Category: Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre

The Feast

The Feast is a Christian charity based in Birmingham, working to promote community cohesion between Christian and Muslim young people. The Feast strives to see Christian and Muslim young people come together to form real friendships that move them to be change-makers and peace-makers amongst their local and wider communities.
Established in Sparkhill in 2009, we now work across Birmingham, in Bradford and Keighley and in Tower Hamlets, and have developing works in other locations across the UK and the world! We work with Christian and Muslim young people in their own school, faith or community setting and bring them together at ‘faith encounter’ events where they join to do something fun like art or sport.
The Feast is all about…
Exploring faith – young people are equipped and empowered to discuss their faith in a safe and respectful way, drawing out both the similarities and differences.
Creating friendships – bringing together young people in small groups to do something they all enjoy creates the opportunity to get to know one another, work together and build friendships based upon trust and respect.
Changing lives – having been to our events, young people are challenged and enabled to live out the lessons they have learnt in their everyday lives, overcoming prejudice and working together on social action.
‘Project Ghana’ is an interfaith social action project enabling eight Christian and Muslim youth in the UK to share this learning around preventing and appropriate responses to religious conflict, with teens in Ghana whilst working to sustainably enhance the lives of local children. You can stay up to date with the Facebook page.
The Feast is excited to be running our second Engage Training Course. Commencing in October 2014 we are offering a Certificate at Level 3 ‘Assistant Youth Support Worker’ training course for Christian and Muslim youth workers. The course includes dedicated theological reflections for each faith and is the only course of its kind in the country. It is the ideal ‘foundational’ qualification and provides the knowledge and skills needed to be a competent and confident youth worker in your youth work setting.
As The Feast marks its fifth official birthday, we remain committed to promoting community cohesion amongst Christian and Muslim young people, and are excited to see more young people explore their faith, build friendships and ultimately, to see lives and worlds changed. The Feast has now helped approximately 400 young people through events, plus many, many more at the schools where we work. These young people have been given the opportunity to meet with people of a different faith, and have been able to impact their families and communities. | 0121 675 1158 | | @thefeastproject

Near Neighbours 2 – all you need to know.

Near Neighbours is back and includes more areas than before in the West Midlands. We have some new areas as well as our 13 wards and there is a new programme running in the Black Country.

Near Neighbours is a Government – funded programme which runs until March 2016. It aims to bring people together; to meet, build friendship and work together to improve their neighbourhood.

Where does Near Neighbours work?
Near Neighbours funding is available in parts of London, Leicester, Birmingham and parts of Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, Leeds and Manchester, Nottingham and Luton. Within Birmingham we cover most of Aston, Bordesley Green, Edgbaston, Hodge Hill, Ladywood, Lozells and East Handsworth, Moseley and Kings Heath, Stirchley, Handsworth Wood, Hamstead, Hall Green, Acocks Green, Billesley and Perry Barr.

What sort of projects get funding?
In phase one Near Neighbours in Birmingham gave away nearly £500,000 to 140 projects. Activities supported by Near Neighbours range from volunteer-led job clubs to community meals, or from sporting events to debt counselling. The fund will priorities applications from small faith-based groups with a turnover of less than £150,000 a year who are developing a new activity with people of different faiths.

How to apply?
All the information you need is on our website. Your Near Neighbours development worker is on hand to help you with your application. Jessica Foster can be contacted at or by phone on 0121 675 1155. Near Neighbours is part of Thrive Together Birmingham and is based at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, 10 Court Road, Sparkhill, B11 4LX. Please phone if you would like to make an appointment.


On Ash Wednesday a group of staff from the FNC joined faith leaders, food bank representatives and community groups to commission the Hunger Hut in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral.

The Hunger Hut is a focus for End Hunger Fast in Birmingham and will be staffed by volunteers to enable it to open six days a week. Do call in if you are passing and find out more about the campaign at

Following the launch of the Hunger Hut the Bishop of Birmingham wrote the following article for the Birmingham Post:- the full text is below. It is quite long but definitely worth reading.

Bishop David Urquhart writes:

At a recent gathering of faith leaders a Government Minister joked that a collective of Bishops might be called a ‘correspondence.’ The letter we wrote with other Christian leaders on February 20th about welfare reforms and poverty seems to have struck a chord in the nation and in the fortnight that has followed its publication, poverty has barely been out of the headlines.

