header new 11

PaganismZoroastrianism

Report of the meeting on September 26th 2017

A talk by Estelle Seymour on the Pagan Faith

Estelle Seymour, of the Pagan Federation, gave us a lucid and illuminating talk about her own journey from a Seventh Day Adventist childhood to adopting paganism as an adult. She had experienced the fundamentalist convictions and lifestyle she had grown up as suffocating, and in listening to the tales of converts about their pre-conversion lives found herself thinking ‘Well, at least they have had their fun! When do I get mine?’ She did however value some elements of her upbringing, especially the emphasis on health and a knowledge of the Bible. At the age of 28 she began to research the historical contexts in which the Bible was written, and was much influenced by Merlin Stone’s The Paradise Papers. Suppression of Women’s Rites, and also by Starhawk: The Spiral Dance.

She defined a pagan as a follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion, and listed six characteristic Pagan Paths: Wicca and Witchcraft, Druidry, Heathenry, Shamanism, Female and male mystery groups and (simply) Pagans. The history of paganism in Britain is a sad tale, beginning with the Witchcraft Act of 1542, and the hanging of witches in England until 1684, and the burning of them in Scotland until 1727. The Witchcraft Act was not repealed until 1951. The UK Census returns recorded a doubling of self-identified pagans from 2001 (40,000) to 2011 (80,000), and there may now be some 250,000.

The Pagan Federation follows three principles:

  • Love for and kinship with Nature
  • A positive morality, summed up as ‘Do what you will, as long as it harms none’.
  • Recognition of the Divine, which transcends gender

Pagan rituals celebrate the annual festivals, based on the solstices and equinoxes, and the times in between them, so that the ‘Wheel of the Year’ runs (in the northern hemisphere): Imbolc (February 1st), Ostara (March 21st), Beltane (May 1st), Midsummer (June 21st), Lammas (August 1st), Mabon (September 21st), Samhain (October 31st) and Yule (December 22nd).

Pagans also mark rites of passage like birth, hand-fastings (commitment to a partner for a year and a day), death and initiations, and have rituals for specific intentions. These include purification, creating a ritual space (casting the circle), and raising and directing energy. Estelle showed us some of the ‘props’ she uses on these occasions.

Christopher Lamb

Report of the meeting on Tuesday May 16th, 2017

Talk on a visit to the Calais Jungle by Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi

This was a very poorly attended meeting, because – it seems – people did not receive the usual email reminder about it. However, the few who came had the privilege of an intimate conversation with Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi, who has been the rabbi of Birmingham Progressive Synagogue since 1994.

She told us of growing up aware of having no living grandparents on her father’s side, but being like most children incurious about that until her father’s story emerged when she was older. He was born in Berlin, and was the last person to have his bar-mitzvah at the Berlin synagogue before Kristallnacht, the concerted Nazi attack on Jewish shops and premises in November 1938, when he was 13. Through his uncle, and the activist Gertrude Weissmuller, his parents managed to engineer his leaving Germany, first for Amsterdam and finally for Liverpool, while they remained in Germany and perished in the death camps. He later became a rabbi, and is now a vigorous 91.

Continue Reading

A Report on the Meeting on Tuesday March 29th 2017

A Talk by Sylvia Clark on the Baha'i Faith

Baha’i Obligatory Prayers, Feasting & Fasting

Sylvia Clark introuced her blind Bahai’i friend Robin Christopherson from Warwick.  Robin has recently received an MBE for ‘services to digital inclusion’, given in recognition of his contribution to promoting awareness of the need to provide digital products and services that are appropriate and inclusive for disabled people.   

She explained that for the Baha’is, the collected Writings of Bahá’u’lláh are considered be a Revelation from God and these form the foundation of the Bahá’í Faith.  The writings of The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh are regarded as divine revelation, and the writings and talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and the writings of Shoghi Effendi as authoritative interpretation.

She also provided a handout, which you can download here

Praying, Feasting & Fasting

“Cling firmly to obligatory prayer and fasting.    Verily, the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon.“  

(Baha’u’llah)    

Continue Reading

Report on SAIF Meeting of January 24th 2017

A talk by Guy Sharrock of the Catholic Relief Service

Mr Guy Sharrock, of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), told us that CRS employs people from many faiths and backgrounds, including himself as an Anglican, Muslims and Hindus.  The organisation was founded during World War II in New York City to assist refugees, and is part of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican relief body which includes the British CAFOD.

