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Manningham

The foundation stone of St Paul’s Manningham in Bradford, an early English Gothic-style York stone church, was laid on the 5th November 1846. The population of the Parish of Manningham has always been in a constant state of change. These days, we have church members from other parts of Bradford, as well as members from abroad. There are many rented houses and flats in Manningham, so it is not unusual for people to come and join us for a short while before they move on. On the other hand, some of our members have been worshipping here for 70 years or more. When the church was built, Manningham was expanding as people came to work in the mills. The decline in its fortunes echoed those of the rest of Bradford in the 20th century, but the mosaic of cultures, beginning with German Jewish merchants arriving from the 1830s, continued with immigrants from Eastern Europe after World War II followed by Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis.

The term ‘Sharakat’ (Communion) in Urdu speaks about the spiritual relationship or close association between faith communities. The term encourages the faith communities to meet and share with one another their intrinsic values on matters that affect the common life of the people in Manningham. Some of the issues faced by our community are poverty and unemployment and their effects which are visible on our streets. How do we address issues such as drugs, alcohol, violence, prostitution and sometimes our own isolation from each other? We are speaking about ourselves, our own people, our own youth and our own children. Sharakat (Communion) is an attempt to develop a common agenda: a way forward to make our community better. An initiative of St. Paul's Church, on the one hand, we invite our neighbours of different faiths to discuss and respond together to issues in Manningham and, on the other hand, we share with our neighbours because of our faith, doing our portion of caring for the poor through a Drop-in Café.

Origins of the Sharakat Project

St. Paul’s Church acknowledges the religious diversity in Manningham area and has been committed to be in touch with its neighbourhood. Our building has long been used for different community projects in Manningham. In a very special way, St. Paul’s had supported the initiative of the Omega project (which has now stopped) in serving those on the street who need love, care and attention. Some of our members in their individual capacities were deeply involved in dealing with issues of poverty, asylum seekers, interfaith relations and ethnic diversity. We built up our relationship with the local community and projects and realised there was a lack of grassroots connectedness and a lack of a proper platform to bring local projects together to speak to each other. The main impetus to initiate the project came from the Vicar of St Paul’s in partnership with Baptist and Methodist local congregations and a Muslim Charity.

Activities – (1) Sharakat

First, we meet every second month and have ‘Sharakat’ (Communion): sharing a meal together and hearing from each other about our faith teachings as we address those common issues that affect adversely the lives of our people, children and youth. It has been done in the form of a talk from a speaker from a particular faith and response made by the members present followed by open discussion and concluding with a meal together. Hence ‘Sharakat’ is a gathering of people who want to converse seriously with each other and share their intrinsic values from a particular faith perspective. This has enhanced our religious literacy and has built our capacity to work together.

The first Sharakat meeting was in February 2008, which was attended by about 70 people from nearly every faith community. The main speaker was a young Muslim law student who talked about the opportunities and challenges of working together in Manningham. He highlighted the challenges faced by young people in general and Muslims in particular. He referred to drug-related issues. He stressed the need to engage youth in our society at every level. People from different faith communities responded to what they had heard and showed support for Sharakat (Communion) as a way of promoting dialogue and action to build social capital in Manningham. The need to keep youth at the centre of activities was underlined. The meeting finished with a shared meal.

Subsequent meetings have included, for example:

· the involvement of the Police and a focus on preventing crime;
· input from Bradford District Faiths Forum;
· reports about work with asylum seekers and how churches were uniting with other agencies to make Bradford a city of sanctuary;
· tours of the nineteenth century Reform Synagogue which was fighting closure;
· presentations of new developments and other projects in Manningham;
· reports from representatives of each group about their service to the community;

St Paul’s produces a quarterly newsletter, which includes reports of the Sharakat.

Activities (2) – Drop-in Café

St Paul’s Drop-in Café provides three course lunches for people who need physical, psychological, social and spiritual nourishment. The priority is to provide a safe and welcoming environment where people are treated with respect, listened to and hopefully feel the love and warmth of God whilst they are there. It is open between 12.30 and 2 pm every Friday for people who are homeless and/or mainly unemployed. Since it first opened in November 2007 with fewer than ten customers, there has been a gradual increase to an average attendance now of about 50 men and women from various national, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The café is fully supported by members of other local churches and people from other faiths. It is managed by a team of Christian members from Westgate Baptist Church, Trinity Methodist Church and St. Paul’s Church in Manningham.

Related activities

St Paul’s is striving to strengthen Asian Christian ministry. The church hosts Urdu services for Asian Christians. This has led indirectly to "Beddaari" (Revival), a research project led by Canon Dr. Arun John to audit needs within the South Asian Community in Northern England. South Asian Christians, many of whom have been converted from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds, are one of the most neglected of minority ethnic communities in the UK. Their conversion to Christianity caused them to be ostracized by their own people and their white neighbours assume they are Muslims or Hindus. They describe how this has implications in terms of social inclusion, availability of jobs, poverty, self esteem and implications on young people. It can also seem that even the Church has not thought of them as a potential missional partner. Those responsible for converting them to the Christian faith have been more interested in building Christian-Muslim relationships or Christian-Hindu relationships. In areas such as Bradford, local government policies and indeed national policies focus more on the needs of ethnic minorities belonging to other faiths. The South Asian Christian Community, it appears, has become a minority within a minority.

