Friday, 11 April 2014

Reflecting on "Rev"

The latest series of Rev began with an episode called "Present and Engaged" - and it has provoked a flurry of debate and reflection on Christian ministry in multi-faith contexts.  In a blog for Fulcrum, Angus Ritchie (the Director of the Contextual Theology Centre) looks back over the various articles and letters in the Evening Standard, and argues that there are some important theological issues at stake.  You can read his article here; it also contains details of some research PEN is carrying out into church growth in multi-faith contexts, and PEN's event on 17 June with Bishop Stephen Cottrell, called What kind of growth?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Holistic Health

One of the first stories added to the PEN website was about health preachers in Waltham Forest - a group of faith leaders who had been trained together to promote key health messages in their respective congregations.

Two stories just in illustrate faith communities still have a role to play in promoting better health ..............

London is now the Tuberculosis capital of Europe and health services are again turning to faith groups to raise awareness and promote information about services. Monday 24th March is World TB day and there will be an event at Regent Hall, 275 Oxford Street, W1C 2DJ detailing how religious communities might take the lead in piloting new ways of working with health professionals in preventing the spread of TB and ensuring early detection. For details and registration sese the London Bourghs Faiths Network blog here

Meanwhile in Shoreditch a Christian run GP practice is developing it's work in 'whole person care'. Helen Moules blog on the Contextual Theology Centre website invites you to find out more at a breakfast meeting on  Thursday 20th March, 8.30am. This project is scalable and replicable -  in other words could happen in your area too.

Food, Fasting and Faith

Just as Lent was beginning and Christians were being called to fast, the Danish Government issued a ban on ritual slaughter, citing animal rights.

Jewish and Muslim lobby groups cried fowl and  the Agriculture Minister then apologised for not having consulted faith groups before the ban!

In the UK the president-elect of the British Veterinary Association, John Blackwell, was interviewed on Radio 4 re his challenge to ritual slaughter on the grounds of animal welfare.

The Joseph Interfaith Foundation issued a statement in response to his comments and a week later The Tablet carried an article on the subject which neatly summed up the debate; can faith groups who established a humane ways of securing a meat supply centuries ahead of society at large be encouraged to look again at their practice in the light of research which suggests further improvements are necessary to ensure the animal welfare.

Given that practices in meat production are flawed, becoming a vegetarian for Lent( if not permanently) seems like a good option.

Download a briefing paper with links here

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Present without a Presence ..........some thoughts

A guest blog by Rev’d Craig Barber – Chaplain London Met University.

One of the great joys of University chaplaincy is the incredible diversity of activity that one finds oneself engaged in.
he pressures upon students, staff and related stakeholders in the wider community arising from ongoing periods of change experienced by Higher and other sectors of Education create something of a maelstrom. Being at the centre of this is part of the University the chaplain's role. More specific to London Met, the ever revolving door of students from many nationalities and faiths flowing in and out from semester to semester and the demands they bring in terms of advice, wellbeing, academic retention, employability demands and general life and faith support create an incredible pressure for any chaplaincy team (ie myself and a part-time colleague who himself has the pressure of being URC chaplain ‘at large’ across London) to carry. It is a joyful ministry – working with younger people always is but it is also an intense one encountering individuals at their most vulnerable, away from home or country, family and cultural/faith norms and in a fast moving and steady paced environment. 
That is something of the context in which I find myself fulfilling the call to be attentive to the presence of God. Attentiveness is vital in the role of university chaplaincy. Being able to read the various situations one finds oneself in and often having to contribute to decision making that falls way outside what one would consider the Priestly task is all about viewing the world of the University through a different lens – ensuring that the whole development of the student is a life building and changing experience rooted in the self as whole. Naturally like those engaged in other forms of ministry and support the demands are too varied and often just too much! Individual student and staff contact, management team meetings, policy development and research all eat away at that precious attentive task. I suppose it’s rather Benedictine to suggest that although at times these tasks are tiresome, they are of themselves prayer and presence. Somehow infiltrating the institutional structures in a slightly subversive manner to do your bit to ensure the care and development of the individual spiritually, academically and socially. All this is often undertaken out of sight of most people both within the University and The Diocese. It is a ministry of shadows – offering an ever presence without always being able to be physically present. (This is particularly true at London Metropolitan University with several campus sites to cover and 17,000 students or so with all students living off-site). It is a ministry of self-realisation – reading the context in all its complexity and realising that it isn’t possible to effect or affect as one may desire. A humbling Ministry as one struggles to create a legitimacy for chaplaincies existence both inward and to the wider Church. A ministry that relies upon a deep seated prayer life and daily sacramental encounter be that through The sacraments or in touching the lives of fellow humankind.