Their aim is to work with the poorest of the poor, at the invitation of the local Catholic bishop, and this they do in 101 countries, employing 5,000 staff (300 in the UK).  A third of their work is humanitarian relief as in times of natural disaster, and they also have significant input into agriculture and health as well as education. 

Continue Reading

Report on Meeting of November 29th 2016

A talk on Mindfulness by Eva Mackenzie

Eva Mackenzie, a Buddhist friend of David Izen, talked to us about Mindfulness. She previously taught Religious Studies at Kingsley School, Leamington Spa, and frequently introduced classes to it. Most recently she has used Mindfulness with Year 9s, and has found it very effective in helping pupils cope with exams, bullying, and the stress of relationships. It is used by sportspeople and musicians as a way of creating calm and connectedness, and enabling concentration. We practised a form of Mindfulness briefly, and learnt the mantra: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it Present.’ An organisation promoting it calls itself .b – which is meant to remind you to stop and simply be.

It was clear from her presentation that Mindfulness is in itself simply a tool or a technique, which has no necessary link to any faith or philosophy, and can be used to promote many kinds of meditation or activity.

Christopher Lamb

Report on Meeting of July 19th 2016

A talk by Patricia Earle about the Women's Federation for World Peace

Patricia Earle came from Birmingham to talk to SAIF about her work with the WFWP (Women’s Federation for World Peace). Patricia comes originally from Belgium, and has lived in the USA, and began her work with the WFWP in 1993, inspired by the United Nations which fixes September 23rd as its annual day of prayer. Consequently her group meets on the 23rd of each month.

It began with a small group of women meeting in her home in Birmingham during the conflict in Bosnia in 1993. This led to a chain of prayer with women of different faiths joining in, so that now women originating from some 45 nationalities are involved. They have a common concern for the family, and many friendships develop from the meetings. These are still in Patricia’s house, which has been extended in consequence. She witnessed to a sense of loving presence at the meetings, which means that no-one feels ‘put into boxes’ of faith or ethnicity.

Continue Reading

Report of Meeting on January 26th 2016

A talk by David Izen on the two main strands of Buddhism

David Izen was our ‘home-grown’ speaker on this occasion, and chose to tell us about the big distinction in Buddhism between the southern Theravada tradition, and the northern Mahayana tradition. The older southern tradition spread from the Buddha’s home in India, through Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and south-east Asia, while the northern one went through Tibet to China, Korea and Japan. Despite this clear pattern David’s view is that Buddhism is not a single religion, but a collection of thousands of different schools of thought, many of which have departed from the Buddha’s original teaching to incorporate elements of Hinduism and local custom. He quoted from a book recording a dialogue between the Japanese Buddhist scholar Daisaku Ikeda, and the historian Arnold Toynbee, which focused on the question of whether Shakyamuni (as the Buddha is called in the northern tradition) was a theist. The conclusion seemed to be that he was in the northern tradition but not in the southern. Toynbee also raised the question of the apparent contradiction in Buddhist thought between the elimination of desire, and the promotion of compassion, justice and other ‘desirable’ qualities.

Continue Reading

Report on meeting 17th November 2015

A talk by Sally Lessiter on Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science

Sally Lessiter from Oxford spoke about the life of Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) and the beliefs of Christian Science. The title of her major book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875) gives the clue to the understanding of Christianity, which she promoted: an interpretation of the Bible with healing at its centre. Like the Quakers and the Salvation Army, the Church she founded has no clergy, sacraments or ritual, though it does support full-time Christian Science practitioners and nurses who treat patients through prayer and physical care. Mrs Eddy ordained the Bible and her book Science and Health to be the ‘Pastor’ of the Church, and passages from both books are read on Sundays and studied by members, who refer to themselves as students of Christian Science.

Continue Reading

Report on Meeting of September 29th 2015

Talk by Canon Andrew Wickens, Team Vicar of Dudley

The Revd Canon Andrew Wickens, Anglican vicar in central Dudley (and son-in-law of our Chairman) gave us a detailed account of the long struggle of the Muslim community in central Dudley to replace their mosque with a new building, which would include a community centre. Andrew chairs the Dudley Interfaith Network, and has been trying to keep the peace in Dudley and support the Muslim community since taking up his post ten years ago.

