The 12th November 2019 was an important day for Sikhs as it marked the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak the founder of Sikhism. The Faithful Friends were involved in a tree planting event in Smethwick between Holy Trinity Church and the Guru Nanak Gurdwara. This was a joint project between the church, EcoSikh and the Canal and River Trust to plant 550 trees in the Smethwick area. The 550th tree was planted at Holy Trinity Church to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak and the friendship between Sikhs and Christians in the area.
As part of the Faithful Friends: On Tour pilgrimage the Revd David Gould took the group to his special place – Polzeath in Cornwall. Here he reflects on returning to a place of special meaning with friends of different faiths…
Background Story for our Cornwall Visit
I went to Cornwall in 1973 with Covenanters who ran camps at the time and youth groups in mainly Free Evangelical churches. I had been going to church for a couple of years and a children’s group before that.
I was 14 and a half when I went to the camp. We slept eight to a bell tent with an adult assigned to each tent. The system was quite rigid with morning inspections, competition for best tent etc each day and shared helping with washing up and serving at tables.
Morning and evening talks by the Padre, Ian Knox. Meals together, about 80 boys and 20 adults with a Commandant in charge. I remember each tent being a boat on the wall of the marquee and we were awarded points each day…naming and shaming….My tent won the competition! I also learned and enjoyed volleyball there.
Three of us travelled by train from Stafford and were collected in a Land Rover from Bodmin. We stayed ten days I think. I remember it being very hot, lots of calamine lotion and time on the beach with a plywood surfboard. One huge thunderstorm and we were all hauled out of our tents in the night because it was thought safer out than in!
The key bit for me was the call each night by Ian, for us to come to Jesus. One night I wanted to but couldn’t find the courage so went to Ian’s tent the following morning and so began my concious Christian journey – I had been baptised as a baby as most were then. Ian’s invitation was to take the hand of Jesus and walk with him through life, never alone and that has been true for me ever since. I have often used that way of looking at faith in sermons etc.
In 1984 Ian and I worked together during the Mission:England project when he was part of the team of evangelists. Years later we were in touch again and he invited me to join his team doing town – wide missions in Dundee, Malvern and Suffolk. Ian has been faithful to me as has the friend he enabled for me in Jesus. Very special. Ian is now ordained and serving in Northumbria and continues to preach there and in Africa.
Reflections for our visit to Cornwall
In Christian teaching the Incarnation is very central for me. God becoming human and taking that lived experience back into God, the creator changed forever…….The hand and the promise….Jesus never lets go, is always there, through all and promises to always be there.
Time and Place…..Christianity is for me located, tangible, made real in time and space. Jesus on a road, a cross, a mountain at a time in history. Likewise for me I identified my Christian journey in time and place which is what makes Polzeath so special for me as are the other places since where God has been signally real
Unique …..I cannot say faiths are the same but neither will I put down another or someone of no faith. Jesus is for me the unique expression of God to us as humans and back in to God and yes I do want all to know him as I do and yes that is a major driver for me in ministry. It’s the way I have come and it’s what shapes my ministry as a vicar in Smethwick and my personal faith. However, I hope I never force that experience of faith on anyone but rather I am ready to give account when called to. New life in Jesus is not about a new life after death, re-incarnated, but a new life in God that starts in this life, shapes this life and enables this life through all the messes we make and all the mess which we don’t make but live through. This new life includes our physical death and the life beyond.
We’re delighted that at the start of May the local charity The Feast moved into the FNC. The Feast is a local Christian charity that works to build relationships between Christian and Muslim teenagers.
The Feast is all about…
•Exploring faith: young people are encouraged and equipped to discuss their faith in ways which draw out both the similarities and differences between them.
•Creating friendships: by bringing together young people in a positive and fun environment we provide the opportunities for them to get to know one another, work on projects together and build on-going friendship built on trust and respect.
•Changing lives: having been to events run by The Feast the young people are challenged and enabled to live out the lessons they have learnt in their everyday lives amongst their friends, family and the wider community.
Their work fits with the three strands of work that we undertake here at the FNC namely: Tackling Poverty, Engaging with Other Faiths and Transforming Communities.
Since September 2011, Near Neighbours has been encouraging people across the city to come together to make new friends, deepen relationships and transform their communities. We now have 92 projects that have been funded by Near Neighbours – initial feedback suggests 3,000 people have met each other through these events.
To celebrate these friendships between people of different faiths and ethnicities we comissioned 15 portraits taken by a professional photographer, Dee from Outroslide, that give the people and their relationship a context.
We shot the pictures and interviewed all the people involved during June, July, August, September and a bit of October, had bespoke display boards made that could fit in a car and be assembled as quickly as possibly (thanks to John at Morse-Brown Design) , hunted around for funding (thanks Transforming Church and Westhill Endowment) and eventually launched the exhibition on November 17th at St Martin’s Church in the Bull Ring.
