1.2 per cent of the US population by 2050. There will be 4.78 million Hindus in the United States as per this report. What must be noted here is the fact that the Hindus in the United States happen to have an impressive socio-economic profile. They have the highest education and income levels of all the religious groups in the country. 36 per cent of the Hindus said that their family income exceeded $100,000 compared to merely 19 per cent of the total population. Moreover, 77 per cent of the Hindus are graduates as compared to the 27 per cent of the country’s overall population. These facts make it clear that the Hindu community is bound to play an influential and significant role in America’s future.