There is a steering group included members of the Urdu speaking congregation, the PCC, ecumenical partners and the Vicar. The research aims to raise the profile of South Asian Christians and to encourage and help them to integrate with the wider Christian community in the UK with more confidence. It will make recommendations for ways of reaching out (especially to young people), building the capacity and confidence of this community and reducing social exclusion

Evolving activities

The agenda of our faith meetings has expanded in various directions, which include networking with different community projects, interfaith engagement and advocacy for peace and goodwill in the community.

One offshoot was the launch of the 'Sadbhavana Sangaatee' (Goodwill Gathering) between St Paul’s and Shree Laksmi Narayan Hindu Temple in the Bradford 3 postal district in December 2009. It arose from recognition of the importance of building trust in the city and in our neighbourhoods. 'Sadbhavana Sangaatee' indicates a person who has good feelings towards others. This initiative is the result of a few important meetings facilitated by the Vicar and Director of Bradford District Faiths Forum and Mr. Kashmir Singh Rajput (The Chair of the BDFF) held at the Hindu Cultural Society and Gurdwara Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Bradford. During these meetings, it was observed that there was an urgent need for the major faith communities in Bradford to have goodwill gatherings to avoid the possible future isolation of faith communities from one another; to promote good interfaith relations; to highlight the contribution of different faith communities building the economy of this city; and to increase the understanding between all faith communities and wider society. Some meetings were arranged with the Bishop of Bradford and his Interfaith Advisor in which the Hindu and Sikh Communities in Bradford expressed their concern that the majority faiths and Bradford Council were not giving enough attention to minority faith communities. The meetings looked critically into how to promote the inclusion of all faith communities in decision-making regardless of their size.

Leadership

has come from Clergy and Bradford District Faiths Forum. Partners who have been actively involved with us are: Westgate Baptist Church, Trinity Methodist Church, Save Mothers Trust (a Muslim Charity), the Hindu Cultural Centre Old Leeds Road, Bradford District Faiths Forum and individual volunteers from different denominations in the Drop in Café. SM Community College, an Islamic Educational Institute established since 2006 designed to cater for the needs of Muslim men and women of all ages, has hosted and participated in Sharakat meetings.

Resources

We use church premises. Funding has come from the Church Urban Fund and Diocesan Social Services, Bradford District Faiths Forum. We need more funding to appoint a co-ordinator. We are financially secure until September 2012.

We are reliant on volunteers in the Café and, calculated on the basis of the minimum wage, their contribution amounts to over £3000 p.a.

Non-financial help and support

We have had support nationally from the Church Urban Fund and locally both from some secular organisations and from our partners amongst the faith organisations. We would welcome more support at diocesan level.

Outcomes

Sharakat (Communion) has completed four years of its life and has been widely appreciated by faith communities as well as by Bradford Council and local community projects in Manningham. It remains an effective platform through which local faith communities, community projects, Bradford Council and Bradford District Faiths Forum decipher information about their activities. It continues to draw people together to think, to reflect and to connect with one another and it encourages co-operation and collaboration among faith communities and local community projects. It is able to develop a joint agenda to respond to the common challenges faced by the community in Manningham. The following important events during the year 2010 were highlights of Sharakat (Communion):

· Sharakat supported Sadbhavana Sangtee (Goodwill Gathering) an initiative of St. Paul’s Manningham and Shree Laksmi Narayan Temple in Bradford 3.
· Sharakat (Communion) was used as platform by the Bradford Council to communicate its strategy and seek support from the local community to prevent any possible conflict caused by the English Defence League.
· Sharakat supported the initiative of Save the Mothers Trust in Bradford 6.
· There is every possibility that Sharakat (Communion) model will strengthen community relationships in Lidget Green area.

Success factors

· Drive and commitment.
· Making everyone welcome.
· Bringing faith leaders together.
· Furthering interfaith understanding as well as identifying and acting on issues of common concern.
· Mixing socially and sharing meals as well as having ‘business’ meetings.

Barriers

Apart from the constant pressure on time and resources, one barrier has been that the local Mosque has not been not regularly involved even though Muslim charities have been.

Challenges and opportunities

Sustainability and capacity are always key challenges. Sharakat (Communion) wants to appoint a coordinator, but we need more funds and we hope to look into the resources this year. An imminent change in incumbent at St Paul’s will also present a challenge to sustaining the work and the relationships that have been built up.


http://www.manningham.bradford.anglican.org/