Two weeks later. Our second Tea and greeting happened as people came out of Friday prayers at ICSA/Dar Al Hijrah*. It was much warmer, near 60 degrees, which is almost unheard of in Minneapolis in February.
As we waited for people to come out of Friday prayers I watched a video (13 minutes) simply panning the folks mingling and drinking tea and coffee. It brought tears to my eyes, tears for which I do not have words yet.
This time there were 3 or 4 times as many people to serve tea. It was amazing. People from St. Peder’s, Nokomis Heights and Mt. Olivet were there. I heard one man ask if it was happening again. We all seem to be looking for a way to speak out against the current narrative of fear and hate, a narrative that is based largely on not knowing. We seem to be looking for a connection and a way to say that God is big enough for all of us.
People lingered longer and talked more. Conversations went on. Pictures were taken. Everyone was again so grateful – grateful for the warmer weather, grateful for good Somali tea, grateful for new friends, grateful for an opportunity to show our Muslim brothers and sisters that someone cares, that there are Christians who want to make a difference. Some who had come to Cedar-Riverside were already asking when the next one would be.
It turns out that our first Coffee and Tea made it on the news in Somalia and was then seen by Somalis around the world. Apparently other mosques are asking for something similar. What will become of that?
The fear is still great among our Muslim brothers and sisters. The need for community coming together is greater.
Protests and marches have their place. Many different voices are needed at times like this, when one’s neighbors are not feeling welcome and safe. But, it remains true, sometimes one simple act of kindness can make a big difference.
*ICSA – Islamic Civic Society of America. Dar Al-Hijrah (Home of the Immigrants) is the mosque/masjid under the non-profit umbrella of ICSA.
Original journal entry date: 2/20/17
© 2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee. All rights reserved.
There has been a piece of weaving in the Cedar Commons lately. I wasn’t sure what it was, except that it was strips of fabric woven through wooden dowels. There is a group of Somali women and moms who meet down there every Thursday afternoon and Sunday. They gather for conversation and community. They eat and listen to music, exercise, drum and dance, and share crafts they are working on. I have seen the beautiful knitting and beadwork they are working on. And I have enjoyed their sambusas and Somali tea. I have listened to their music in person and through the floor in my office. And I have been amazed by their graceful dancing, so graceful that I haven’t had the nerve to join them, yet.
They are always so grateful when I join them. I always leave having been enriched by their beautiful creations, food and company.
But I couldn’t figure out what the weaving was. It’s about four feet high with bands of cloth woven between dowels that are just a fraction of an inch apart. I had only seen it between their gathering times all rolled up.
Last Thursday I found out what it is. The piece was unrolled and was about 15’ long. It had been in process for several weeks and clearly involved a lot of weaving, and devotion. Some of the women were working on it. Seated on chairs they were carefully weaving the different colors of fabric in and out between the dowels.
It turns out that it is a wall. For an aqal, a Somali hut. During the summer there has been an aqal in the old neighborhood of Cedar-Riverside. The women had been gathering there each Thursday until the weather became too cold. They are now in Trinity’s lower level, the Cedar Commons until warmer weather returns.
They are preparing for this coming summer, when they will resume meeting at the aqal. During the previous months that the aqal had been standing the weather had taken a toll and the fabric that had been on the wooden frame of the aqal had, for all intents and purposes, fallen apart. These women were working on the new wall for their aqal.
In warm weather they gather around the aqal for conversation and community. They eat and listen to music, drum and dance, and share crafts they are working on. And they talk. They invite anyone who is walking by to join them. The community comes together for support and for fun. This wall woven with memories from Somalia is becoming a place for their dreams of the future and for their lives here and now.
This coming summer there will be a bright, new wall.
This kind of wall I like. In fact, it is a beautiful wall. If only all walls brought people together rather than keeping them apart. The world definitely needs more aqals like this one.
Original Journal Entry Date: 1/16/19
© 2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee
On Friday, January 27, 2017 President Trump signed his first Muslim travel ban. In the days after that the streets and sidewalks of Cedar-Riverside were noticeably quiet. People were afraid to leave their homes. In their own neighborhood.
Just before I left for home the following Thursday Wali called. I’m embarrassed to admit I still do not understand everything he says. But what I caught was that on Friday at 1:30 there would be a gathering to let the people know they are welcome here as they came out of Friday prayers at ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah. I also heard the word ‘tea.’ Wali makes really good Somali tea.
I emailed some Trinity people, Urban Hub folks, mission partners, texted a few and let them know what was coming together even though I wasn’t really sure what it was. Earlier in the week Dee from MAS forwarded me an email about the MN Council of Churches hosting some kind of plan of support, being at Friday prayers with the Muslims. She wanted to know if I knew anything. I didn’t, but I emailed Wali. He didn’t know anything either. But Wali, Mike and Imam Sharif had decided to put something together. I let Dee know and she and John joined our group.
It was cold as we stood outside of the doors of ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah. There was some sun, but the wind cancelled out any warmth we might feel. There was hot coffee and Somali tea waiting. Mike greeted us as we gathered. We were maybe 12 of us. Judy, Matt, Steve P., John and Dee, 3 community members, Mark H. and a few others. As the men and women came out of their separate doors after prayers we were there to greet them. All we did was stand there, hand out coffee and tea and tell them that we are glad they are here. We shook hands. Even most of the men shook my hand. I wondered if it was OK because I had on mittens. Wali and Imam Sharif did a kind of mini-hug.
