The 80-year-old church was acquired for $1.3 million by Swaminarayan Maninagar Gaadi Sansthan (SMGS) last year.
SMGS has acquired five such old churches in Canada, the US and the UK. A fortnight ago, the sect acquired a 121-year-old heritage church building in Toronto, Canada for $1.6 million. While the building is now being converted into a temple-ashram, SMGS plans to retain carvings and glass paintings which are of great heritage value.
“The idol installation at the California temple will take place in the inspiring presence ofGaadipati Purshottam Pridasji Maharaj,” said Bhagwati Priyadasji of SMGS. Gujaratis constitute one of the largest immigrant communities and the growing number of Swaminarayan temples all over the world only underline the financial clout of the community. The SMGS has 12 temples abroad. Most of the churches acquired are situated in prime areas and in a run-down condition.
Bhagwat Priyadasji said a 40-yearold church spread over three acres in Dalas, Texas, was acquired for $700,000 just a month ago. The trend started in the UK in 1982 when St Ninian’s Church was bought for 200,000 pounds and a temple built on the 2.5 acre compound.
In 1998, when a 70-year-old church in Bolton was bought and turned into a temple, the glass paintings which had images of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary were retained. “People from different faiths visit this temple,” says Mahesh Varsani, trustee of Swaminarayan Temple Trust in the UK.