Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Today I visited a Mosque: A faith community observed

This afternoon I volunteered as a parent on my son's trip to the local Mosque. My work flexes enough to make this possible and I was interested to encounter a different faith community in our city.

Six reflections.

1. 42 six year olds.
Respect to the teachers, teaching assistants for all they ever do. And also to the Imam and his assistant for handling that many kids and patiently fielding their questions.

2. Community.
There's a strong sense of community at the Mosque. They consider it better to pray together than alone. While the physicality of praying together seems strange to those who've never seen it before there's something beautiful in the unity.

3. Faith and cultural differences.
Kids are curious about the rituals, beliefs and languages people have. They have questions. My son found talk of God without Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be strange which was encouraging, and an opportunity to help him understand more of our faith and that which was being presented to us in word and actions. One of the teachers seemed nervous around these questions but the men from the Mosque were more than happy to engage questions about Allah in a world of other gods and religions...

4. Washing.
Much was made in our visit of the ritual washings before prayer.

Knowing we've read The Jesus Storybook Bible with our son for years, not least the story of Namaan, the difference between an Islamic approach to Allah with it's outward cleaning, and the Christian belief in being counted righteous and being 'clean on the inside' was vivid. For me but also for my son.

That in Christ I come mucky and messed up to pray "in Jesus' name" when at my worst rather than having cleaned myself up is freshly beautiful to me this evening.

5. Simplicity.
To quote - we speak to Allah by praying, we hear him by reading the Quran. Oh, for Christians to get the simplicity of Prayer and The Book...

6. Faith observed.
We observed something of Islam in a Mosque visit - we talked a lot about their washing, their toothbrushes and habits of individual and corporate prayer. Is this a true picture or a school trip caricature? What would a visit to a church reveal? What would I choose to talk about and to display? If I believe in 'everyday church' that isn't really about ritual or piety, what does that look like? And in any case what kind of picture do the observations people get to make reveal. 

Curiously little was said of what Islam is in terms of belief. That may not have been the brief. We heard a little about Mohammed and him being an example - even to his toothbrushing habits, but not much more. I don't think a church visit is scheduled, Jesus gets Christmas... which might be helpful, though again only gives an incomplete picture.

I look forward to ongoing conversation with my kids about our faith and the faith of those around us.

Image - Creative Commons - Hector de Pareda

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