Thursday, March 17, 2016

God of Many Names

God of many names/
we thank you for your presence in our midst this evening/ as we share in a meal/ and celebrate the goodness of life/ and our common humanity.

We are grateful on this dreary evening/ for the warmth of friendships which do not recognize the borders of countries/ only kindness and welcome.

We thank you, Gracious One/  for the gift that the Al Mansour and the Mustafa families have already been for us/ and will continue to be in the days ahead.

Bring us joy in food and stories shared. Amen.

Last evening a remarkable event took place at Bridge St. United Church. A potluck supper was held to welcome two Syrian families who were living in refugee camps in Lebanon and now call Canada their home. One family, parents and three boys are sponsored by three United Church congregations, with tremendous help from the local mosque and community partners. The other is one of several families sponsored by a group in Prince Edward County, this family choosing to live in Belleville. They are virtually neighbours of our Bridge St. congregation.

As of Sunday eighty people indicated they were attending, but by yesterday afternoon the number had grown to 110. By the time everyone arrived last evening there were between 130 and 140 people of all ages crowded into the Sills Auditorium. Table were hastily set up in the adjoining gym to accommodate the overflow.

This crowd was as diverse religiously and ethnically as Belleville gets. Many Christian congregations were represented, along with a large contingent from the mosque, and a smattering of Bahais and Hindus. Just about every shade of beige and brown was represented in the room, which was a bit of a surprise in largely white-bread Belleville.

I loved the warmth, the humour, the mutual respect, the camaraderie of the event. Shortly after 7:00 we all paused while the Islamic call to prayer was offered, which touched us all.

The three boys from our family, four, eleven, and fourteen came to my study where we spent some time playing with the dozen or so wind up toys I keep there for visiting kids. The four-year-old laughed in delight, and the eleven-year-old informed me that they don't have such toys in Syria. None of them spoke English three months ago, but he was able to communicate quite clearly. I was in awe of their intelligence and resilience.

In my opening prayer I thanked God for the gift of these families to our community and an Arabic speaker who has been tirelessly involved translated, phrase by phrase. We have been blessed by their presence.



roger said...

What a heartwarming blog! It sounded like a great evening of sharing and acceptance.

I know what you mean about the call to prayer. I attended several Ramadan dinners last year and I find the call to be quite touching.

Eric Mundy said...

Growing up in a white and predominantly protestant town, it has taken me many years to shake off being slightly uncomfortable in non white settings. I might not be alone with these feelings. We weren't taught to be this way, it was just a lack of exposure to other cultures, plain and simple. My hope is that Canada is the world culture of the future. Out Prime Minister is working diligently to make that happen, and I'm very proud of him for that and many other reasons. Learning to love everyone, regardless, is quite a leap....I hope my "white" genes don't get in the way.

Judy said...

It was good to be there and to experience the good will of all present, and the effort to be friends and helpers together in a common goal. It broke my heart to see the video of Syria before and after ... I cannot imagine what it would be like to be forced to flee the homeland that you love because of the violence and intolerance of a new regime.I hope and pray we will be successful in making the families we are sponsoring, and in touch with, feel really at home here , and feel that this can be a new, wonderful home for them.

David Mundy said...

I may have grown up in that same town Eric! Your observations are very accurate and I share your hopes for this country. It was heart-warming Roger, and I must note that Judy is too modest to say that she was one of the two organizers of the event. They did a tremendous job in bringing everything and everyone together.