God’s House Future Kids went to London for an interreligious study trip in the end of October 2019. We visited New London Synagogue where rabbi Jeremy Gordon and educator Mrs. Frances received us warmly. Then we visited the big London Central Mosque where we met sisters Jamila and Safina who showed us around.
We also visited the Golders Green Parish Church where vicar Rex Morton and trustee for Inclusive Church, Sally Barnes, invited us to a lovely Sunday Service.
We experienced true interfaith meetings and we definitely hope to se our new friends in Sweden next time!
Here is an article about the study visit written by Sally Barnes of Golders Green Parish Church:
Visit from God’s House and Kallan in Fisksatra Sweden – by Sally Barnes
20th December 2019
At the end of October, for four days, a lively group of young people from the parish of Nacka, Fisksatra, on the outskirts of Stockholm, came to visit London. They came with their pastor, Pia Sophia Passmark, and youth leader, Tina Sundstrom, who planned to visit several multi-faith communities and places of worship as well as doing some sight-seeing.
To put this visit into context, in 2017, a group of us from “Inclusive Church” of which I was a Trustee, had hosted a group of pastors who had heard about our organisation and asked to be taken to see churches in the UK who were working on Inclusion. We took them to Liverpool and Manchester who, along with the Bishop of Manchester, welcomed us warmly. The churches we visited talked compellingly and movingly about how they became Inclusive. After this visit four of us were then invited back to the Diocese of Stockholm to visited some of their churches and to speak at a conference on the subject of Inclusion.
It was while we were there we visited the parish of Nacka, Fisksatra, on the outskirts of Stockholm and met Pia-Sophia and Tina, two amazingly dynamic women of Faith, part of a team who worked in and supported their very diverse parish. What we experienced was a real lesson in how to work with diversity and inclusion. Because of my background I felt immediately at home.
It is important to give some idea of the context and cultural differences out of which these 12 year olds came. Their parish is large, multi- faith and multi -denominational, of huge diversity in every sense, encompassing refugee families from countless different countries, languages, faiths and not a little poverty. Because of the wide diversity of the area it was decided by the faith leaders in the community essential to look at what their various missions had in common, to have the courage to meet together with open minds, to seek to understand differences and work together to lay the basis for trust and clarity both internally and externally.
To do this they gathered people of of various beliefs and understandings in order to be able to collaborate with each other. Their aim was to be a unifying force in their community and a vital resource in the work for peace and human rights. They wanted to work against alienation, division and intolerance as well as inspiring trust and joy in cultural and religious diversity. Hence they as the Church of Sweden work together with Muslims and Roman Catholic leaders (there are no Jewish families in this particular area). Their centre and church is called “God’s Hus”, attached is “Kallan”, the “Advice and Support Centre” where support is provided for vulnerable and excluded people. Both provide a meeting place across religious, cultural and social borders providing space where people can gather to take their faith and lives seriously. They have a golden rule of treating each other as oneself would wish to be treated, to provide an example of concrete expressions of peace through interfaith dialogue and action based on the belief that God is merciful, loving and the creator of heaven and earth.
The group who came reflected that diversity. They are involved in the peace project and have participated in various events on several occasions in the parish and God’s House. As Pia-Sophia and Tina said, “They are our future and we are very proud of them”. So they should be as they were a real joy and delight to host, bright and articulate, as well as a lot of fun too.
They had an extremely packed itinerary visiting different communities and buildings of faith to experience inter-religious dialogue and projects and to see how young people of different nationalities and backgrounds are involved. They visited the New London Synagogue and then the Central London Mosque and Islamic Centre where they were all made very welcome. They had a tour of London on the Saturday where it rained so hard our sight of the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and buildings along the Thames was seen through a vertical river of water – soaked through was putting it mildly!
On the Sunday, dried out with the autumn sun shining just enough, they came to my parish church of Golder’s Green where they took part in the service during which Rex, our vicar, interviewed Pia-Sophia who told the congregation about the aims, work and worship of their Parish. After the service our parishioners took a lot of time to talk with them and many shared experiences of their lives. We too are a diverse community. They were so welcomed with everyone staying for longer than usual.
We then went to eat at a Turkish restaurant conveniently just over the road from the church where the proprietor and cook gave a huge welcome not to mention a delicious lunch. (We are very well placed in Golder’s Green for the world’s cuisine!). We exchanged gifts and, as if they were not at all weary, we went for an afternoon walk in Golder’s Green Park, beautiful in its autumnal dress, looked at the animals – and then- and then – they insisted on going to Kings Cross Station to “go through ”platform 9 ¾ in tribute to Harry Potter.
We enjoyed their lively visit a great deal, the discussions we had, the links we made and the thoughts we had been given on which to ponder as well as to be challenged by. Contact and friendship with Pia-Sophia and Tina is so valuable and I know we shall be seeing them again in the future as well as hearing of the progress of the work being carried out in their parish.
Inclusion through meetings across borders. Diversity in a globalized world. Religion as a resource in civil society.
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