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'Building friendships': McDougall United Church hosts Muslim and Christian communities for prayers

McDougall United Church
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One of Edmonton's oldest churches hosted two faith groups on Good Friday to help build community and understanding.

Every night in April, for the month of Ramadan, Muslim men and women have used McDougall United Church in downtown Edmonton for nightly prayers.

The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and McDougall's congregations came together Friday to celebrate their respective faiths for the first time.

"It's an opportunity for us to meet and greet with our Muslim friends that are using (this) space," said MaryAnne Pastcuk.

"For us as a Muslim community, reciting the Qur'an is really special in a space like that as well," said Yasin Cetin, MAC outreach and engagement advisor.

The partnership began as a way to provide Muslims working or living downtown a space for prayer.

Since 2021, the historic church has sought development proposals to incorporate it into a multi-use community hub.

Pastcuk said the current congregation of 75 people is not enough to support the needs of the aging building, but fostering partnerships with other faith and community groups could help create a shared space for all.

"We are hoping that it can develop into a long-term relationship," Pastcuk said. "Conversations are continuing about what our future together would look like."

While the church pews aren't used during Muslim services, Cetin said the building still offers a unique space for prayers.

"For folks who are working in the core," he said, "there is a huge need for a space like this."

The Muslim community served tea to churchgoers Friday before their service, and church council members have attended some of the MAC nightly prayers as well, Cetin said.

"We usually like breaking bread over building friendships, but when you are breaking bread at 10 p.m., we are trying to find ways to make that work," he said with a laugh.

Mulisms attend prayers on Good Friday at McDougall United Church on April 15, 2022 (CTV News Edmonton/Evan Klippenstein).

"Edmonton is a really special place to foster community," he added. "There are very few places where you can look at community assets like McDougall United Church which again just has so much historic and acoustic significance."

He says talks are ongoing to see what a long-term relationship between the two groups could look like to develop a better shared sacred space.

"It's especially special for us as a Muslim community, recognizing that we've been in the prairies on Treaty 6 for over 150 years, to share space with a church built in 1911 that's been here just as long," Cetin said.

"It shows the camaraderie, the pluralism, the ability to connect over faith and foster a sense of community." 

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