For Rev. Ed Den Haan and the Bridging Group of First Christian Reformed Church in Guelph, Ont., it was an exciting day when “our neighbors came to church yesterday.” The Bridging Group is an informal group of members of First CRC and of the Guelph mosque across the street from the church. Together they are working to create understanding and build relationships between Christians and Muslims.
Earlier this month, representatives of the Muslim Society of Guelph attended a First CRC worship service, treated the congregation to samosas and baklavas, and stayed to enjoy a lunch of soup and buns. “We had wonderful conversations, a time of sharing our lives and hopes,” said Den Haan.
According to Den Haan, the Bridging Group serves as a catalyst in developing goodwill. “The group develops jointly sponsored activities such as barbecues and a community garden. This group of Christians and Muslims also discussed theology and traditions,” he said.
The relationship started about two years ago when Den Haan and his campus ministry colleague, Iftechar Sheikh, began the Bridging Group and worked to find ways to bring their communities together. Den Haan was a CRC campus chaplain at the University of Guelph for many years. “Both of us, Muslims and Christians, insist upon the integrity of our expressions and practices of faith. We . . . will not water down or deny our faiths. God wants to be seen in truth, not primarily for what is palatable,” stressed Den Haan. “We are trying to be relational with truth.”
The church and mosque share a community garden on the church property, which Den Haan said is growing vegetables as well as friendship by association. The Muslim Society hosts meetings, services, and barbecues to which neighbors are invited. Den Haan said, “The Muslim Society of Guelph is eager to relate with us for good.”