This year Northampton County Council are doing a survey of all the faith groups in the town, the extent of their activities, number of adherents, and their possible needs. The Northampton Chronicle wrote a short piece on the research this morning.
As part of the survey Iw as able to respond to question about our building needs, so, of course, I mentioned the community centre that is urgently required. More directly, they asked: If there was a multi-faith centre created for the use of those of all faiths, would we be interesting in using it?
My answer to that was this: Yes I would, but they would be better off dropping the name ‘multi-faith centre’. Behind that name is the assumption that all faiths are essentially the same, so they can be lumped together in the same building. Whilst there are some similarities between faiths, there are fundamental differences too and these differences make up the distinctiveness and the core of the individual faith. They would be better off building some sort of community building which, whilst not named as such, would be open to all faiths to use if they wish.
In my final comment, I intended to make clear one of the core values of our church – to build up the community for the benefit of all – and what is required for us to be able to meet it well:
Being on a new-build development has it’s challenges. There are so many opportunities to add to the life of the community precisely because it is a new community with no existing traditions. There is also a very high proportion of preschool and primary school-aged children. As a church, we see it as our purpose to strengthen the community by offering groups and services where, at the base level, people can simply come together and get to know one another. It is close relationships that turn a housing development into a community and lead towards a stable and cohesive society.
We are doing what we can with what we’ve got, but eagerly desire the practicality of larger space to hold our meetings and offer options to the community. A new community centre is essential for St Crispin’s, and fast!