When local Muslims came back from the Baptist church their neighbors asked them: “You came back alive?” On the other hand, many members of the Northwood church in Keller, Texas left their congregation because of its developing relations with the Muslim community.
An estimated 100,000 Muslims live in the Dallas Fort Worth area, representing all walks of life and all races, ethnicities and countries. Hence, Christians at Northwood have started under the leadership of their pastor, Bob Roberts, building trust and friendship with local Muslim leaders and other Christian pastors for the past two years. The result was a number of interfaith community projects like building houses for the needy, repairing schools and playgrounds, and an interfaith forum that took place last November.
In commemoration of 9/11, Pastor Roberts wanted to do something of significance by inviting Muslims to his church. He gathered the Muslim leaders in June and asked for their input, and hence the “Building Bridges with Fellow Texans” initiative came into existence and took place on September 18, 2011.
700 Christians showed up at the event while a dozen buses pulled up at the church, and Muslim men, women and children from Dallas, Plano and Carrolton walked with their head covers, “hijab,” long robes, and traditional clothing. More drove in from Fort Worth, Mansfield, Arlington and the mid cities and filled up the church parking lot and alleys. 2500 people, of whom 1800 were Muslim, filled up the Northwood church worship auditorium for the first time ever.
“God must be happy to see us together,” Pastor Roberts said with an emotional voice. A seventy five minute program followed, with a Muslim woman wearing the headscarf singing the Star Spangled Banner, Muslim and Christian boys and girls saying the pledge of allegiance, and participants performing Christian songs and a Muslim call to prayer.
At the end of the program, snacks and drinks with Muslim dietary guidelines (halal) were served, the Muslims headed to a large hall to perform their mid day prayers, and the church echoed with the hustle and bustle of people talking, laughing, and having a great time connecting.
Most importantly, no one compromised their faith or religious beliefs: Christians reminded their guests that they believed Jesus was God, while Muslims asserted their beliefs that Jesus is a highly revered prophet sent by Allah, Arabic for God. Everyone announced their love and compassion and a promise to watch over each other, Muslim and Christian, just like Jesus would want and just like Allah has ordained.