Continue Reading

Some thoughts on the current situation in the Muslim world - July 7th 2015

This was intended to be a meeting addressed by a speaker from the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Leamington Spa, but he was unable to come because of the long hours of fasting in Ramadhan, and so Christopher Lamb stepped in to offer some thoughts on the current situation in the Muslim world. Noting that something like a revolution was taking place among Muslims world-wide, he continued:

It is a hard time to be a Muslim. A huge proportion of the refugees waiting at Calais, or paying thousands of dollars to cross the Mediterranean in over-crowded boats are Muslims. Most of the victims of ‘Islamic terrorism’ are Muslims. The plight of Muslims world-wide calls for compassion and understanding. Everywhere you look it seems that the Muslim world is in turmoil; in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, Mali, Cameroun, Nigeria. What are the roots of this turmoil?

Continue Reading

Report of meeting of May 12th 2015

A Catholic perspective on inter-religious dialogue

Fr Brian Doolan was introduced as the parish priest for a Roman Catholic parish covering some 37 villages in south Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, based on Shipston-on-Stour. A former Church of England priest, he had ministered in Birmingham and Coventry, and been in charge of the Catholic cathedral in Birmingham.

Fr Doolan emphasized the central teaching authority of the Catholic Church, the magisterium, disseminated through the 6,000 Catholic bishops throughout the world. This teaching is clear and definite, but always open to new developments through the work of the Holy Spirit, recognising the need to express it relevantly to subsequent generations. From the early 1970s differing religions were all searching for answers to 'ultimate' questions, such as the nature of divinity, ways of life, and suffering. Taking this into account is part of official Roman Catholic Church policy.

Continue Reading

Report of Meeting on January 27th 2015


Sunrising Natural Burial Ground
www.sunrisingburialground.co.uk


Emma Restall Orr is the manager and founder of the Sunrising Natural Burial Ground at Tysoe, south Warwickshire, and describes herself as a mystic. She, her husband and a ecologist friend bought 16 acres of set-aside land near Tysoe nearly nine years ago as ‘an experiment in ethical business’. Her background is in counselling the dying and those caring for a dying loved one. She has worked in hospices, and studied Druidism for 25 years. She experiences continual pain and describes her body as frequently dysfunctional.

Continue Reading

Report of meeting on 18th November 2014

Scriptural Reasoning - the Bhagavad Gita

On November 18th 2014 Mark Humphries led SAIF members in a study of a text of the Bhagavad Gita, which led to an animated discussion of creation, re-incarnation, death, karma, and ethical issues around violence. Mark distributed the handout printed below.

BHAGAVAD GITA – THE SONG OF GOD

Extracts from the final chapter 18, texts 61-65

Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and a man called Arjuna, which took place at Kurukshetra in India just over 5000 years ago, where a huge battle between the forces of good and evil took place. Krishna and Arjuna were seated on a chariot and had a long conversation just before the forces of evil attacked Arjuna’s forces of good. Arjuna wanted to abandon his duty to protect the kingdom and its helpless civilians, and run away from the battle, because he had relatives in both of the opposing armies, and feared a sinful reaction if he fought.

Continue Reading

Report of meeting on 23rd September 2014

Scriptural Reasoning - The Baha'i Scriptures

On this occasion John Longcroft-Neal, of the Baha’i community in Nuneaton, introduced us to a text from the Baha’i Scriptures. This was one of our continuing series of Scriptural Reasoning, where we share together our reactions to a text from the faith of one of our members.

Continue Reading

Report of meeting on 10th July 2014

Contemporary Spirituality & Popular Music

SAIF met on once-familiar territory for this summer event. Because of a change of day to Thursday for this meeting, the Friends Meeting House was unavailable to us, so we met in the newly-refurbished Stratford Methodist Church. This was the venue for all the early planning meetings before SAIF was truly launched in 2009.

For this meeting our speaker was the Revd Dr Vaughan Roberts, Rector of the Warwick Team Ministry and Rector of St Mary’s Church, Warwick. Vaughan has long had an interest in popular music of all sorts, and in particular its relationship to religion, so SAIF was happy for him to change from the advertised focus on Dr Who and popular culture. During a wide-ranging reflection he played three recorded pieces of music which helped us to think about the issues described in his handout, which is reproduced below.

