Interfaith Encounters Day 7

masjidullahOur last day began and ended at Masjidullah in Northwest Philly.

This Muslim community recently moved to this new space in January. Previously, the building was a Jewish synagogue and then a Christian church.

MasjidOutside

First, we were greeted by Adilah, one of the leaders of their community. She had set up some refreshments for us and helped us feel very welcomed in the space.

MasjidFood

We sat together in a meeting room where resident Imam Mikal Shabazz told us about this particular Muslim community and answered some questions. Other leaders joined us periodically and shared with us. The amount of stories within this community is overwhelming.

MasjidIMAM

MasjidConversation (2)

Then, we all walked together to the prayer space for Jumu’ah [Friday prayer].

MasjidEntrance (2)

First, a senior student from LaSalle University shared a message. He spoke about the violence occurring in Philadelphia and the need for the Muslim community [and others] to stand up against such injustice and violence. He reminded everyone that any injustice happening to another does indeed affect us all and is an injustice we must stand up against.

Then, the prayers began with the melodic words of the Qur’an in Arabic. If you have never experienced this type of prayer, it certainly can be powerful. Standing side by side with others, feet together in a unified configuration–the power of human touch and community is evident. We were all welcomed and encouraged to participate as much or as little as we wished.

After the prayers, there was much conversation and new friendships were formed.

MasjidPrayerSpace MasjidWomenconversation MasjidGreetings

Some of us were able to check out the dining hall space and to read a little bit more about this community which has an incredibly rich history worth learning about. As always, I encourage you to learn more about Islam and the diversity of practice within that particular faith tradition by visiting a mosque or Islamic school. This is the best way to learn!

MasjidLearning

Finally, we headed back to Masjidullah Inc.’s Administration offices for some closing Q & A with the LaSalle student who spoke, Imam Mikal, and others.

MasjidSpeaker

As we said our goodbyes to our gracious hosts, we also prepared to say our own goodbyes. This was our last encounter of the week. 7 different faith communities. 5 different service-learning partners. And a van.

ClosingGoodbyeVanWhat did this week mean to us?

I asked the students to keep thinking about that. My guess is that ALL of us will be finding more and more meaning as we have some time to reflect on all that we have experienced.

From my perspective, I learned a lot from the students. Their questions while with people of different faith traditions, were respectful, curious, and important. They had a true sense of excitement each time they entered a new environment. They thoroughly enjoyed meeting people, hearing their stories–sharing their own stories.

It is a lot to take in. Tonight–tired and full of thoughts–I am grateful for this opportunity. The journey of this week has challenged and enlightened me in many ways.

Most of all, this week [for me] was about embracing my full humanity and the full humanity of others.

How can we love, heal, help, learn, cooperate, and celebrate together? How do we pray, read sacred texts, sing, meditate, or sit in silence? What do those behaviors encourage us to do and be?

After all, the encounters were human encounters. We met people and shared stories; and food; and prayers; and silence; and songs; and handshakes; and hugs. We sat together; stood together; bowed together; we lived together.

And for that I am grateful and hopeful.

MasjidGROUP

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

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