A Discussion Group of the National Storytelling Network

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Children at the Well

Godís October Surprise: An Interfaith Celebration, Albany, NY October 4, 2006

by Kate Dudding, Gert Johnson, and Paula Weiss

Itís not often that you can hear three people seamlessly tell one story without any rehearsal. Even more remarkable, these were two Muslims and a Jew sharing stories of the patriarch they have in common: Abram / Abraham / Ibrahim.

On Wednesday evening, October 4, over 40 people from several faith groups gathered at the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary at the College of St. Rose, Albany, to celebrate coinciding holidays from each of their traditions: the sacred Muslim lunar month of Ramadan, the Jewish lunar month of Tishrei (including the High Holy Days, Sukkot and Simchat Torah), the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and Worldwide (Protestant/Orthodox) Communion Sunday (Oct. 7). After 2007, this confluence of holidays will not occur again for more than 30 years.

The descendants of Abraham have crystallized mainly into three religious communities -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Stories were shared to weave together the different threads and reinterpretations of these stories and gain new and deeper perspectives from these multiple truths.

The evening began with Dr. Mussarat Chaudhry explaining the practices and the reasons behind the practices of the sacred Muslim lunar month of Ramadan. Audrey Seidman then described the Jewish lunar month of Tishrei and the High Holy Days. Nancy Marie Payne spoke of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who opposed the Crusades and studied with Islamic teachers.

Then everyone enjoyed a potluck supper. Those breaking their fast for Ramadan were graciously ushered to the front of the line for the buffet.

Later, during the story sharing part of the evening, the three persons telling one story occurred. Susan Hassib, a teacher at the An Nur Islamic School of Schenectady, told of Ibrahim as a child and how his faith in God carried him through many hardships Ė an example to all. Rabbi Debora Gordon, of Congregation Berith Sholom in Troy told of the early marriage and partnership of Abram and Sarai, before they had been given the names of Abraham and Sarah. Dr. Mussarat Chaudhry spontaneously joined in, with face and eyes glowing, to share the story of Ibrahim, Hajar and Ishmael, which forms the basis for the traditions celebrated to this day by Muslims who make the pilgrimige to Mecca.

This celebration was facilitated by Dr. Mussarat Chaudhry, Nancy Marie Payne and Audrey Seidman.Their theme was drawn from the book The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims, by Joan Chittister, OSB; Murshid Saadi Shakur Chishti, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow (2006, Beacon Press) and from the work of the Shalom Center.

This program was one of the monthly events of the Interfaith Story Circle of the Tri-City Area. To be included on the email list for this story group, please send an email to GRSJohnson@aol.com .