Random Closing Thoughts and Queries on Intercultural/Interfaith Relationships

Random Closing Thoughts and Queries on Intercultural/Interfaith Relationships

I recently participated in a Senior’s Week event organized by the Shaama Centre – a centre for newcomer seniors to do art together and to share their gifts of life and stories.  I sat beside an Indonesian couple who have been in Canada since 1970.  The man found out I spoke some German, so we switched to German since he had lived in Stuttgart for 4 years before coming to Canada and loves speaking German.  He explained how it was the local mosque that led him to the Shaama Centre after he retired in 2012. I shared with him how Mennonites from around the world are gathering in his home country of Indonesia, and told him the story of how a local Indonesian Mennonite pastor in a community of moderate Muslims and Mennonites, both struggling with threats of an extremist Muslim group, played a role in bring the community together in peace. The reconciliation even prompted the different groups to work together to rebuild homes after the Tsunami of 2004.  We agreed that this sort of local dealing with conflict can only happen in a tolerant country where the military and police stay out of the way of community conflict resolution.  In this story, that space was filled by our third-way Mennonite belief that friendship can lead to reconciliation, which is the pillar of a peaceful and harmonious community. May those attending our Mennonite World Conference, experience the blessings and hospitality of their wise Indonesian hosts.

This may be one of my last chances to share with you my reflections as your Interim Interfaith Worker on behalf of Mennonite Church Alberta.  It has been an honour and a privilege to serve in this capacity.  After July 15, there will be a short hiatus as the leadership of Mennonite Church Alberta fill this position permanently for a start-date in September 2022. The permanent job description will be taking into account the desire to lodge this work in all of our Mennonite Church Alberta communities through building on intentionality around what is already taking place. This will be done through resourcing congregations with access to a menu of possible activities that may include learning through book clubs or study series, and for planning to reach into uncharted relationship and solidarity territory right in our local contexts.  It is exciting to think about the relationships and insights God will lead us into! 

And so I leave you with some Queries. Queries are a tool Quakers like to use to encourage their Society of Friends to reflect on the practice of simplicity, peace, integrity, equality, community, and stewardship of the Earth.  I have always appreciated Quaker queries because they are more about reflecting on the question rather than arriving at definitive answers. They are the sort of thing one can come back to over and over again, and gain new insights from. 

I leave you with four Queries to reflect on Intercultural and Interfaith relationships with our invitation to engage with the world through “expanding the circle.”

How do you seek to see and experience God’s image reflected in your neighbour, at home, at school, in grocery stores, in community gatherings?

What exists in your church community, and what would need to change for a neighbour to feel fully welcomed and included in your church gatherings?

What are some of the stories you have heard or experienced yourself, that give you the courage to continue to “expand the circle”?

How has God been present in unexpected ways through relationships and conversations with people outside of your faith tradition?