Once upon a time, in Memphis, Tennessee, there was a small Methodist church called Heartsong United Methodist. It was a close-knit community of believers with a big heart for outreach and service. One day, the church's pastor, Steve Stone, noticed that the Muslim community didn't have a place to pray while their Muslim Community Center was under construction. Pastor Stone put an unusual sign outside his church. "Welcome to the neighborhood, Memphis Islamic Center," it read. Stone invited the Muslim community to celebrate their religious holiday inside his church.
The Muslim community was taken aback by Stone's invitation, but in a very positive way. Danish Siddiqui, a board member of the Memphis Islamic Center, says, "Muslims, we tend to think of ourselves as good neighbors, but Steve beat us to the punch and put up that sign — and all we had to do was knock on the door and introduce ourselves." The Muslim community was grateful for the warm welcome, and the two communities quickly developed a friendship.
Stone was welcomed with open arms by the leadership of the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC). They talked for hours, sharing stories about their respective faiths, and discovered that they had a lot in common. They both valued community, service, and love for their fellow human beings. They also realized they faced similar challenges in building bridges between their faiths.
Stone was impressed by the sincerity and warmth of the Muslims he met at the MIC. He invited them to visit Heartsong and to share a meal together. The Muslims accepted the invitation and brought delicious food to share with their Christian neighbors.
The meal celebrated the beautiful friendship between Heartsong United Methodist and the Memphis Islamic Center. They continued to meet regularly, hosting picnics, blood drives, and other events together. They even shared worship space on occasion, with the Muslims using the Methodist church for their Friday prayers when their own facility was unavailable.
Their friendship was not without its challenges, of course. Some in the community didn’t understand or approve of their relationship. But Heartsong and the MIC were determined to continue their friendship despite the obstacles. They both believed their faiths called them to love their neighbors, regardless of their differences.
Their incredible relationship became well-known worldwide, and many people were inspired by their example of interfaith cooperation and friendship. Heartsong United Methodist and the Memphis Islamic Center showed that it was possible to build bridges across religious divides and to find common ground in our shared humanity.
This story is part of our Golden Rule series.