Friday, April 5, 2013

Sacramento church will celebrate Easter at Muslim center

Bill Lindelof

A large Sacramento Christian congregation soon to be without a home will celebrate Easter at an Islamic center.

Spiritual Life Center of Sacramento, whose lease expires March 31 at a downtown church, will be conducting Easter services at the Sacramento Area League of Muslims (SALAM) property near American River College.

"Everything is a go," said the Rev. Michael Moran. "SALAM has been so gracious. I'm really touched by their hospitality."

For its part, SALAM is eager to participate in the interfaith good will.

"I think it is only right that we welcome Spiritual Life Center on Easter morning," said Metwalli Amer, executive director of SALAM.

For the past 12 years, the 500-member Spiritual Life Center has leased space at the Pioneer Christian Church in midtown. With the lease soon to expire, Moran and others have been looking for another church home.

So far, the search has not resulted in new house of worship. For April, except for Easter, the group will meet at the center's small auditorium in the Country Club area, holding three services each Sunday.

So what to do about Easter, April 8, when pews swell with not only regularly attending church members and those who only make it to services a couple of times a year? For many Christian churches Easter is the best-attended Sabbath.

The solution, said Moran, came to him in a dream when he saw a newspaper headline reading "Easter at the Mosque." That led him to phone his friend Amer.

Amer consulted SALAM's board of trustees and before long plans were being made to accommodate the Christian church for Easter.

"This represents the true peaceful essence of the religion of Islam," said Amer. "I am an advocate of interfaith work."

Amer said there are more similarities than differences between Christianity and Islam. In the Quran, he said, Jesus is considered a prophet and messenger – and his birth is considered a miracle.

"Though we do not believe Jesus was resurrected, we do believe God lifted him up to him, and that there will one day be a second coming," Amer said.

Amer's wife, Rosalie Cuneo Amer, a professor at Cosumnes River College, noted that in the seventh century the Umayyad Mosque complex in Damascus did double duty as a church and a mosque.

"In today's world it's quite remarkable and positive to do this, especially when there is such a need to have a better understanding," said Rosalie Amer.

While only one Sunday, the Easter gathering is historic, said Christine Bouten, senior minister of operations for the Spiritual Life Center, a Unity church with an interfaith focus.

"It is a modeling for the world, how to do things in a different way," she said.

The services will actually be held in SALAM's former mosque, now the community hall, which is behind the newer mosque where SALAM's members will be praying that day. The Spiritual Life Center's two Easter services will be in the hall at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. April 8.

"It will be quite a Sunday," said Moran. "I don't know if we will be able to accommodate everybody. The news is spreading. We might have to add another service."

"It will be exciting," said Metwalli Amer. "I think I will attend the services with Mike. I'm the host. I'd better be there."

Source: Sacramento Bee

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