Guest Post by Pastor Scott  Johnson

People of different faith traditions and none gathered at St. Petri Lutheran Church in Story City for “Faith Seeking Understanding: An Interfaith Potluck Dinner.”

Attendees included members of the Darul Arqum Islamic Center in Ames, St. Petri and other churches in Story City, and others from area communities who came to learn more about both Christianity and Islam.

                “The idea for our interfaith dinner spurred mainly from an Iftar dinner that was organized in Ames earlier this summer that brought people of all faiths together over a meal and conversation,” said organizer Nora Ryan of Ames (Iftar is the breaking of fast at Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer in the Muslim liturgical year). “

As a non-believer, religion fascinates me.  I love learning about it, hearing people’s journeys to finding their faith, and I think we all love a good meal!  There are a lot of misconceptions about the Islam faith, and I believe that no one is better to teach us about the religion than our Muslim brothers and sisters.  In addition, Story City isn’t very religiously diverse, so I thought this dinner would be a great opportunity to introduce our community to people we might not otherwise meet as we go about our daily lives. Through exciting conversations over good food, I hoped we could all learn more about our fellow neighbors.”

Attendees brought a vast array of food for the dinner, including “halal” options which are foods prepared in such a way that they are “allowed” to be eaten by observant Muslims. Table groups were mixed, including some tables for men or women only for those whose faith practices include some separation of genders during meals.

As the group finished their meals Pastor Scott Alan Johnson of St. Petri gave a brief presentation about Christianity in general and Lutheranism in particular, followed by a similar presentation about Islam by Imam Mahjoob Jaily of Darul Arqum Islamic Center. The evening concluded with observation of sundown prayer and explanations from Imam Jaily about Muslim prayer.

                “We were honored to welcome our guests to St. Petri and to learn more about each other,” said Pastor Johnson.

“I think God wants us to live well together.

We’re still people of differing understandings about God, and the world God has made, but the sense in the air tonight was one of peace and respect for each other, which is exactly what I hoped would be the outcome.”

                Imam Jaily said, “We are indebted with words of thanks for Pastor Scott and his community for their warm welcome and special care and generosity, and special thanks also goes to Nora who has been anxiously and sincerely planning for this event. Everyone in our community was so intrigued by the affectionate conversation they were engaging in yesterday. When our Christian neighbors invite us to come again, we will not disappoint them.”

“I hope we can do this again,” said Pastor Johnson. “Any time we break bread together, we establish peace with one another, and we get out of the religious, political, and community silos that are far too prevalent right now.”

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.