Monday, May 18, 2009

Church Experiment #20: Clifton Mosque

Similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, figuring out when to attend the Muslim Mosque was half the battle. I couldn’t find any websites with information about services. I even drove by the Mosque and noticed there were about six different times listed on the front door. But the words weren’t English, so I had no idea what any of them meant. I immediately got the sense I really wasn’t welcomed because they seemed to make it very difficult to access information about their services.

So, Friday afternoon (May 8th), I called the Mosque to communicate I was interested in visiting, but I didn’t know what next steps to take. I never got a call back, so I called again around 4:00 PM. This time, one of the nicest people I have ever encountered answered the phone. Seriously, you know how sometimes you speak to a person, and her kindness almost puts you in a trance? That was her. Our conversation completely changed my first impression of Clifton Mosque (cliftonmosque.org).

First, she was able to point me toward their website, which was not easy to find through a Google search. Second, she explained all of their meeting times, and when I expressed concern over “offending” them by my lack of Muslim knowledge, she quickly calmed my nerves by expressing how happy they would be to have me visit.

Of course, because their worship service (she explained it was their meeting that most resembled a typical church service) was at 1:50 PM on a Friday (yeah, not the most convenient time), I had to rearrange my teaching schedule to make it happen.

It took a week, but once everything got worked out, I attended Clifton Mosque Friday afternoon.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.

22 comments:

Jamie said...

I thought you had decided that you wouldn't announce the details of where you are going before you go?
I have a really great book that I'll lend you when I get home, it is called "Islam for Dummies". It helped me understand a lot of the mysteries of the Islam and Muslim cultures and beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Wow what an amazing post . Im not sure I would have been able to go to a mosque as a part of a church experiment , but I think that there are many lessons to be learnt here today.
Do you think you felt more outside of the group because subconsciously you had already considered yourself apart from them? Would you have felt just as isolated if you were, say a Jew going to one of the more exclusive churches for the first time - or vice versa ?
Did You attend any worship service on Sunday ?

Anonymous said...

I just learned from a Muslim coworker the other day, that women of childbearing age are not allowed to attend Mosque until menopause. They are considered 'dirty' because of their menstrual cycle, and therefore not allowed to participate.

I don't know the rules for children, but I have a feeling in a Muslim country 1:50 is a holy time and everything shuts down for the hour. The absence of children may be an American vs Muslim schedule conflict.

Ruby Red Slippers said...

I am here in Michigan, in a very diverse subdivision. I do not exaggerate when I say we live and love our Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist and (like us-Christian neighbors) My husband and I specifically wanted our kids to grow up with an appreciation for ALL people. We left the town we lived in our whole lives to move here six years ago. Our kids play with the range of children with ethnic/ religious persuasions. We send our kids to a Christian school, because our desire is for them to follow Jesus, but with the love in their hearts for others. We need to coexist as people on the same street or planet, but we also need to have a strong relationship with God. I have read much about religions including Islam, but respectfully disagree with who they acknowledge as our Creator.
It was interesting to hear the perspective of one who attended a Mosque, since I have not attended one.
Thank you for your insight.

Cyndi said...

Thank you so much for these peeks into other beliefs. I've been to a mosque as part of a college project but they didn't let me stay for a service. (The guys in my class were able to stay.)

I'm looking forward to your blog next week. I'm a member of the Dayton Vineyard and I also believe that everyone should be able to get married. I'd bet all the money I have that their divorce rate is half the rate of those Christians who are against their marriage. It's so difficult to voice this opinion in my circle of family and friends, but I'm finding there are quite a few who believe the way I do. Oh, I'm about to get on my soap box, and this is your space, not mine. I'll get the guts some day and blog my beliefs.

Sara said...

I’ve been following your blog with interest, but during the past few weeks, as a fellow Christian, I have to say I’ve been troubled by some of your worship choices.

I can definitely understand your disillusionment with the Church, the Body of Christ and your sense of burn-out. There’s no question that as children of Adam, we are all fallen and sinful. I’m sure most everyone has had their own unpleasant experiences within the organized church.

