Sharing a faith in mankind
A series of wonderful ecumenical concerts took place in London recently featuring the Choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal and the Pontifical Musical Chorus of the Sistine Chapel (Coro della Cappella Musicale Pontificia) at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace and Buckingham Palace. This was the first time in history Her Majesty’s personal choir performed with the Pope’s personal choir.
The events were in response to the Pope’s calling for “practical ecumenism”, for Christians of different denominations to work harmoniously together for their common calling.
Canon Paul Wright, Sub Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, introduced the event by quoting from Psalm 133: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
It was a very special occasion and reminded me of the importance of finding shared values in life.
Unity among Christians
Many Christians often stress the need to work together across faiths and denominations. Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Superior of the Mount Street Jesuit Community and chaplain to Aid to the Church in Need, said at the time: “It was inspiring to be in the presence of so many from different Christian traditions – Anglican, Orthodox and Catholic of different ancient churches.”
There is plenty of evidence that cross-faith projects can make a difference within even small communities. That can be through social action, dialogue or learning.
Near Neighbours, a partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishops’ Council, has set up a women’s cross-faith computer-coding programme in London, led by Rabbi Natan Levy from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
In Luton, FACES (Faiths Against Child Exploitation) is a growing interfaith project including Christian and Muslim leaders committed to challenging child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Engaging people of alternative faiths in community projects can seem difficult. It can be daunting to reach out to someone who may appear very different, as one wonders how to strike up a conversation. Coming together in dialogue or to act on shared issues within your local neighbourhood can seem harder still.
Some people are frightened of asking about another person’s faith. They worry that too many questions could make them lose their own sense of perspective.
But the reverse may be true. The more we question, the more we think – and so with every such step we come a little closer to understanding our place in the world.
Could it help to move beyond the word “faith”? Some experts think so. By using the words “interbelief” or even “interpath”, we can be sure to include atheists, agnostics, humanists and others with no religious faith but with ethical or philosophical beliefs.
Shared beliefs at heart
Whatever faith we hold dear, we usually have two shared beliefs at heart.
The first is the concept of doing unto others as you would have done unto you.
The second is that sense of being connected to a cosmic energy source or consciousness greater than ourselves.
It helps to remember that we are all alike in many ways. As author Mark Haddon says: “No one is ever really a stranger. We cling to the belief that we share nothing with certain people. It’s rubbish. We have almost everything in common with everyone.”
Bruno Wang, founder of the Pureland Foundation