The British Region of the International Ecumenical Fellowship's met last week for their annual long weekend at Park Place Pastoral Centre, Wickham, Hampshire. The most interesting event was an evening visit to the nearby Al Mahdi Islamic Centre.
We were greeted by their Imam, Sheikh Fazle Abbas, who enthusiastically welcomed us by sharing about their environmentally friendly practices. They produce all their electricity from solar panels and put the excess into the National Grid, have foot pedals on their washing facilities to save water waste and their heating is produced by a Geo Thermal system - copper pipes under the earth and it's very warm. For social events members have to bring their own plates and cups. For us they used environmentally friendly disposable ones. I think that shames most churches. I don't know if there is such a thing as an Eco Mosque or Live Simply Mosque award, but they deserve one.
The centre's design is deliberate to blend into the local landscape so no minarets but a design based on the former Titchfield Abbey. Our welcome was very warm, and after the introductory talk we were allowed to witness evening prayer before being treated to delicious refreshments. Probably the most stimulating part of the evening was when we encountered each other in small groups. We all agreed there is a lot of fear based on ignorance. A Muslim lady in our group referred to the importance of being part of her neighbourhood, which she does by inviting her neighbours to a meal for their feasts. A Muslim student found the situation in Malaysia more like a fruit salad - everyone mixed socially - whilst we are more like a fruit stall - people didn't mix much across divides.
The long weekend was an opportunity for individual Christians enthusiastic about Ecumenism to come together to explore the theme 'Encountering Peace, Justice and Creation through Faith'. The programme included a quiet day led by Sr Evelyn FSMA, a member of the resident community, and opportunities to worship together in different traditions. Rev. Susan Allman, Vicar of Titchfield, who has been involved with building relationships with the Al Madhi Centre, also came to help us reflect on our visit there.
The International Ecumenical Fellowship is a grassroots Christian organisation with members from many Christan traditions, open to all who wish to encounter and understand each other better. The next event is an International conference in Krakow starting 22 July for a week.
For details of the Fellowship please see www.briefoecumenica.uk
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