Copyright © by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use in public gatherings with attribution of author and blogsite.
The Great Mosque that sits in the heart of the gravely troubled West African nation of Mali consists of clay-covered mud bricks that take a beating during the rainy season. An annual festival to refresh the building along with various attempts at replastering have softened its hard edges, in one writer’s view, “giving it a molten, biomorphic look—the visual equivalent of Malian Islam, some say—insistently powerful without being harsh.”
Renovations are restoring the mosque’s hard angles, but also postponed for several years (until last month) the religious festival during which the everyday faithful used to do the work of restoration, thus disheartening the community.
The closing spiritual metaphor of my first book, Uncommon Calling, was that of a church in Taos, New Mexico (made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe’s depiction on canvas) whose adobe walls have to be restored each year with fresh mud and straw after their rainy season. Someone offered the Church of St. Francis a permanent solution, only to discover that the resin applied to the walls kept the church from “breathing,” deteriorating the brick within the mud and straw.
As I say in my book, though a dirty and arduous task, the church members had to return to their annual “reformation” of their church, just as we all must regularly reform and reshape our spiritual communities. “As much as we might want walls and boundaries and divisions to be permanent,” I wrote, “Churches are stronger if they are permeable—open to the breath of the Spirit, which blows where she will and blesses love where she finds it.”
That nature would soften the hard edges of both the Great Mosque and the Church of St. Francis should humble all whose religion is hard-edged and harsh. That the restoration of the mosque’s hard angles would displace an annual festival in which every one might have a hand in shaping sanctuary could remind us that ALL are welcome and needed in our endeavors to refresh our communities of faith.