The magazine of the Solihull Faiths’ Forum December 2008 Issue 1
Faith to the fore in Solihull
Main picture: Mahendra Dahbi, Chairman of the Solihull Faiths Forum, discusses the recent eco-audit with Father
Patrick Gerard, St Alphege Church and Beryl Moppett, Climate Change Champion.
Welcome to the first edition of Connecting with Faith,
the magazine of the Solihull Faiths’ Forum.
The Forum has over 70 faith community members, representing a broad range of different faiths. The Forum meets in
a formal capacity once a year to review progress and identify future projects. It also appoints a Steering Group which
meets more frequently; this Group has representation from the Christian, Muslim, Sikhs, Jewish and Hindu
The aim of this magazine is to raise awareness of the Solihull Faiths’ Forum (SFF), a group set up to promote inter-faith
working in Solihull. It will be published four times a year and give information about what is happening in faith
Gareth Jones The forum was set up in 2006 and has three This year, the Solihull Faiths’ Forum has sponsored
main aims: three projects:
• For our faith communities to live peacefully • Faith communities response to climate change.
together. • Young people and faith.
• To involve faith and cultural groups in the civic • Promoting inter-faith experiences.
Solihull Churches and public life of the borough.
Action on • To enable the Council, Solihull Partnership and
local faith groups to discuss matters of mutual This first edition gives an update on the
Homelessness climate change project.
concern or interest.
SFF Chairman, Mahendra Dabhi, says: "since being set up two years ago, the forum
is starting to make a difference to the work of our public sector partners and gives
people of different faiths an opportunity to meet in an informal setting. I am really
positive about the future and the projects".
Our response to climate change
Andrew Simkins and the solar panels on the roof of the Bridge in Shirley
Faith communities are playing their part in making sure that we all use our resources wisely.
In March last year, Solihull Faiths’ Forum steering group member Beryl Moppett put forward a project proposal focusing on climate change.
The aim of the project is to identify and showcase the real contribution made by local faith communities to improving our world.
The first step was to carry out a Survey of faith communities to find out what initiatives have been introduced and what is planned.
The results of the survey of faith communities showed considerable Facts:
activity in three areas: energy efficiency, recycling, and lifestyle. A good
example is at The Bridge in Shirley - a new church building where solar
Buildings produce nearly half of the UK’s carbon
panels have been installed to provide hot water. Senior pastor, Andrew
emissions. That’s almost twice as much as cars and planes.
Simkins, pictured above, has played a lead role in this initiative.
The way a building is constructed, insulated, heated, ventilated
The summary below gives a few headlines.
and the type of fuel used, all contribute to its carbon emissions.
Energy efficiency Enough sunlight falls on the earth’s surface every minute to meet
Our current way of life in the UK, in common with other developed world energy demand for an entire year.
countries, is unsustainable. Globally, population is rising rapidly and
ecological footprinting shows we are consuming 25% more renewable The UK is the windiest country in Europe, so much so that we
resources every year than the planet can replenish. If everyone in the could power the whole country several times over using wind
world consumed as much as we do in the UK, we would need three energy.
planets to support us. Of course we only have one. Therefore, we need
to reduce our ecological footprint in the UK by two thirds. Carbon The survey of faith communities revealed:
dioxide (CO2) emissions are a major part of our ecological footprint. ■ A wide commitment to making efficient use of energy and a
Climate change is already happening and poses a major threat to our recognition that much more could be done. There was a
long-term prosperity and well-being. According to the UN willingness to share good practice and work together to
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “warming of the climate promote sustainable use of resources. An obvious spin-off
system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases benefit is a reduction in fuel costs.
in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of ■ There was evidence of innovation. For example, a number of
snow and ice, and rising sea level”. faith communities are considering solar panels and installation of
It is vital that everyone plays a part in reducing greenhouse gasses. wind turbines on their buildings and places of worship.
