When the Rev. Michael Moran peers out from his new altar, he said, he can see all 600 faces of his congregation that represent faiths spanning from Christianity to Judaism to Islam.
Moran, the founder and senior minister of worship at Sacramento's Spiritual Life Center, was without a home for his congregation a few months ago. The Spiritual Life Center is now holding services in Sacramento City College's newly renovated Performing Arts Center.
Moran said he and members of his congregation envisioned their ideal church years ago, and the Performing Arts Center features many of the qualities they had imagined.
"It's like a mini-Mondavi," he said. "It's perfect."
Pat Sandlin, a Spiritual Life Center congregation member, said she toured the Performing Arts Center before the church started services there.
"I knew what it looked like, but how it felt when we walked into the first service was a whole different atmosphere," she said. "Everybody's just happy."
Pioneer Congregational Church had housed the Spiritual Life Center's services at 27th and L streets in midtown, but didn't renew Moran's lease when it ended in December 2011.
"It was kind of like an arranged marriage," he said. "We made it work for 12 years, sometimes more easily than others."
The Spiritual Life Center was then approached by someone from Sacramento City College, who said the school's Performing Arts Center might be a good fit. But the center wasn't set to finish renovations until after Easter, and Moran still needed somewhere to celebrate the important Christian holiday.
In a decision that Moran said reflected the diversity of beliefs in his congregation and his openness to wisdom from a variety of faiths, the Spiritual Life Center celebrated in a mosque. He said he's grateful for the Sacramento Area League of Muslims, which agreed to the arrangement, and he called the experience awesome, saying it made international headlines.
The next week, Moran's congregation settled into the Performing Arts Center for the first time. Moran said they're leasing the center on a semester basis and volunteers arrive early each Sunday to set up the altar, stage and youth education program.
Though the Performing Arts Center costs slightly more than Pioneer, Moran said the additional freedom is worth the price. Speakers can talk longer, more music is incorporated into the service and there's more time for prayer and meditation.
"They've bent over backward for us to accommodate our needs," he said. "The facility is just beautiful."
Sandlin said that since there is so much extra space, the church hasn't needed to hold two separate services to accommodate everyone.
"Everybody's come home to the same place," she said. "You're able to interact with a lot of people who you hadn't met before, when the services were split."
Sacramento City College does not generate revenue from the Spiritual Life Center's lease, said Crystal Lee, a school spokeswoman. Since the center is a nonprofit organization, it is charged only a cost-covering rate. For-profit entities are charged double that amount and do generate revenue for the college, she said.
Lee said Sacramento City College is subject to the state's Civic Center Act, which says every public school should have a civic center that can be used for churches that don't have a "suitable meeting place."
Moran said he hopes to begin semi-retirement within the next year. The church is determining a new senior minister and Moran said he will still speak, teach and advise, but will hold fewer administrative duties.