Just over a week ago fifteen of us attended the Friday prayer service and sermon at the Yusuf Mosque in Brighton. We went to worship and share a meal with these religious neighbors to the south, but most of all we made the journey to show our support and respect for them. Our hosts greeted us with exquisite hospitality, and in regard for our comfort, had set up chairs for us at the back of the men's prayer area, where we lined up like United Nations observers in a foreign land. With some of our hearts probably racing a little at the unfamiliarity, we sat through prayers and listened to Imam Ismail Fekki speak about the Koran's mandate to be good neighbors every day in this life.
More prayers followed his sermon, and then the imam spoke briefly of the difficult times of late. After a tour and a wonderful lunch, they presented us with the prayer rug spread today on our altar table and sent us home with gift bags full of succulent dried dates.
The times are turbulent, my friends, and between the Imam's gentle words at worship and the conversations, it was clear their people are feeling keenly the strain of living in a culture that is increasingly hostile to them for their religion and ethnic origins. They value their lives in this country and the opportunity afforded them to be here, which is now endangered. But the imam and lay leaders could not have been more gracious, and the Imam asked us to convey to you how important it was that we had reached out in friendship and kinship.
These intense few hours left me realizing what I had known in my head but felt in a new way. Being a neighbor is about so much more than physical proximity, and not even mostly that. Neighborliness means meeting with open heart and mind, witnessing, offering, learning with good will. In that way people can be neighbors with anyone, as all of us, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist, were in that moment. If we go forward knowing that deeply, and try to live it, perhaps in coming weeks and months and years we will realize our greatest hope. Let us seek to be good neighbors.
There is no text file for "The Voice of the Spirit" by the Rev. Keith Kron. To hear the sermon, click above.