Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Faith and the civic agenda

We had another Faith Focus Group meeting yesterday, early evening, which for the first time brought to the table two Muslim women from the 'Women Connect First' organisation, which does great adult education work with black and ethnic minority women in the city. There was a discernable sense of delight in the meeting. We have Christian, Sikh and Hindu members, and now Muslim members, and have doubled the female representation in this 80% male group.

It was mostly a meeting to report on progress and setbacks in our publicity profile raising efforts. The Council being supportive, and the BBC failing to deliver streamed user generated video content to the big screen outside St David's Hall, as promised months ago. We agreed that it was most important to keep on making a video of photographic archive of faith community material that can be drawn upon for publicity uses in the coming year. An act of faith in the opportunities that will emerge, I guess.

There's some uncertainty about the groups future, some consideration being given higher up of bringing this focus group to an end. Members seem keen to continue to meet anyway, having found the opportunity to share on matters of common interest about public life worth the effort to maintain. Paul Mannings, our convener is convinced that group has already inputted enough of value to justify retaining it as part of a slimmed down Countdown process, right through. Well we have picked up on a few issues - notably toilets, and access to places of worship, street carers, and the place of faith groups in the public self image of the city's cultural diversity. Some of it elusive to start with, but not everything is cut and dried in something a complex as the life of an urban centre.

It's marvellous to see people of different faith convictions beginning to share a common interest in civic issues. I was reminded of the World Council of Churches missionary theological reportage back in the 1970's asserting that "the world (It's God's world) determines the agenda for mission". It turns out to be true as a basis for interfaith encounter as well.

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