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:

Near Neighbours Takes Root

Seeds sown by Near Neighbours funding are already bearing fruit across the city as the grant programme takes root in 2012 and plants its roots firmly in the 13 eligible wards in Birmingham.

Funds awarded to a Somali Community Association in Newtown on  December 20th have already been used to bring Christians and Muslims together to create winter flower-beds outside the Huda Centre and Mosque  and St George’s Church.
A further 20 community organisations or faith communities have received funding since September 2011 to run projects or activities that bring people together.  The applications have been incredibly creative and range from comedy courses and parenting support to food festivals and debt advice.

In the last three months, nearly £80,000 of the Government funding has been allocated by the Church Urban Fund  to projects in Birmingham. Naturally, CUF have not been able to  authorised awards to all the applicants that have put forward proposals but we are very happy to work with organisations who have been declined funding to help them strengthen their application or develop new ideas that could attract  a cash award.

Anyone wanting to apply for Near Neighbours funding should visit the website or contact Jessica Foster, Near Neighbours Development Worker, on 07817 853452.

Talking about Faith

Getting people of different faiths into the same space is the beginning of process that can be hugely enriching, transformative and exciting but it does not happen naturally. How do conversations move from the superficial to the spiritual without feeling artificial and stilted?

To help people think through how they can have conversations about faith that have integrity and honesty we are running a training day at The Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on Thursday 9th February 2012.

The course will run from 10am to 1pm and will include lunch. The cost of the course is £15 (£10) concession. To register contact Parm Sidhu the Centre Administrator.

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.”

Birmingham Interfaith launch for Near Neighbours

A £5 million fund was launched in Birmingham city centre today as  part of a series of events to mark inter-faith week. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anita Ward, welcomed more than 40 faith leaders and voluntary sector representatives to the event in the Council House.

She was joined by the Dean of Birmingham, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle and the Bishop’s Director of Inter-faith relations, Dr Andrew Smith.

Dr Smith said: “Near Neighbours aims to strengthen existing interfaith networks and build new friendships at a local level by uniting faith communities to transform their neighbourhoods.

Grants of up to £5,000 are available to charities and faith communities to help them start a new project which will bring people from different faiths and ethnicities together. Since the end of September, more than £40,000 has been given out to groups across the 13 eligible wards.”

The fund is also supporting the work of the Christian-Muslim forum, the Nehemiah Programme and The Feast, a charity which brings young people of different faiths together to share their beliefs. Three Nehemiah community workers are due to take up posts in the city after Christmas.

Near Neighbours is a Government-funded programme which operates in four locations: Leicester, East London, parts of Bradford, Oldham and Burnley and 13 wards in Birmingham. In Birmingham it is based at the Faithful Neighbourhood Centre in Sparkhill.

Development Worker, Jessica Foster, said: “We are delighted by not only the number of applications we are receiving but also by their creativity and the range of projects we have funded. At the moment I seem to be receiving one application every day but we are keen that word of the fund reaches every community within the eligible areas of Birmingham and we reach beyond the usual suspects to the grass roots of our neighbourhoods.”

The eligible areas of Birmingham are the 13 wards of Ladywood, Soho, Nechells, Lozells and East Handsworth, Aston, Washwood Heath, Bordesley Green, Edgbaston, Moseley and Kings Heath, Sparkbook, Springfield, South Yardley and Hodge Hill.

For more information please contact

Jessica Foster
Near Neighbours Development Worker
Tel 0121 675 1155 or 07817 853452

Faith Map launched at Birmingham Cathedral

A map of Birmingham faith communities was launched in the city’s cathedral on Tuesday 22nd November as part of Interfaith Week.

The web-based map allows people to search by postcode, ward or constituency and by faith tradition. It includes 632 places of worship from all the major religions practiced in the city.

The aims are to connect faith communities, help people new to the city find a place of worship, open and maintain links between the Council  and places of worship in Birmingham, support inter-faith activity and provide academics and other researchers with access to information about faith.

Speaking at the launch at Birmingham Cathedral, Councillor Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources said: “This is a website that serves the need of all faiths and helps encourage the values of trust, harmony and hope between people.

“I value and recognise the important role that faith communities play within Birmingham. They are at the heart of the city and help to support the on-going cohesion and integration between communities.”

Also speaking at the event, the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart said: “I am delighted that we had the launch of the faith map in a religious building. Being in a secular society is one of the glories of living in our British society that has been replicated around the world.

