When pastor Steve Stone initially heard of the mosque and Islamic center being erected on the sprawling land adjacent his church, his stomach tightened. Then he raised a 6-foot sign reading, "Welcome to the Neighborhood."

The issue for Stone and the 550-person Heartsong Church in Cordova, came down to one question:

"What would Jesus do if He were us? He would welcome the neighbor," Stone said.

While plans for Islamic centers across the country and just miles away have triggered vitriolic responses and divided communities, here in Memphis it's been a peaceful process. While the 4,000-square-foot mosque is being completed, Heartsong has opened its doors to its neighbors throughout the monthlong observance of Ramadan. Under a gigantic cross constructed of salvaged wood, nearly 200 area Muslims have been gathering each night to pray.

"I've got fear and ignorance in me, too," said Stone, referring to his and some of his congregants' early apprehension toward the Memphis center.

But as members of the Christian congregation take the opportunity to sit in on Ramadan prayers and meet people at the nightly gatherings, much of that mystery and fear has dissipated.

"I think it's helped break down a lot of barriers in both congregations," said Islamic center board member Danish Siddiqui.

Without a place to call home, young Muslims are more likely to seek more radical interpretation of the Quran online, says Arsalan Shirwany, a board member and father of three.

When it is finished, the new facility will be a center for the whole community, and a place for interfaith cooperation, Shirwany said. "This is what we need to fight extremism."

COMMENT: The Cordova muslims, as well as the Heartsong Christians, are avery special bunch of people. To behonest, I can't imagine that many Imams in the UK would allow their congregations to worship in a Christian church, least of all under a huge image of the "Son of God." But, of course, I could be wrong on this.

A big thank you to BooCat for sending me the link to this story.



  1. That is truly inspiring. And BooCat, it was cool to come across something from The Commercial Appeal here at MadPriest’s place! When I was a kid growing up in Vicksburg, that was the paper our family subscribed to.

    MadPriest: LOVE, love, love your caption to the picture!

  2. Ellie, When I was a toddler and still living in the Muscle Shoals Region of Alabama, “The Commercial Appeal” was one of the newspapers delivered by my brother on his two daily paper routes, the other being “The Tri-Cities Daily.” I still have a lot of family in that area of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. It was my cousin Edward Ford Pierce who made me aware of this wonderful Christian-Muslim cooperation.

  3. “What would Jesus do if He were us? He would welcome the neighbor,” Stone said.

    Good heavens – someone who understands the point! That’s refreshing.

  4. I would love to know what they would do if the local Community (gay) Church needed somewhere to worship whilst they built their own church next door.

  5. Well, that might well be another story.

    Though they haven’t in this instance called for the death penalty for all Muslims, so they’re liberal to some degree, at least.

  6. I love the photo caption.

    Unlike Jews, at least Muslims accept Jesus as one of God’s prophets. But I am not sure what this means;
    Under a gigantic cross constructed of salvaged wood, nearly 200 area Muslims have been gathering each night to pray.
    Is this a regular feature of this church building, or did they construct it for this occasion. I am confused.

  7. Love the caption too!

    Wesley’s Chapel in the City of London, that centre of Methodism built by John himself, has a tiny plain side chapel that’s always open for prayer. Apparently it’s often used by Muslims, especially during Ramadan.