Ramona Nash's experience at Summer School taught her many things, but, she says, "The most important lesson was the most basic - a deep reminder of our shared humanity and desire to seek God"
When I saw an ad posted for Summer School posted on the notice board at Sarum College, I was intrigued by the intensive nature of the experience. I interact with Muslim acquaintances frequently but don’t know people well enough to ask some of the more in-depth questions. I find the dismissive nature of some parts of the Christian Church to genuine inter-faith dialogue disturbing and unhelpful, and I wanted to provide a balance to what I have seen, based on experience rather than theory.
I learned so much it’s hard to list it all. I learned how much the Muslims at the Summer School know about their faith and theology. I realised that beliefs within both faiths varied widely, and that it was often difficult for the other faith to find coherence from outside. I experienced deep emotional connection with a Muslim friend during prayer together, which I hadn’t expected. I learned that humour, employed in genuine affection, is a great bonding tool. I was intrigued anew at the intersection of religion with culture, gender, and life experiences in building religious identity (my own and others’). Mostly Summer School brought home to me yet again that the more I learn, the less I know, about both religions.
There were some emotional times for many of us, for various reasons. I was shocked at times by some of the strident statements from both Christians and Muslims, but also very encouraged that even when this happened it prompted deep learning and thinking on both sides. It made me appreciate aspects of my faith I had taken for granted, and also question some of my own assumptions. Overall, I felt like there was a powerful sense of God’s presence in the whole process for me, especially in retrospect.
In my daily life and work, I feel more confident in my conversations with Muslims instead of worrying so much about giving inadvertent offence. Again, having the group outlet of humour was so freeing; we could laugh at some of our mistakes and misunderstandings. I’ve done a lot more reading and shared books (and had them recommended) with my new Muslim friends, to navigate the wide theological field of literature.
Interested in Attending Summer School?
The programme is designed for men and women who are currently, or have recently finished, studying at Christian or Islamic theological colleges training for vocational, faith-based careers in the UK, and who hope one day to be leaders within their local communities.
You can find out more about Summer School and register your interest here.