Fr Craig – Lead Chaplain

Monday, 13 January 2014

Churches Reaching Out to Muslim Neighbours

Guest blog from a Curate in West London

Change of Attitude toward Muslims: From Fear to Love         

The life of the late Nelson Mandela reminds us that we have a choice in reacting to those different to ourselves with either fear or love; and yet sadly many Christians follow the Western media’s lead in associating Muslims with fear. However at the centre of the Christian faith is not fear but the love of Jesus (1 John 4:18) and the wonderful privilege of sharing that love of Jesus with all peoples including our Muslim neighbours (Matt 28:18-20).

Mahabba means ‘love’ in Arabic and fittingly is the name used by a national network of Churches working to share the love of Jesus specifically with their Muslim neighbours. Through training courses such as ‘Friendship First’ and regular prayer meetings many Christians are learning to transform their fear into love and form deep friendships with their Muslim neighbours. Through these deep and loving friendships we have found that many Muslims are keen to discuss who Jesus is and furthermore when offered, some who wish to experience the love of Jesus for themselves and to follow Jesus.

For those who would be interested in getting involved, or coming to visit a Mahabba group in your area, or simply would like to find out more please do visit or contact directly

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Mitzvah Day in Whetstone

Guest Blog by Revd Dr Gregory  Platten
 In my early months as Vicar of All Saints, Friern Barnet, I was approached by our neighbours at the Sha’arei Tsedek Synagogue to take part in Mitzvah Day, along with friends from the Muslim Community and Education Centre (MCEC) in Palmer’s Green. Mitzvah Day (Hebrew for command) is a Jewish day of social action and outreach, but it has branched out, seeking to build friendships between other faith traditions with ‘Mitzvah Interfaith Day.’

Our task, which was agreed mutually, was to work together to collect donations of food from the public outside Waitrose in the High Road, Whetstone for Homeless Action in Barnet, and also to collect donations of clothes from our three communities. The clothes would be given to Homeless Action in Barnet and the North London Hospice.

It fell on Sunday, 17th November this year, and our three communities worked well together. The planning, though, began months before, and relationships were built through meetings and discussion. A visit by members of All Saints’ Church and Sha’arei Tsedek Synagogue to the MCEC on the evening of 10th November, the week before, cemented these new bonds. It was a hugely enjoyable tour, during which we offered generous hospitality; we also spent the evening planning the tasks of the following week, with the great assistance of Daniela Pears of the Mitzvah Day Foundation.

Our Mitzvah Interfaith Day itself attracted a good number of volunteers from all three communities: from teenagers, to children, and older adults: Waitrose customers and passers-by-commented on how surprised and delighted they were to see young people and adults from the three Abrahamic faith communities united for the common good, and for the benefit of the least well-off in our society. As the shop collection carried on, other teams from the three communities were sorting clothes and packing them at All Saints’ Church Hall, so that they could be transported to the various charities.

We were overwhelmed with the generosity of donations. I think I speak for all three faith communities, too, when I say how much we have all gained from working closely together, united not by dialogue about difference, but in common purpose for God’s poorest ones in our locality.

It is a great way of building local links with other faiths, as you plan and work together. There were practical frustrations and problems, all of which were overcome, and through which stronger relationships emerged. It is highly likely that we will unite again, perhaps on Mitzvah Interfaith Day next year, perhaps sooner.

Further possibilities of connection and contact have also emerged. There is something unique about working together logistically and practically; it offers opportunities that cannot be found in the (extremely valuable) work of dialogue and theological discussion. In the end, working practically for the common good as one,  there is a feeling that one is able to fulfil God’s will for the poor in a tangible and immediate way.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Singing and Festivities

The Mixed Up Chorus Rehearse
What better way to cope with the long dark evenings, the damp and the cold than to sing? Two new choirs have sprung to life in recent weeks. The Contextual Theology Centre's own Tom Daggett has been working with Revd Niall Weir at St Paul's West Hackney. In just a few weeks the Cantignorus Chorus has formed, learnt a specially composed song, and made a recording at Angel studios. Due for release in a couple of weeks 'Holding Out a Helping Hand to You' hopes to challenge for the Christmas No 1 slot. What is really special about the choir is that it brings together people form diverse groups, many of whom are vulnerable or excluded. The enterprise is part of the wider SingSpire Community music project which aims to use music as a way of helping people value themselves and build up the wider community  across some of the barriers that often divide. Read Tom's recent blog post  for more details.
Meanwhile, the Three Faiths Forum has launched Mixed Up Chorus. Directed by Jeremy Haneman who also directs the Royal opera House Community Chorus. Mixed Up Chorus is not for the confused but for those who rejoice in the diversity of our great world city. Whilst Cantignorus Chorus is special to West Hackney, Mixed Up Chorus is looking for more members from all over London so if you are free on Tuesdays between 7 and 9 pm get in touch. The choir rehearses at Three Faiths Forum HQ and is part of their Urban Dialogues programme using the arts to connect people.

A third multi faith choir, Berakah,  has it's inaugural concert on 17th December at the London Inter Faith Centre (which has it's own annual music festival of the faiths) details here

As the noise of the Diwali Fireworks fade, Happy Hanukkah to Jewish friends and a Happy New Year to Christians this coming Sunday 1st December