London’s faith communities are open and welcoming!
In step with the Mayor’s #LondonIsOpen message, a short film has been shot on location across the capital and includes Sikh, Quaker, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist & Baha’i places opening their doors.
Against a backdrop of international tensions and increased hate crime, London’s faith groups, from humble to grand, are not closed and fearful – we remain open and welcoming!
Inter Faith Week events across London are screening the new film as part of their activities – you are welcome to do the same by using this link. Can you identify the different places?
Thanks to everyone who responded to our email during the summer and welcomed in the cameras – we were overwhelmed with offers. A big thank you to Rosalind Parker and Jack Jeffreys for the filming. For any who would like to get involved in the next stage, our #LondonIsOpen initiative continues – join us at 3pm on Tuesday 6 December at Collaboration House, 77 Charlotte Street, W1T 4PW, to plan for 2017. Let us know if you’d like to join us.
Andrew’s funeral will take place at 11am on Tuesday 15 November 2016 at St Andrew’s Church, Herbert Road, Wimbledon, SW19 3SH. The Bishop of Kingston will be taking the service.
Download a map here.
LBFN people from different religious traditions will be there – contact us if you’d like to sit together.
LBFN received the sad news today that our good friend Andrew Wakefield has died.
Combining sharp wit with a generous soul, he was known to so many of us from different religious traditions, public bodies and the business world.
A parish priest in the Church of England, he was a frequent visitor to the Shree Ghanapathy Temple, Wimbledon Mosque, Wimbledon & District Synagogue, Baitul Futuh Mosque and many others. Ahead of his time, Andrew was instrumental in founding London Civic Forum, Faiths Forum for London and Merton Interfaith Forum and was honoured with a Doctorate from Roehampton University last year. Not shy of controversy, he was outspoken on social, political, theological and church issues and was a well-known figure in Merton and across south London.
Andrew and his parish church feature in our #LondonIsOpen film and he was certainly an open doors kind of person.
As well as his longstanding solidarity with people from different religious traditions, he was a good friend to many and a champion of children and young people.
He will be sorely missed.
LBFN’s Crime, Community Safety and Security social lab had an excellent and wide-ranging exchange with the new Commander for Engagement in the Metropolitan Police Service, Mak Chishty, on Monday 7 July.
Contributions from Islington, Hounslow, Enfield, Lambeth, Kingston, Harrow, Tower Hamlets, Redbridge and Merton showed the range of good work undertaken by local faith forums in engaging with the police. They also highlighted the challenges in sustaining relationships over time.
Commander Chishty shared with us his initial thoughts on engagement and the work already underway, which includes local mapping, a listening campaign, special summer events and borough engagement plans. His SHINE approach encourages relaxed and informal relationships to develop between police officers and the public.
With the change from the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Community-Police Engagement Groups to the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime’s Safer Neighbourhood Boards, there is some uncertainty over structures to support engagement. Progress seems to be uneven across London.
LBFN members were asked to contact their Borough Commanders (details for each borough here) to initiate conversations which will lead to the inclusion of religious communities in the new borough engagement plans. The emphasis was on sustained relationships with multifaith groups, churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and gurdwaras, which all offer strong social networks, local knowledge, expertise and organisational memory.
People from seven religious traditions took part. We will organise a follow up meeting in due course.
We didn’t use the samovar last Thursday, but the London Church Leaders treated us to refreshments at Westminster Central Hall.
It was Elizabeth Simon’s last day as their Executive Officer and she shared her reflections over the last 14 years. You can read here her perceptive account of the relationship between faith communities in the capital and government policy – the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ – within a changing national and international context.
Further contributions led to a rich discussion on regeneration, consultation, engagement, integration, empowerment, commissioning and the community co-production of public services. Wider thoughts on the enduring role of religious groups in social action were explored and how working in partnership with the local public sector can benefit the wider community, particularly those who depend on public services the most. How do we work closely with the public sector on strategy and service delivery whilst maintaining our place in public life, contributing to the public conversation – faith in the public square?
Karen Walkden of Flourishing talked us through a mindmap analysing the trends for faith groups in 2013. She highlighted how recent changes have made it difficult to be commissioned to provide services, “smaller organisations supporting specific communities can only get local authority funding if they are part of a consortium”. She added further comments by email.