Continue Reading

Report of Meeting 20th May 2014

Rehanah Sadiq, Muslim chaplain to the University Hospitals Birmingham and the Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

Rehanah told us her life-story and her faith journey, beginning in Gujranwala in the Pakistani Punjab, where her father was from a muhajir family, one of those who emigrated from India to the new country of Pakistan at the time of the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947. Muhajirs wanted to live under a Muslim government, not in Hindu-dominated India, and saw themselves as following the example of the prophet Muhammad in his migration from Mecca to Medina. However, Rehanah says that she can’t claim this of her parents as they lived closely and happily with Hindu and Sikh communities. Her mother still enquires after the whereabouts of her best Hindu friend to this day every time she comes across a new Hindu contact. Like so many families, it was natural to go along with their religious grouping.

Continue Reading

Report on 2014 AGM & Address

The SAIF meeting of March 25th 2014 was the fourth Annual General Meeting of the Forum and began with the report of the Chairman, Canon Dr Christopher Lamb, as follows.

“It has been a typical year for SAIF. At our AGM this time last year Jatinder Birdi of the Sikh community spoke on the Interfaith Movement and caused some questioning in his audience by concentrating on the social activities that people of different faiths should in his view be involved with. In May we welcomed Hari das from the Hare Krishna Temple in Coventry who spoke on the title ‘From Knowledge to Realisation’, and when he paused for breath answered our questions! In July Nicholas White introduced us to his community, with the brief: ‘The Christadelphians: who they are and what they believe.’ Some found this a very conservative, not to say fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity, so it was an important exercise in listening. Listening to one another is of course one of our major aims as we meet.

Continue Reading

Report on meeting 21st January 2014

Led by the Reverend Ros Murphy

Where Next?

A reflection based on Making Sense of Religious Pluralism by Alan Race

‘In this aeon, diversity of religions is the will of God’. These words from Jewish sage Abraham Joshua Heschel, in 1966 were ahead of their time, but today, some theologians are beginning to take this concept seriously.

Affirming religious plurality can be unnerving, especially for faiths which are monotheistic.

All traditions which are ordered in terms of ‘transcendent vision and human transformation’ have a tendency to want to encourage others into their ‘sacred space’. Even where ‘other faiths’ have been encountered, they are often considered ‘at best, pale reflections’.

The Islamic poet, Rumi wrote that ‘The lamps are many, but the light is one; it comes from Beyond’. It is sometimes said, that the religions are ‘all the same really’ – but can we really claim this, or is there something deeper?

Continue Reading

Report of Meeting 12th November 2013

A personal view

We were not very many on this evening, but that probably made for better discussion. Everyone contributed to an evening of Scriptural Reasoning on the account of the Coming of the Magi (the 'Wise Men' from the Christmas story) from St Matthew's Gospel, chapter 2, verses 1-12.

Continue Reading

Report of Meeting 24th September 2013

We had our first Scriptural Reasoning meeting round a Buddhist text from the Lotus Sutra, introduced by David Izen.  The text is printed below.  David was accompanied by a Buddhist colleague, Linda, and following David's brief description of the place of this text in the Nichiren tradition we divided into two groups to study it.

David told us that this passage was part of the Buddha's penultimate teaching, and that the Buddha had said 'ignore my previous teaching'.  His very last teaching was about Nirvana.  Courage, wisdom and compassion were the key qualities to aim for, and this parable tells us we have access to them if we care to look within for the jewel in the robe.

Continue Reading

A brief report on the meeting of 9th July 2013

The Christadelphians

Nicholas White came with his wife and two daughters and a Christadelphian friend to speak about their faith. Put simply, the concern of Christadelphians is to concentrate on what the Bible actually says. One of their heroes is the Bible translator William Tyndale, who believed in 'manifest and open Scripture'. The word Christadelphian means 'Brothers and Sisters in Christ', and the movement dates from the 1832 journey of Dr John Thomas from Britain to America. This was an eight-week voyage in which there was a tremendous storm which drove Thomas to ask deep questions about his life and faith. In America he met Alexander Campbell, and the result of detailed Bible study was the publication of The Apostolic Advocate (1835) and Elpis Israel (1848 - elpis meaning 'hope').

Continue Reading

Report of Meeting 7th May 2013

Speaker: Hari das, President of the Coventry Hare Krishna Temple

Hari das told us he was born in Kenya in 1950 and came to England in 1968. After university he worked for Rolls Royce, and was part of a rock band. He loved the British humour but not the food of the 1970s. Now it has changed so much. He goes to India about twice a year, and values his dual heritage, Indian and British.

