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Inter-Religious Work

by Gerry Lynch last modified 13 Dec, 2017 05:37 PM

The Diocese works to promote good relations and deeper understanding between Christians and people of other faiths

“We should always "be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us, but with gentleness and respect" and we must remember that people of other faiths are also loved by God, and can be touched by Him when they pray.

“Inter-religious understanding and engagement is just as important in areas like this Diocese where minority faiths are small. Stereotypes arise more easily where people rarely meet those of other faiths.” - Canon Guy Wilkinson

The Diocese has relatively small communities belonging to faiths other than Christianity, although there is a well established Jewish community in the Greater Bournemouth-Poole area, and small communities of Muslims in several of the larger towns, most notably in Trowbridge, Poole, and Salisbury. There are individuals belonging to all major world faiths scattered across the Diocese.

Among New Religious Movements, the neopagan movement is larger in Wiltshire than almost anywhere else in the country.

Bishop Nicholas regularly writes to leaders of other religions in the Diocese around major festivals, to extend good wishes and recognise their contribution to the common good.



The 8 things you need to know about the 8 days of Chanukah

Dr Irene Lancaster Wed 13 Dec 2017 in Christian Today

 Here are eight things you need to know about the eight days of Chanukah which started last night:

1) In around 166 BCE, the Hellenized Seleucid Syrians under Antiochus Epiphanes ('G-d Manifest') defiled the Temple of Jerusalem the capital city of the Jews. They did this by contaminating the oil used to light the Menorah and sacrificing pigs to their own gods. When the Maccabee family decided to take action to safeguard their capital city, their Temple and their religion, they found one small jar of oil unopened, which miraculously lasted for eight days – hence the festival of Chanukah. The Maccabees later became the Hasmonean dynasty.

2) As is normal in Jewish history, the main struggle for the Jews who wanted to remain Jewish was with those Jews who wanted to remain Hellenized. To remain Hellenized meant to take part in the Olympic games, worship the body and discard the biblical values of Judaism as manifest in the Bible and rabbinic commentaries.

3) Olive oil is used to anoint the sacred. Both King David and King Solomon were anointed with olive oil, as is the monarch in this country. However, in Judaism anointing with oil does not purify the person. If the person is already tainted (whether monarch or not), no amount of oil will get rid of the stain, and that is what Chanukah is all about. The menorah we light today has eight candles, one for each day of the miracle of the oil. The Hebrew word for oil is 'shemen'. The word for 8 is connected: 'shemoneh'.

4) The importance of oil to the festival is the reason for using oil in festive foods, such as latkes, doughnuts and kugels. In Hebrew doughnuts are known as 'sufganiot'

5) The 4-sided spinning tops for children known as dreidels in Yiddish and as sevivon in Hebrew were used as a subversive toy to fool the powers-that-be over more than 2000 years. The authorities forbade the Jewish people to commemorate the festival or to study Torah. The Hebrew letters on the sevivon stand for 'A great miracle happened here'.

6) The festival starts on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev (no connection whatsoever with Christmas), which falls any time from late November till late December.

7) The original menorah had 7 prongs as specified by G-d to Moses in Exodus 25. One such can be seen in Titus' triumphalist Arch in Rome, after he had sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in the year 70 CE, when the Jews were exiled from their capital city and either murdered by him or enslaved.

8) You need 44 candles to celebrate the 8 days of Chanukah – it being eventually decided that the number of candles lit at home should be increased by one every day.

Now menorahs are lit all over the world. Last night menorahs were lit at the White House, the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin and the Brandenburg Gate.

Christian Witness in a plural world

The World Council of Churches, the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance have been working together over the past 5 years towards a document now published offering guidelines for evangelism in religiously plural societies.

The Guidelines, which are quite a short read can be read here

The opening preamble says:

"Mission belongs to the very being of the church. Proclaiming the word of God and witnessing to the world is essential for every Christian. At the same time, it is necessary to do so according to gospel principles, with full respect and love for all human beings.

The purpose of this document is to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices and to use the recommendations in this document to prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission among those of different religions and among those who do not profess any particular religion. It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed."

The first two "bases for Christian witness are these:

"1. For Christians it is a privilege and joy to give an accounting for the hope that is within them and to do so with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

2. Jesus Christ is the supreme witness (cf. John 18:37). Christian witness is always a sharing in his witness, which takes the form of proclamation of the kingdom, service to neighbour and the total gift of self even if that act of giving leads to the cross. Just as the Father sent the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, so believers are sent in mission to witness in word and action to the love of the triune God."

All parishes in Salisbury diocese are 'plural', meaning that Christians are often a minority in the midst of a wide variety of beliefs - particularly in our context, secular, atheistic and agnostic. So these are helpful to us as well as to more faith diverse urban contexts

Bishop Nicholas:Trowbridge mosque visits St James' church


The Church Urban Fund Near Neighbours programme seeks to bring people together who are near neighbours in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know each other better, build relationships of trust, and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in. Learn more at

The Church of England Presence & Engagement programme helps parishes be a truly national Church in areas of high religious diversity, following report to General Synod Presence and Engagement: the churches' task in a multi Faith society. It encourages and supports the mission and ministry of parishes and other Anglican communities in multi-religious contexts, supported by the Church of England's national Adviser on Inter Faith relations.

The BBC website has a useful introductory guide to the beliefs of a wide variety of religions - visit it here.

Porvoo Guidelines: inter-religious encounter in churches of the Porvoo Communion
The Porvoo Communion draws together Anglican churches from Britain and Ireland with Lutheran churches from Scandinavia and the Baltic. These guidelines emerged from a consultation held in Oslo in December 2003. They have no official status, but offer some practical pointers on pastoral issues.

Inter Faith Marriage Guidelines: advice from a Christian perspective.

Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON) of the Anglican Communion.

The Bournemouth and Wessex Branch of the Council of Christians and Jews meets 4-5 times per year with attendance at meetings from 60 up. More details at

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