Sunday, June 03, 2007

Meeting of minds

A small group of grant recipients from the Community Development Foundation met today with FCCBF project manager Anna Allen at the Norwegian Church. It was so noisy inside the building we moved out on to the grass in the sunshine, which was quite pleasant and surprisingly, much quieter.

Gwyn Williams, director of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod company and a grant recipient made the four hour journey to attend the meeting. He has a project which aims to forge appropriate links between the Eisteddfod and the 38 linguistic and cultural communities so far identified in Denbighshire.

Dave Berryman a fieldworker for Rhondda Cynon Taff based Christian community based social inclusion project was there. He's part funded by FCCBF to research and engage with emerging other-faith groups in the Local Authority Area, where these seems to be a huge information void at present. It's real 'missionary' stuff, quite suitable for English Baptist minister in secular employement - well, not really, as his project is church-initiated.

Soad Hamdi and Samar Wafa were there from Women Connect First a Cardiff project that works with ethnic minority community women, teaching technology and organisational skills. Soad is CEO - Egyptian Muslim with a load of hands on experience of wheeling and dealing with the Council. All that I've been saying recently about the kind of frustrations experienced by Christians in relation to the Local Authority she confirmed were also true for Muslim communities. Samar is employed on the FCCBF grant as a part time volunteer co-ordinator for the year. They now have a new HQ in Neville Street, Riverside, after a long battle to obtain funding once Communities First Funding was withdrawn from Wales.

John Martin Evans was there, he's an ex OECD statistician, researching on behalf on the Evangelical Alliance into the social and economic contribution made by faith communities in Wales. He's been at it for over a year, and has only just obtain FCCBF funding alongside three other grants to run his project. In some aspects his data gathering resembles ours, but his remit is national, not confined to this city and relationships between its government of religious communities. The two projects together should complement each other, and could have quite an impact, hopefully to get those in power to take religious communities more seriously.

It was a useful and positive meeting, with quite a bit of shared awareness of the way religion and religiously based enterprises have been pushed out of the public domain. There's a strong desire to make a case for changing this, but I'm not sure how much people realise this is a deep political and ideological issue this is in the society we've allowed to develop. I was glad of this opportunity to see our project in this context.

It's been quite an intense time, this past month or so. Glad to be signing off for a break, away from work and computers. Well it's one way of finding out if I'm really a cyber-addict !

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