He began by teaching us the Hare Krishna chant, accompanied on the guitar. It is a way of praising the attractiveness and energy of God. We joined in, rather uncertainly. Then he focussed on the necessity of the inner life with the image of a banana – something he often does with children. ‘What’s this?’ – ‘A banana’ – ‘What’s it for?’ – ‘To eat’ – ‘Here, you eat it; hey, what are you doing?’ – ‘Taking the skin off’ – ‘But it’s all banana’ – ‘Yes, but I want what’s inside’ – ‘Well, did God make a mistake, giving it a cover?’ – ‘No, that keeps it clean and stops it going rotten’ – ‘Ah, it’s the inside that matters then.’

Continue Reading

SAIF 4th Annual General Meeting - 19th March 2013

Apologies

Brenda Birnie, Mike & Kathy Eldridge, Kathleen Randall

Chairman’s Brief Review of 2012

We had some excellent meetings in 2012, of which Jason Hart’s ‘Journey in Buddhism’ stands out for me, as does Adam Thorne’s account of Abdul Baha’s visit to the UK 100 years ago. We also welcomed Bill Heilbronn again, and heard about Paganism from Marianne Rohan, and made a visit to Coventry Cathedral on the 50th anniversary of the new building. 

Continue Reading

SAIF Meeting on January 17th 2013

The SAIF speaker for our first meeting of 2013 was Muhammad Badraddin Sadoq, who goes by the name of ‘Med’.  Med was born and brought up in the city of Fez in Morocco, and he brought a Moroccan friend with him called Mourad.  Med’s mother tongue is Arabic, and he was educated largely in French, so English is his third language, but we had few problems in understanding what he had to tell us.  

Continue Reading

Panel Discussion on "How do we live our faith?" - Thursday November 8th 2012

SAIF met for what has become its annual panel discussion meeting, drawing on these occasions on its own resources as its members lead the debate. The topic was How do we live our faith?

Continue Reading

Meeting on 25th September 2012 - A talk given by Adam Thorne about the visits of Abdul Baha to Europe and America in 1912/13

For more about Abdul Baha click here. To go to the Baha'i Faith website click here

After Adam’s graphic presentation of the reception Abdul Baha received on his visits, particularly in London and Bristol, questions focussed on the Baha’i faith itself.

Continue Reading

Meeting on Islam 5th July 2012

Our summer meeting took place as usual at the Friends Meeting House in Stratford-upon-Avon.  We were hoping to hear from Mr Qamar Bhatti, a distinguished Muslim from Coventry, about the variety of Muslim traditions in the world today, and how what he describes as the ‘silent Muslim majority’ can play its part in creating a compassionate, creative society in Britain.

Continue Reading

Report on the SAIF AGM March 20th 2012

The meeting at The Friends’ Meeting house in Stratford began with the now customary time of shared silence.

Chair Christopher Lamb listed the names of six members who had sent their apologies.

Chair’s Report

Christopher then reviewed the progress of SAIF, now in its fifth year.

Continue Reading

Talk on Paganism given by Marianne Rohan on 17th January 2012

Christopher Lamb introduced Marianne Rohan and her friend Edith, Ed for short.   Thanks to the Warwick District Forum we have Marianne Rohan.

I’m Marianne

Basically we believe the Earth is our Mother and we are part of the mother and the mother is part of us and we’re part of nature and nature is part of us and there’s spirit is in everything.  There’s spirit in trees, the sun, other animals, the starts, the moon, and we’re all connected in a web of spirit and this is the life force of the universe.

Continue Reading

Science, Modernity & Religion - Report on SAIF Meeting on Monday 7 November 2011

This meeting was in the form of a panel of 3 speakers, chaired by Revd Christopher Lamb. Mr Mike Eldridge from Stratford Christian Science Church spoke first, followed by Dr Lim Ho from Stratford Methodist Church with Mr Paddy Vickers from the Baha'i Community speaking last.

Continue Reading

Talk on Zoroastrianism given by Mehru Fitter at the URC on Tuesday 20th September 2011

Mehru Fitter started by explaining that she was born in Mombasa and grew up in Kenya, although her family’s roots are in Gujarat in India.  She studied in Pune in India and later in Newcastle and London.  She was initially a teacher in Kenya but moved to the UK and became a librarian, first in Southampton and then in Coventry. In 2003 she was honoured with an MBE for ‘Excellence in Library Provision in a Multi-cultural Society’.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 Stratford on Avon Interfaith Forum
Website by Sites in Mind