Annual Report of Activities 2017

This Year has seen the work of the Centre continue steadily under the guidance of Reverend Laurence Hillel as Co-Director.  The year culminated with the appointment of Reverend Dr John Parry as the URC Co-Director.

A major focus of the Centre is in resourcing, delivering courses and talks around the theme of inter faith.  This year we offered three short six week series on a Wednesday afternoon.  The first in the Spring looked at the Book of Acts from an inter faith perspective.  The course was co presented by Laurence Hillel and Michael Redman.  The second in the Summer term asked the question how Christians might approach the World Scriptures of Other World Faiths.  John Parry and Daniel Johnson (from Lambeth Palace) both made individual presentations alongside those mentioned.  Finally in the Autumn term we looked at the theme of Religion and the Nation, exploring religions influence on contemporary UK society and politics.

We also had a varied programme of speakers on Monday evenings.  Speakers have included Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith, Reverend Andrew Wingate, Reverend Patrick Morrow and Dr Mike King.

A highlight of the year has been our schools programme.  We held a very successful London Faiths Schools Senior schools conference in November, attended by over 60 students from ten faith schools, representing at least four world faiths.  Our theme was Religion, Identity and Values, and Becky Brookman from Catalyst, the Near Neighbour’s Youth leadership training Programme provided much of the course material.  Aliya Azam from Al Khoei Foundation also played a leading role.  We also held a third storytelling event for local primary schools, with nearly 250 students from six schools representing a range of world faiths (and none).  Christine Cargill, Vicar of St Anne’s, acted as one of the storytellers, alongside Jumana Moon, and Christine together with Laurence have kept regular contact with local primary schools giving talks and assemblies over the year.  Sadly, for a second year running, an inter faith primary school sports event had to be cancelled due to the weather.

Other activities included the ongoing meetings of the Abrahamic scriptural reasoning group (six over the whole year) and the Book Group which focused on a theme of “Survival”.  The Scriptural reasoning groups has picked up several new members over the year.  It is also worth commenting that the Book Group has a loyal band of more mature members who very much value the opportunity to discuss a mix of serious novels and books written by experts in the area of interest.

Engagement between ourselves and faith leaders of other world faiths has continued to develop at both a theological and practical level, formally and informally.  We have continued to make our links with Brent Multi Faith Forum and the Council a priority.   The Council has recently signed a Faith Covenant, and LIFC has worked alongside BMFF in putting in bids both for Near Neighbour’s funding of community work in Harlesden and also the engagement of a student volunteer to help with the data base and publicity.

In addition our Co-Director, Laurence Hillel, has presented and actively participated in seminars organized by Christian Muslim Forum, World Congress of Faiths, LJS, and Lambeth Palace, and also worked more locally particularly with local Jewish and Muslim communities in building up links and understanding.  Laurence has also taken on the role of Vice-Chair of Brent Sacre and continues to attend Ealing SACRE meeings.  He is involved in the Heathrow Chaplaincy Board of Reference.

Meditation groups have continued to meet regularly sustained by their volunteers.  LIFC wishes to thank Mrs Liz Till for being responsible for practical oversight over the last year.  With the arrival of John Parry, discussion has taken place about how the Wednesday silence group might be sustained and refocused in keeping with the aims of the Centre.

One important decision by the trustees this year has been that for constitutional reasons LIFC should no longer sponsor the London Citizens group; currently the group continues to meet under the care of St Andrew’s URC, West Kilburn.

As we look forward to a new year with the appointment of John and the expertise he brings particularly in the area of Christian engagement with the Dharmic faiths, 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.