Faithful Neighbours, the interfaith body for the Diocese of Leeds headed by Bishop Toby Howarth, has held an inaugural day in Skipton for local church leaders to explore issues of religious diversity in the Dales.
The day was organised by locally by a planning group from Skipton Deanery with invited speakers from several partner organisations.
High on the agenda was the Anglican initiative, Presence and Engagement, to support church mission and ministry in a world of religious diversity. Faithful Neighbours coordinates Presence and Engagement for the diocese, working through local hubs and responding to interfaith issues in every parish, church school and chaplaincy.
Area Dean of Skipton, the Revd Ruth Harris, said that the day was important because religious diversity is now something which impacts all parishes. “Even in our smaller rural villages we all need to be ready to respond in new ways to the enriching opportunities and challenges offered by encountering religious and cultural difference.
“Yet we live in times when our country is rethinking its approach to immigration and its relationship to Europe, so we face some complicated issues alongside improving Christian Muslim relations.”
Speakers included Jenny Ramsden from the Touchstone Centre in Bradford who talked of a range of creative projects bringing Christians and Muslims together to develop better understanding.
Jonathan Pritchard and Heather Houlton outlined a process for unpacking difficult conservations based on the Pastoral Cycle. “Can I Just Say” and has been developed by a group at Keighley Shared Church.
Judy Rogers from Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust outlined events and activities which bring Asylum Seekers and Refugees into the Dales to enjoy the surroundings and share their skills and knowledge.
A local Roman Catholic priest was part of the conversation and spoke of the experiences of local Roman Catholic Churches welcoming Polish Catholics and suggested practical ideas for translating readings into several languages.
Richard Bennett from Faithful Neighbours added, “At a simple level it does come down to how we can live together well as good neighbours, so it was great to see people signing up at the end of the day to plan a follow up day in Interfaith Week (12-19th Nov)”.