I chose a new masjid which is supposed to be progressive. It is a converted Episcopal church. As such, the building is laid out in a way that is different from most of the masajid to which I had been. For example, I entered the back of the building from the parking lot, but instead of finding a hallway leading directly to the prayer hall, there was a seeming maze of hallways and rooms off of them. A friendly sister greeted me and asked if she could help me. I told her I was there for jum'ah. She gave me a short tour of the facilities and, after I took a restroom break and made wudhu, she introduced me to the president of the masjid.
He asked me if I knew much about the Muslim religion. I told him that I had been introduced to Sufism about 20 years ago, and had been practicing on and off since then.
While jum'ah is nominally at 1:00 sharp, it seems that there is some flexibility about the schedule. There were only a few people in the prayer hall when I entered. One of the distinguishing features of this masjid is that there is a short (about 2-foot) partition between the men's and women's sections. There is also a common entrance (i.e., from the parking lot) and not a separate entrance for women.
Nonetheless, only men addressed the congregation in the prayer hall. There was a young man among the few who were gathered. Soon it became clear that he was the imam, at least for this particular jum'ah if not on a regular basis. He spoke well, and even referenced Ibn Arabi at one point. Some people were were with full head gear and robes, one next to me tossed some tesbih and a miswak ostentatiously on the ground in front of him, etc., but others were dressed in Western clothing, including the imam, who was without any head covering.
The imam referenced a tradition that Allah is particularly receptive to du'a at certain times, such as the break between the two portions of the khutbah. In preparation for that time, he advised the congregation to make du'a for the person on one's right and one's left. That did seem to set a certain energy in motion. I found myself making du'a for the remnants of "our little family" (Pete, Taffy, and me) and for the spirit of Misty. At that moment I felt a kind of dropping in to a deeper place and a change in the quality of time. I was reminded of the therapist from the day before talking about "going deeper."
This reminded me of why I have found congregational prayer useful at times. I also found that I was able to deal with the slight awkwardness of the event with a sense of humor. It seems that I am seeking participation but am letting go of former notions of belonging, such as were characteristic of me at earlier stages in my life, including in my 40s.
My experience at this masjid was okay, and it is a bit far from my house. At the moment I tend to see it as a moderately successful re-entry into congregational prayer. I'm considering sampling other masajid to see if I can find one or more that I might want to visit repeatedly--or perhaps not. We'll see.