The following reflection was written by affiliate member Moffett Churn. This past March, we gathered with members of Maryland Turkish-American Inhabitants for a breaking of the fast meal (Iftar) during the Lenten and Ramadan season.
The Hashemees were our neighbors in North Carolina. Each year during Ramadan, they shared an Iftar feast with everyone on our cul de sac. That expression of overflowing abundance has been engraved on our hearts, so we jumped at the chance to attend the Iftar Dinner at CPC with our Muslim friends from Maryland Turkish American Inhabitants (MARTI, TheMarti.org). When we arrived at the church, the sanctuary was humming with anticipation. And while we counted down the minutes before sunset, Pastor Ken and Ozgur Karakuzu talked about the roots of Ramadan and Easter. Hearing the Christian story alongside of the Islamic narrative gave a fresh perspective from which to view not only their beliefs and practices, but also ours.
As we reflected on the meaning of our holy seasons, smells from the kitchen filled the sanctuary with the promise of a feast for body and soul. Finally, the setting of the sun marked the end of the fast, and we sat down to eat with four MARTI and four CPC folks at each table. You might think being seated for dinner with a group of complete strangers is the recipe for an awkward evening, but before we even picked up our forks, we were diving headlong into the back and forth… What brought you here tonight? What helped you to feel at home here? What career changes have you made? What teachers or mentors have made a difference in your life? What was Ramadan/Easter like for you as a child? May I see the fastener on your hijab? What are you hopeful about? How would you like to change things? Why is fasting important for you? How can we pray for each other?
Throughout this polyphonic conversation, I thought about the book of Acts, where the Spirit of God keeps showing up in ways that remind us that the table is so much bigger, so much messier, and so much more boisterous than we imagine!
Several weeks have passed since the Iftar dinner, but I’m still savoring the experience. It was a time of real connection and recognition that runs counter to all the ways we, as a society, sort and separate ourselves. And even though everything took place in our building, our MARTI friends prepared and served the meal, set the clock for the evening, took their places at the table and took their mats to the sanctuary for Maghrib prayers. It was one of those rare moments when the roles of Host and Guest were blurred.
The last question our dinner partners asked was: “How do you tell yourself what Easter means?” As we move through the Great Fifty Days from Easter to Pentecost, I think I’ll let that question go on hanging in the air.