‘They gave me the bread’

Mus­lim, Chris­tians share com­mon­al­i­ties

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RELIGION - TERRY MAT­TINGLY

Soumaya Khal­i­fah’s ser­mon fell in the usual place in the Holy Week rite in which clergy from the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of At­lanta re­newed their vows: af­ter a Gospel pas­sage and be­fore the con­se­cra­tion of bread and wine as Holy Com­mu­nion.

In this Mass, the Liturgy of the Word also in­cluded a Ko­ran read­ing, in­clud­ing: “God, there is no god but he, the Liv­ing, the Self-Sub­sist­ing. Nei­ther slum­ber over­takes him nor sleep. Unto him be­longs what­so­ever is in the heav­ens and what­so­ever is on the earth. Who is there who may in­ter­cede with him save by his leave?”

Khal­i­fah asked lead­ers from the re­gion’s 96 Epis­co­pal parishes an ob­vi­ous ques­tion: Was this a his­toric mo­ment, with a Mus­lim woman preach­ing in a liturgy for an en­tire Chris­tian dio­cese?

“I truly be­lieve that in­ter­faith works is the civil rights move­ment for the 21st cen­tury,” said Khal­i­fah, head of the Is­lamic Speak­ers Bu­reau of At­lanta. “Faith is used to di­vide us and we need to make in­ten­tional ef­forts to bring our­selves to­gether. Nor­mally we wor­ship, as­so­ciate and have friends from our own faith tra­di­tion, our own race. …

“When I look at the beau­ti­ful cre­ations of God and how they wor­ship, I see my Chris­tian broth­ers and sis­ters. I think of their love for Je­sus — peace be upon him — and their try­ing to live by his spe­cific ex­am­ple of lov­ing his en­e­mies.”

Af­ter her ser­mon, At­lanta Bishop Robert Wright in­vited Khal­i­fah to join clergy and oth­ers at the al­tar for the Eucharis­tic prayers con­se­crat­ing the bread and wine. As the wor­ship­pers stepped for­ward to re­ceive Holy Com­mu­nion, the bishop said Khal­i­fah took part.

“She held out her hand to re­ceive the Host and it is not my prac­tice to refuse peo­ple,” Wright said. He noted that “open Com­mu­nion” is com­mon across his dio­cese, es­pe­cially with vis­i­tors. Khal­i­fah re­turned to her seat with­out re­ceiv­ing the con­se­crated wine, the bishop said.

“They gave me the bread,” Khal­i­fah said. “I am a Mus­lim. I am not a Chris­tian. … This ser­vice was about what we have in com­mon, the work we can do to­gether.”

Wright said that he hopes that, dur­ing his five years as At­lanta’s bishop, he has been “adding square footage to our whole con­cept of what it means to re­new our vows,” as Epis­co­pal clergy serve in a more com­plex and mul­ti­cul­tural era. In 2015, he noted, this same ser­vice was held in a Jewish tem­ple in At­lanta, with its rabbi de­liv­er­ing the ser­mon.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that in­ter­faith work will be a larger part of fu­ture min­istry is, said the bishop, “a no-brainer” in a world in which the

Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to rise, around the world and in an in­creas­ingly com­plex re­li­gious land­scape in Amer­ica.

For many be­liev­ers, the hard ques­tion is whether in­ter­faith ac­tivists can, on oc­ca­sion, wor­ship to­gether as well as work to­gether in the pub­lic square. Wright ac­knowl­edged that this is an is­sue that causes in­tense de­bates, even among lead­ers in the Epis­co­pal Church — which has taken lib­eral stands on many hot-but­ton so­cial is­sues linked to sex­u­al­ity, the en­vi­ron­ment and other so­cial causes.

“If you talked with some of my col­leagues in the House of Bish­ops, this part

of the ser­vice never would have hap­pened,” he said. It is safe to say Khal­i­fah “would not have been in­vited, she would not have been there in Holy Week and she would not have preached. None of this would have hap­pened.”

But this ser­vice was not, Wright in­sisted, an ex­am­ple of “in­sipid kum­baya” in­ter­faith ac­tivism in which lead­ers on both sides ig­nore their doc­tri­nal dif­fer­ences and gloss over painful sub­jects. He noted that, in her ser­mon, Khal­i­fah men­tioned the Palm Sun­day at­tacks on Cop­tic churches in Egypt and called the ter­ror­ists “a can­cer to our hu­man fam­ily,” adding that they “must be erad­i­cated.”

In­ter­faith work of all kinds, Khal­i­fah added, is one way that be­liev­ers can try to iso­late ter­ror­ists and weaken their power.

“Com­ing to­gether and let­ting the world know. To­day, we are set­ting the ex­am­ple of Chris­tians and Mus­lims in the same space wor­ship­ping and re­new­ing vows to God,” she said. “When we do not know, we fear. When we fear, we hate. When peo­ple get to that level — then the other is less hu­man than they are.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.