Author: Kat Brealey
Date: 06 April 2016
Last month, diocesan interfaith advisers gathered at Lambeth Palace for their annual conference. This is an opportunity to meet people from different parts of the country, share stories and hear about what is going on at a national level. This year we were privileged to be joined by Rev Dr Sam Wells, who gave a keynote address entitled ‘Being With Those of Other Faiths’, drawing on his recent book ‘A Nazareth Manifesto’. The full text of Sam’s talk is available to download here. In due course an audio recording will also be available. Afterwards there was time to reflect in groups on how what we’d heard applied to our own contexts, and to ask questions. This was followed by joining the Lambeth Palace community for Eucharist in the Chapel, where Archbishop’s Chaplain Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells suggested that there might be resonances between the role of diocesan interfaith adviser and that of Moses standing in the gap between God and the Israelites. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to worship together, and the acoustics of the Chapel provided the ideal setting for some a capella singing ably lead by members of Chemin Neuf and the Community of St Anselm, who are resident at Lambeth Palace.
After a tasty lunch, we were joined in the afternoon by Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, who is chair of the Churches Refugee Network. He shared with us the latest news on those who will be arriving in the UK, as well as helping us consider where there might be opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith collaboration in welcoming refugees. Nadine Daniel, interfaith adviser for Liverpool Diocese, offered an example of the work being done in Liverpool to help churches think about issues around welcome and hospitality. The conference closed with words of encouragement from Rev Mark Poulson, Archbishop’s Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs and the National Advisor for Inter Religious Affairs to the Church of England. Mark spoke powerfully about the increasing importance of interfaith work, both to the Church and to society more generally, and challenged those present to dream big dreams about what might enable their work to flourish.
For the first time this year, diocesan interfaith advisers were invited to nominate a guest from their diocese to attend with them – a vicar or curate perhaps fairly new to ministry in multifaith contexts but keen to explore it further. One such guest commented that the conference “really helped to confirm a lot of what God is saying to me in terms of areas I feel I have been called, and I have taken such a lot away with me”. Another reflected on Sam’s input, concluding that she was struck by “the challenge to the church to consider and discover meeting places of ‘mystery’ as we engage with those of other faiths in our parishes.”
National Programme Coordinator Kat Brealey noted, “it’s so important for those involved in ministry in multifaith contexts to have the chance to come together and share both the joys and challenges of this work. As a national team, Mark and I are keen to ensure that interfaith advisers feel supported and encouraged, and know that significance of what they do is recognised. Next year as we report to General Synod, we will be looking to raise the profile of Presence & Engagement by highlighting key issues faced by those in multi-religious parishes and offering exciting stories of Christian presence in diverse areas around the country.”