Methodists and Muslims Host Meet and Greet Events in Sugar Land

Date Posted: 5/12/2016

Parkway UMC recently hosted the first of two faith conversations between Muslims and church members to foster new relationships among Sugar Land neighbors.
The San Bernardino shootings in California last fall inspired an important conversation between Methodists and Muslims in the Sugar Land area. “I had heard reports of Muslims in our country saying that their fear was higher than right after 9/11 and I felt called to do something,” shares Rev. Matt Neely, Parkway UMC of Sugar Land. “One day that week, I drove past the Maryam Islamic Center mosque and their American flag was flying at half mast and I decided to contact the Imam.”
Imam Shah and Pastor Matt had lunch together and decided to invite leaders from each other's congregation to a time of introduction, snacks, fellowship, and interfaith dialogue, concluding with a time of Q&A.  
On May 1, Parkway UMC hosted the first informal gathering and in a few weeks, the mosque will do the same.  Adds Matt, “When they were here, I made a presentation of the basic tenants of the Christian faith and they had a chance to ask any questions.  When we go there, they will return the favor and we will ask questions.” 
“We believe these conversations will help to reduce fear and increase understanding among Christians and Muslims in our neighborhood,” he adds. “My favorite part was that there was no compromising or watering down of what either group believes.  This is about people, who deeply disagree on some pretty important things, deciding to be friends and neighbors.  It was about getting to know our neighbors as people so we will be less fearful.  It is about seeing people as humans instead of as categories.”
“I thought it was a very worthwhile session and I look forward to going to their gathering soon,” says Parkway UMC member Charles Burch.  Vince Cordova left the meeting with new insight and a few lingering questions. Shares Vince, “While I am not surprised our Muslim friends consider Jesus a prophet, I did find it heartwarming that they said they are taught to love Jesus. They were warm, kind people that seem to align with our hopes and wishes for the most part.” Although curious about the Quran and what it may say about people that do not follow Islam, he adds, “This meeting exchange with our neighbors was absolutely the right thing to do and I am very happy that our pastor reached out to them and they responded. It is an example for the world to follow.”
According to Matt, This was an opportunity for the church to accomplish the mission of Parkway: 'Demonstrating God's Grace to inspire a hope-filled journey with Jesus.'   “We enjoyed the privilege of making new friends, sharing the gospel and extending friendship to people in our community,” he shares. “With all of the fear and misunderstanding in our world today, we wanted to demonstrate grace.  I know that I don't want to be judged by some horrific things that Christians do in Jesus’ name.  And I know they don't want to be judged by what some people do in the name of Islam.”