I have found that when I post on my blog, more often than not it is a result of some unexpected event earlier taking place, related to one of my many interests, and which has particularly struck me, despite having a vague, broad, longer term plan of what to post and when. Today’s post is very much a case in hand. On my way to visiting my gym in order to work out, unusually quite a bit later than my normal time, I passed by one of my local mosques (a different one to that mentioned two posts back). It was quite evident there was something going on by the bunting outside, the number of people milling around and the stewards on duty, although I couldn’t quite work out what. My interest in the subject of Islam and my wanting to engage with Muslim folk meant this was not something I could ignore and this is one that I have reflected long and hard on, in “Theological musings”, downloadable via the “Writings” tab.
After completing my work out, I decided to check out whether the situation had changed and I found it much the same as before, with even more people to be seen. Curious as I was and keen as I am on inter-faith dialogue and community relationships, I decided I would look in, check things out and engage with the folk there. I was lucky to find a close by parking space in an area where it is notoriously difficult to park, other than in car parks some distance away. The young men stewarding were more than helpful and soon found myself, to my surprise, being ushered to join the VIP party that was about to enter the mosque and despite my protestations, not wanting to appear presumptuous. My party was indeed a select one, including our mayor, our two MPs, our former MP and a local police chief. We were seated in the front of a congregation of some two hundred people (all men), with many more in overflow areas.
The event was the grand opening of the mosque, which had in times past been a church, but at the time it stopped meeting, some years back now, was in need of much renovation, and has been unused since then up to now, with the Muslim worshipers meeting in the close by church hall. The inside of the church now mosque was impressive and clearly the work had been extensive and successful. The main focus of the meeting that ensued was for all the afore-mentioned distinguished guests to say a few words, inter-mingled with short speeches by some of the distinguished Muslim guests and scholars that had gathered for the occasion. I listened intently to all that was said, sensing this was an auspicious occasion and one where marking the words spoken might well have significance in years to come. On one hand, the guests were complementary of what had been achieved so far, recognizing the Mosque’s presence as being a positive contribution to the life of the community, and wishing members well for the future. On the other hand, the Muslim speakers were keen to point out that Islam was a religion of peace and that the desire of members was to worship God appropriately and contribute to the life of the community.
Following the meeting and further exchange of pleasantries, we were served a delicious meal, after which the party broke up. I felt privileged to be part of the proceedings and have positive exchanges with many people, some I knew already but most I had only just met. I left reflecting on the future. It was evident that I was among God fearing people who wanted to do good. While my own Christian faith remains unshaken, and of a conservative ilk, I can see Islam becoming a growing force in our society. While I do so with some trepidation because I would rather that the void in our culture is filled by a return to our Christian roots, I recognize that there are trends afoot I have little control over and which I can only commit to the Almighty. I was glad I had this chance encounter, even when upon returning to my car I found a penalty notice, having stayed a lot longer than the one hour that I had been allowed.