Muslims and Christians to hold prayers together at Edmonton's McDougall United Church
Historic downtown church hosting Friday prayers during Ramadan
Every night since the beginning of April, verses from the Qur'an recited by an imam have echoed through the historic McDougall United Church in downtown Edmonton.
The pews are empty but the floor in front is covered in rows of prayer rugs with a couple of dozen Muslim men and women performing their nightly prayers.
The scene is out of the ordinary.
It came about as a result of a partnership between the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and one of Edmonton's oldest churches to provide Muslims living downtown a space for prayer during the month of Ramadan.
On Good Friday, the two communities will come together for the first time to celebrate their individual faiths together.
"It's a really beautiful thing," Yasin Cetin, outreach and engagement adviser for MAC, told CBC's Edmonton AM on Thursday.
"Being in a space like McDougall has been even more rewarding, just because we're sharing space with a beautiful community — and being able to connect on days like Good Friday, I think, is extra special."
Muslims and Christians will meet at the church at 1 p.m. and then perform their individual prayers — Christians observing Good Friday service and Muslims, the Friday prayer — in different parts of the church at 2 p.m.
Larry Derkach, a member of the congregation at McDougall United, said the partnership came together to ensure a sustainable future for the historic building.
He said they have been looking at turning the building into more of a community hub and had reached out to different partners. The Muslim association showed interest.
"We thought, this is wonderful, because we really love the idea of different faith groups worshiping under the same roof. And we think we have a great space for being able to do that," Derkach said.
For both communities, coming together was also extra special as past religious events had taken place either in isolation or spread a part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"After two years of being locked up, you sort of learn to appreciate what you missed," Cetin said.
McDougall and MAC started their discussions in February. A month later they decided Ramadan would be the perfect time to test out this collaboration, Cetin said.
Edmonton is home to a number of mosques but they are located in the south or north ends of the city. Muslims living or working downtown have to travel far to take part in Friday afternoon prayer, which is meant to be performed at a mosque.
"Access to Friday prayers is really important," Cetin said.
He said based on this experience they will further explore what an extended partnership between MAC and the church could look like.
He said the partnership wasn't heavily advertised until now because they wanted to see what working together would like with a small group first.
"So that we can work through some of the kinks and challenges … the logistics of being in a space that is unfamiliar," he said.