Feast of Chocolate Connects Methodists and Muslims

Date Posted: 3/23/2017

Ladies in a Katy FUMC Bible study have found much in common with new friends from a Sugar Land mosque, including the love of chocolate.
After reading a book about Christianity and world religions by Rev. Adam Hamilton, a ladies Bible study group from Katy FUMC thought it would be interesting to tour a local mosque. “We wanted to know more about Islam,” shares Rev. Sandra Smith, retired clergy and former District Superintendent. “Our pastor, Rev. Dick White set up a tour with the ecumenical officer of Maryam Islamic Center and went with us one day to expand our understanding of another religion.” According to Sandra, the group arrived an hour early and wandered in to find a group of young women. “They greeted us like old friends,” she says, “and after our tour, provided us refreshments, , brochures and answers to our questions.”
One of those women was Romana Zaman, who is grateful for the experiences that followed. “Our seemingly accidental meeting one wonderful morning was to become the beginning of a cherished friendship. From that first sweet encounter, the ladies of First United Methodist Church of Katy have, time after time, exuded such warmth and kindness,” she says. “We are friends united by our love for God. What a sweet friendship it is,” adds Nabila Ansari.
When the Methodists invited the Muslim ladies to Katy FUMC for lunch, new friendships were immediately underway. “The more we talked and shared each others’ lives and worship spaces, the more we discovered we have in common,” adds Sandra. The group learned that the two Muslim feasts (Eids) are Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting) and Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as God commanded him. 

“After we learned about the Eids,” Sandra explains, “one of the ladies suggested we host an Eid or Feast of Chocolate, a festival we invented to honor something we have in common -- our favorite flavor!” “And after all,” adds Rev. Dick White "Chocolate is the universal language of us all."
By the time the festival arrived in March, the group had grown to over 50 ladies of all ages. “Thinking of that day puts a smile on my face,” adds Nabila Mansoor. “There is just something so beautiful about joining with other women simply for the love of God and one another. Who knew a scheduling error would lead to such a beautiful friendship with our First Methodist friends? It is blessing I never knew I needed but happy to have bestowed upon me,” shares Fatima Mukhtar.
Notes Sandra, “The Eid of Chocolate was a celebration of universal sisterhood, fun -- and gratitude for chocolate!” Special music, decorations, inspiring words from Rev. Dick White and an array of scrumptious chocolate delights made for a memorable feast. Nishaat Ismail adds, “I am grateful for Katy United Methodist for embracing us with love and chocolate -- truly heartwarming. We Muslim sisters look forward to returning the kind gesture.” Tina Chadha adds, “The Feast of Chocolate was such a sweet treat! Thank you for your gracious hospitality and for always standing up for our community in these turbulent times. Your friendship means the world to us and I hope we continue to learn from each other, promote peace and understanding and work together to serve the less fortunate in our Houston community.”
Promoting Peace
Initial skepticism and fear vanished when the two groups met and mingled. Notes Ellen Hooks, "Sharing in the Feast of Chocolate with our Muslim friends continues to reinforce the fact that we are more alike than different...Praise God for showing us the way to accept and love each other!" The new friendships are impacting Susan Scheck in many positive ways, as well. “Sharing chocolate, our faith stories and our families with these wonderful Muslim women has profoundly changed my life. Each encounter encourages us to realize that even with our differences we can still be friends and help each other,” Susan shares. “This has truly been a blessing from God.”
“We’ve shared meals, held their precious babies and become fast friends,” adds Sandra. This newly formed interfaith sisterhood is now planning a service project together next month. Adds Romana, “We have celebrated our similarities as we have our differences with honor, respect, and curiosity. I believe our meeting was part of God’s greater plan to join women of two faiths in friendship. I am so looking forward to our shared service project, Lunches of Love, where Methodist and Muslim women will join to serve those less fortunate. You have reached out to us in some terribly challenging and heavy times.  Your words and support were peace and ease.  Thank you for being so awesome!”