I am not talking about time to allow the familiarity and trust to develop, though that, too, is true. I am talking about actual T-I-M-E. Like, a whole afternoon. Or better yet, afternoon and evening. Let me elaborate:
In a few weeks, I will be conducting a worship service with a friend of mine who is an imam. We became friends in seminary while both enrolled in the seminary’s basic interfaith course, Dialogue in a World of Difference. It was both our first time taking a class at the seminary. Because I lived an hour from school and he a half hour, but on the way, we carpooled to our once weekly class. Out of that class and carpooling, an unexpected friendship was established. To my joy, we continue to feed it and watch it grow.
The friendship has included both our families. I have met his wife and three adorable, precocious, and young children. He has met my husband and two rascally teenagers. I have eaten in their home. They have eaten in mine. He has attended a worship service I conducted. I have attended Friday Jumaa prayers at his mosque. Drawings his children made for me, calling me Karen Aunt, are on my refrigerator.
Karen Aunt? Right. Did I mention that they are Turkish? So maybe this time thing isn’t about interfaith relations so much as intercultural relations.
Because my imam friend and I are going to conduct worship together in a few short weeks, we have been in more frequent contact recently. I thought it was about time to visit him and the mosque, to surround myself with the transcendent call to prayer – azan — that I find so soothing, especially if I was about to craft a worship service and sermon around interfaith relationships.
I am a rather busy sort. I am gifted with a bevy of friends who are kind enough not to resent my graduate-school-consulting-job-part-time-church-ministry-why-did-I-add-a-blog lifestyle that leads me to full-out neglect of them. To my credit, I am a great time manager; I excel at being efficient with how I spend my time. No doubt culturally-coded, I tend to see time in segments available for my exploitation.
I do not think this is how it works in Turkey. A visit is not for an hour and then onto the next thing. I do not think this is how it works in Turkey because though I dedicated most of my afternoon – five hours altogether if we count the driving – my Turkish friends were both surprised and disappointed that I did not spend more time with them. “Next time,” said my friend’s wife, with whom I spent the majority of the post-Jumaa-prayer time, “you should come for a real visit. Plan for more time together.”
Like I said, these things take time.