From the Revd Linda Munt
Sir, - This is my first Ramadan in the parish of Attercliffe and
Darnall, in the diocese of Sheffield. The Vicarage is almost next
door to the mosque, and most of my neighbours are Muslim. The
welcome that I got as I moved in was warm. Over the months, I have
come to know the men, women, and children as they pass my door on
their way to prayer.
Some years ago, I was fortunate to spend part of Ramadan in
Istanbul. It was a remarkable experience as the streets came alive
when the fast ended each evening, and when, after prayer, people
would come together and enjoy a sense of festival. It was a time of
celebration and family which complemented the discipline of the
fast. I was interested to know how it would feel in Sheffield.
What was immediately striking was the commitment to keeping the
times of prayer in spite of the heat and the length of the fast day
in 2013. Seeing some of the older men who are retired walking
slowly up the hill to the mosque to prayer has been truly
inspiring. It has not been easy for them, but they have persevered.
But alongside this came another surprise. My neighbours share with
me their cooking for the breaking of the fast - knocking on the
door to bring samosas and curries. For part of the fast, I have
been unwell. Once they knew this, they also provided me with fresh
cherries to wish me well.
When much has been written about the need for community
cohesion, I felt it important to celebrate my experience of
community and devotion, which has led me to return to a
consideration of fasting, festival, and hospitality in the
Christian tradition. The lectionary at this time encourages us to
revisit again the question "Who is my neighbour?" and how I can
care for him or her. In my parish, part of this will be responding
generously to the generosity of my neighbours at Eid, but also
making a point of sharing throughout the year in the informal
conversations of each day, and celebrating, in Lord Sacks's words,
the "dignity of difference".
I am also challenged to return to the place of fasting in our
own tradition, and am reminded again of John Wesley's determination
not to commission anyone as a Methodist minister unless he fasted
twice a week. In the Qur'an there is the text:
"Oh, you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was
prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and
Living near the mosque is also the reminder to rediscover church
as a place of community prayer day by day, not just on Sunday, and
the need to encourage this once again in the spirit of the monastic
Offices that underpin our own Anglican pattern of daily prayer - a
pattern that has become too much the preserve of the clergy rather
than being the work of the whole people of God.
25 Industry Road, Darnall, Sheffield S9 5FP