Following the focus on food poverty and food banks, the spotlight turned to families as the Government re-launched their draft Child Poverty Strategy. However its call for better measurements and data was met with a plea for more substantial action to support the poorest people in our nation and break the cycle of deprivation. I believe this is a good opportunity to refresh our Birmingham Child Poverty Strategy.

But while it is easy to agree the poverty needs to end and action needs to be taken the question that is not so easily answered is ‘What do we do?’ The Church has begun to answer that question with its campaign End Hunger Fast which I launched in Birmingham yesterday.

During the next 40 days, the season of Lent, Christians across the country will be fasting and praying as is our tradition. This year there is an added focus of food poverty and following the example of Jesus we will be finding ways of reaching out to those in need. One practical action we have committed ourselves to is to try and raise enough money to ensure the local charity SIFA Fireside can provide breakfast to the people sleeping rough in our city. We will also be creating prayer spaces with a hunger focus and visiting food banks and shelters to talk to people there and gather stories of hunger which will be presented to parliament just before Easter.

We hope these stories will help us understand the patterns of poverty in this city region and reveal simple steps that could be taken to help people live without the stark choices of heat or eat, payday loans or no bus-pass to get to work. We expect to hear about low paid work, zero contract hours which mean people do not know if they will be paid from week to week, benefit sanctions and the destitution faced by immigrants who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ and cannot access the usual support networks. We will of course hear stories of bad health, debt, addiction and relationship break-up and among all the stories we will hear of great sacrifice, bravery, determination and fortitude as well as despair, frustration and anger.

Despite the complexity of the issues I think there are steps that the seventh richest nation in the world can take to help redistribute some of our resources and ensure we care for the most marginalised in our communities.
An obvious start would be a higher minimum wage, or the living wage, which has been adopted by many organisations and helps to ensure people do not have to take on several jobs to make ends meet or supplement their income with benefits and food-parcels. In 2013 the living wage for people outside London was calculated to be £7.65 per hour – the national minimum wage is £6.31. According to the Living Wage Foundation, it implementation is not only good for employees but for employers too. 80% of employers believed that the living wage had enhanced the quality of the work of their staff, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%. (

Alongside a living wage it seems essential that child-care is accessible and affordable so parents can afford to work in the confidence that their children are being well looked after. We need tailored support to help people overcome barriers to work whether they are educational issues, health-related problems or any other obstacles.

Of course these solutions need to work alongside growing a creative economy that provides as many well-resourced jobs as possible for those who need them including a flourishing social enterprise sector and a commitment to making work accessible, meaningful and rewarding. We have some wonderful examples of social enterprises helping people into work including Devenish Girl bakery in Weoley Castle, Gear Up in Hodge Hill and Urban Cycles in Ward End.

These are inspiring examples of enterprise putting people first – bringing jobs, training and hope to young people but there is much more like this that could be done by people working together with a commitment to shared benefit from business. Partnerships between the public sector and private sector, voluntary groups and faiths communities are going to play an essential role as we realise we share responsibility for the welfare of our city. But equally essential are new kinds of partnerships that are formed when individuals meet each other across divides of wealth, faith or ethnicity and see their shared humanity and responsibility to each other. The Near Neighbours programme in Birmingham has helped us to develop some of these relationships over the last three years, giving away nearly £500,000 to enable faith and community groups to start small projects to bring people together and work to change their communities. I was delighted to be at the recent announcement that the Government is allocating a further £3 million to this programme.

Equally I have heard of food bank volunteers who are changed by the stories they hear and are moved to lobby MPs or press for change in other ways. I am also excited by other movements such as Places of Welcome which offer hospitality and refreshments in a way which narrows the gap between guest and host and encourages all to participate and contribute. If you’re interested in these ideas I recommend The Stop by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis which tells how a simple food bank in Canada has developed, by encouraging participation rather than dependency, into an internationally respected Community Food Centre with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse and farmers’ markets. It centres on the idea of cooking and eating together to encourage healthy eating and mutual interdependency.
In the Christian tradition, our worship centres around a shared meal, instituted by Jesus Christ, which we call Holy Communion where young and old, rich and poor people of all ethnicities and abilities put aside their differences to share a foretaste of the banquet we believe is prepared in heaven. Meals have been very important in the bridging work of Near Neighbours and I believe they represent our shared humanity, our mutuality, our ability to share and our ability to provide for one another. So when the fast of Lent is over I look forward to the occasional feast, perhaps at a Place of Welcome, where all are included and no-one leaves hungry, where all are heard, seen and recognised as a human being who may have needs, failings and shortcomings but who brings their own unique experience, worth and gifts – carrying in them the image of God.


