At the end of today's midday Eucharist, noticed a government brown envelope addressed to me on the sacristy table. It informed me that I was being offered a grant of £30,000 to appoint a research worker to investigate and build a database on every kind of religious community to be found in the City and Borough of Cardiff. For some time I have been pestering local government policy-makers to revise their own ideas about how to involve all kinds religious communities in democratic consultative processes. There are no longer obviously strong institutions and structures through which religious bodies, whether non-Christian or Christian, can be solicited for their views. As a result, religious voices have long been absent from debate about what kind of city we want and how its future should be shaped. If things are as good as they are, it's because there are private individuals who practice Christian values in their work, but this doesn't amount to a coherent or collective voice.
I'm being offered this grant, as a representative of City Centre Churches Together the Parish, and the diocese, who found himself, back in November being put on the spot by a couple of LGOs who had learned about the government making funding available for 'capacity building' with a 'social inclusion' remit. The process was very rushed and made the deadline only by courier. I wasn't confident that the application was strong enough or sufficiently well presented to succeed, so when I opened the envelope, I couldn't believe my eyes.
I was about to take off with Clare for twenty four hours, visiting two different friends who had suffered bereavements, and the discovery couldn't have come at a less convenient time, since it meant having to make a series of phone calls to share the good news, and start a collaborative process that will bring together others who share an interest in developing inter-religious networks around the city, and involve them in shaping the job brief, and application process. But after an hour of excited ringing around, we were able to get away.
This is a bit of a break through, since the interested stakeholders don't usually have much of a pretext to work together on a common project. This funding, albeit only for a year, has the potential to be a real catalyst to partnership among religious communities, and hopefully the outcome will be beneficial to those in the local government scene who are genuinley keen to cast the net wider for fresh ideas and inspirations in the complex task of running a heterogeneous modern city.
So, I may not have a future working with other ministerial colleagues at the grass roots in the city centre, but the future holds new possiblities of collaboration on the wider municipal scene. All this in twenty four hours !