Muslim cleric to conduct church service

Posted by News Express | 26 September 2015 | 3,380 times

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Next weekend, a Muslim clergyman from New York will deliver sermons to a religious congregation in Franklin County.

Not in a mosque, but in a Christian church on a Sunday morning.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will take the pulpit at the two campuses of First Community Church.

The Rev. David Hett, the church’s minister of religious life and learning, said inviting Rauf to preach challenges a prejudice that labels Christians as being opposed to Muslims.

“I think it’s a great statement to make to the community and to the world,” Hett said. “I’m pretty sure there’s never been a Muslim leader speaking from the pulpit, preaching on a Sunday morning.”

Rauf, founder and chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, has spent years challenging such prejudices. His organisations work to educate Americans about Islam.

Rauf will be at the church for three days to present “Exploring the Myths, Realities & Spiritual Practices of Islam” as part of First Community’s Spiritual Searchers programming. He’ll give a lecture next Friday, followed by a workshop on Oct. 3.

On Oct. 4, he’ll preach at Sunday services at the campuses in Marble Cliff and on the Northwest Side.

Rauf said a major thrust of the weekend will be to inform, educate and share the spirit of Islam through Sufism, which is among the things people find most attractive about the faith.

“It enables them to feel closer to God, to make their experience of the creator more real in their life,” Rauf said. “Sufism is essentially the spirit content of Islam.”

Sufi practices include chanting and meditation that are transformative, making the perspective of believers “more real, more full, more substantive,” Rauf said.

Every faith, he said, has a soul, which makes the body alive. And in any faith, believers can fall into a habit of practising without soul. Sufism can help them find the spirit side.

Just as people of many faiths, or of no particular faith, can feel the impact of Buddhist meditation, they can be affected by Sufi practices, which can help them become more relaxed about their faith and at peace with themselves, Rauf said.

Hett said a goal is to increase the experiential component of the church’s Spiritual Searchers programmes.

“We want people to dive more into their hearts and bodies and souls,” he said. “It’s going to be a way to get into the tough questions right away.”

The Rev. Deborah Lindsay, First Community’s minister of spiritual care, said building bridges is part of the DNA of the church. A key is to find ways to have different groups rub elbows with one another.

“It really shifts their thinking,” she said. “We’re moving the needle.”

But, Lindsay said, Christians who accept Muslims as peaceful, God-loving people still ask questions about extremists who kill in the name of the faith. It is important to work toward understanding as the self-proclaimed Islamic State continues to wreak havoc in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Rauf has agreed to answer tough questions, Lindsay said.

“We’ve got to address this,” she said. “I think you have to do that. It’s just too front and center.”

Rauf said that although he’s seen greater understanding of Muslims in the years since the Sept. 11 terror attack, he has seen greater polarisation in the years since President Barack Obama was first elected.

“It’s kind of a religious racism, an antipathy toward another religion,” he said.

Still, he added, “the situation is not static, it’s dynamic,” and he also has seen greater understanding in some circles.

The experience of Islamic immigrants in the U.S. is not much different from that of other immigrants and religious minorities, Rauf said.

Muslims from diverse backgrounds with differing music, traditions and laws will, as generations pass, form a U.S. Muslim culture.

“As Muslims, one of the important issues we have to address is how do we make the transition from being immigrant Muslims from different countries to becoming American Muslims,” he said.

•Adapted from The Columbus Dispatch, USA. Photo courtesy of shows Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Source: News Express

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