On Saturday night of this past week, our Unitarian Universalist congregation held a potluck dinner to welcome and get to know our Muslim neighbors in our part of metro Atlanta.
Here’s the backstory. The President of the United States issued an Executive Order some weeks ago banning travel of Muslims from certain countries into our country deepening the sense of fear and hostilities that he had already incited during his campaign. Almost immediately, one of our members, Lorena Griffin, began to suggest ideas for reaching out to our Muslim neighbors to say that we were glad that they were in our community and that we wanted to create friendships with them. The congregation agreed. We sent flowers and notes of good wishes. One Muslim community sent over 40 of their youth to one of our Sunday services (with doughnuts!). They invited us to “Visit a Mosque Day” and many of us went, learned, enjoyed and deepened budding friendships. We invited them to this potluck. They came. We ate wonderful food. We laughed, had moments of tears, deep conversations, fun and, as I reflect on the evening, some sort of experience that is difficult to put into words.
To me, it felt like the world became smaller, but my own insides, my heart, felt much, much larger. I posted pictures and reflections on Facebook, and within minutes dozens of my FB friends responded positively–people who don’t live here or who have never entered our Unitarian Universalist Church. I gazed over the array of my friends who “liked” my post. Let me just “reduce” them to categories for a minute. They include: evangelical Christians, liberal Jews, friends from my childhood neighborhood, brand new Muslim friends, teacher friends from all over the country, conservative friends, men, women, straight and gay, relatives, fellow massage therapists, former students, white and black friends (or as I prefer to say, friends of various shades of brown), wealthier and poorer friends, and, of course, fellow Unitarian Universalist friends.
All things are possible. Look at the gathering of folks around a gather of folks. As one new friend said to me tonight: while we do have some theological differences, we really are all just people trying to live and love and get along in the world. When I consider how quick and diverse the response was to the picture of diverse people reaching out to each other, my heart is broken open to the power of love, kindness and basic human friendship.
And for me, this is God, everything possible.