Faith forum takes next step forward

TWENTY-FIVE Christian, Sikh and Hindu community leaders gathered at the Beehive Centre in Grays last Thursday evening (26 May) to hear about the progress of the Thurrock Faith Forum.

Interim Chairman Rev Darren Barlow was joined by Thurrock Faith Forum committee members Graham Carey, Chair Community Involvement Board; Yash Gupta, representing the Hindu community (and who, by coincidence, had the previous evening been made Thurrock’s Deputy Mayor); Mr Gill from Grays Sikh Temple; Pastor Abraham Bamgbose of RCCG Fruitful Land, Tilbury (based in the old Anchor pub); and Russell Godward, one of the leaders at Thurrock Christian Fellowship.

They were joined by Anne Littlefair of the East of England Faith Council and Natalie Warren from Thurrock Council.

Darren opened the evening with prayer and Graham gave a brief overview of the aims of the Forum.

Darren told everyone present that the Thurrock Faith Forum had decided to call itself Thurrock Faith Matters. He emphasised that the credibility of the group must be based on the relationship of the people within it, hence this event to give out information and explore the way forward.

The committee had drawn up a draft constitution, which was mostly in place with just a few details still being worked on. The draft constitution contains seven key aims and is available from the committee (once it is finalised we hope to publish it on the Transformation Thurrock website). There was some discussion about how the membership would be established, and the mechanics of individual and corporate representation of faiths.

The Council has given the Forum a budget of £800 to cover admin costs and go towards putting on events.

Suggestions were sought from those gathered as to whether there should be an official launch event in the late summer to publicise Thurrock Faith Matters to the wider community. Such a launch event could coincide with a first annual meeting to elect an Executive Committee, approve the constitution and set out more detailed plans for the way ahead.

Darren also led a short discussion to get ideas for the Inter-Faith Week which is held this year in the week if 20-26 November. This could be a large boroughwide celebration of faiths and/or local events between different faith communities. The event or events could be linked with the 75th anniversary celebrations of Thurrock.

Russell Godward said that faith provides the glue and cohesion across a community and emphasised the need to work side-by-side and to get to know each other fact-to-face. The two key ingredients needed to make this happen are creating opportunities to network – and eat together!

And so everyone there did just that – we networked and ate together, before Darren closed the evening’s event.

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