Monday, 27 June 2011


A farewell party early this evening at St Philip's Church, Evington, for Alan Race. More than a hundred people turn out to express their good wishes to someone who has been an influential figure in inter faith work, not only in Leicester but also far beyond, for more than a quarter of a century.

Rev Canon Dr Alan Race has been Priest-in-Charge at St Philip's since July 2007. He helped develop a new outlook for St Philip's, which had become a church for a minority community among residents in the parish who are affiliated to other faiths. He has also been Dean of Postgraduate Studies next door at St Philip's Centre for Study and Engagement in a Multi-Faith Society. Alan is an Executive Member of the World Congress of Faiths and has for many years been editor of its journal,

Alan moved to Leicester in 1983, around the time when he was beginning to stand out as one among a small but persuasive number of scholars and practitioners extending the vision and experience of Christians to acknowledge and engage with the world views of other faiths. Leicester provided Alan with fertile ground to strengthen and deepen his studies and writings on this theme.

Alan chaired a conference at Leicester University's Stamford Hall, 5-8 August 2001 entitled "Multi-Ethnic Britain: What Future?", which took its lead from the Parekh Report, which had been published the year before. I attended that conference, which was in itself a very interesting occasion - although, as you can imagine faithful reader, whatever we may have said and done there was somewhat overtaken by events in New York and Washington hardly one month later.

Alan was on the panel of three (along with Angela Jagger and Tony Nelson) who interviewed me for my initial post with Leicester Council of Faiths, back in May 2007. Alan was Treasurer of the Council of Faiths then.

Alan is leaving Leicester to become Rector of St Margaret's Church in Lee, South London. He's sold me on the idea of going down there to visit him once he's settled, with his description of St Margaret's as part church, part art gallery.

Among his many published books (either solely or with others) are: Interfaith Encounter: The Twin Tracks of Theology and Dialogue (SCM Press, 2001) and Christian Approaches to Other Faiths (joint ed., with Paul Hedges, SCM Press, 2008). He is also editor of the intermationally renowned journal Interreligious Insight (previously called World Faiths Encounter). In 2008, Alan wrote a pithy piece for the Guardian on the topic, Should Religions Compete?

The cake served this evening was one of those ones that has a photograph reproduced in the icing. I got a piece that had Alan's head on it. I hoped that upon eating it, I would feel my IQ or my wisdom or something shoot up like a sugar rush. Sadly, it was not to be.

In the photo above, Alan Race (right) shares a joke with Resham Singh Sandhu at his leaving do, St Philip's Church this evening (Ramesh Majithia is in the background, between them). You could hardly get a more inter-faith photo about Leicester if you tried.

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