There is no other building on campus like the Kay Spiritual Life Center. There are few other buildings like it in the world.
From its very beginnings, Kay has been an interfaith enterprise. Dedicated in 1965, it was the vision of a Jewish businessman and trustee named Abraham Kay and a Methodist university president named Hurst Anderson. The funding for its construction came from Mr. Kay, from the Methodist Church, and from the Episcopal and Catholic Archdioceses. Today, that Protestant-Catholic-Jewish brand of interfaith has grown into an even more vibrant and diverse interfaith community than its founders might ever have dreamed.
On a Sunday morning, Kay is a Catholic church. On Sunday afternoons it is a place of Qur’an study and Unitarian Universalist gathering. By Sunday evening, it has become a United Methodist church before one more turn as a Catholic church late Sunday night. On Mondays it is home to Orthodox Christian worship and to SGI Buddhist chanting. On Tuesdays, it is an Episcopal church before becoming a Quaker meeting. It is a Buddhist temple on Wednesdays afternoon and a Baptist church on Wednesday evenings. On Thursday evenings, it is a Pentecostal Church and a Methodist chapel late Thursday night. Friday finds it a mosque for Jummah prayers before it transitions into a synagogue as the Sabbath draws near. It will at times be a Hindu temple, a Christian Science reading room, a Mormon church, a Baha’i temple.
Kay has been a “house of prayer for all people” and is home to more than two dozen religious communities. Kay has championed the idea of unity in diversity, seeking to help each community live out its own vibrant faith as our way of celebrating religious diversity rather than trying to water our religious expressions down into a lowest common denominator kind of experience. Kay is a home for students, faculty, and staff of any and all faiths. All of our communities of faith are open to visitors who are either looking for religious community or who are simply curious to learn something about different religious traditions. All of our services are open to all.
Our unique looking building—a round structure with a sixteen-foot impressionist flame on top— sits on the north side of the university’s Eric Friedheim Quad directly opposite the library on the south end. These two structures comprise the intellectual and spiritual “poles” of American University, reflecting the institution’s commitment to both intellectual and spiritual pursuits, to “knowledge and vital piety combined.”
In addition to the daily religious ceremonies of our various faiths, the Kay Center hosts guest lectures and discussions exploring the moral dimensions of issues facing our university, nation and world.
Kay is not a center for religious piety and reflection alone; it strives to be a place where faith can be translated into meaningful action in the world. As a result, Kay is also committed to community service and social justice. Students engaged in our ministries put faith into action through service work at home and abroad, helping those in need and advancing social responsibility.
Whatever your background, whatever your faith tradition (or lack thereof), whether you are student, faculty, staff, or visitor—you are welcome at the Kay Spiritual Life Center. We invite you to become a part of this extraordinary interfaith community at the heart of the American University campus.