By Vivien Bowman rscj - May 2012
One of the reasons for our existence as a community in Leeds is to be part of the Christian presence in amongst other faiths. This week I have been privileged to take part in two different gatherings.
The first was an interfaith ” walk for friendship”. This year it was in Harehills, Leeds, and started in the largest Mosque in Leeds, newly built, and a very imposing building. A young Muslim leader led us to their vaste prayer area, where everyone sits or kneels on the carpeted floor. We were told of what they hold as important to their lives as muslims, and then went on to say how this mosque is expanding rapidly as it responds to the very diverse needs of the international community in Harehills. They now use English as their main language, but all learn the Arabic required for learning the Quran.
We then walked, about 50 0f us, with our banners to St Augustine’s Catholic Church. The parish priest, Michael, is no longer there, and we had a lay couple to explain to us about what goes on in a Catholic church. They centred on the fact the church was built to accommodate the huge number of Irish who arrived in the 1930’s, then how the congregation dwindled, now to be replaced by numerous Filipinos and people from many African nations. The next port of call was the Anglican Church, where the priest in charge is now the Lord Mayor. He had come dressed in clericals - with the chains of Office around his neck! - to welcome us on the steps of the church.
Today, I attended the closing Mass at our local Anglican Church, on Tempest Road. It was started 107 years ago with a congregation of 800, and now has only about 10. The local Vicar has recently retired and they cannot afford to keep the church building. Just outside there are bulldozers starting to excavate for our first “purpose built” Mosque in Beeston. So this is an historic moment for Beeston, with the Christian presence visibly dwindling to be replaced by a growing number of Muslims. We all worship the One God, and the message for Christians and Muslims alike is surely that is how we love our neighbours, rather than the number of buildings. In the Anglican Mass today I found I was back in a Catholic liturgy of olden days, and could take part in all the responses. Why on earth do we Christians not all pray together...?