Pastor hopes to bring Christianity, Islam together in Quran study group | CraigDailyPress.com

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Pastor hopes to bring Christianity, Islam together in Quran study group

Pastor Bob Woods, left, of First Congregational United Church of Christ, and Carl Temple, stand Tuesday in front of masks collected from Woods’ travels throughout Indonesia and Bali. The two are part of a group of local people interested in learning about the Quran and the Muslim faith.

If you go

What: Quran study group

When: 11 a.m. to noon Tuesdays

Where: First Congregational United Church of Christ, 630 Green St

For more information, call 824-6836.





Pastor Bob Woods, left, of First Congregational United Church of Christ, and Carl Temple, stand Tuesday in front of masks collected from Woods' travels throughout Indonesia and Bali. The two are part of a group of local people interested in learning about the Quran and the Muslim faith.
Shawn McHugh

The spiritual books of Christianity and Islam are not competing doctrines of faith, said the Rev. Bob Woods.

Instead the Bible and the Quran are more like close relatives, featuring similar figures, storylines and meanings.

Both begin with biblical figure Abraham, but where the Bible follows the story of Abraham's son, Isaac, the Quran follows his half brother, Ishmael, ancestor of the prophet Mohammed.

Although they are both an Abrahamic faith, Woods admits there is a lot he doesn't know about Islam.

And that is something he wants to change in himself and the community.

Woods began a Quran study group that meets from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesdays at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 630 Green St.

The meetings are free and open to the public.

He said developing a better understanding of the Islamic faith could broaden the community's tolerance for different belief systems.

"Spiritual books are supposed to bring us up to a level beyond, a higher place," Woods said. "Instead, these books are used as weapons and to put each other down. It would be good if we could develop more tolerance in this community. (The Quran) is a book of faith, just like the Bible. and we should come together and look at it."

Woods said he often hears and reads words that elicit hate and fear of people who partake in the Islam faith; mainly that the Quran fosters terrorism and fundamentalism.

Woods, whose wife is from Jakarta, Indonesia, has traveled extensively in his wife's homeland, which boasts the largest number of Muslims in the world. He said what he leaned about Islam on his Indonesian travels did not surprise him.

"They're people just like us," he said. "For the most part, they go about their daily work, meet, pray and study. Most of them were completely awestruck that anyone would consider that terrorism was acceptable."

Carl Temple, a member of the First Congregational United Church of Christ for four years, joined the study group to expand his knowledge.

On Tuesday, he sat in Woods' office with several 2,000-page translations of the Quran and the Bible on hand.

Temple and Woods, along with three other people who attended the group's first meeting March 23, had barely scratched the surface of the Quran's words and deeper meaning.

"You can't talk about things you don't know about," Temple said. "I'm finding out about all the stuff I've heard, about how much if it is fiction and how much is true. I've heard that a lot of terrorism comes out of the Quran, but I don't think that's true."

He said the group recently came across the word "jihad," which connotes hate and violence in the Western world. The two said they have reserved judgment on what many of the verses mean — and the context of "jihad" — until they can have a Muslim help them with their studies.

"We're beginning to read through it," Woods said. "But we're struggling with figuring out how to go about reading it. We're looking for a Muslim in the area to hopefully come and help read it with us."

Woods said he has had conversations with Muslims in Denver about speaking in Craig sometime in April.

Woods thinks this interchange of ideas and understanding could lead to a knowledgeable peaceful world. He said the study of the Quran will only deepen his faith, because God wants him to be tolerant of other faiths and understand his neighbor.

He said there are parts of scripture that indicate a need for violence or hate in every religion, including Christianity and Islam.

Still, he said the focus shouldn't be on certain passages in holy books that can be misconstrued, but on what similarities Muslims and Christians can find and build on.

"It's human nature," Woods said. "We think that those that don't look the same or believe the same things can't be has good as us. We look for the things that are different instead of what we hold in common. If people would come, that's if we can get them to come (to the study group), we could get people to understand Islam is just like Christianity. We're all trying to find salvation and be the best people we can be."

Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or ninglis@craigdailypress.com.