Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Including faith-communities

I had a day out of Cardiff today, at a seminar in Bristol, run by the Consultation Institute, which specialises in training people in local government and public service in the art of consultation - now such an important aspect of all political and governmental processes. This one was about Best Practice consultation and Faith Groups. As our 'Spiritual Capital - Cardiff' research project is concerned with relationships between faith-communities and various aspects of civil society, I felt it important to get some idea of the professional formation on offer in the public sector. I found it most stimulating, and found myself happily agreeing to ideas being put across. You can read my report for the Project Steering Group here.

There were some arresting contributions by speakers. One called Amer Salman was an English Muslim convert of about seven years standing, who realised a life of faith could do something about the inner emptiness of his life. He studied Islam before becoming involved, and reckoned that was just as well, because his mental conviction defended him from being put off by some of the strange and difficult things he found about insiders in the House of Islam. There are surely Christian converts who'd willingly say the same about church members too. He now specialises in cultural and religious awareness training for professionals from a Muslim standpoint. His website : 'Islamic Understanding for the West' is worth looking at.

The other speaker who had me buzzing was an English Buddhist, Kyle Hannan, who manages a Community internet Radio Station in Bristol called 'Salaam Shalom'. There a great video article to see on YouTube . Leadership which can inspire such creative interaction and dialogue across or within cultures is something very special. It's one of the better uses for such amazing technology that we're only just getting accustomed to use as 'tools for conviviality' (remember Ivan Illich?)

I was quite conscious that within the church - and I dare not speak for other faith-communities, standards of consultation vary on different issues and in different situations from Best Practice to Shameful. Some times recommendations can be put forward, acknowledged, and then not implemented, without any explanation. Even the very best of apostolic leaders can foul up completely from time to time. However well arranged are the the checks and balances of synodical government, the top people, whether in parish or episcopate feel that, in the end 'the buck stops with me'. Particularly in times of crisis. It's sad how readily we lose that sense of being 'members of one another' (as St Paul would say) when really we most need it.

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