Category: Hinduism

Curry and Chips – how a panto built a triangle of friendships between a church, a temple and a theatre company

On Sunday February 9th members of St Edmund’s Church in Tyseley and the Shree Hindu Community Centre came together to perform a pantomime called Curry and Chips. Pravin Sangani, a key organiser an motivator of the event writes about how it came about:

During the summer of last year Vicar of St Edmund’s Church Tyseley (Church), Committee members of Shree Hindu Community Centre (Temple) and office bearers of Near Neighbours (NN) met at the temple with a view to foster better relationship between Christian and Hindu communities. As such there were no issues to resolve but there was very limited interaction between these two communities in Tyseley. After usual introductions and other formalities, all present thought of planning the activities to bring two communities closer. At coffee break, I suggested to Jessica Foster mainly in jest that we should have pantomime at Christmas and ‘clowns’ from both faiths can deliver the message which could be more effective than having serious theological discussions. Somehow, Jessica took the joke more seriously than I thought. Both of us being interested in the theatre soon saw the potential of the proposal.

Fortunately, Jessica knew about the activities and the ability of Women and Theatre who specialise in the community theatre. Church, Temple and Theatre deliberated on the proposal and its practicalities and put a funding proposal to NN which was duly approved. It soon transpired that pantomime was not a very practical idea and by the time the funding was approved, mounting a successful project at Christmas 2012 would have been very risky. Women & Theatre came up with the idea of writing a script bottom up, where both Christian and Hindu participants brain storm the issues that will make a good drama. Everybody agreed around a realistic plot where a young Hindu student from India stays as paying guest with not so young land lady in Tyseley and the religious, social and cultural challenges it creates for both and their relations.

Women & Theatre coached all the participants to think of the scenes and situations to support the above stated plot. This proved very interesting indeed, all the barriers started disappearing and the participants blended as a team. One of the major catalyst was when the ladies from both faiths were practicing for a Hindu stick dance and where all the ladies had to wear Indian costumes. The enthusiasm and dedication of Therese Collins and Liam Walsh from Women & Theatre was undiminishing particularly at the testing time when we had to reschedule the original date of performance due to heavy snow fall on and around 20 Jan 2013. There were other practical issues like unavailability of all cast at very few practices planned. Women & Theatre always had plan B in their locker.

The rescheduled date of Sunday 10 Feb 2013 arrived with the fear of snow. This time prayers from both Church and Temple were answered and all the star cast and an audience in excess of 100 could remain present. Right from the beginning, the audience was very responsive and the whole play went flawless. There was a planned audience participation situation which went well. At the refreshment time, there was an inquiry from another Hindu organisation if we could do a repeat performance.

Without doubt, a lot of acquaintances struck and friendship established between the members of both the faiths. Revd. Steve Simcox has invited all present to visit the Church and the Temple has asked everybody to walk in as and when but particularly at the official ceremony of the new floor project within next 3 months. My tip for further successful events is that there is a lot of creative energy within groups and all the ideas deserve research. It is amazing how they can be successfully implemented with dedication and enthusiasm.


Pravin Sangani

Archbishop launches Hindu Christian Forum

Archbishop launches Hindu Christian Forum – an opportunity for ‘dialogue and depth’

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Sri Shruti Dharma Das Ji launched the Hindu Christian Forum at Lambeth Palace yesterday evening, at an event which featured addresses from Andrew Stunell MP, Baroness Richardson and Lord Popat.

In an address at yesterday’s launch, the Archbishop said “The conversation of interfaith dialogue is always one where we look eagerly and expectantly for enrichment. We’re not playing for victory, we’re seeking understanding from one another… by learning the depth of one another’s commitment and vision – dialogue and depth is what we all hope for.”

He praised the launch of the Hindu Christian Forum and the role it will play in facilitating dialogue: “I believe that a dialogue is about work, real labour, but also about surprise and excitement, and it is with that vision in mind that I commend this forum to you, thank you for your support of it, and ask for your continuing prayers and solidarity with the work it will do in the future.”

Dr Williams also spoke about his own early encounters with the Hindu faith. He described reading a children’s version of the Ramayana in the school library when aged 12, and recalled the beauty, complexity and depth which captivated him at that early age. He went on to say how later in life, while contemplating his own spiritual identity during a visit to India, he realised that “the historic Christian identity is something that constantly needs to be opened and enlarged, challenged and enriched in conversation”.

Speaking of a recent visit to Bangalore, he described a day of dialogue with religious leaders from a variety of Hindu traditions: “a deeply enriching experience – a day in which we were able to speak simply and directly about our traditions. We were able to say together at the end of that conversation a number of things about our mutual respect and the understanding that we sought.”

The Hindu Christian Forum has been formed by a group of Hindus and Christians who have been meeting together since 2001. It has become a national forum partly in response to the findings of the ‘Bridges and Barriers to Hindu Christian Relations’ Report which was carried out by Dr Jessica Frazier of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. In his address, the Archbishop described the report as a “very creative and stimulating piece of work, which provides an enormous resource for reflecting on how dialogue can be pursued, and how at the grassroots level it is to be understood and worked with.”

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