One of the most important aspects of doing incarnational ministry includes becoming familiar with a particular community’s history as well as its social and religious context. Today, our team spent some time discussing the spiritual darkness in London and its hidden poverty, and how this once widely Christian city is now in many ways vastly secular and diverse.
In fact, in Shadwell, 52% of people identify as Muslim, and only 20% identify as Christian. Before coming to London, I had basically next to no knowledge about Islam, and I’m definitely still in the process of learning. Here are a few basics:
Islam is founded upon the teachings of Muhammad. Its book of scriptures, called the Quran, is a recited Arabic piece, and its cannon is strict; Muslims are highly discouraged from questioning or critiquing it. The Quran is written in a prophetic voice, but was not written in chronological order – part of it was recorded in Mecca and the rest later in Medina, and different texts take presedence by different Muslim groups. Overall, it’s a very public and communial religion.
The five pillars of Islam include:
Shahada, or faith in one God and Muhammad as the final prophet
Salat, or five daily prayers
Zakāt, or tithing
Sawm, or fasting
and Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca (which is optional, and only required if you have enough money to afford it)
Also, Hadiths are collections of writings on Muhammad’s life, and serve as guides for Muslim living. The festival of Ramadan (taking place now) is based on the lunar cycle, and includes a month of daily fasting from sunrise to sunset. Iftar is a large community evening meal to break the fast.
On a different but still educational note, later this afternoon, we visited the Adventure Playground, this amazingly precarious jumble of a community playground.
It was originally built in the 60s and shut down in the 80s, but was reopened in 2000. The playground is constantly being repainted, and there are always children and young adults hanging out there when it’s open. In fact, they recently put on a performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, using the entire irregular structure of the playground as a stage, and having the audience move around throughout the play so they could see what was happening.
It’s run-down and messy and definitely a major safety hazard just waiting to happen and I absolutely love it. I think it’s beautiful. The community art part of my heart wants to establish these kind of playgrounds everywhere.