Also, I applaud you stepping out of your comfort zone, from the church you knew and those that are similar in worship style. It’s been entertaining, reading your comments and questions as you experienced worship in different traditions. We humans sure have created a vast array of traditions and ceremony all to worship the same God, haven’t we? I am one who thinks God surely has a sense of humor; all our attempts at worship must equally bless and amuse the Lord.

However, since you identify yourself as a Christian, I am presupposing that you believe the fundamental thing Jesus said about himself in John 14:16: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So here’s what I don’t get: Why would you go to churches where, like this week, you know in advance Jesus is not present, not presented, not offered as the only plan of salvation?

I guess I’m wondering what you’re hoping to gain from dipping your toes in, so far from your stated trust and belief in Jesus. Not trying to be confrontational, but then again I am challenging you to ask yourself whether you truly believe you are a Christian.

Steve Fuller said...

Sara,

I appreciate the thoughts.

I follow the teachings (and the man, himself) of Jesus. However people want to label that is up to them.

I also strongly believe we can learn from any context. Any group. Any environment. Saying I have nothing to learn at a Muslim Church, or from a Muslim, seems pretty arrogant.

If you make that argument, then why would anyone who is not already a Christian ever go to a Christian church? People keep open minds when exploring any faith, and it's not fair to close our minds while we ask others to open theirs.

I am secure in my beliefs, so I don't fear walking into any church. If anything, I hope these new experiences give me an even deeper understanding of God.

bshawise said...

I'm a burger-loving carnivore but sometimes I go vegan.

Christine said...

I'd call it a Muslim worship service rather than a Muslim Church, but I suppose I'm quibbling.

I do feel the need to clarify something from Anonymous' 8:07 post. After having lived in a Muslim country for a year (the country being Kuwait) I can say that Muslims pray 5 times a day, and 1:50 is one of them, as I recall. The other times are dawn, noon, sunset, and 10 p.m. As for Fridays, the whole week is arranged differently. They have "Thank God it's Wednesday" messages on their radio stations, because that's the beginning of the weekend. Friday is treated like Sunday, so they have Thursdays and Fridays off. They go back to work on Saturday. Thus, it would be easy to go to a 1:50 p.m. service.

Anonymous said...

In response to Sara's comments about finding salvation, Abraham found his salvation and he never knew of Jesus. The good news is whether you're a Christian, Jew or Muslim, you know Abraham and consequently will probably figure out your own salvation.

I would imagine the Hindus and Buddhists figure out their salvation as well. I don't think any one religion has a monopoly on salavation.

Jacqueline said...

Found your blog yesterday...really enjoy reading about your different experiences. This is something I have thought about doing for a long time - not the 52 churches in 52 weeks exactly but going to churches, especially of different faiths - in part due to my curiosity and also in part to strengthen my own faith. I was wondering if you had thought about trying to attend an Amish service? It would be interesting to read a first hand account of an English attending one.

Good luck with the experiment. I'm glad to see you have learned so many things from it.

spiritualbrother said...

It was interesting to read about your mosque visit. I have never been inside a mosque and was curious to read your perspective.

wendymhall said...

Steve,
I am enjoying following your experiment very much. My thought re: Sara's concerns was that I think Jesus would show up to a worship service where people were truly seeking God, no matter if they called themselves Christians.
Thanks for including us in your experiment. It is very cool!

Steve Fuller said...

Wendy,

Good points. I would probably also make the argument that Jesus hung out in many contexts that were very "un-Christian." In fact, he seemed to base his whole ministry on it.

Mike said...

