West Pennine Moors Methodist Circuit

Interfaith Spring News 2022


As I compile this report, it appears that the danger of the most recent Covid variant, Omicron, has reduced significantly, allowing places of worship to resume a near normal ‘service’. However, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the horror of a war in Europe is now with us, bringing with it new fears and fresh challenges.

One of the positives to emerge from the pandemic is the growing awareness within local authority and health sector of the value of the faith sector in contributing to community well-being and cohesion. There is more openness in strategic decision making to the involvement of the VCFSE (voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise) sector as equal partners in ‘service delivery’. Taking a lead here, Churches Together in Lancashire along with the Lancashire Forum of Faiths is planning a one-day event on May 26th, at Whalley Abbey, to further explore and develop such partnership. Entitled ‘With faith in mind’, the day will have a focus on mental health, and partnerships – especially around social prescribing. Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health for Lancashire, is the key-note speaker; workshop sessions will explore the two themes, and there will be series of ‘show-cases’ of church locations who are effectively partnering to support their local communities.

Elsewhere community cohesion work in East Lancashire has been significantly enhanced by the work of the Near Neighbours co-ordinator, Nudrat Mughal, who has been line-managed by the District Inter Faith officer. A snapshot of this work is from recent events associated with International Women’s Day, where in Burnley self-defence classes have been organised; in Blackburn a visit to the making rooms has been arranged; and in Darwen women from mosque, the DARE asylum seeker community and local churches have been invited to a meditation session. There are also two budgeting sessions running, one with DARE in Darwen and another one in a school in Burnley. Finally, an interfaith/culture exhibition is happening at Westbury Gardens Church, inviting people from the Muslim and Christian community to create artwork together, which will be exhibited in the local library for over a month. These small pieces of work are not very expensive to run but are successful because of having a paid co-ordinator. It is therefore very disappointing that the Dep for ‘levelling up, housing and communities’ is not continuing to fund Near Neighbours, and therefore we will lose our co-ordinator at the end of March.

Returning to the issue of asylum seekers and refugees, whilst there is currently a focus on the plight of Ukrainians fleeing in the face of the Russian invasion, we should remember that many of the asylum seekers who arrive in the UK, and in Lancashire, are similarly fleeing from war, or persecution. Perhaps we should reflect on whether we view asylum seekers and refugees differently depending on their countries of origin?

Most asylum seekers and refugees in Lancashire have a strong personal faith, but often find it difficult to ‘fit in’ with a local place of worship. Lancashire County Council has therefore commissioned LFoF to produce a resource aimed at faith groups, to help them better understand the situation of sanctuary seekers, and so be better able to help them to feel welcome. This is now nearing completion, and will be in two parts, one aimed at local groups and individuals as to how to better welcome and give hospitality to sanctuary seekers, and the other aimed at sanctuary seekers themselves, giving advice, guidance and signposting to sources of help and support.

Several events of an inter Faith nature are taking place in early June to mark the platinum jubilee – I would be delighted to hear details of any being planned involving Methodist churches. I’m also very happy to come along to any church / circuit to further explore any aspects of Inter Faith activity.

Peter Lumsden      (Methodist district interfaith officer / Lancashire Forum of Faiths)