“It is a good thing that we are here.” Those words which surround the Transfiguration Window in Palmer’s Nave echoed as a Muslim electrical engineer named Ali reminded a gathering of Christians and Muslims of the place of fasting with the Biblical tradition. “It is good that we are here,” we thought. It is good to be called to the deeper disciplines of our own faith tradition–after all, fasting is pervasive in Holy Scripture and in the traditions of the Church– by the faithfulness of another faith tradition keeping theirs.
Born out of relationships that grew into a shared study of holy scripture, Palmer welcomed members of Houston’s Turquoise Center to join us on June 10 for a shared exploration of our faiths in the context of an Iftar Dinner. It was a wonderful, informative and uplifting interfaith evening.
We began with Betty Key giving a brief history of Palmer and then I (Fr. Wantland) spoke about the peculiarity of Christian worship in the Anglican tradition. Then, signaling the interplay that would characterize the evening, Ali led a tour of the Christian Bible, attending to the place and purpose of fasting in Judaism and Christianity. Explaining the discipline of Ramadan, he underscored that fasting, for Muslims, is day-long worship of God and, as with Jesus in the wilderness, a preparation to withstand evil. Following the lectures, many climbed to the Chancel to learn about the Altar, view the stained glass, and exercise their curiosity.
Although the celebration was at Palmer, it was really our Turquoise Center guests who welcomed us– into their practice of Ramadan, to a table spread with delicious food, to discover friends. Just prior to sundown, we proceeded to Parish Hall, where Fr. Willard gave an Anglican blessing and Ali chanted the Muslim Call to Prayer. With that, the fast was broken and dinner served.
Laughter and lively conversation kept people at their tables into the evening. The feeling of a genuine sense of respect and care for one another was palpable, as we all discussed our similarities and our differences, and the events that happen in our common daily life.
It was truly a special evening in the life of our parish. It was good that we were here, and we look forward to similar events to come.