At a time when the Bush administration calls for a massive new deployment of soldiers to Iraq and sends a second aircraft carrier into the Gulf region and towards Iran, First Reformed Church has begun a series of interfaith dialogs with a group of Muslims from the Raritan Turkish American Foundation in Piscataway.
Eleven members from our church and an equal number of representatives from the Turkish-American Foundation met for the first time on February 5th in fellowship hall over a lavish â€œtea-timeâ€ meal provided by the Muslim women.
Following this, Dr. Nuray Turgul Yurt gave a great PowerPoint presentation on the origin of the Foundation and its interest in interfaith dialogue with Christians and other religions as well. She introduced us to the work of the Turkish scholar, Fethulla GÃ¼len, a well respected conversation partner of the late Pope John Paul II, the late John Cardinal Oâ€™Connor, as well as the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I.
â€œAs we come together,â€ Nuray said, â€œwe do not intend to teach about Islam or Christianity. Rather, this is about learning to appreciate one another and to find common ground as believers.â€ She backed this with a quote from GÃ¼len: â€œThe true practice of religion shows us how to derive hope, renewal and reconciliation, rather than despair, fear and enmity from our differences.â€
In response, Ethel Salamone represented our tradition with a very concise but thorough history of the Reformed Church in America and our congregation in particular. Afterwards, we spent some time in asking questions of each other. It was a great opportunity of getting to know another world religion firsthand, and to replace some of our mutual assumptions with face-to-face talk.
When we drew the evening to a close at 9:00 p.m., we left fulfilled with new impressions and the succinct feeling that we had achieved something very important in our time: a dialog between faiths and cultures, a piece of reconciliation in front of the one God whom we both worship, though in different ways.
We had another interesting session on February 19th when Sedide Ozturk gave us a brief introduction to Islam. We shared in a very educating discussion afterwards. In conclusion, Dr. Hamilton showed slides from a recent trip to Istanbul. The pictures brought us closer to a world about which we are curious to learn. And where can one learn better than around the full tables here at First Reformed Church? Ethel and the women of our Hospitality Committee provided a great meal. It was supplemented by the famous â€œNoahâ€™s Puddingâ€ of our friends from Turkey. Come and join us for another exciting meeting on Monday, March 5th, again at 7:30 p.m. in our Fellowship Hall! The theme will be â€œJesus and Mary in Islam and in Reformed Christianityâ€.