Wednesday, 11 July 2012


At Bishop's Lodge, Springfield Road, this evening for the annual garden party hosted by the Bishop of Leicester. Bishop Tim holds this event at a similar time each year, extending his hospitality to members of his Faith Leaders Forum. This particular gathering is dedicated to celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of Leicester Council of Faiths. This has meant that many people who are not normally invited to attend the Faith Leaders Forum have been asked here this evening. Representatives of the eight member communities which constitute the Council of Faiths are in attendance, as are friends and supporters, including those who don't identify with any particular faith - or, indeed, any faith at all.

After we've enjoyed some food together, Bishop Tim gives a welcoming address, in which he mentions the major events which have happened during his tenure: the millennium; 9/11; war in Afghanistan and Iraq; 7/7. All these events played their part in leading to the establishment of the Faith Leaders Forum and the St Philip's Centre for Study and Engagement in a Multi-Faith Society, both of which have strengthened the Diocese's presence in inter-faith engagement.

We hear a message from Dr Atta'ullah Siddiqui, former Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths, followed by a speech from Cllr Manjula Sood and current Chair. She recognises the endeavour of founding figures and early members of the Council of Faiths, some of whom are here, some of whom are now too old and inform to be present at this occasion, some of whom have passed away.

There's a convivial atmosphere with a lot of praise for the progress that the Council of Faiths has made over the last quarter of a century, as well as recognition of some of the big challenges ahead. Much confidence is expressed that the Council of Faiths will meet the tests of the future, as it has the tests of the past. Such confidence is all very well, but from my point of view, with my sleeves rolled up, doing the day-to-day work of the Council of Faiths, I'd have liked someone to acknowledge that our biggest challenge will be meeting those forthcoming tests with less funding, fewer committed members and potentially (and most damagingly) no staff. I would deny that that's lack of faith on my part. I don't believe that all those who have the opportunity to speak this evening are actually aware of the oncoming difficulties in terms of resourcing and sustaining the work of Leicester Council of Faiths.

In the photo above: The Right Revd Dr Tom Butler (the previous Bishop of Leicester), Kayhar Singh, Tony Nelson, Minou Cortazzi and Cllr Manjula Sood cut the 25th anniversary cake. I get a lovely corner bit, which has the best icing coverage.

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