Interfaith Autumn News 2020
Covid 19 and faith - The Covid-19 pandemic has, strangely, given greater prominence to ‘faith’ in the public sphere. At county and district level, there is a clear recognition of the service that has been provided by people of different faiths in meeting local needs, particularly in the provision of food. In general, though, local authorities tend to view faith groups as ‘another’ part of the voluntary and community sector. There is little appreciation of the spiritual component of faith groups. The enforced migration to an on-line environment for meetings has, providentially, provided a platform for wider and deeper engagements of faith groups with each other, and with other partners including the statutory authorities. There does appear to be an opportunity to build further on this, and for the spiritual aspect of faith to be more widely recognised and acknowledged.
At county level, the Lancashire Resilience Forum is the body through which the response to Covid-19 is being managed. Several sub-groups and sub-cells are operating, and representatives of various faith groups are attending these meetings. While the focus has largely been on the meeting of physical needs, such as disposal of bodies, and opening of places of worship, there is a growing awareness of the importance of emotional and mental well-being, and that faith groups are vital in addressing the spiritual element of human beings. With this in mind, the Lancashire Forum of Faiths has collaborated with the resilience forum to run an initial webinar on the topic of death / dying / grieving.
This focused on cultural practices, and religious beliefs, and was successful in starting to educate colleagues in the local authority about the spiritual aspects of different faiths.
This webinar was then followed up with three further sessions, aimed at Syrian refugees resident in Lancashire (see Lancashire Forum of Faiths Facebook page). Their experience in dealing with the statutory authorities has been of a secular society in which ‘faith’ is barely visible. These webinars have shown that in fact faith communities are alive, and well, and welcoming. People of 8 different faiths have explained some of the basics of that faith, as well as something of the history and the current status within Lancashire of each.
Local groups - In addition to the webinars with LCC, the Lancashire Forum of Faiths is now part of a multi-faith reference group for Royal Preston Hospital – this is the culmination of efforts of several individuals to improve the scope and diversity of the spiritual support for patients, families and staff.
Local groups too are engaging more actively with their local authority partners, most actively in Pendle and Burnley, but also in Preston. Methodists are represented on all of these forums, and I have recently joined the board of Building Bridges Burnley. There, discussions are underway with Near Neighbours to appoint a person to manage Near Neighbours work across the county, and to re-start an engagement project that has been lying fallow for a while.
Inter Faith week runs from November 8th – 15th, and details of events will also be posted on the What's On page of this website
Anyone interested in Interfaith work can contact me and I can put them in touch with others in their locality.
Peter Lumsden (District Interfaith Officer; firstname.lastname@example.org )