Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spiritual Capital - the next steps

After lunch, I popped in to City URC's bookshop, to wish the staff well. It's thankfully re-opening today, following its forced closure three months ago by the Americans who bought out the SPCK bookshop chain. Tom Arthur and others at City URC and across the city have re-branded and launched the bookshop as the 'Churches Together Bookshop' - a real act of faith in serving a city which cannot manage to sustain a Borough-wide Churches together organisation. On the CTB website 'What's New' tells the story.

Then, back to church for an afternoon wedding rehearsal, and then home to meet the members of the Spiritual Capital research steering group and discuss last Wednesday's conference, and what might happen as a result of this. The conference has been the subject of widespread appreciation and positive comment having achieved an exceptional cross-section of people of different faiths as well as a significant number present (75). It's something to build upon, but in a new and different way. Exactly how is hard to see at the moment.

Funding opportunities and advice need to be sought. Some sort of sponsoring body- city wide, representative of all faith communities needs to be developed specifically to undertake a new initiative, and appoint someone who can serve the process of bridge building between faith groups and civil society. Monica Mills, who works with Cardiff's inter-faith forum is willing to work with her network of contacts in the autumn to convene a meeting at which such an initiative can be explored openly, while there's still momentum generated by the conference. Now that the project's defined objectives have been achieved, the Steering Group's role is ended, and my role as its director. Thank heavens. It's been a lot of worry. I'm glad it's over, and pleased with what we've achieved.

Press negative feedback received so far is, it appears, the tip of an iceberg of negativity on the part of some politicians and officers who have contributed to the dismissal or at least the concealment of the faith contribution in public life. There are those around who only want to see these things as their exclusive power game that religion is trying to muscle in on. We need the good will those in all political groups to maintain our assertion that fresh initiative to engage and involve citizens of faith groups is a cross-party affair, an issue of social inclusion and justice, in the same way as is the inclusion of disabled, black and asian, LGBT minorities in public life. Fortunately there are plenty of others apart from me who are able to take the cause further now that information is generating interest.

Yesterday afternoon I took a photo of a group of Hare Krishna monks chanting, dancing and smiling their way down St John Street, as they are wont to do from time to time. One of them handed me a leaflet promoting their big crowd stopping street procession. and Chariot Festival in Bute Park. There's free entertainment, talks, demonstrations and free vegetarian food on offer. The date is Saturday August 9th.

I wonder what that will cost them to put this on? I wonder what the economic benefit of such an event would be, if measurable - I must ask Gweini's John Martin Evans if this event last year featured in his economic survey of Cardiff's voluntary religious enterprise. I also wonder how much will be spent the previous Saturday, on the Big Weekend festival - spent on the entertainment, set up and public safety and litter clean up afterwards - and how much Joe Public will spend on booze and fast food, and what the net economic contribution of that event will be. And that's quite apart from the value of the events understood in terms of their deeper meaning.

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