Ted Dodd writes:
On Sunday, April 6, the students in the Educational Ministry Year Learning Circle participated in a series of interfaith visits. We all began at the Jewish synagogue, Shaarey Zedek, where we joined in the morning prayer service. These prayers are said twice a day every day of the week throughout the year; often mourners commit to attending the services for the year after the death of a loved one. stained glass from Shaarey Zedek. Bill Weissmann, our guide, communicated his depth of wisdom with a lively humor and a keen devotion. Although most of us had trouble following the Hebrew, we felt enveloped in the power and faithfulness that were represented in this twice daily discipline.
After the synagogue experience, we separated into smaller groups. Some went to the Unitarian Universalist service. Some ventured to the Buddhist temple. A few conversed with representatives of the Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba.
A small delegation of us went to the Winnipeg Central Mosque. Our host, building manager, Idris Knapp, graciously extended hospitality and engaged us in story-telling. We sat on the carpeted floor as he shared about his Islamic faith and culture. Some children quietly played, kicked soccer balls, or talked in groups. Others offered prayers moving about the expansive space. All the while, knowledgeable and patient teachers were guiding students with memorization and recitation of the Qur’an.
We were very impressed by the level of devotion that is required in the Muslim practice of praying five times a day. So we asked Idris about this. He told us a paraphrased story from the Qu’ran about the prophets Mohammed and Moses. Mohammed was instructed by Allah to tell the people to pray 50 times a day. He reported this to Moses. Moses said, “That’s not going to be doable. Go back to Allah and negotiate for less.” Mohammed did that and returned to Moses, “Allah says 25.” Moses exclaimed, “Still too many.” Mohammed went again and received the answer, “Ten.” Moses insisted that this was not going to work. Mohammed proceeded to the Holy One and came back with the direction for five times a day. Moses suggested that Mohammed try one more time, but Mohammed felt too shy to attempt another compromise so five was agreed upon.
For us this was a delight narrative about the grace of the divine, the richness of our relationship with God, and the importance of prayer. It encouraged us as Christians to examine our own spiritual practices and the lack of discipline they sometimes represent. We deeply appreciated the connection with the mosque and the teaching that was offered. They model an important community development in the heart of the city that resonates out of a powerful, prayerful witness. We were touched by their faith and devotion, and moved to grow in interfaith and cross cultural understanding.