Annual Report of Activities 2018

With a reduced capacity re personnel, LIFC has continued its work in 2018 concentrating on its core areas of education, building resources and supporting local projects.  This has been guided by its two co-directors, Reverend Laurence Hillel and Reverend Dr John Parry.

In terms of courses around the theme of inter faith this year we offered three series on Wednesday afternoons.    In the Spring, reflecting on the significance of the “Word of God” in contemporary global consciousness, we looked at “Scriptures of the World faiths; their Origins, Interpretation and Use.”  The summer offering was a series of seminars exploring “Identity and Meaning in Our Contemporary World”, and in the Autumn, we had a longer ten week course looking at “Art and Iconography in Religious and Spiritual traditions”.  For all these series, whenever possible the talks were led by speakers representing their own religious or spiritual traditions.  This was supplemented by inputs from the Co-Directors themselves.  In addition to this offering we also had occasional talks, two given by Dr Megan Dent on Disraeli, and four sessions looking at food and festivals in world faiths.

The focus on Wednesday afternoons has been deliberate and as a result has built up a regular body of attendees, mostly, but not exclusively, from a mature age group, many of them themselves with some expertise or knowledge in religion or spirituality.  Attendance is more often than not in the high teens and occasionally above twenty.  The nature of the seminars is always interactive, and the participants are used to making incisive contributions to the debates.

Other activities included the ongoing meetings of the Abrahamic scriptural reasoning group (four over the whole year) and the Book Group which focused on a theme of “Frontiers and Boundaries”.  The Scriptural reasoning group focused on areas of difference in understanding and interpretation, looking at such themes as Revelation and Tradition, Disputed Texts, Language and Concepts in understanding the nature of God, and Incarnation.  This led to some very in depth round table discussion in a very trusting environment.   There was a general feeling of deepening of understanding as a consequence of these discussions.  The Book Group continues to flourish with a loyal group of attendees who read the books and express their views, both positive and negative.

One special project which we hope will bear fruit in 2019 has been the development of new resources; a Christian apologetic in response to the understanding and interpretation of Christianity put forward by the major world faiths and new spiritual movements.  This is written in the form of in depth summaries of the place of each the major world faiths (plus NRM’s) in British society, as well as an outline of their main beliefs, and then a Christian response to each of them in turn.  The approach has been focused at enabling discussion and the opening up of understanding, as opposed to a more provocative and argumentative positioning.  It is hoped that these will be published both online and in pamphlet form in 2019.

Schools work has continued with a shared project with Al Khoei Foundation offering a morning seminar for Year 10 students on the theme of pilgrimage, and a repeat of the annual storytelling event for local primary schools.  There has been continued exchange of visits between ourselves, Al Khoei Foundation and Islamia Primary, and students from Al Sadiq and Al Zahra, and Islamia Primary, have come to St Anne’s and St Andrew’s to learn about Christian festivals.

One major area of work this year has been working in collaboration with Brent Multi Faith Forum in building up a new inter faith community project in Harlesden.  This project was supported by near Neighbours’ funds, and resulted in several meetings of religious and community leaders in Harlesden drawn from different faith traditions, as well as a very successful peace walk in September 2018, which involved well over 100 people young and old, drew in local councilors and the Mayor of Brent, and brought together representatives of at least four faith communities, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Christian.  It was heartening to be so welcomed by the Islamic Cultural Centre (Monks Park Mosque), Swaminarayan Temple Neasden and Harlesden Methodist.  To mark the event and to celebrate community cooperation, trees were planted in Harlesden Town garden.  In the Spring of 2019, in another Near Neighbours’ supported project in collaboration with BMFF, LIFC is hosting a women’s refugee creative writing group.  A special thanks goes to Tahseen Mehar, Brent Multi Faith Forum Officer who has been responsible for much of the organization of both these projects.

In addition to the above, our Co-Directors have presented and actively participated in seminars organized by Christian Muslim Forum, CCJ, World Congress of Faiths, Lambeth Palace, and Thames North URC synod. They have also continued to support in areas of particular expertise, John at Heathrow Airport, Laurence in SACRE.  Laurence has also been involved in the appointment of a team of Hospital faith Chaplains at Northwick Park and Ealing Hospitals.

Meditation groups have continued to meet at LIFC regularly sustained by their volunteers.

As the year drew to a close, Reverend Laurence Hillel announced his decision to retire as Co-Director at the end of March 2019.

We would again like to thank the church communities of St Anne’s and St Andrew’s for their continued support of their work, and the provision of the space which enables that work to prosper.