Steve, awesome experiment. I wish I would have stumbled onto this blog last week, I would have tried to set up meeting you to explain what was going on during Ju'mat. It helped me to have someone do that the first time I went. As far as the anonymous poster that stated that women weren't allowed in a mosque until menopause that is incorrect. They are not to attend prayers nor are required to pray while they are on their menses (as in some branches of Judaism) Women are seperated from men during prayer either in a balcony or behind the men in the main prayer hall. And Sara, we muslims do believe in Jesus(peace be upon him) that he is the messiah, he was born to a virgin, and he will come again at the end of time. We don't believe that he is the son of God nor that he should be worshipped (I don't recall him saying that in the Bible either). Steve keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Steve, a book that could be really helpful as you make sense of your experiences is Marcus Borg's Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary. Chapter one describes two paradigms for seeing Jesus an - earlier one (characterized by biblical literalism, doctrinal correctness, belief centered, blood substitution atonement, afterlife teleology) and an emerging paradigm (characterized by Christian language that is more-than literal, a kingdom that is here now, and a way centered approach that can accept the challenging claims of religious pluralism without losing itself) At least grab the book from the library and read the first chapter, good luck.

Bill Huber said...

I think this is so cool! Of course, I prefer to read about it rather than actually show up. I guess I should be sympathizing with your spiritual struggles. Nah! A few years back we shared some meals at an Alpha table. At that time it seemed like I was the only one who had any questions about faith. Everybody else at the table seemed to have it together! Eventually most of the people at the table fessed up that they had questions, too.

So a few years have passed and we still have faith questions that bother us. I kind of wish I could go back to my earlier years. It seemed so easy to fill up the spiritual cup back then. Altough I do not envy you, it looks like you still have a sense of humor. Enjoy your journey. God has a sense of humor!

Kate said...

Steve,

I've been following your blog for some weeks now and have gone back to read all of the posts. Came across it via Reverb (Pastor Ryan in Cincinnati, who's blog I came to from someone else's.) As one who considers herself agnostic, I deeply appreciate learning about different religions, beliefs, and services through your experiment. I also applaud you for your unbiased, open-minded approach. I'll keep reading through the end of the year and look forward to your reflections at the end of the experiment. Good luck on your journey!

Larry said...

Thanks for the great insight the past 5 months! I’m just now starting to read your blog.

You made a comment in post #13 that struck me…”I truly believe some people can fulfill most functions of the church outside of the church.”

I’m sure as I read more of you posts I’ll start to piece together your views on things, but this comment saddens me. Not because you are right or wrong, but because of what it implies.

I imagine Satan was been working for ages to convince believers that church is a location, a place with walls, defined by physical boundaries.

In one conversation, Jesus said someday we would realize it is about “spirit and truth” not about a location. The day we grasp that little in the New Testament is about a church you go to, is the day we begin to realize individually and collectively we are the church every moment of every day. When we talk to our neighbor, he is experiencing the (hopefully) gentle words of the church. When we help the person on the side of the rode, she has been helped by the church. When we band together and respond to injustice, the church is responding.

None of this requires walls or clearly marked boundaries. None of this is about inside or outside. It’s about being and living.

I’m not sure what answers you will find in your 52 visits. I have a feeling you will learn little about the church and much about what people do inside church buildings…the two are very different things.

Thanks again!

DanThoms said...

Just a quick comment to the person who said no one religion has a monopoly on salvation. I would have to argue that Jesus said otherwise. Jesus said such things as "no man comes to the Father but by me." The New Testament claims over and over that there is only one way to salvation there for excluding all others. Therefor, either the statements of Jesus were correct and he is the only way to salvation or he was a liar.

Anonymous said...

as answer for the very shallow words of ppl saying women are not allowed to attend mosque till menapause
this is not true
u musr listen carefully to ppl saying anything about religion
and u must pick the level of ppl to learn from
do dome research
dont just get the info and thats it
coz
women
men
children
all are smae in islam
they r allowed
to attend in mosque
lahugh sing sleep fight or do what ever
only women
during their periods must not be there
not coz they r dirty
no
coz
its a status that is not in harmony with holly places

Anonymous said...

No doubt, the church has been responsible for a lot of bloodshed. But I think if you check your facts you will find that more blood has been shed by the ir-religious than by the religious - take for example more recent history - Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot - millions and millions and millions of people wiped out by people who had no religious motive whatsoever - other than a humanistic one. I tire of people like the TV personality you quoted ignoring the horror that people just like them - the irreligious - have foisted upon the world.