The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/R4NKv8) reports that Dr. Bashar Shala, who is chairman of the Memphis Islamic Center, and the Rev. Steve Stone, who is pastor of Heartsong Church, are uniting on the project to be called Friendship Park.
The men became friends two years ago and joined together to form the Memphis Friendship Foundation. They say the park is the foundation's first project and hope that it will become a lasting testament to the friendship between a church and a mosque.
Stone says they hope to "make the world a little safer and a little more joyful."
"It's not the big things that change America, it's the simple things," Shala said.
The park is just an idea now, but both congregations have experience at starting with little more than an idea and some hope.
Heartsong Church began with 20 people in the late 1990s; now it has 800 members on a campus of 27 acres. The Memphis Islamic Center had a similar beginning, with area Muslims borrowing space to meet at first. Now, they have a mosque and community center on 31 acres that serves hundreds.
The friendship between the two began when the Stone offered to let the Muslims meet at Heartsong while their mosque was being built. To thank them, members of the Memphis Islamic Center cooked breakfast for Sunday churchgoers.
"It's a simple thing we have done, but God has used it in a big way," Stone said. "We were just being nice to each other."
Foundation leaders have met with city parks' officials to make sure they have what they need to move forward with the park.
"This park will be a physical example of the One Memphis that Mayor Wharton always talks about," said Nika Jackson, manager of the Office of Community Affairs for the city's Division of Parks and Neighborhoods.
"It will be a symbol of the growing diversity of Memphis, which should be celebrated."
The foundation estimates the cost of Friendship Park to be about $5 million and says it will take up to two years to build it. So far, they have raised about $100,000 toward the goal.
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com