Dear Birmingham Book Launch

The Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre hosted a book launch for local academic and author Karamt Iqbal. His book, which he describes as a conversation with his hometown, explores the plight of the growing Pakistani community in Birmingham. Karamat presented the book to the guests and explained that it came both from his personal experience of coming to Birmingham from Pakistan as a young boy as well as his many years of working for the city council on diversity issues and his current academic study.

Having told part of his own story and the history of Pakistani’s in Birmingham the book covers a wide range of topics:
Representation in private and public organisations
Representation in the media

Overall the picture he paints is fairly bleak with Pakistani’s coming out with poor health, low academic standards, over representation in the prisons and under representation in the media. Then in a very hard hitting and challenging section Karat asks what the problem is and looks at the issue of racism across a number of institutions in Birmingham. He argues forcefully that Pakistanis are excluded from a variety of posts either through lack of role models which results in fewer people aspiring for the posts and people being unwilling to promote as the post is only ever on merit. Or the networking culture that means those out of the networks never get a look in. Whilst he acknowledges this happens within the Pakistani community he points out it tends to be for much less well-paid jobs.

He then explores issues of religion, culture and language before making recommendations for the future.

You can read more about Karamt’s work and order a copy of the book at his Forward Partnership website.


Faithful Fundraising – a full house for a fab course.

Birmingham had a chance to experience Near Neighbours with a Leicester flavour when John McCallum visited the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre to give us a fantastic introduction to fundraising for faith-based organisations.

John is the Near Neighbours Co-ordinator based at the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester who brings with him many years of funding experience.

More than 20 participants from faith communities around the city came to Sparkhill for the course on the 6th March and travelled with John, at some speed, through the hows and whys and whats of fundraising.

Through the day people learnt together how to find funders, how to apply, how to manage the fundraising process and how to use a grant wisely. There was a also a chance to hear from and question a ‘live’ trustee of two local grant-making bodies.

Initial feedback from the day was really positive. People were impressed by the quality of the materials, the subject matter covered and John’s breadth of experience and knowlege. So thank you Leciester for coming to Brum – hope we can return the favour sometime!


Welcoming the Stranger – Birmingham Churches Winter Night Shelter 2013

January 19th 2013 saw churches open their doors to homeless people and offer a bed to those who need it. Building on last year’s pilot, this year 6 hosts churches; 4 Church of England churches and 2 Baptist churches, offered shelter and hospitality for 6 weeks in January and February. The project was a collaboration of so many churches, projects and individuals. It included over 300 volunteers from a range of churches and traditions staffing the shelter; providing food, sleeping overnight and generally making guests feel at home. Guests were referred to the shelter by SIFA Fireside and also by outreach teams from Reach Out Network and Grace Bible Fellowship, who, as well as referring rough sleepers into the shelter, also met them at the pickup point and chaperoned them to the venues helping them to settle in. Transport was provided by church projects and Shencare Community Transport along with volunteer drivers for each night, and at each venue there was a volunteer coordinator who managed the shift and food rotas. To date the project has provided shelter to 31 guests, and offered a warm place to sleep during what has been, at times, a bitterly cold couple of months. Wonderfully, during their time with us, some of our guests have been able to find work and accommodation, and we have also been able to work with Midland Heart Homeless Services team to help guests access any support available to them. One of our guests who had been homeless for 4 years, with the support from an experienced volunteer, was helped to make a successful homeless application which resulted in him being given accommodation. Thank you to all those who have given their time, resources, prayer, money and support to make this project such a great success in providing shelter, hospitality, friendship and support to those who have used the shelter this winter. It has been such a blessing to many guests and volunteers alike. However in terms of tackling homelessness it is only really scratching the surface in helping to address the issues that are faced by those sleeping rough. There is a strong desire from The Birmingham Christian Homeless Forum, Housing Justice and Thrive Together Birmingham to engage and help to mobilise churches and Christians who are passionate and committed to supporting homeless people. We are trying to do this by developing this and other projects, and to work with other voluntary and statutory organisations to be part of addressing the needs of homeless people face. For more information about how you can support this and other homeless projects please contact or

Planning, Personality and Pressure

The third Catalyst day took place at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on Saturday 12th January. In a packed day the group learnt about basic planning for events including budgeting, risk assessments and safeguarding. After a wonderful curry for lunch the group thought about how their personality affects their leadership by going through an introduction to the Myers Briggs Tye Indicator personality test. This useful and entertaining session was led by Tom and Judy Walsh who helped us all see how personality impacts the way we lead and how we relate to those in our teams.