The Council and its partners are already committed to a certain level of ■ Many communities had introduced low cost measures such as
climate change due to the CO2 and other greenhouse gases we have low energy light bulbs.
emitted in the past, and continue to emit today. It is therefore vital that ■ There were many examples of improvements to buildings such
we not only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to reduce future as double glazing, upgraded boiler systems and insulation.
climate change but we must also begin to better adapt to the now
unavoidable impacts of climate change.
2 Connecting with Faith December 2008 Issue 1
The work of Solihull Churches Action on
Homelessness (SCAH) is based on words from
St Matthew’s Gospel chapter 25 which say,
I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.
SCAH was prompted to start work in Solihull during the early 1990s
when the previous housing crisis was at its height. They found that
young people, especially those living in the south of the borough, had
no suitable accommodation available. SCAH set up a new hostel the
support from the Council and individuals. It is now run by
St Basil’s and provides a home for 5 young people.
This experience has prompted another venture called Furniture Restore
which aims to sell furniture donated by people in the borough at
modest cost. The building, offered by the Council, is in Kingshurst and
the venture is currently run by the Colebridge Trust but will soon be
taken over by Community Transport.
Rent Deposit scheme
Later SCAH set up a rent deposit scheme to enable homeless people to
use housing in the private sector. This scheme has been taken over by the transition period. SCAH supply ‘start-up’ packs for those clients which enable
the council and has become ‘best practice’ on the recommendation of them to take up offers of accommodation which they might otherwise lose.
the government. SCAH also provide food parcels to clients at Fry Housing who need support on
Meanwhile, for several years, they helped refugees who met in their release from prison as their benefits often do not arrive in time for them to
Chelmsley Wood by providing support, coffee and conversation. have enough money to feed themselves. Clients at Women’s Aid and MIND are
Currently they provide financial support to young refugees who have also helped with ‘move-on’ packs.
been in Council care by offering “move-on” packs when they move Most of SCAH's work has obvious financial constraints and they would welcome
into independent accommodation. any help from other faith communities in the borough, either of money or help
Start-up packs with buying ‘move-on’ packs or food parcels. Each ‘move-on’ pack costs about
A current problem is that when people move out of care or hostel
accommodation into independent living, their benefits are sometimes If you want to know more or offer help please call 0121 705 1866 or write to
delayed, or their applications refused, and they face difficulties during SCAH c/o St Alphege Church Office, Church Hill Road, Solihull B91 3RQ.
Fairtrade is thriving in Solihull writes Beryl Moppett
‘The most influential politician of the last Fairtrade is an international scheme where and widen the number of groups using
millennium was William Wilberforce. If Wilberforce companies operating within the scheme Fairtrade. We narrowly missed gaining the award
were alive today, campaigning for Fair Trade and agree to pay farmers a fair price for their in February of this year, failing as we had too
Trade Justice would be top of his agenda.’ goods. With the higher and more stable smaller number of faith groups and voluntary
price they receive, poor communities can groups identified as supporting Fairtrade.
The Most Reverend Rowan Williams, build their own schools and health centres Members of the group can give information and
Archbishop of Canterbury and really improve the standard of living of support as necessary, but we would be
their families – things that we take for extremely grateful if people could commit
granted. themselves or any faith group or organisation
And so Fairtrade and social injustice heads the
agenda of the Fairtrade steering group in the The steering group in the borough is that they are part of to supporting this Fairtrade
borough; a group comprising representatives of faith working hard to gain ‘Fairtrade Borough’ initiative that is so valuable to so many.
groups and also secular organisations. It aims to status for Solihull. This status is awarded If you would like to find out more about
raise awareness of the tremendous value that by the Fairtrade foundation to towns that Fairtrade, please contact Beryl Moppett c/o
Fairtrade can give to the recipients in the developing have done a significant amount to adopt Solihull Faiths’ Forum, (0121 704 6145)
world, for little or no cost to us. Fairtrade, promote it within the borough email@example.com
Connecting with Faith December 2008 Issue 1 5
Lifestyle and concern for the environment...
by changing our daily
We can all help the environment
ht be achieved by reducing the
routines. For example, this mig
to a more efficient car, walk,
number of car journeys, switching
cycle more or car share if possib
d ethical gifts.
