Uplifting story of a church and a mosque in New York

Published 6:07 am Friday, November 2, 2018

More than a decade ago, Victoria and I visited her hometown of Utica, New York. We strolled down Genesee St., the main street, where she pointed out places remembered from her childhood. At one intersection, we stopped for a traffic light, and I looked down the street to the right. Several blocks away stood a lovely church. Victoria had once been inside it and identified it as Methodist. I walked a block or so closer to take a photo of it. As I neared it, however, something did not seem quite right. Eventually, I saw what that was. On its exterior there was a crescent moon and a single star, an indication that it was Muslim. The former church was now a mosque!

Years later, we were listening to a broadcast on NPR about Utica. I had fallen on hard times. The economy had taken a downturn, businesses closed, buildings were abandoned. But then, a wave of Bosnian immigrants arrived there. They bought the buildings for a song, remodeled them, started new businesses, and in general revived downtown Utica. It was flourishing again.

Now the Bosnians were in need of a mosque. They bought the Methodist church building, enabling the Christians to move to the suburbs to build a larger church. The Bosnians took down the cross from the old church’s steeple and removed the bell from its bell tower. When their transformation of the building was completed, they decided to host a celebratory dinner and to invite the entire Methodist congregation to attend. The Methodists came. When all the eating and speechmaking were done, the Bosnians brought out the cross and the bell, which they had kept, and presented them to the joyous Methodists.

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One could conclude that the Muslims behaved like good Christians, but it would be equally true to say that they acted like good Muslims.

Milton Scarborough