The final session of the day was on Leadership under pressure and was led by Jake Diliberto who brought a vast array of experience to the topic and described pressure situations he’d been a leader in that we all hoped we could avoid!








As a warm up for this session the group were all put under pressure as they were challenged to use £5 to buy ingredients for a tasty snack for us to share in the tea break. The pressure was added to as they only had 35 mins from receiving the instructions to needing to serve the food. In this time they had to buy the ingredients, prepare them and do a risk assessment on the activity. A beautiful fruit salad, mini fruit kebabs and cheese and tomato on ciabatta were the results.











In April all the members of Catalyst will have to prepare and run a Near Neighbours event, to prepare them for this task Immy Kaur shared her experience of running the Art for Action project in 2012.

Next up for Catalyst is our Residential trip to London from 28th Feb-3rd March. Look out for more updates

Catalyst Birmingham Launched

One of the programmes funded by Near Neighbours is the Catalyst leadership programme for young leaders. Aimed at people aged 20-30, this programme brings together people of different faiths in that age bracket and provides training on leadership issues.

Catalyst Birmingham has a cohort of 13 which includes Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims. On November 24th they met for the first time and spent the day getting to know one another and thinking through what the qualities of leadership drawing on their own experiences of leadership and inspirational leaders from within their faith traditions.

The group will meet once a month for the next 6 months and will cover topics such as conflict resolution, character and personality, practicalities of leadership, recruiting volunteers, risk assessment and faith and leadership in the public sphere.

They will also have to devise and run a Near Neighbours project as part of the course.

Our hope is that this group will go on to form the core of a group of young faith leaders engaged with inter-faith work and social issues in Birmingham.

Foodbanks Benefit from Joint Harvest

Foodbanks across the city have been receiving food collected by people from faith communities who have come together to celebrate harvest festival.

Harvest is traditionally celebrated by churches and is a time when worshippers are asked to bring food to give away to people in need. This year, a new initiative called A Year of Service has encouraged people to come together throughout the year to celebrate one another’s festivals.

This year, several churches have been supported by faith communities to collect food and distribute it – most choosing to give the food to local foodbanks. St Alban’s Church in Highate worked with the local interfaith group to collect food for a foodbank based at Central Mosque. St Paul’s Balsall Heath collaborated with Balsall Heath Forum and two local schools while All Saints Church in Kings Heath worked with ISRA-Feed the poor to gather donations.

The collection organised by All Saints and Isra yielded 235 kgs (almost quarter of a tonne) of groceries. A spokesperson from the Narthex Foodbank in Sparkhill said that the food collected would feed 10 large families for three days and is equivalent to 450 individual meals.Find out more about Narthex Foodbank here.

Faithful Conversations

In September we ran our second ‘Faithful Conversations’ training evening here at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre. A group of 13 of us to met to think about how we can have conversations about faith in an informal and non-confrontational way with friends and neighbours.

The evening consisted of a number of activities that involved, amongst other things, people reflecting on their own faith journey, sharing how they celebrate festivals or what impact their faith has on their lives day by day. We also spent time thinking about how we speak and, perhaps more importantly, how we listen. Finally we considered how we cope when we find ourselves in disagreement over faith matters.

The different learning styles were appreciated by the participants who went on to make a number of positive comments about the events.

“The emphasis on simply asking ‘what do you believe’ and taking each person as individuals not representatives of their faith was good.”
“It took pressure off me to defend my faith.”
“It is more about building a relationship with love than winning an argument”
“The variety of activities was very good to get us talking with others about our own faith stories”

The Faithful Conversations course is being run again in Walsall on 29th November. Details are on our events page.

We can also run the course in your area. If you would like to find out more please contact us.

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