Photo Gallery | First Congregational Church hosts Al Baqi Islamic Center
WILLIAMSTOWN — The messages of peace, love and tolerance were doubly emphasized on Sunday morning, as the First Congregational Church of Williamstown hosted members of the Al-Baqi Islamic Center for Human Excellence of Springfield in an interfaith prayer service.
"This is about love," explained Imam Rasul Seifullah. "We're all one. What's keeping us back is that we spend all our time trying to prove who's right and who's wrong. We're all getting caught up in religion."
"Christians say Christ is love," added assistant Imam Mujahiel Aleem. "We say Mohammed is peace. You can't have peace without love and you can't have love without peace."
"We are burning bridges too often instead of building them," said the Rev. Mark Longhurst, pastor of the First Congregational Church.
In his sermon, Longhurst pointed out that "we are consumed by fear. Say no to fear and yes to friendship.
"Jesus," he said, "expects us to love one another. to love our friends."
There were about 150 in attendance, including five from Al Baqi,
"We're a small community," said Aleem. "We have only about 25 members."
Following the service, members from both groups greeted each other like old friends, which in some cases, is what they are. The two congregations have been visiting each other for the past 14 years, since the 9/11 attacks, according to organizer Carol Stein-Payne.
Following the attacks, Stein-Payne said many members of the Congregational Church "realized we didn't know anything about Muslims."
So, the church reached out to various mosques around western Massachusetts. Al Baqi responded.
Both groups have made it a point to stay in communication and support each other.
"They've been there for us and we've been there for them," she said