“In a secular society religion should not only be respected but it should flourish. To be truly human, and to have a flourishing community of human beings, faiths must be allowed to flourish. With this kind of encouragement, that we have received today, people of faith will go on making their contribution, in a distinctive way, to making this city not one of the greatest, but the greatest, in the world.”

The faith map can be accessed at

Government Minister launches Near Neighbours

Eric Pickles launches Near Neighbours Eric Pickles launches Near Neighbours

Near Neighbours was launched nationally in London by Government minister Eric Pickles on November 14th. To complement the launch the communications team from the Archbishop’s Council produced a podcast based on Birmingham’s experience of Near Neighbours. Read more about the launch and listen to the podcast here.

New church-backed centre opens to connect communities

launch of faithful neighbourhoods centre launch of faithful neighbourhoods centre launch of faithful neighbourhoods centre

Birmingham’s church leaders have launched a new centre which aims to build bridges between people of different religions and equip Christians to live out their faith in a relevant way.

The Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre in Court Road, Sparkhill, was opened on Tuesday October 11th by the Presidents of Birmingham Churches Together, the Most Revd Bernard Longley, the Rt Revd David Urquhart and Major Sam Edgar.

Guests and dignitaries were welcomed to the centre by the parish priest, the Revd John Self of St John’s Sparkhill. The three presidents were joined by Dr Andrew Smith, Director of the new centre, to cut a cake to mark the opening and guests heard about some of the organisations based within or linked with the Court Road building.

More than 50 representatives of some of the city’s faith communities, church leaders and inter-faith activists joined in the celebrations to mark the launch of the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre.

Dr Andrew Smith, the director of the centre and the Bishop of Birmingham’s adviser on inter-faith ministry, said: “We hope this will quickly become a place where people of all faiths and none can come together to deepen their understanding of one another and find ways of working together to improve and strengthen their  local areas.

“It is really exciting to be the first director of the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre and I look forward to working with a wide range of people from Birmingham to ensure this city is a place of friendship, hospitality and generosity and all who live here find a welcome.”

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, said: “After the events of the summer it seems very timely that as one of the Presidents of Birmingham Churches Together I have opened the new Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre in Sparkhill.

“The new centre will help Christians in Birmingham live as ‘Good News’ in a multi-faith city, so that  as  followers of Jesus Christ  we are equipped to build firm friendships and live out our faith in a way that strengthens communities, builds up belief and inspires other to seek the common good in our city.

“I am sure this centre will become a valuable shared space and the people who work in it will bring invaluable skills and expertise as we work together to make Birmingham a beacon of understanding and neighbourliness.”

The centre is a joint initiative between Birmingham Churches Together and the Church of England. It is one of four of the Church of England’s Presence and Engagement centres which aim to equip Christians for mission and ministry in a multi-faith society and build good relationships between people of different religions.

For more information please contact Jessica Foster, Near Neighbours Development Worker.

Saltley project first in brum to be awarded near neighbours funding

Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, Sparkhill Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, Sparkhill Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre, Sparkhill

An inter-faith project in Saltley is the first project in the city to be awarded funds by a new Government grants programme which aims to strengthen communities by building bridges between people of different faiths and cultures.

The Hub in Saltley has received £5,000 pounds  this week from the Near Neighbours programme. The award was given to  help fund the start-up costs of the £1.5 million project to open a new interfaith centre in Saltley Methodist church.

The  Near Neighbours cash will also fund four community days to give local residents a chance to get to grips with the plans and talk about their vision for the centre.

Residents will be invited to the BIG Game’, ‘the BIG Feast’, ‘The BIG show’ and ‘The BIG laugh’, each of which will give people of different faiths a chance to get involved.

Chair of the Hub Board, Methodist Minister Andrew Smith said: “We believe this centre will really make a big difference to Saltley. It will be one of the few places people can come together in a shared space and will set the scene so trusting relationships can be built and friendship deepened between people from different faith traditions.

“We are delighted that we have received a Near Neighbours grant to pay for necessary start-up costs and to help us begin to really engae with our local community.”

Near Neighbours development worker, Jessica Foster, said: “This sounds like a fantastic project and we are really glad we can support the team in Saltley as they begin work on the Hub.

“Shared spaces and centres of welcome and hospitality are vital to this city to ensure communities are connected and neighbourhoods strengthened.”

Near Neighbours grants are available to fund projects or activities which bring people of different faiths or ethnicities together to meet each other and work together to improve their neighbourhood. Community and faith groups based in 13 wards in central Birmingham are eligible for funding. For more details visit

For more information about Near Neighbours in Birmingham please contact Jessica Foster.

To find out more about The Hub please contact Andrew Smith or phone 0121 327 3845

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