Kat Brealey took up the role of Presence and Engagement National Programme Coordinator at the end of August. Here she reflects on her first few months in the job and looks to the new year.Three months in seems like a good time to take stock and share some of my initial thoughts on what I’ve seen and heard since I arrived. The post is 2.5 days a week, which I currently combine with my role at the University of Bristol Multifaith Chaplaincy. As Chaplaincy Assistant, I create opportunities for students to explore both their own faith and that of others, and to encounter the range of faith traditions found within the university community. Something you quickly learn is how to work within the distinctive environment of the University, and I was attracted to Presence and Engagement by its recognition of the importance of context. Mission and ministry in multifaith areas is not addressed by a ‘one size fits all’ model, but rather is about equipping Christians with the resources to discover for themselves what faithful witness looks like in their locality. I hope to explore over the coming months new ways that Presence and Engagement can empower both clergy and congregations for this task.
To this end, I have spent the past few months visiting different parts of the country to hear from those already involved in interfaith engagement about the opportunities and challenges this presents. In my hometown Bristol, as well as in Bradford, Birmingham and London I met clergy in Presence and Engagement parishes, to see the range of ways they are engaging with their local communities. I’ve also been visiting those who encourage and resource this work, spending time at each of the four Presence and Engagement centres to gain an insight into their differing approaches.
On my travels, I’ve heard so many positive example of engagement whether at parish, diocesan or regional level; however these often aren’t widely circulated. It would be great to begin to share stories and ideas more widely, and I hope that the Presence and Engagement website might become a place where this can happen. We have some things already lined up to share with you, but over the coming months I’ll be appealing for submissions too, so that this site can be a regularly updated source of encouragement and inspiration. At our gathering of Diocesan Interfaith Officers in February we’ll also be launching a Twitter account, where we’ll be sharing news and updates as well as articles and resources relating to interfaith engagement.
Looking to the future, we are pleased to welcome Rev. Mark Poulson as National Adviser for Inter Religious Affairs from January 2015. Mark is currently vicar of St John’s, Southall, and brings significant experience of parish ministry in religiously and culturally diverse settings. 2015 will also mark ten years since the original Presence and Engagement report was published. Together Mark and I, along with the other members of the Inter Religious Affairs team, will be exploring how we take Presence and Engagement forward in a way that is both relevant and sustainable for the decade to come. We want this to be a two-way conversation, and so I look forward to meeting more of you in the coming weeks and months, and hearing how Presence and Engagement can better serve you in your ministry and service in multifaith areas.