St. Faith’s church, Lee-on-the Solent - Evening Visit by Alan Millard

On Wednesday the 5th September, a party from St. Faith’s church, Lee-on-the Solent,
travelled by car and minibus to the Al Mahdi mosque in Fareham for an evening’s visit
arranged by our curate Steve Dent who has previous links with Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo,
the Imam. On arrival we assembled outside and were warmly welcomed by the Imam and
members of the mosque who were clearly delighted to have us with them.
The visit began with a tour around the outside of the building which was opened in
September 2012 and sensitively designed to blend in with its surroundings. Solar panels and
natural underground sources provide all the light and warmth required for the building and
the beautifully tended grounds surrounding the mosque are filled with produce, flowers and a
well-equipped play area for children.
After touring the outside we went inside and listened to a fascinating talk on the history of the
mosque, the beliefs and practices of the Shia Muslim faith and the meaning of all the symbols
on display. When the talk was over we were invited to witness the evening prayers, the last of
their five daily prayers. To aid our understanding, we were given printed leaflets with
translations of the prayers and explanatory notes on the procedure.
The prayers were followed by a refreshment break and a chance to enjoy the oranges, scones,
fruit juice and other delights which had been especially prepared for our visit. The evening
ended with a question and answer session during which we were encouraged to speak freely
and ask whatever we wanted.
My abiding memories of the visit will be the warmth of our welcome, the kindness showed to
us throughout our time there and the clear desire on the part of our hosts to further the
fellowship between us. They already have strong links with their neighbouring churches and
the Interfaith Community at Portsmouth Cathedral. Their own community is thriving with 75
families and 80 children.
I left hoping that further meetings will be arranged and that, if a group from the mosque visits
our church, they will find that we are as welcoming to them as they were to us. With so much
in the media that concentrates on the extremist minority, whom they find as repugnant as the
rest of us, it was good to discover that we can form friendships and, in building closer bonds
between us, doubtless learn much from each other.

Alan Millard