Strayer University video 'The Mosque on Church Road' tells story of Heartsong United Methodist Church and Memphis Islamic Center


By Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference, The United Methodist Church

Heartsong United Methodist Church (UMC) in Cordova, Tennessee, is prominently featured in a ten-minute video produced by Strayer University for its more than 40,000 online students.

“The Mosque on Church Road” was created in 2017 (with final edits in 2018) by Ashir Gruder and Alison Michel, producers with the school's Strayer Studios.

The video tells the story of Heartsong UMC’s ongoing friendship with the Memphis Islamic Center (MIC) after MIC moved into Heartsong’s suburban Memphis neighborhood in 2010.

Strayer University is a private, for-profit higher education institution based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1892 as Strayer's Business College, the school today has more than 70 campuses with a strong online component.

In addition to school responsibilities, the typical Strayer student has “family and work” commitments, according to Elaine Kincel, the university’s director of public relations and communications.

Strayer Studios’ videos like the one about Heartsong strive to enhance the well-rounded education of the university’s students, many of whom are working professionals.

The school is committed to investing in quality video for its students,” said Kincel.

“The Mosque on Church Road” has recently been made available for public viewing and sharing beyond the university and may be accessed HERE on YouTube.

Strayer produced the video for students in its “Introduction to Sociology” class. The school does not offer a sociology degree, but wants its students to “understand the world around them and understand social norms and institutions,” explained Gruder.

“Designed to have a long shelf life,” continued Gruder, “a whole (new) set of students each year will experience the story for the first time” and learn how two different faith communities connect with each other and their society.

Like other videos produced by Strayer Studios, "The Mosque on Church Road" was created with a specific lesson in mind.

Gruder calls the Heartsong-MIC story “timeless” because of the unexpected friendship of the two congregations, one Christian and one Muslim.

He was drawn to the story because it helps students understand “how preconceived notions can ultimately prove to be untrue.”

Dr. Steve Stone, now retired, was the pastor of Heartsong when the friendship with MIC was formed. He appears in the video and states near its end, “The more we will concentrate on what we have in common, the less the differences even matter."

Gruder said he looks for opportunities to “tell powerful stories” that “drive emotions.”

When viewed by students, “The Mosque on Church Road” consistently generates “amazing” and “positive” reactions, he said.