Author: Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills
Date: 20 August 2013
I recently took the PCC of my new Parish through a Presence and Engagament process. It was just something that happened quite naturally. We started by looking at the demographics of the area using the 2001 and more recently the 2011 Census. We spoke about how different faith communities had shifted from one place to another, grown or diminished and how the proportion of people living within our parish that selfidentified as Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs changed over the last ten years. When we looked at the local population, the PCC and parishioners realised that they were a 'Presence and Engagement' parish. We then began to map the area - who lives next door to you, what shops are there, what places of worship and who knows somebody of this or that faith? There were so many ways that people were already meeting their neighbours from other faiths, whether it was an Asian lunch club in the church hall or a street party for the Jubilee or the Royal Wedding. When they realised they were already doing it, they became less nervous and realised it would make sense to be more intentional about it. One of our parishioners said their Muslim neighbours would bring sweets at Christmas, so they decided to give them a gift at Eid. In the area in which we live the schools are probably about 90% children from other faiths: maybe 50% Hindu and 40% Muslim. So we have had to ask - what does this mean for the future of our children's and youth ministry? Do we need to alter the way we work with uniformed organisations and how we conduct Parade services? This has not been a fearful process, but has felt like a gradual opening up of our church as a spiritual home for our whole community. If we share the space and the gifts we have, then our church will continue to grow and thrive and be a spiritual heart and hearth for our community. This autumn our children's ministry team are celebrating harvest by inviting the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communities to join us - not in our church, but out to a farm in the countryside and sharing harvest stories together from our different scriptures. We will be harvesting fruit and making Apple Crumble together, playing games and sharing food.