Conversations for the Soul

John Woodhouse (Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group) writes . .

We met at South London Islamic Centre in a converted fire station near St Leonard’s Streatham. Mr Mohamed Ijaz provided sandwiches and tea and Zahra Imame from the Christian Muslim Forum set the ground rules and facilitated our conversations. The idea is to talk in pairs about subjects from the St Ethelburga’s booklet. There is a wide choice ranging from food to more difficult issues like faith and violence and the topic is chosen by your partner and yourself. There is no need to feedback from the conversations which are confidential.

John Woodhouse & members of Conversations for the Soul group

John Woodhouse (red jumper) & members of the Conversations for the Soul group

A month later we met again and this time we were joined by a Buddhist. Through him we were able to organise to meet at the SGI-UK Buddhist South London National Centre, 1 Bernays Grove, Brixton SW2, on June 26th and July 3rd. The plan is to return to a South London mosque in the autumn.

I have taken part in these conversations at Bethnal Green, the Whitechapel Idea Store and St Ethelburga’s. The booklet is excellent and offers a lot of choice and I have found the conversations most stimulating. Pope Francis says in Evangelium gaudii The Joy of the Gospel (which is very well worth reading and an easy read)

“Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue is in the first place a conversation about human existence or simply, as the bishops of India have put it, a matter of ‘being open to them, sharing their joys and sorrows’. In this way we learn to accept others and their different ways of living, thinking and speaking. We can then join one another in taking up the duty of serving justice and peace…. These efforts can also express love for truth”. (para 250)

It took a lot of negotiating and patience to set up these conversations and the help and support of the Christian Muslim Forum and the South London Inter Faith Group were vital. I came away stimulated and inspired by the encounters.   John Woodhouse

Download the Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group’s current programme here and contact John for further details about this and his Conversations for the Soul groups.

Upcoming events

London 2014 rThere’s plenty on in London to get 2014 off to a great start!

20 January 9.30am – 4.10pm  A Conversation about Conflict exploring the faith influences that can be used to tackle difficult issues in a community setting.  St Ethelburga’s and Christian Muslim Forum are co-facilitating the workshop at 305 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9LH.  Details here.

  • Could your faith community improve the way it responds to conflict?
  • Are you interested in bringing the principles and practices of your faith into your responses to conflict?
  • Are you interested in sharing your faith practices across faiths and learning from each other?

22 January 10am-12pm Together in Service funding briefing at Bethnal Green Mission Church, 305 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9LH.  There’s also a chance to talk to the TiS team individually about potential projects.  Details here.

22 January 6.30-8pm  Poverty and the Tolerance of the Intolerable – talk by Prof Amartya Sen at LSE . The talk will be live-streamed on LSE’s website and a podcast made available. Details here.

27 January  Holocaust Memorial Day events have been been organised by many London boroughs in cooperation with local religious communities, including Barnet, Lewisham, Haringey, Southwark, Greenwich, Croydon, Brent, Lambeth, Hounslow and Havering.  Details of all London events here.

27 January 5.30pm European Parliament training event with Faiths Forum for London at Europe House, Smith Square, W1.  The aim is to engage with citizens and faith groups to raise awareness of the issues and debates taking place in European Parliament and how citizens can get involved the decision making. Details here.

South London Inter Faith Group meets on the last Thursday of the month at 12.30-2pm at Streatham Friends Meeting House, Roupell Park Estate, Redland Way, SW2 3LU.  Next meeting 30 JanuaryDetails here.

4 February 6pm The Dialogue Society Book Group Meeting 5: A Distant Shore, by Caryl Phillips The Dialogue Society, 402 Holloway Road, N7 6PZ.  Details here.

Westminster Faith Debates are back with a new series, on global religious trends, at RUSI, 61 Whitehall, SW1A 2ET at 5.30pm, including on 12 February What is driving sectarian violence in the wake of the Arab spring? and on 12 March Are attempts to promote worldwide religious freedom naive or necessary?  Details here.

18 February Women in the 21st Century conference at Queen Mary University, London E1 4NS with a wide range of speakers and workshops (£40). Details here.

Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group meets next to the Cathedral in Victoria on the third Wednesday of the month at 4pm.  Upcoming speakers include Hugo Clarke (Curzon Institute) on World War 1 (19  February), Raheed Salam, faith and interfaith consultant for NCVYS (19 March).  Details here.

11 March 3-5pm  London Boroughs Faiths Network meeting at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, SW1E 5DU.  We are also planning two focused meetings on health and on young Londoners.

Goldsmiths’ Faiths and Civil Society Unit has a series on Faith in the Public Realm, including How do governments do God?  Warwick Hawkins MBE, Head of Faith Communities Engagement, Department for Communities and Local Government
12 March at 5pm.  Near Neighbours – can Christians do public faith for everyone? Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam, 14 May at 5pm.  Details here.

15 March  God and Government Conference with Theos, covering welfare, religious freedom, multiculturalism, and education among others.  Details here.

Research Project on Attitudes to Self-Sacrificial Death for National and/or Religious Motives.  Prof John Wolffe (Professor of Religious History, The Open University) is interested to hear from anyone from a Catholic, Protestant or Muslim background who would like to take part in this study by being interviewed.  “In the run-up to the centenaries of the outbreak of the First World War (August 1914), of the Easter Rising in Dublin (April 1916) and of the Battle of the Somme (July 1916), we are developing a historical and contemporary study of British and Irish views on martyrdom and sacrificial death. We are interested not only in perceptions of events a century ago, but also in the way casualties have been regarded in events within living memory such as the Falklands War of 1982, the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and IRA attacks in the mainland UK in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. We are also exploring more contemporary examples, notably reactions to the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings, to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the ‘Arab Spring’.”  Details here.

Multifaith spaces | 6 Nov 3.30pm

Multifaith Spaces 6 NovDo you ever use a prayer room or a quiet space?  Are you responsible for running one?

Join us for our next gathering on Wednesday 6 November at 3.30pm!

A big thank you to St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace for welcoming us to The Tent at 78 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AG.

Please pass this invitation and flyer to your networks and friends, especially chaplains and others who work in hospitals, FE colleges, universities, prisons, airports, offices and shopping centres.

We are delighted to welcome Revd Dr Terry Biddington from the University of Manchester who will be presenting his newly published paper, and we’ll be hearing brief responses from AbdoolKarim Vakil (King’s College, London) and from three regulars at LBFN gatherings: Siriol Davies (Diocese of Southwark), Rosalind Parker (researcher & practitioner in interfaith & the arts) and Steve Miller (Director of the Faith-based Regeneration Network).

How do these spaces open up new ways of thinking?  How do they affect the lives of local people – whether they are patients, students, staff, offenders, travellers, worshippers, shoppers or office workers?   Do multifaith spaces simply ‘house difference’ or do they bring people together (or alienate them)?  How do local churches, mosques, temples, gurdwaras and synagogues work in partnership with those responsible for multifaith spaces?  What do they say about how people from different traditions share London’s places and spaces?  How do they relate to the role of religion & belief in the public square?  What is the intention – and what actually happens in practice?  Does their presence have knock-on effects within our communities?

The Tent is a good place to have a wide-ranging conversation and it is mentioned in Terry’s paper.  If you have never visited St Ethelburga’s, this is a good opportunity.  Space is very comfortable but limited, so please let us know by November 5 if you’re planning to attend.

Simon Keyes, the Director of St Ethelburga’s, is hoping to join us for the discussion if his journey back to London on the 6th goes according to plan.


Renegotiating “value”

First in a series of innovative events from FiLE (Faiths in London’s Economy) on Renegotiating “value” – what faiths offer 21st century leadership:

‘Profit vs Prophet’ – making money and making a difference, are they opposed? With Jay Lkahani, Abigail Morris & Mannie Sher.

Thursday 7th October, 4-6.30pm at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace, 78 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AG.

Details & discussion on the Renegotiating Value blog and registration (£5) via St Ethelburga’s.  Next in the series is ‘Bono vs Pro Bono’ on 4th November.

Jonathan Evens of FiLE will be at our LBFN meeting (also on 7th October, but in the morning) and will be telling us more about the series.