We were sitting in the new Mulberry Coffeehouse across from the armoury on James Street North. (Not far from my church’s original home, ironically.) Friendly staff, funky space and fair trade coffee – I recommend it.
My friend Mary and I were chatting about various things, including forwarded emails that express fear and/or suspicion and/or resentment and/or dislike towards those of the Muslim religion. Neither of us likes those emails very much. After all, a few of our friends are Muslim, as you know if you are familiar with Crossfire. Although I don’t believe that all roads are the same, I do genuinely believe in loving my neighbour – no matter who that might be.
We moved on to other things, when we heard a polite, “Excuse me for interrupting,” and looked up to see two other funky-space-and-fair-trade-coffee customers. They were just leaving, but paused at our table, as the man smiled and searched for words.
“It’s just that … I hope you don’t mind, but … well, I was trying NOT to eavesdrop, because usually it’s so … I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying. And I just wanted to thank you for it. We are Muslim, you see, and it isn’t very often that we hear Christian people talk about us the way you were. It was just so refreshing.”
We talked briefly about each of our worlds, each with many different slices, including the extreme ones that grab the headlines. I smilingly responded, “You mean like pastors in Florida threatening to burn the Qur'an? I wrote on my blog that I’m one pastor who is NOT burning any books.” He laughed, and said that as a Muslim who had grown up going to a Catholic school in Bangladesh – it would never have occurred to him that I was a pastor at all. (I get that a lot.)
They left after a few minutes. We left soon after, to help haul donated medical supplies out of Crossfire’s gym, bound for a Ukrainian hospital. We hadn’t even exchanged names, just smiles. And Mary and I looked at each other, astonished at the sneaky acoustics of the place, and grateful that our overheard conversation had been what it was. Our church's vision statement, written on the sanctuary wall, is "Engaging our world with the extravagant love of Jesus" … even in a funky coffeehouse.