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Near Neighbours Two Is Good News For Birmingham

Jessica Foster, Near Neighbours Development Worker writes:

I am really pleased that the Goverment announced last week a second round of Near Neighbours funding which will mean we can continue some of the work that has been developing over the last three years or so. An extract from the official press release follows:-
A £3 million grant from Government will enable the Near Neighbours programme to expand to new areas within the UK and to support existing community projects over the next two years, it was announced last week
Near Neighbours is a partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council, and is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It aims to bring people of different faiths together to change their communities and build trusting relationships.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said:
“This renewed funding is recognition of the hard work and prayer put in over the last three years by hundreds of people from local faith communities supported by the national church and inter faith groups. That work has touched thousands of lives and strengthened the fabric of our society. We have heard some great stories from Near Neighbours over the last three years and we look forward to many more.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who announced the new funding said:
“It’s been terrific to see Near Neighbours go from strength to strength over the past three years, helping grass roots groups to improve the lives of those around them through practical action. These fantastic projects have been met with huge amounts of enthusiasm, creating a sense of lasting community spirit, and helping to transform neighbourhoods in the process.
“This extra money is a real investment in our shared future that will enable Near Neighbours to reach many more communities so they can become even better places to live.”
The new funding will mean that there will be some small grants in the Birmingham area and the programme will develop in parts of the Black Country. Near Neighbours Development Worker, Jessica Foster, will remain in a capacity-building role based at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre. Find out more here or contact


Faithful photographers across Birmingham have been capturing images depicting the breadth and depth of interfaith relationships across the city.

The photographers already submitted into the Faithful Photography exhibition are now on display on the Near Neighbours Flickr Feed and will be hung in Birmingham Cathedral during Interfaith Week.

Prizes on offer will help winners develop their photography and editing skills by offering them not only top photography packages but time with Faithful Friends photographer Dee Patel to learn how to use the packages and make the most of their new software.

Entries for the competition must be submitted by October 28th 2013 and we hope many more people will send us their favourite shot. Photos should be sent to with a short description of where and why they were taken and the name of photographer. They should fit one of three categories, Faith, Friendship and Community.

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

Near Neighbours and Interfaith Week

Interfaith Week became Interfaith Fortnight in Birmingham with a packed programme of launches, workshops and activities to celebrate all that is happening locally and nationally to bring people from different faiths together.

We kicked off here a day early with the fabulous launch of our Faithful Friends photography exhibition. We are so excited about that and there is so much to say that we have a separate page on our website dedicated to it and will blog about it later.

The following Tuesday, our photographer, Dee at Outroslide, led a worskhop for us on taking better pictures which was both fun and interesting. Many of us revealed that we did not really know how to use our cameras properly so we are hoping to run more workshops in the New Year – watch this space.

On Thursday we went to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, give his final reflections on interfaith relations. It was wonderful to hear him praise the state of relationships in the UK, describing them as the envy of many countries in Europe, and even more wonderful to hear him praise the work of Near Neighbours, urge Government to fund it again and describe it as the embodiment of recent thinking about interfaith engagement. We are hoping audio of the text will appear soon on his website.

We were delighted to welcome the Christian-Muslim Forum to Birmingham on Monday (26th November) to launch their report on their women’s work. There was a fantastic atmosphere as Christian and Muslim women chatted over lunch, heard about the local and national friendships being built and then joined in a drumming workshop together. Plans are now afoot for more drumming workshops in the New Year – watch this space.

The following day we were back in London for the national Together in Service celebration organised by our funders, the Department for Communities and Local Government. It was great to hear Pritpal and Kiran from Nishkham talk about their engagement in faith-based social action and we got a few seconds to explain to Baroness Warsi what great things are happening in Birmingham thanks to their support of Near Neighbours.

It has also been a great pleasure this week to join in the celebrations at the Nishkam centre to mark Guru Nanak’s birthday and to hear Brian Maclaren speak about his book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road. Urging Christians to a strong, benevolent identity that approaches people of different faiths offering solidarity and hospitality, he affirmed what is already happening here in Birmingham. Near Neighbours is delighted to be one small part of the relationships and activities that are bringing people together and building stronger and more compassionate communities in this city.


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.

Near Neighbours Takes to the Street

Three Near Neighbours workers have begun their work with the Nehemiah Foundation this week. Based in Summerfield, Hodge Hill and Birchfield they will be focussed on bringing together interfaith work with regeneration in very local areas.

The programme includes training and reflection, residential time together with Near Neighbours workers from other cities as well as practical research and action. We look forward to working closely with them as they get to know their neighbourhoods and bring people together in new and creative ways.

Meanwhile Near Neighbours associates are working across the eligible wards to make contact with small community groups and faith organisations – spreading the word about Near Neighbours and helping people work together to access funding and develop new projects.

They will be ‘mapping’ the 12 wards, one is already done, and arranging events to bring community groups together and to make sure Near Neighbours can stay in touch with organisations from a wide range of faith traditions.

So far we have had successful applications from Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh organisations but we would like to attract more applications from diverse groups. Please spread the word and help us ensure the Near Neighbours funding reaches all sections of the community.

Diary Getting Full for 2012

We have updated our calendar with all the training events planned in the next few months. But, in case you want to see them as a list, or copy the whole lot and forward it to everyone you know, we have added a list of all the events here in our blogs. We hope there is something to please everyone so do book on through our administrator, Parm, and we look forward to seeing you.

Christian Muslim Engagement
Our next major event is on Tuesday January 31st and is aimed at Christians who want to engage with Muslims but have some questions about the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of interfaith dialogue. The event is being held at St George’s Newtown from 10 am to 4pm and being run in partnership with the Christian Muslim Forum (

Faithful Conversations
On Thursday February 9th we are running a training event here, at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, for people who bring people of different faiths together and want to make sure meaningful conversations take place. The training runs from 10 am to 1 pm.

Muslim Christian Engagement
On Thursday March 8th we are working with the Christian-Muslim forum to run an event aimed at Muslims who want to engage with Christians and need some support and encouragement. The event will run from 10 am to 3 pm and is being held at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre.

White Working Class – a response to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Report
On Tuesday March 20th we are holding a consultation with the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, Bishop of Aston, to consider our response to the views of those interviewed for the report who felt left out of regeneration and community cohesion programmes.

This is a chance to hear more details about the report, to reflect on whether the findings are relevant in our areas (part of the research was undertaken in Birmingham) and to share some ideas and thoughts of how Near Neighbours might be helpful in addressing this. This event is being held at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre from 10.30 am to 12 noon.

Engaging with Men
Many of our interfaith events seem to bring women together successfully but it is often harder to get men together for meetings or events. What can we do to engage with men and find ways of meeting their needs? This event is being held at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on 21st March from 10 am to 1 pm.

Pakistani Awareness Training
Led by Karamat Iqbal this course is a chance to learn more about the Pakistani-British community here in Birmingham thinking about the history and development of the community, the issues and needs generally and of particular groups and the particular role of the church.
The course is being held at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on April 25th from 9.30 to 4 pm. For more details please contact

For details of the other courses advertised here please contact Parm Sidhu at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on 0121 675 1156 or e-mail:

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