By Vincent Ball and Nick Musumeci
Ripples in the window panes, missing wood shingles, and a sign in the back that read “Art for Sale,” but no art will be sold at the historic Grange Hall in the near future. Instead, the building is about to be born again.
In April, the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center will be closing on a deal for Grange Hall in Northville. This will become the meditation center’s primary location, as they will be moving on from their current establishment in Port Jefferson. The meditation center expects the move to completed later this spring, once repairs are made to Grange Hall.
“We have been searching for a suitable location to relocate to for over a year,” Nicole Gamar, a senior member of the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center explained. “When one of our members, Don Jayamaha learned that the Grange Hall was available, he brought our group, including our resident monk, Bhante Nanda, to see the building. We are very excited about this new space, and about becoming a part of its long and beautiful history.”
With as many as thirty people sitting in on a meditation, operating out of a single-family residence is no longer enough. Members of the congregation believe the 3,500 square-foot Grange Hall, more than double their current location, will provide their organization with greater opportunity.
“The new place will have much more space and be accommodating to festivities, retreats, and a larger brotherhood of monks,” Adam McKay, a member of the meditation center, said.
Grange Hall’s life began in 1831 as a local meeting house before it was utilized as a church, then later a school known as the Northville Academy. Most recently the site was used a sanctuary by the First Parish Church.
“We were a small community, so we had worship spiritual formation and retreats in it for several years,” Former Pastor of First Parish Church UCC, Dianne Rodriguez said. “Throughout her history, The Grange was rooted in the religious agricultural and artistic communities of the neighborhood. We were blessed by the building’s soul knowing her walls had many stories to tell.”
Through the constructs of their own faith, the meditation center plans to continue Grange Hall’s tradition of serving the community by introducing their own ideas.
“Some new traditions that we will bring to the area are our regularly scheduled meditation programs, as well as occasional one day meditation retreats,” Gamar said. “Our programs are always offered to the community free of charge, and there is no fee for joining. Just come and observe, or join in!”
That is the sort of inclusiveness that has drawn people to Buddhism, and experts recognize it as part of the reason the religion has grown in popularity.
“Presently, conversion rates continue to be augmented by things like: the ‘spiritual but not religious’ trend among young people in 21st century USA,” Westin Harris, a PhD student studying religion at the University of California, Davis, explained through email. “The experiential and almost “empirical” nature of Buddhist practice (I don’t have to ‘just have faith’ that this stuff will work. I can do the practice and see for myself if it works or not.)”
The meditation center welcomes members of all faiths, and they hope to further expand on their congregation at the new location.