That is what I heard over and over again this morning. I was completely humbled because I knew the feelings were genuine even though I had never met the people who were greeting me. I was greeted this way as I attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new mosque in DuPage County.
This particular mosque had an infamous beginning and almost lost the chance to become a reality. Many people in DuPage County did not want the mosque to be built. They made up excuse after excuse for not wanting Muslim neighbors. But the Muslim community would not be deterred, even when all the fear-based excuses made the news. They had such faith that their place of worship would not only be for the good for those of the same faith but also for the rest of us. This is our chance to be neighbors to each other and to work together for justice.
We are honored you’re here. This is how I was greeted this morning. People sought me out (OK. I know I looked different than most people there.) and made sure I felt welcomed. I did. I felt like I belonged. They didn’t just treat me like I belonged, they believed I belonged there right along side of them – at their groundbreaking. It was an amazing moment. I lived the verse from Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Not as the one who welcomes but the stranger. I experienced divine hospitality. It is a feeling I will never forget.
One of the leaders of the Muslim community said, “This is a special day and it is also an ordinary day.”
He said a moment like this happens all the time in this country: people realizing a dream and growing together to make a better community. He made me want to be more welcoming, a better neighbor.
All the people were right when they greeted me - I was very honored I was there!
*Jim Honig, one of the pastors at Faith Lutheran Church was asked to speak at the groundbreaking ceremony. It was truly an interfaith event. His reflection on the event are here: JamesKHonig/blog.