The bearded young Muslims scrolled through their iPhones and shared teachings of their prophet while older Christian men and women flipped through old-fashioned notebooks and talked about Jesus. They gathered each Tuesday for two months, these emissaries of faith exploring their differences and similarities in surprising ways.
Things started tentatively. Most of those from Church of the Holy Family and Church of the Holy Apostles are in their 60s and had never known a Muslim, let alone sat in a mosque to discuss Muhammed and gospels and Sharia law.
And the Muslims had been stung by what they called unfair portrayals of their faith, including a campaign launched last year against their plan for a mosque in Virginia Beach.
But with each passing week, the meetings of East and West evolved from a polite curiosity – “Don’t wear socks with any holes in them,” one woman reminded others before the first visit to Crescent Community Center – into teaching and friendship.
The group soon ventured into touchier subjects.
Lon Scofield, 67, who calls himself “just to the right of Rush Limbaugh,” had trouble reconciling terrorism by radical Muslim groups with the kind, thoughtful men he met and grew to respect. The Muslims told the group they must separate the acts of radical men perverting religion from the truth of the Quran and Islam. Scofield agreed in principle but said that didn’t go far enough.