Every night at sundown, hundreds of Muslim people gather at the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims Center for iftar, the evening meal that breaks their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
Tonight will be no different, except that, in an act of grace and generosity, the iftar meal will be prepared and served by members of First Covenant Church of Sacramento.
Irfan Haq, who helps organize iftars at the SALAM Center, believes this might be the first time that a local church has prepared an iftar meal.
"This is historic," he said. "They will not only be preparing the meal, but also breaking the fast with us, and joining us in prayer."
Much of the food for iftar is the culmination of a weeklong cooking camp hosted by First Covenant Church to teach children ages 8 to 14 how to cook.
Tonight's menu includes meatballs made by the children with halal beef and lamb, pasta sauces and frosted cupcakes. Members of the church will volunteer food items of their own, in addition to the children's creations.
This is not the first of the church's efforts to educate its members about religions other than Christianity, Islam in particular.
"We want to teach about the similarities in the Bible and Quran," said Mark Shetler, executive pastor. "There is too big a division today between Western society and the Arab world."
The church held a six-week "equipping class" this year to teach the similarities and differences between Christianity and other faiths. It also provided sponsorship to several Iraqi refugee families.
Church leaders continue to bring in a series of speakers from different faiths, including Haq of the SALAM Center, to educate their members.
Shetler, who is from rural Pennsylvania, manages global outreach for the church; these programs are his brainchild. His move to California and exposure to diversity of religions and cultures created in him a desire to build bridges of communication between them.
"I believe that Jesus wants us to share his love," Shetler said.
Shetler's favorite passage in the Bible refers to people from every tribe, nation, people and language coming together in worship; a vision for the iftar tonight at the SALAM Center. All are welcome to join.