Many people believe that Inter Faith is the future for effective ecumenical action. Other counties prefer to speak of inter-religious dialogue, which is the same thing.
On 17 November 2012 there were 15 Interfaith stalls in South Lakes Foyer on Blackhall Road for an Exhibition entitled ‘Celebrating Our Faiths’. It was more of a conference than an exhibition. Few of us had expected many visitors and, true to form, they stayed away in droves. That turned out fortunate, as it gave the exhibitors plenty of opportunity to browse each other’s stalls and there was a real buzz all day, so the day proved really encouraging for all those involved. Each group had made a lot of effort to explain in simple words the points really important to them.
Alphabetically there were stalls by: Bahá’í Faith, Brahma Kumaris, Ceremonies with Soul (Interfaith Minister), Christian Science, Churches Together in Kendal and District, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, Equality Cumbria, Green Spirit, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Kendal Ecumenical Group (Progressive Christianity), Latter Day Saints (Mormon), Quakers, Spiritualists, Theravada Buddhists, and Unitarians.
The stalls were very different, just like churches are. There was a clear similarity of theme throughout; which is not always evident to outsiders who stray into a church. None were pressing the details of their faith, all were getting down to basic principles. We were delighted by the widespread appreciation of our own stand. We had many very encouraging conversations.
A closing discussion heard enthusiastic reports of particularly effective interfaith activity in Carlisle, in Manchester and in London. There was general agreement of further local cooperation and frequent mention of ‘in the public interest’. In Kendal there should be meetings of those who exhibited on the day. It will be interesting to see whether this initiative proves to be an effective extension to long-standing ecumenical work.
The event marked the opening of the fourth National Inter Faith Week in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, from Sunday 18 to Tuesday 27 November; a 10 day week! Over 200 events are listed on www.interfaithweek.org and it was good to see the Kendal event first on the list.