Muslims and Christians coming together in New Haven

A note from Rev. John Gage at United Church on the Green


Week of Sept. 23, 2012

Sometimes, when you sense the presence of the Holy Spirit, it can be a feeling of elation, of joy, or more simply, of comfort. Other times, it can be a much more unsettling experience–the call of the unknown, into the unknown.

I felt the latter last Sunday as we began our worship service featuring our special guest preacher, Imam Omer Bajwa, the coordinator of Muslim life at Yale University. When we started planning the event many months ago, no one could have imagined the context of last weekend: violent unrest across the Middle East touched off by an inflammatory film disparaging the Prophet Muhammed.

As the service opened, I suddenly realized: “None of us has ever done this before–not Omer, not me, not our congregation. None of us have experienced a Christian congregation welcoming a Muslim cleric to the pulpit to share the word of God.” In this day and age, and particularly in this context, what we were doing together is sadly all too radical.

But I believe it was born of the Spirit, and once we entered into our work together (because worship really is work), I could feel her comfort flowing in around the edges and, yes, even her joy. I am thankful to God for the inspiration to invited Omer, and I am grateful to you and proud of you, the members and friends of United Church, for stepping out with me in faith, to risk the unknown, the uncomfortable, the unpopular to follow the proddings of that same Spirit out into the hinterlands of grace–and deeper into the life of this unsteady and confusing world God loves so much.

Our work did not go without notice in the wider community.

  • The New Haven Independent ran a short piece including video of parts of the service. View here.
  • The New Haven Register followed up their Friday article with another Monday morning. I think importantly, both the Independent and the Register mentioned our ministry with children. Click for more.
  • Just today, the Yale Herald ran a very nice piece about the lively intersection of faith and politics at United Church. You can read it here.
  • And of course, if you missed the Imam’s message, or simply want to hear it again, you can find the video podcast on our website here.

Finally, if you haven’t heard me say it recently, or enough, thank you for the privilege of being your pastor and sharing this ministry with you.

Work for Justice, Live in Peace, and Marvel at Grace,

Rev. John

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