A New Calling on Common Ground

The Rev. Nicole Lambelet

Priest, St. Lukes | Atlanta

Who is God calling us to be? How might we tell the story of that calling to others?

As her adult formation class dove into these questions during Lent 2021, the Rev. Nicole Lambelet began seeing the importance of place in their answers. This observation led The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, where she served as associate priest for family ministry and community engagement, to an unexpected connection with a nearby Ismaili Muslim community.

Because “place” shapes our understanding of God’s call, Lambelet invited Ismaili and other faith leaders to a virtual tour of Decatur through the lens of displaced Black and Jewish communities. Behnoosh Momin, a communications and outreach volunteer for the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern United States, counter-offered with an interfaith dialogue centered on shared religious values and ethics.

“I don’t know exactly what to call it, but I would say that God was calling us to friendship so that we can extend the friendship beyond ourselves to our communities,” Lambelet said. Water and environmental stewardship are integral to both faiths, so they collaborated in a watershed cleanup at Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve in 2021, and again in 2022 expanding to Mason Mill Park. Their ongoing partnership has earned recognition statewide from Rivers Alive and nationally from Episcopal News Service.

Epiphany members visited the Ismaili Jamatkhana (private gathering space) in Decatur. The Ismaili community is a sect of Shia Islam, and about 15 million Ismailis live in more than 25 countries.

When Ismaili friends toured the church, one remarked that the five-pointed star that honors Epiphany’s roots in Little Five Points resembled the Islamic star.

In early 2022, when four people in a Dallas-Fort Worth synagogue were taken hostage by a Muslim terrorist, Momin connected with Lambelet. Through her counterparts in Houston, Momin learned of the interfaith support offered to the Jewish community. The support was such that, in a surprising turn, the wife of the Rabbi who was held hostage was fearful for how this act of violence would reflect back on the Muslim community.

“Behnoosh shared this story and I started crying,” Lambelet recalled. “And she looks at me and says, ‘This is what we need here in Atlanta.’ That’s when I knew that God was doing something special in this friendship.”