Wednesday, 29 August 2012

'Mercy like the Rain Keeps Falling Down' - My Greenbelt Talks

Greenbelt 2012  © Jonathon Watkins
It was great to be speaking at Greenbelt this year - my first time. It was good to connect with friends old and new and particularly encouraging to see my friend Mohammed Ali from Birmingham enjoying himself so much and receiving such a good reception - you can read his own reflections on the festival here

I was a bit nervous about my first talk in the Jerusalem venue facing the Racecourse Grandstand which seemed a large venue for me a first timer. However, I needn't have worried as the turn out was good and despite the rain I felt comfortable in the space and relished the experience and the challenge to connect with people across the tarmac - 'Preaching up a storm' as one of the Queen's students present put it. In fact the whole experience brought to mind the story of when the Nasheed Band Shaam came to perform at the local MultiCultural centre in Hyde Park Leeds when I was vicar there in 2005 and sang 'Mercy Like the Rain is Falling Down'

In my talk I outlined an approach to Christian Inter Faith encounter that emphasised what I called 'Christic Vulnerability' using personal stories and a wide range of scriptural reflection.  What was really humbling was the number of people who came up to talk afterwards with their own stories. I have also received a number of tweets and emails since Saturday giving very generous and positive feedback. These included a church  Inter Faith advisor who wrote 'A beautiful, fiery, passionate talk. Thank you',  a university chaplain who commented ' I caught the first of your talks this weekend and I thought you were great. Passionate, intelligent, convincing, and accessible... Thanks for the challenging words!' and a youth worker from London who said  'I just thought I’d drop you a line to say many thanks for the talk you presented at Greenbelt over the weekend. And this, despite the downpour that you endured with humour!! '

You can download the talk on the Greenbelt website for £3.50 here

Unfortunately my second talk was not able to be recorded. In the smaller venue of the Living Room many of those there had been to the first talk as we explored more deeply the model I had set out in the Jerusalem venue but this time in the specific context of relations and engagement with Judaism and Islam.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Birmingham Interfaith Iftar - Fasting & Feasting With The Faithful

Faeeza Vaid opens the evening with a call to seek connections
It was great to be involved in a little way in bringing together nearly 70 people from Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities together for the Interfaith Iftar at Zogora's Restaurant last Thursday. The evening was hosted by Faeeza Vaid of the Muslim Women's Network and Aisha Iqbal - who was the woman with the vision for the event and who put in the hard work of getting the evening together with a collection of friends and family. I asked Aisha to tell us about her motivation for organising the event and a little something about the evening itself.

Aisha Iqbal a wish to encourage dialogue
"Ramadan completely consumes my life and that of many Muslims for 30 days each year. Everything that we do is influenced by the special connection with the month; from fasting between dawn and dusk, increasing our prayer exponentially, to giving charity with an open heart and stuffing ourselves to the brim with lush food sent by friends, family and neighbours. Everything is about Ramadan. However, our experiences and sense of unity often does not successfully transcend beyond the immediate Muslim community and I feel that it is important to fill this gap - especially as we live a diverse multi-cultural/multi-faith society.

The faithful feasting!
One solution - Interfaith Iftaar: Fasting and feasting with the faithful. The core purpose of this event was to encourage a dialogue amongst the diverse guests. And so we began the formal part of the evening listening to  Dr Hany El-Banna (founder of Islamic Relief) explaining the purpose of Ramadan and closing with collective prayer led by the Dr Rizwan (ISB), thus cementing the sense of unity. And to stay true to the interfaith aspect, we also had the opportunity to hear insights of fasting traditions in Christianity (Rev Ray Gaston), Buddhism (Yann Lovelock) and Hinduism (Ravi Ladva). To cap off the night of learning and discussion, guests stomachs were tantalised by an array of Moroccan cuisine and their ears smoothed by the harmonious music from SILKROAD"


Wednesday, 1 August 2012