We can buy green an
Alternatively, it might mean being more selective about the type
of food we buy, avoiding those items which have a high carbon
footprint and are not in season.
The Rev Dr Peter Hatton, minister of Solihull Methodist Church,
is a good example of someone who uses a bicycle for work on a
regular basis. Peter says,
I believe that more people should leave their cars at home for short journeys.
I use my Brompton folding bike most of the time in carrying out my pastoral
duties - it keeps me fit and means there is one less car on the road creating
congestion. It's very useful for my work and means - I can see and be seen!
The survey of faith communities revealed these points about
faith groups concern for the environment: The Rev Dr Peter Hatton
■ Some churches actively encourage car sharing as a way to reduce ■ Bio-diversity was seen as important with some churches actively
emissions and also make best use of parking space. safeguard habitats for wildlife and flora in their grounds.
■ Some churches provide bike racks and encourage cycling. ■ Many churches use and sell 'Fair Trade' products.
■ St Helen's Church has set up a stall to sell locally grown organic fruit ■ Examples of 'bring and share' events.
Solihull Council has recently rolled out a glass and jar collection The survey of faith communities revealed:
service to 78,000 properties in the borough, building on the paper
■ Some churches participate in the Internet Freecycle scheme whereby
collection service already in operation. In addition there are 28 mini
unwanted items such as furniture are offered to others in need.
recycling centres througout the borough as well as the Bickenhill
household waste recycling centre. ■ Most faith communities recycle their waste, where possible.
■ St Alphege Church recently held an Environment Sunday and intends to
The Council has produced an A to Z of recycling booklet to help you
recycle. This A-Z provides details of how you can dispose of unwanted appoint an Environmental Co-ordinator.
items without just throwing them in the bin. Most items in a household ■ Some churches recycled green waste to make compost.
bin can be recycled or reused. It is also worth remembering there is
useful information on recycling and lots of other information on the ■ St Philips and St James Churches at Bentley Heath recycle batteries.
Council’s website www.solihull.gov.uk ■ Our Lady of the Wayside Church only uses recycled altar wine
If you would like a copy of this booklet for reference please contact bottles and candles.
the Council on 0121 704 8000 or email ■ St Helens Church recycles
firstname.lastname@example.org used Christmas cards.
• UK households produced 30.5 million tonnes of waste in 2003/04, of
which 17% was collected for recycling. (source: defra.gov.uk) This
figure is still quite low compared to some of our neighbouring EU
countries, some recycling over 50% of their waste. There is still a great
deal of waste which could be recycled that ends up in landfill sites The Survey of Faith Communities flagged up some suggestions as to
which is harmful to the environment. how faith communities can work together to become more sustainable:
• Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could
be recycled. ■ Provide advice and information which is tailored to faith communities on
such things as improvements, sources of advice and funding.
• The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with rubbish from the UK
in eight months. ■ Set up a bank of expertise / champions from amongst faith communities.
• On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product pays for the ■ Encourage faith communities to seek official recognition for their efforts
packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish. through the Eco-congregation Scheme.
• In Solihull, the percentage of the total tonnage of household waste ■ Develop Solihull's own 'freecycle' fair enabling communities to donate
recycled last year was 17.68%. unwanted household items with no charge.
• Solihull Council has a target to increase the amount of ■ Set up a living database (called a wiki) showing good practice.
non-biodegradable waste (for example, glass, tins, etc) that is recycled
These ideas will be followed up and a further report taken back to the
to 7.7 % by 2009/10.
Faiths' Forum AGM in March 2009.