For twenty minutes or so all we did was stand there and tell them we are glad they are here. As the worshipers came out their surprise and apprehension were obvious even though Imam Sharif had mentioned that we would be out there. But once they understood what was happening they were very grateful. They smiled, had some coffee or tea and some stayed and talked a bit. Finally the crowd thinned as everyone had come out and gone on about their day. Someone was video taping for Somali TV. Some pictures have been put on Facebook.
It was so simple, but so powerful. I know that all of us non-Muslims felt good about what had happened. I can only hope that those who came out from prayers and found us there were able to feel welcome and safe, for at least a short time.
Original journal entry date: 2/6/17
©2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved.
All along Trinity’s and my journey has been that of a sailboat. The Ruah, the Wind, the Spirit blows as She will. Sometimes the wind is calm, sometimes it is a gale, most of the time it is somewhere in between. We, Trinity, go where the Spirit leads or blows the best we can. When it is a gale we hang on for dear life. When it is calm we either enjoy the break or wonder what’s wrong and worry that we’re not DOING enough. My task, my role was/is to be at the tiller and offer what direction I can, knowing that the whole journey really depends completely on the Spirit, over which I really have little or no control.
What had happened over time was that not only was I still at the tiller, I had flung myself into the water, behind the boat and was kicking my heart out against a raging storm. I had decided exactly where we were going and how we would get there and what it would all look like at the end of the journey, in my mind. And it was MY JOB TO MAKE IT ALL HAPPEN PERFECTLY.
And I wasn’t paying any attention to the wind.
I had decided that Trinity (African and American, gay and straight, liberal and conservative) would sit down and discuss theology, sexuality, and homosexuality, and at the very least agree to disagree. Or, if it all went my way, we would all agree with my position, (which is, after all, the right one!). And, to top it off, we would do all of this in time for the Synod’s open hearings in October. And I had decided that this was all GOD’S WILL.
Well, that’s not true. What I see now is that I just need to be back at the tiller.
So, this piece of our journey is looking a little different at the moment. I am slowly getting out of the water and back into the tiller’s seat. However, this is not as easy as I thought it could/would/should be. I can feel myself slowly letting go of everything I had taken such a strong hold on. But not as quickly as I’d like. (Once again it seems I have it all figured out how even this part of the journey should go!) But I can feel the letting go beginning.
Part of the letting go is redefining for myself the conversation I had envisioned.
Part of the letting go has to do with my timeline.
Part of the letting go is…is letting go of my…sin (dare I use the word?). This journey had become about me (in my head, at least). And it’s not. In my mind I rant and rave sometimes about the definitions of sin others have presented to me. They are often quite different from mine. To me they seem narrow and judgmental and so 50’s-ish. And that can afford me the opportunity to decide I just might be above all of that.
My current working definition of sin is mainly anything that gets in the way of God in my life and the way I live with others. Well, my recent jump into the water kicking my heart out seems to fulfill that definition quite well. And that screams for letting go of.
So, I’m working on it. I suppose I shouldn’t be impatient with myself or with the Spirit’s working in me. But, I am not only impatient, I am also amused by my humanness in all of this. That in itself is a letting go.
And I can’t help but notice that it is water that I had jumped into in this whole thing - there are just too many baptism connections to comprehend at the moment.
More reflections to come, I’m sure.
Original journey entry date: 6/5/08
© 2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved.
It was January 1st, 2014 I walked into the Brian Coyle Community Center in Cedar-Riverside around noon. At first glance it was like all of the other times I had been there before. But this time was different. This was not a community celebration or a neighborhood meeting; this was because of the devastating horror of an explosion and a fire that was still burning. Several groups were huddled in conversation, mostly in Somali, fire fighters and police officers were resting and warming up, the Red Cross was setting up to help and the Salvation Army was serving all beef hotdogs. Victims’ family members were beginning to arrive. And the news media was scrambling to get a story even though very little was known yet.
Everyone, it seemed, had a job to do or a task to complete, except for me. I was there to be a presence, a Christian presence in a predominantly Muslim community at a time of profound grief. But what does that mean when the community is known as “Little Mogadishu,” the largest concentration of Somalis outside of Somalia?
So often, as pastors, in difficult situations like this, we can fall back on what is familiar to our people and to us: words of comfort and hope we’ve said and heard many times; prayers we’ve prayed time and again; a pastoral role that is somehow understood by everyone in the room. But when the language in the room is Somali, when the women are wearing hijabs and some of the men are wearing thobes; and when the concept of “Christian” is not always a positive one, that is not necessarily so true.
What does it mean to be a Christian presence in a neighborhood where Christians are clearly in the minority, aware that the dominant message in the world these days is that we should be enemies, knowing that the conversation in which we are engaged is a fragile conversation?
I’m not sure and I have been at this a long time. But I have come to know a few things. Being a Christian presence in Cedar-Riverside means being here and often feeling inadequate and not particularly useful, and being ready to feel inadequate and useless for a long time. Being a Christian presence means letting go of any expectations and dreams of solving problems and fixing everything. It means letting the community lead and listening for ways we might, just might, be able to help. It means quietly realizing that being present and listening may be the real help that we can give this community. It means knowing that partners like Augsburg College, Fairview and the U of M, are also working to make our neighborhood the best it can be. Many thanks for their contributions.
But, mostly, it simply means that we are here, for the long haul, with no agenda other than to be here. It means trusting that somehow God is working through all of us in a way that is bigger than anything we will ever be able to comprehend. Accompaniment is the word for it these days.
And, then, at a meeting after several meetings, in the midst of all of the messiness and uncertainty, Imam Sharif calls me sister, and I know I am where I am supposed to be.
Original journal entry date: 1/1/14
©2019 Jane Buckley-Farlee All rights reserved.