The meeting was held at the Multifaith Chaplaincy at Sheffield Hallam University on 21st September.
Members will receive a copy of the minutes via email.
Andrew Crowley welcomed those present to the meeting and explained that, appropriately, it was ‘World Peace Day’. He shared some photographs of a peace demonstration by women and children in India, some children scavenging rubbish in a bombed-out city and a group of leaders from different faiths holding a meeting.He gave the following report:
Last year I reported that Sheffield Interfaith was going in a new direction – we had set ourselves the responsibility of organising Food and Friendship meetings, developing our website and organising at least one interfaith activity throughout the year.
Our food and friendship meetings are going well – I am not sure how many we have had but they are about every two months. We always welcome new people as well as the new culinary delights. The meal table is a good place to meet new people but it does not allow a safe space in which we can ask the more difficult questions of each other. Towards this we are planning to create a series of meetings which will allow us to deepen our conversations in an atmosphere of trust, where we can be more honest and open. We are making contact with someone from the Who is My Neighbour project who could act as a facilitator for us.
Our interfaith walk last November was along London Road, starting at the Mother of God Catholic Church, and going to the Madina Masjid, the Airey Fairey pagan cafe and temple, and finishing at Cemetery Road Baptist Church. Perhaps it was the first time that 4 such diverse places of worship had been connected to each other. The range of religious practice was very different yet my experience was that in each place I recognised something that was familiar to me and resonated with my own faith tradition. My understanding of my faith was broadened just that little bit more.
Making such visits raises lots of questions – what was familiar, what was different and what was challenging? This year we are addressing this by having some time at the end to say what we liked and what we found challenging. This year’s interfaith walk will be along the first part of the 5 weirs walk along the lower Don. We are negotiating visits the to Ahmadiya Mosque, the Sikh Gurduwara, a church and a mosque. Once the details have been confirmed then they will be posted on our website.
Use of the website continues to grow and we now have 78 people who are regular subscribers. The use of the website is replacing the newsletter that we used to prepare and send out. I am not sure how that has left members who do not have access to the internet. The site is visited about 10 times a day and over the last year has had 3600 visits. We would like to see the website used for any event in Sheffield to which people of other faith traditions are invited.
Our membership is 23 individuals and 1 organisation.
For the coming year
1. Make Sheffield Interfaith better known by all the places of worship in our city by undertaking a publicity campaign.
2. Consider how we can develop our activities to better fit with the needs of Sheffield.
3. Increase the membership and at the same time have a better relationship with our members.
4. Having recently found a copy our constitution we need to make sure that it is fit for purpose. We do need to consider holding the AGM in the April or May next year to be compliant with what was agreed in March 1997.
5. The work of committee is not that demanding but we do need to increase the numbers to develop our work and to be more effective. Sometimes there are only 3 of us who meet. We will look at the needs of the committee later in this meeting.
6. I would like to thank those members of the committee who have been faithful in their commitment. On a personal note this coming year will be my third as Chair and according to the recently rediscovered constitution this should be my last. We need consider this.
“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Desmond Tutu.
Business and discussion
We noted especially:
The website is receiving a good number of visitors; we would like to advertise more events organised by any faith group or of interest to our readers.
At present we have only 23 paid up members; we believe this is partly because many people do not know about us, we need to become known more widely. We need to increase the membership and communicate with them more.
Possible future directions discussed: Could we run a ‘faith and religions course’ through the Sheffield College?
Andrew thanked the committee for the work they have contributed during the year; and the committee thanked him for all his work.
General discussion (committee to pursue these at future meetings)
We need to update our constitution.
Should there be topics for discussion at ‘Food and Friendship’ dinners or not?
If not, should there be another (SIF) forum where people can deepen their understanding of each other?
Sharing stories of what inspires us in our interfaith journey.
Young people (especially) joining in to sort donations for refugees. The fact that many people from different backgrounds, nationalities, faiths and parts of Sheffield both contribute goods and come together to send these donations to Calais, Syria and Lesbos, through ‘Sheffield Donations for refugees’.
Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, which tells us everybody is our neighbour, not just those of the same faith or ethnic group as each of us. We noted that this story has given the world the word ‘Samaritan’ as someone who puts themselves out to help those in trouble, whereas originally they were looked down on as less trustworthy.
Muslim friends. Especially a doctor who sat with her when she was very ill in hospital; who turned out to be the nephew of some former pupils of hers in another town in Yorkshire.
It’s a bad time for good relations between different groups of people, and we need to work together and believe that we can make a (small) positive difference.
In the late 1960s the Catholic Church produced some good teaching about Interfaith relations, the value of dialogue and the fact that the word and concept of ‘God’ does not belong to ‘one club’.
The story (and film) ‘Of Gods and Men’ reminds us how people of different faiths can live together for mutual benefit, but that sometimes our faith can cost us (even our lives).
Mindfulness is a way of living that brings joy; paradise is within human beings.