Steve Miller of the Faith-based Regeneration Network looked at national government’s evolving attitude to religious and multireligious groups involved in social action in recent years – from ad hoc co-option of useful individuals to more formal consultations and instrumentalism. Optimism over tackling social exclusion (New Deal for Communities, Neighbourhood Renewal) gave way to the fear of terrorism (Prevent), and the funding relationship has changed from grants to contracts and commissioning. Whose agenda is it?
Malik Gul spoke from 10 years’ experience of deepening involvement with the NHS, police and the local council in Wandsworth. Understanding how these systems work continues to be a significant task. How can we tackle the failure to serve marginalised communities? What makes it worthwhile for churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, gurdwaras to engage with public agencies? What needs to happen in order to bring these extensive social networks closer to the statutory services and vice versa? The co-production of public services (eg mental health) by local religious groups, locating them in places where people already are, has proved to be a successful prototype in Wandsworth. But where is the space for the conversations which lead to change and improvement?
Evereth Willis and Eshaan Akbar described how the Local Strategic Partnership in Merton (many LSPs have disappeared in London) brings religious groups into strategic decision-making. Merton’s commitment to community groups is high and the Community Plan will be co-written by the Inter Faith Forum’s Chair. Food banks, services for the homeless and end of life care were mentioned, recognising the huge social capital contained within religious communities.
Roz Miller of Islington Faiths Forum told us about IFF’s expanding partnership work with the local council and NHS on poverty and mental health (Best Practice and Networking Conference 20th March). Working with public agencies at a strategic level was the key, she said, and maintaining good relationships not only with local officers but with local councillors. But she is sometimes disappointed by their small and tentative vision for, for example, care in the community. A fully complementary role for faith communities could be immensely productive and reach those who need services the most, but often they are patronised and offered a small role.
Dr John Maiden and Gavin Moorhead described their Building on History work – how learning from the past can lead to a better future – and invited expressions of interest in being part of the project. They are looking for local religious and multifaith groups which would like to examine their histories and heritages – a great opportunity for those who get involved. Find out more here and contact Gavin for further details.
LBFN’s advisory group is looking at a possible partnership with Haider Ali of the Open University to tell the story of the network and its members over the last 10 years. We will also consider some form of registration and public accountability; as a purely informal group we are not able to join, for example, the Inter Faith Network for the UK or the European Network on Religion and Belief.
IFN UK has asked LBFN’s convener to contribute to its Strategic Review. Many of you may well have contributed, but if you have any thoughts about IFN’s future in relation to London’s local religious and multifaith groups and their relationship to the public sector, please let me know so that I can include them in my response.
The Christian Muslim Forum is looking for a few individuals in Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Southwark, Lambeth, Brent and Wandsworth to have a light lunch together in each of the boroughs. Over lunch (provided), they will use Conversations of the Soul as a way of understanding each other’s communities and to build stronger relationships across the Christian-Muslim boundary. It is hoped that some of the participants will be from the local authority, police or NHS – people whose work involves engaging local faith communities and who can use a lunch-break to widen their circle of contacts in an enjoyable way. Let me know if you are interested, or contact the CMF direct.
Leave a comment below or send me any further reflections.
The next LBFN meeting will take place at 2pm on Thursday 28th February at Emmanuel Room, Central Hall Westminster, Storey’s Gate, SW1H 9NH. We are grateful to Elizabeth Simon of the London Church Leaders for kindly hosting our meeting, which will look back over significant changes in context since LBFN started 10 years ago.
We will be hearing from Elizabeth and also from
- Steve Miller, Faith-based Regeneration Network – changes in government policy
- Karen Walkden, Flourishing, Barnet – trends for 2013: local religious and multifaith organisations
- Malik Gul, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network – community co-production of public services
- Roz Miller, Islington Faiths Forum – partnership working on common concerns
- Eshaan Akbar and Evereth Willis, Merton Council – LSP: voluntary sector/partnerships, equalities/cohesion
Gavin Moorhead and John Maiden will be giving us advance information on the Building on History project. We will also be meeting intern Tara Thiyagarajan for the first time.
Please join us for this starry line-up and an unrivalled exchange of experience and expertise across London. Let me know by 26th February if you are planning to come.