Connecting with Faith December 2008 Issue 1 3
Faith profiles Pal Singh
Pal Singh has been a member of the Solihull Faiths’ Forum for the past two years, representing the views of
the local Sikh community. Pal lives in Hampton Lane and works as an independent business consultant. He is
married with three children and nine grandchildren. Currently he is vice chairman of the Council of Sikh
Gurdwara in Birmingham (CSGB)
He is a respected member of the community and was one of the founder members of Bhat Singh Sabha, a
community social enterprise in Highgate Birmingham. He is currently the Vice-chair of the community project.
Could you say a little about your faith and involvement
in the Gurdwara?
I became involved with the Gurdwara (Gurdwara is a place of worship In the future we have some exciting
for Sikhs and means ‘House of Guru Ji’) as president of the management ideas for the Saffron Centre,
committee in 2000. This was the the fulfilment of a long term vision and including the installation of a wind
commitment for our family. The year 2000 was a watershed in my faith, turbine to provide a sustainable
when I stepped forward to serve my community. Although my father source of electricity. The project will be self sustaining and will provide
was a much respected member and founder of one of the first resources for our young people and the elderly.
Gurdwaras in the UK (which was actually part of someone’s house!) my
faith had taken a back seat because of work commitments. All that What are your views on inter-faith?
changed when I received a visit from our community elders. They had a It is important for all communities to work together to get a better
number of community projects in mind and they asked me and a group understanding of each others faiths. There are also many bad influences
of fellow professionals to bring the projects to fruition. on our young people and we shouldn't allow a vacuum for evil to
flourish. It is therefore important for faiths to provide places for people,
It was quite a challenge! I'm not quite sure how I came to say "Yes;"
especially young people, of different cultures and faiths to meet and learn
- I think it was the personal challenge of taking on an ambitious
from each other. Our altruistic values are derived from our faiths and are
project, testing my resilience and making use of my business experience.
almost identical across the main religions.
It was very much a leap of faith! But, once I had started to plan the
project, it was like someone had flicked a switch, and I saw the vast I don't see inter-faith activity as trying to convert each other. There has
potential to create an enterprise which would benefit not just the Sikhs to be respect for boundaries.
but the whole community. The vision for the community is to build a
new Gurdwara with a resource centre for future generation of British Key information
• 1,566 Sikhs lived in Solihull at the time of the 2001 Census, this
What changes came about under your leadership? represents 0.8% of the population.
A priority was to create a new community centre, which we did, • In 2001, there were 327,000 Sikhs living in the UK, 0.7% of the
converting a derelict factory next to our Gurdwara in 2005. The population, and nearly 104,000 living in the West Midlands (2%).
Gurdwara bought the premises, and completely renovated the building
• There are13 Gurdwara in Birmingham. Each Gurdwara houses a
using personal donations and EU money. We called it the Saffron Centre
copy of the Adi Granth and serves as a meeting place for worship,
and within a short time it started to flourish as a nursery, training centre
including recitation, singing, and explanation of scripture. A
and conference area for the local community. As a social enterprise the
community kitchen and often a school are attached to the building.
centre provides a valuable income stream and all profits are ploughed
In private homes a room set aside for devotion is also called a
back into the community. I would stress that Sikhs only form about 4%
Gurdwara. Pilgrimages are often made to the Gurdwara associated
of the local population - most users are Muslim and Christians. I should
with the Sikh Gurus' lives, notably the Golden Temple.
also say that this was a team effort!
Regional Spotlight Reverend Gareth Jones
Thank you for the opportunity to Some of you will have been to conferences and consultations
contribute to this first newsletter organised by WMFF. A number of these have resulted in publications,
of Solihull Faiths’ Forum. Just to for example “Inter Faith Dialogue and Social Action” earlier this year.
give you some background, I’m a
minister in the Methodist Church, The second broad strand is supporting inter-faith engagement at a
with 16 years’ experience of local level, both the numerous forums and networks and the
university chaplaincy (Universities imaginative and creative projects that we hear about across the
of Newcastle, Northumbria and region. And this is really where my role comes in.