The exhibition and its launch were featured on Central News – the piece included interviews with people who had been involved with the projects and some of those whose friendships are depicted in the portraits. You can watch the coverage here.
Since then the Exhibition has been seen at the launch of the Christian Muslim report into women’s work, at the national Together In Service event hosted by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is booked by local primary schools, churches, universities and other places of worship but is available for anyone to borrow.
Booking forms and more details are all on our website – we really want people to see these pictures and think hard about the personal and political importance of friendships that bridge communities, challenge prejudice and broaden our imagination. Have a look at the pictures and stories featured in the exhibition on the Outroslide website.
(All pictures from the launch were taken by Helen Tomblin – thanks.)
The Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre will be hosting the Faith Encounter Programme as they run their accredited Faith Guiding Course
The Faith Encounter Programme seeks to train people of all faiths in Birmingham as Faith Guides, so that places of worship are better equipped to offer high quality educational visits.
The course is designed to provide participants with the knowledge, understanding and skills required for successful guiding around a particular place of worship. If you follow one of the major religious traditions represented in Birmingham, you are welcome to apply: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, & Sikh. Minor traditions are not excluded if they have a place of worship.
There will be 20 places available. Applicants must be over the age of 18 and have the ability to communicate well in English. Applications are welcomed from practising members of any faith community. In addition to completing the application form, applicants need to submit a reference from a leader of their local place of worship.
Course details The aims are achieved through the study of three key areas: 1. Knowledge of and ability to communicate the guide’s own faith 2. Awareness of, and competence in, tour guiding skills 3. Understanding of other faith traditions The course will include four visits to places of worship of different faiths.
Last year Thrive Together Birmingham hosted a ‘Tackling Poverty’ event, offering resources and tools to churches wanting to address issues of poverty in their local neighbourhoods. One of the exhibitors was Parish Nursing UK, a Christian charity which helps local churches appoint nurses to support people and communities towards what they call “whole person healthcare”, which they describe as care for “body, mind and spirit”.
Their work is essentially about enabling registered nurses to combine their nursing skills with their faith and work with their local church to address some of the health needs of the local community. Thrive were keen to get them to Birmingham to inspire nurses to explore possibilities in their neighbourhoods, and on Saturday 22nd September we held an event at Balsall Heath Church Centre. Those attending who were already parish nurses shared their experience and told stories of churches hosting health drop-in’s, where people had their blood pressure checked over a cup of tea and chat, and where time to share and be listened to was prioritised, as well signposting and supporting people to access other health care services. Community breakfasts and lunches focused around highlighting particular health issues. Cycling projects aimed at developing fitness, encouraging weight loss and encouraging self-esteem. Stories of relationships being built and friendships developing with frail and elderly people who had previously been reluctant to trust others; and of support and reassurance offered to frightened patients and families following difficult diagnoses. The event also offered opportunities for nurses and others attending to ask questions of members of the parish nursing UK team, church leaders and existing parish nurses.
If you are interested in exploring possibilities for using nursing skills in your local neighbourhood and would like more information contact Jennie Fytche at firstname.lastname@example.org
At 5am on July 1st Sparkhill Park was unusually busy as a team of volunteers assisted by staff from the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre were busy getting ready for the Sunrise in Sparkhill event. This was due to start at 6am and was a community event to mark the Olympic Torch relay.
The event, partly funded through Near Neighbours, brought together members of the local faith communities including, Christians (Catholic and Protestant), Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims as well as local schools, businesses, the council and police.
The groups provided free breakfast for everyone, games and activities as well as performances on the bandstand that reflected all the faiths represented and which was compered by Nikki Tapper from BBC Radio WM.
In all over 1000 people came to the event of all ages and backgrounds. There was great excitement at seeing the torch and real enthusiasm for all the acts who performed. We also had a visit from Anne Barnes who had carried the torch the day before and she showed the torch and allowed people to be photographed with her and the torch.
The event featured much more that will come in future posts
Today Andrew was interviewed by The Community Channel for a feature on the event we are planning to mark the Olympic Torch Relay as it passes down the Stratford Road close to the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre.
Called ‘Sunrise in Sparkhill’ The event will be on Sunday 1st July and features breakfast, mini-Olympics, face painting and mendhi along with a full program of events on the bandstand. This will be compered by Nikki Tapper and conclude with the reading of a Faith Pledge led by the Bishop of Birmingham and members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group.
Look out for pictures form the event and the wording of the Faith Pledge coming soon.
Across the country people are gathering to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the congregation at St. Christopher’s Church in Springfield are no exception. They worked with friends from the Woodlands Road Mosque to organise a big lunch for the whole community. Springfield is a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham, but the church has built good links with people from all walks of life over the yeras. They benefitted from a small Near Neighbours grant to help them fund the games, decorations and activities that were all pert of the celebrations.
Several hundred people attended the event which was helped by the glorious sunshine throughout the day. Whilst the adults sat and eat and chatted children enjoyed playing on the bouncy castle, making crowns, face painting and tucking into an enormous amount of tasty food.