2016/04

The forum met at St Mary's hall on 27 April 2016 with Vicci Davidson in the chair and Paul Danon minuting. Apologies had been received from Catherine Gash, Anne Gooding, John Latham, Wendy Salmon, Jenny Snashall and Rev Gareth Wardell. There were some 12 members present. Derek opened the meeting with devotions. 
Minutes of the 28 February forum had been circulated and they were accepted as accurate. It has been hard to hear Ms Nibagwire at that meeting, though she had much to share.

The present meeting had been convened to discuss the forum's future. Distribution of hot cross buns at stations in holy week had been a success, though more people were needed to help with the actual giving out of the buns. Some folk could find doing that difficult, including because of the rejection from some intended recipients. The Hampton Hill Christmas parade was an opportunity for witness. Keynote speakers had drawn larger audiences than the current meeting. There was a discussion about the forum's role. Ecumenism was too often paid lip-service. CTaH needed to get Christians to do something serious together. There needed to be genuine concern for the lack of unity, and for the way that churches tended to do their own thing. Members of congregations tended to be busy; people's own churches occupied a lot of their spare time. Ecumenism could be seen as a burdensome extra. Many Catholics solely attended Mass and there was no room for other activity; ecumenism was seen as a niche interest.

Vicci had attended an interfaith meeting which had concluded that interfaith social cohesion came when people of faith engaged together in action on addressing societal needs. She also described ecumenical initiatives at Southend on Sea. The churches commissioned artists to decorate crosses which were left in public places and labelled "please take me". On another occasion, they made Easter-themed icons from familiar mass-processed items; shops displayed them in their windows; social media were also used. At Christmas, they had set up a flash-mob nativity in a shopping-area. They also posed the question: "who is your Christmas icon?"; people were invited to pose for photographs standing behind decorated screens with head-holes in them. Christians could also have ecumenical bible-study, where churches' existing house-groups could study the same passages and then come together for an away-day. The meeting broke into groups, and report-backs included:
  • bring and share lunches
  • Queen's birthday barbecue
  • invite others to Sunday-evensong (one is planned at St Mary's for pentecost)
  • ecumenical songs of praise for Christian Unity week
  • monthly Taizé service (regrettably not popular with Baptists) in different churches with a programme organised a year ahead; forum meetings to follow such services
  • music and/or art could draw people in
  • the need both to consolidate Christians' faith and for that faith to be spread
  • the need for something new rather than the same old formats which people might attend only because they generously want to provide support
  • street-theatre may be more suited to areas like Southend and Twickenham
  • ecumenical Alpha could both bring Christians together and help them spread their faith (the Methodists are running Alpha weekly from 28 September)
  • awayday at which our differences and shared beliefs can be discussed; maybe with an ecumenical panel of ministers and/or experts (cf the forum-meeting on the mother of Christ which had been addressed by an Orthodox priest)
  • the need to do just one thing well, maybe for Easter
  • koinonia (prayer and socialising), kerygma (proclamation) and diakonia (helping the poor and advocacy for them)
  • holy week events: buns on Tuesday; good Friday; holy Saturday bonfire on the green from which each church would get its Easter-light; donkeys on palm Sunday (to be discussed at future clergy meetings); stations of the cross processing between churches
  • there is an ecumenical prayer-meeting run by Christians in Hampton at the Baptist church. Issues are prayed about. This could be promoted by CTaH; other churches could host it. 
We had written to Dr Mathias about a concern for Christian refugees and she had replied. She had also been one of the few Conservatives who has voted to take 3,000 child refugees. The forum would thank her for that vote and keep the dialogue going on Christian refugees. We would publicise such correspondence. It was suggested that the churches clubbed together to host a refugee-family. There had been requests for people owning properties to come forward to the diocese of London or the borough. The forum could publicise the call for landlords through churches. Refugees could be the subject of the 29 June forum and Derek would approach the London diocese's refugee response coordinator about addressing that meeting; Dr Mathias could be invited.

The number of clients of the food bank had increased slightly. Dr Mathias intends to visit the food bank and help clients. It is thought that there is a genuine need for the food bank. Affordable housing in Hampton was an issue for a future forum. Vicci will provide the name of an organisation which builds homes costing a third of the median income to live in. That organisation could provide a forum speaker. The government is requiring all housing associations to cut rents by one percent per year for four years. This actually cut the government's housing benefit bill, and meant there was less money for building new homes.

The Servant Queen, a book produced by the Bible Society is about the monarch's faith. It is £10 for 10 copies but it cannot be sold. The Baptists are using it as an evangelistic tool; the Methodists will be giving some out at the carnival. Members would think who might be the new secretary from September's AGM. Duncan will ask St Francis de Sales to host the 29 June forum; an alternative could be the Methodists. The list of representatives needs to be revisited. The ministers could examine this at their next meeting on 9 May. If reps cannot attend a forum, they should be encouraged to send a substitute.

The meeting closed with prayer.
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