As a church located in one of the most culturally diverse parts of the UK, it would be extremely remiss of us not to try to engage with individuals and local communities of other faiths – we’re called to love all, to serve the whole city of Wolverhampton.
Photo credit: Express and Star website.
To that end, we have been running – and participating in – a handful of events designed to increase our understanding of the different religions we see around us, and reflect on how what we learn can help us grow in our own faiths.
We were fortunate enough to have Interfaith Enabler and advisor to the Bishops of Wolverhampton and Lichfield, Ray Gaston, come to speak to us about Christian discipleship in a multifaith world. We hugely enjoyed his talk and it sparked a lot of interest in learning more about the faiths of others. So the following month, in November 2017, Kate put together an interactive session for Vitalise (and mini-version for our chaplaincy partners), to mark Interfaith Week. It was titled Faith and Feasting, and was designed to help people explore how different religions think about food and the practices of communal feasting and fasting.
Kosher food quiz and some Indian sweets from our Faith and Feasting session.
Both of these sessions were linked by a focus on equipping individuals for better engaging in interreligious and intercultural interaction in our daily lives. Our growth as disciples is, in large part, presaged on us witnessing to our faith in the world around us – a world where the presence of faiths others than our own is frequently a topic of discussion, at home and in the media. Knowledge of the beliefs, practices and worldviews of others is therefore vital for any conversation we might what to have about the place of faith – be it ours or anyone else’s – in our homes, colleges and workplaces today.
Wolverhampton’s religious landscape in the snow. Left: the Buddhist Vihara on Upper Zoar Street; right: the Shree Krishan Mandir on the Penn Road.
January 2018 saw a small group from Vitalise join a day-long workshop run by Ray Gaston which involved visiting several places of worship in the Pennfields area of Wolverhampton, followed by an afternoon of reflection which included group discussion of Biblical passages. We were delighted to be welcomed into the Shree Krishan Mandir and the Tayyaba Masjid (no pictures of its exterior from the trip – it was too cold!) who showed us enormously gracious hospitality. Leaders from both these places of worship spoke to us about their faiths and facilitated very informative question and answer sessions. We then spent the afternoon at St Chad and St Mark’s church in Pennfields reflecting on our experiences of the morning and reading and discussing passages from the Bible in the light of these encounters. You can be sure there were some disagreements within the groups we were a part of, but it was a very fruitful exercise for us all!
It is exciting to see that there is a strong desire among many people at WPM to further explore what reflection on interaction with people of other religions can teach us about our faith – so watch this space!