Bismillah. From the Christian-Muslim Forum:
This is the most recent news item posted on our News and Events page.
* Following in the Footsteps of Abraham – A Retreat for Men *
This was a very successful, enjoyable and spiritual event, living up to our expectations and the confidence of the Inlight Trust in providing the funding. Men from across the country, including Wales, converged on St Deiniol’s Library from Birmingham, Brighton, Burnley, Dorking, Leighton Buzzard, London, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Nottingham and Rochester.
Tony Aylward, a Baptist from Rochester, wrote the following account.
Reflections on the Men’s Retreat
I went on this retreat with great expectation as I believe God wanted me to be there. It was entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Abraham’ and my hope was that it would inspire my thinking on male spirituality and also renew my contact with Muslims following my departure from Leicester. It was a small gathering of 13: 6 Christian and 7 Muslims and was led by Symon Hill and Abdullah Trevathan. We looked at 3 areas:
• The life of Abraham in the Qur’an and Bible
• Dealing with conflict
• Being Male
We shared worship in the form of meditation/reflection using Muslim chants from the Sufi tradition and Christian ones from Taize and Iona.
When we drew up a list of Abraham’s character from our scriptures, we discovered that many of them were the same. Key ones from both texts which we identified were:
• Spiritual wayfarer
• Absolute faith
• Friend of God
One major difference in respect to Abraham was that in the Muslim tradition all prophets are without sin whereas in the Christian tradition only Jesus is without sin and so the prophets are flawed people. We spent some time thinking about Abraham the Absurd, defining ‘absurd’ as not normal or ordinary. As people of faith we are called to be an extraordinary people. By being together as Christians and Muslims for this retreat we were being absurd. We were challenged as to whether we had become to cosy in our faith and not therefore taking risks. Are we going through the motions of faith without it really affecting the way we live our lives?The conflict resolution sessions were very helpful in enabling us to think about the root causes and not just the reasons people often give for their positions. We looked at a diagram that required us to think about where we were in relation to personal goals as against relationships when dealing with an issue of conflict. Although compromise in some cases is the only way we were encouraged to try problem solving the issue to see if there is a better way for the parties involved. I was not alone in finding how ready as a group we were to accept the very different issues between our faiths. Perhaps that said more about the participants who were more focused on areas of agreement.
The final session on male identity caused the most discussion as we completed a questionnaire expressing how important certain criteria were to our identity. What was striking for me was the relative passion that people gave to particular headings. We considered whether our responses would have been the same had there been a woman present, for which the majority view was that it would. The question of what are male characteristics is a problem area when it comes to looking at male spirituality. Draw up a list and there will be people who disagree with you. I am a firm believer that at times this is because men may not like a particular trait or they believe they do not portray it. The walk we had on the Saturday afternoon was a wonderful demonstration of a male trait in action. We had identified of Abraham that he was focused and indicated that this was a male attribute. On the walk we talked, mainly in pairs but on occasions in single file. We maintained a brisk pace rarely stopping to take in the creation around us. We even managed to be blissfully unaware of ‘Private’ notices. Now that is what I call focused!
Overall it was a great experience of men sharing the journey of faith. For me the translation of the Muslim chant, “La ilaha ill’allah” as “There is nothing but God; there is only God,” called me to refocus my life on the things of God. To daily ask the question, “What will God do with me today rather than what will I do today?”
Many thanks to all who took part, the retreat leaders and Tony for his reflections. We would like to hold another retreat and have an invitation to an Islamic retreat centre in Spain. If you are interested in being involved in exploring Christian-Muslim men’s spirituality please get in touch.
We are also organising a women’s retreat for London-based Christian and Muslim women on 31 July/1 August in Kent. Please contact us for more details.
An event for everyone: Friends and Neighbours, 30 June/1 July 2010.
Following in the Footsteps of Abraham
Christian Muslim Forum
70 South Lambeth Road
Telephone 0207 820 0444
Company Registration 5461960
Registered Charity 1114793