UM pastor observes Ramadan, and blogs about it, finding Muslim fans

DALLAS—Muslims all over the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan by going without food or drink from sunup to sundown.

And fasting right along with them is a United Methodist pastor in North Texas, the Rev. Wes Magruder.

Imam Yaseen Shaikh and the Rev. Wes Magruder chatted before going on a Dallas public radio program to talk about Ramadan. UMR PHOTO BY SAM HODGES

He has found the regimen spiritually renewing, but also challenging.“Our Methodist fasts are very wimpy compared to this,” he said.

Dr. Magruder, 45 and associate pastor at First UMC in Rowlett, Texas, has been sharing his experiences through his blog. He began his first Ramadan entry, on July 20, this way:

“I woke up at 4:20 a.m., ate four hard-boiled eggs and a blueberry bagel, swallowed down a cup of coffee, and sat down to pray. And I haven’t eaten or had a drink since. The clock reads 6:26 p.m., and I still have over two hours to go.”

The first-person account of a United Methodist pastor observing Ramadan has caught the attention of Muslims across the United States and internationally. The proof is higher traffic for Dr. Magruder’s blog (jumping from the normal 200 “hits” per post to more than 5,000), and scores of comments.

One reader wrote: “As a Muslim in London, fasting for 18 hours is not easy but is my way of expressing love for God and to have a Christian minister not only understand but stand in solidarity with us makes me proud to be a human being.”

Dr. Magruder is a former missionary to Cameroon, and something of a gadfly among UM pastors in North Texas, using the pulpit and his blog to offer strong views on UMC matters and the demands of Christian faith. He is, among other things, a committed pacifist.

“First Rowlett UMC has deep love and respect for Wes,” said the Rev. Jan Davis, senior pastor there. “He is sincere in his teaching and preaching and endeavors to live out the gospel. However, I will admit that he frequently ruffles people’s feathers and occasionally those concerns are brought to me.”

Dr. Magruder decided to observe Ramadan only recently, while attending the dedication of a new community center at the Islamic Association of Collin County. He offers a simple, two-part answer for why he would go on such a fast.

First, he felt a need for spiritual renewal, particularly after a season of United Methodist political turmoil, and believed the discipline of Ramadan would help give him that.

Second, he wanted to show support for Muslims he’s come to know in North Texas.

“At the core of my faith is the command to love my neighbor,” Dr. Magruder said. “I believe I’m trying to love my Muslim neighbor. . . . I just see this as a very basic living out of what I’m supposed to do as a Christian.”

Feeling the buzz

Dr. Magruder, whose ministry includes working with Muslim refugees in North Texas, has used his blog to describe what it’s like to forego food and drink during daylight, day after day.

On day six, July 25, he wrote: “My throat and mouth are on the verge of being cotton-mouth dry all the time, and there is a dryness inside my head that stretches from the back of my throat straight up into the middle of my head. And that dryness makes a very soft, gentle buzz-y feeling, of which I am always aware.”

He goes on to say that the buzz keeps him aware of God and the need for prayer. And he notes that fasting has sharpened his senses and deepened his gratitude, particularly when the sun goes down and he can eat again.

“My wife, Leah, threw burgers on the grill last night and prepared a pretty simple hamburger, which is something we eat at least once a week,” he wrote in the same entry. “But it tasted like manna from heaven. Every bite was unforgettable. Meanwhile, I sipped a glass of water, which tasted as sweet as if it had come from a spring in the Rockies. I even groaned in pleasure as I ate and drank, prompting Leah to roll her eyes at me.”

Dr. Magruder’s entries are often just that personal. (And whimsical. In one, he noted that he’s stopped raiding jellybeans from the children’s ministry office at First UMC Rowlett.) But he balances them with theological reflections.

For example, he notes that observing Ramadan has helped him understand Psalm 70 better, particularly the line, “I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!”

Naps OK

Dr. Magruder has turned to Imam Yaseen Shaikh, leader of the Islamic Association of Collin County, for practical advice about Ramadan.

(When a Florida pastor was in the news for threatening to burn the Quran, Dr. Magruder wrote Imam Shaikh, whom he did not know, a letter of support. Imam Shaikh invited Dr. Magruder to visit the association’s Plano mosque. Dr. Magruder did, and he and Imam Shaikh became friends.)

From Imam Shaikh and others, Dr. Magruder has learned to drink plenty of water in the non-fasting hours, and to break the fast with a modest, not a super-sized, meal.

And it was Imam Shaikh, who emerges as a character in the blog posts, who assured Dr. Magruder that it’s OK to take naps during Ramadan.

Imam Shaikh has arranged invitations for Dr. Magruder to join local Muslim groups for the breaking of the fast some evenings, and joined him as a guest on “Think,” a Dallas public radio program, to discuss Ramadan.

