Blessing an interfaith home: 2-23-12
February 23, 2012
Sharon Johnson (in the photo below left) stood at the lectern set up on the front steps of her new house and could not hold back the tears of joy.
Lawrence W. Anderson, her pastor from the Dowtnwon Church of Christ, stood behind her, patting her on the shoulder for encouragement. Finally, she was able to catch her breath and tell the dozens of people standing on her lawn for a house blessing this:
"I thank God for this house. I've never had a house before."
The new home, north of 27th and Bellefontaine in Kansas City, for Sharon and her children represents yet another interfaith milestone for Kansas City. This is another in a series of "The House That Abraham Builds" constructed under the auspices of Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City. (I last wrote about this project here this past December. You'll find lots of details there and in a Catholic Key piece to which I link you there.)
The project bears the Abraham name that because it brings together congregations of Christians, Muslims and Jews -- followers of the Abrahamic faiths -- to work together.
As Yahna Gibson, Habitat's executive director, told the crowd this past Sunday, "God has provided a wonderful group of people for Habitat." And why would this crowd of workers set aside their theological differences to build a house together for a needy family?
The Rev. Stan Runnels of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Kansas City had this answer: "In all of our communities there is a singular focus on the idea of justice." (Runnels is shown in the photo at right with Shakil Haider, left, a Muslim representative who read passages from the Qur'an.)
Ground was broken for this house on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as people rededicated themselves to living in religious harmony and not caving in to the kind of religious hate that drove the hijackers that day.
So it was good at the house blessing to hear quotes not just from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament but also from the Qur'an.
One house built by an interfaith team doesn't resolve all of our religious difference and tensions. But it's a wonderful step toward that goal. And, besides, we all got to sing together a modified version of the song that carries this line, "Our house is a very, very, very fine house. . ."
And we didn't sound all that bad.
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GIVING AWAY A CAMPUS
Speaking of homes, there's a free home available for a Christian institution in Northfield, Mass., where plans to create a C.S. Lewis College have fallen through. Now the owners of the 217-acre site with its 43 buildings are willing to give it away. If I could set the rules, I'd say, "Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., need not apply."
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.