Birmingham). Over the years,
inter-faith relations had become a Although I do have some involvement with the strategic side, my
central part of both my spirituality main purpose is to be a resource for inter-faith relations at a local
and my work, both in the level. I have spent much of my time working alongside faith forums,
university and in the wider initially in Coventry and Warwickshire and now more widely. I’m also
community, and in 2007 I moved here to support and help develop links between faith communities
to a one-year post as Inter-Faith and other bodies in the public and voluntary spheres. In order to do
Development Worker for Coventry all this (and because it’s something I have always found particularly
and Warwickshire. rewarding and inspiring), I devote much of my time to visiting places
This then led to my current role of worship of all faiths, and meeting the people of faith who are
with West Midlands Faiths Forum. working with dedication and imagination to make a difference to the
communities they live in.
WMFF could be described as an umbrella body for inter-faith
engagement in the West Midlands. To over-simplify somewhat, it has I’d be very glad – especially as an Olton resident – to support the work
two broad strands to its work. The first of these is strategic, such as of Solihull Faiths’ Forum in any way (though I won’t be offended if
engaging with government policies that have an impact on the life you don’t wish to make use of me!). Likewise, do tell me if you’d like
and experience of faith communities. To fulfil this role, WMFF works to engage with any of the things WMFF are involved in; you can find
in partnership with other regional agencies such as Government out more by visiting http://www.wmfaithsforum.org.uk.
Office for the West Midlands and the Equality and Human Rights
Commission; it also seeks to support and be an advocate for the faith Rev Gareth Jones, Inter-Faith Development Officer,
communities themselves on such issues. West Midlands Faiths Forum
2 Connecting with Faith December 2008 Issue 1
Connecting The magazine of the Solihull Faiths’ Forum
with Faith December 2008 Issue 1
Churches Together in Central Solihull
Saturday morning Lent breakfasts 2009
A series of talks during the season of Lent on the
Our Planet theme of ‘Our Planet, Our Concern?’ at the church
hall, Solihull Methodist Church, Blossomfield Road,
close to Solihull Railway Station.
Our Concern? All faith communities are welcome.
28th February 21st March
‘Caring for Creation: from lament ‘ECO-Congregation Awards
to everyday hope and action’ - How and why -??’
Revd Paul Cawthorne Professor David Edden
Lichfield Diocesan Selly Oak Methodist Church
7th March ‘The 2012 Olympic Games and
‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ Sustainability – an oxymoron?’
Councillor Kate Wild Professor Peter Braithwaite
Cabinet member for Solihull CLM Head of Sustainability
Council’s Community Services and
Events will begin at 8.15 with
14th March breakfast and end at 9.15am.
‘Hope for planet earth in the
context of climate change’ If attending, for catering
Professor Michael Davies purposes, if possible email
A Rocha U.K. email@example.com or
phone 0121 705 5350
Solihull Faith Calendar 2009
January - March 2009
5 January Sikh Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh 24 February Christian Shrove Tuesday
6 January Christian Epiphany 25 February Christian Ash Wednesday
7 January Muslim Ashura 1 March Christian St David's Day
14 January Hindu Makar Sankrant 9 March Jewish Fast of Esther (Taanit Esther)
18 January Bahai World Religion Day 11 March Sikh Hola Mohalla
26 January Chinese Chinese New Year 14 March Muslim Milad un Nabi
27 January Multi-faith National Holocaust Day Birthday of
the Prophet Muhammad
31 January Sikh Birthday of Guru Har Rai
17 March Christian St Patrick's Day
31 January Hindu Vasant Panchami
20 March Pagan Spring Equinox
2 February Christian Candlemas
21 March Bahai Naw-Ruz
8 February Buddhist Parinirvana
22 March Christian Mothering Sunday
9 February Jewish Tu B'Shevat
25 March Christian Annunication
23 February Hindu Mahashivratri
For more information about articles in this issue or to contribute an article please contact the
Partnership Manager, Nicholas Tromans, on 0121 704 6145 or firstname.lastname@example.org