Through social media, Imam Shaikh has spread the word of Dr. Magruder’s blog.

“The [Muslim] community is very happy and proud of the reverend for taking this big step to build bridges,” Imam Shaikh said.

While Imam Shaikh has introduced many to Dr. Magruder’s blog, the big breakthrough came when it got picked up by the Huffington Post Ramadan blog. Traffic soared.

“I’m getting a lot of hits from Indonesia, Malaysia—all over,” Dr. Magruder said.

So far, people at First UMC Rowlett have been encouraging, he said. But word is still getting out.

“I expect that I may get some phone calls,” said Ms. Davis, the senior pastor.

Dr. Magruder gave her a heads-up about planning to observe Ramadan, and surprised her. “Wes is always innovative in his approach to ministry, but this was an interest I would never have expected,” she said.

But she’s on his side, saying Christian leaders are called to interfaith dialogue and to setting an example in forming relationships with those of other faiths.

Meanwhile, Imam Shaikh has invited Dr. Magruder to the Islamic Association of Collin County on Aug. 19 for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

The only problem is that’s a Sunday—a work day for Dr. Magruder.

“I’m still going to try to get there,” he said.

shodges@umr.org

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10 Comments on "UM pastor observes Ramadan, and blogs about it, finding Muslim fans"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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jim
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Mr. Magruder has particiated in an exercise that few have apparently done. His tenaciousness is to be commended. My thought(s): Most if not all main line denominations are saturated with political correctness (pc). PC dictates that one says or does nothing that will offend–even though it is ok for those who espouse abortion, same-sex marriage, feminism, etc,etc, etc to rake those who espouse traditional values loudly/harshly "over the coals." If those folks who love traditional Judeo/Christian belief exercised the discipline that Mr. Magruder has exhibited during his journey in to Ramadan, perhaps those mainline denominations would experience a Holy Visit… Read more »
freeinchrist35
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When we see Jesus we See God. "He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me". At the very least Jesus is saying when we see Him we see the Father, in fact He said in John 14:9 "when you see Me you see the Father" but as Jesus made it very clear that it was God who sent Him, it is clear that in the context Jesus intended for those who heard Him to understand that when we see Him we see God. Now if Jesus was not the divine Son of God who is by nature Himself God,… Read more »
freeinchrist35
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From the article “At the core of my faith is the command to love my neighbor,” Dr. Magruder said. “I believe I’m trying to love my Muslim neighbor. . . . I just see this as a very basic living out of what I’m supposed to do as a Christian.” My comments Jesus also said to judge with a righteous judgment. That means we are to discern with the help of the Holy Spirit what is and what is not biblical, and the Muslim faith does not line up with scripture. First and foremost because they reject Jesus as the… Read more »
jim
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Thank you, pmurphy–on all accounts.

pmurphy
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I must be the only one that thinks it is inappropriate (at best) for a Christian (and a pastor no less) to observe the worship customs of a non-Christrian religion. I guess that the pastor doesn't mind participating in a religious observance that worships another god. There shall be no other gods before me must not mean much to him. The Muslim Allah is not our God, it is a pagan religion.

Political corrrectness and inclusivity run amok.

freeinchrist35
Guest

I completely agree with you pmurphy.

wesmagruder
Guest
Actually, Muslims do worship the same God as Christians and Jews. As they themselves state, they worship the one God who created everything, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus. Obviously, there are significant differences between the religions, and I don't wish to gloss over those. But I am not laying aside my Christian convictions in order to befriend Muslims, nor to fast or even pray with them. In fact, walking beside Muslims with an open heart can be a powerful witness of the kind of God that we Christians believe in. I am discovering that Muslims are… Read more »
freeinchrist35
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Sorry Pastor, but you are absolutely wrong. The god of Islam is absolutely NOT YAHWEH. For one very simple reason. They DO NOT believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, they do not even acknowledge Him as the Son of God. Their own Quran says that God did not have a son. They consider it "blashphemous" to believe such. Yes there are very significant differences, The Jews believed in God yet rejected Christ as the Son of God just as the Muslims do, and Jesus was a Jew Himself who called them "vipers", "hypocrites", "blind guides" etc. Jesus Christ is… Read more »
maisoon
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I liked your opinion and this indicates that inter-religious tolerance, peace and invitation to understand the ideas of others and search for the truth ..

patrick@churchbuzz.o
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Awesome story! This is truly about how to live out God's Love by "Loving our neighbor"… Loving our neighbor sometimes means leaving our own comfortableness aside and sacrificing for THEM…

I have also been learning a lot about fasting and sacrifice and love that "buzz" … it does keep me aware of God and is a much better habit for me than being "stuffed" all the time… oh and by the way, have lost about 45 pounds along the way… 🙂

Patrick Steil
ChurchBuzz.org

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