This is the second in an occasional series of blogs for the Interfaith Foundation.  We want to capture and report some of the experiencing and thinking amongst Interfaith Foundation staff, tutors and others, and share this with our wider community of ministers and students.  This blog is contributed by Tim Pickles, Community Faciltiator. 

Interfaith Foundation logoI feel drawn to writing and sharing this morning.  For personal rather than professional reasons, the last few weeks have been anxious and fearful: I have become homeless whilst my home is repaired and I have been filled with a strong sense of unknowing and uncertainty.  It’s at times like this that we have the opportunity to re-member our deepest connections within.  I continue to be deeply appreciative of so many generous friends (both within and outside our interfaith community), and I am learning (again, and painfully) to surrender and trust that this process is an opening into new ways of living and serving others.

As well as bringing me some interesting ceremonies and clients, the last few months has also brought those of us serving in leadership and management roles within our community some new challenges.  Deep-rooted patterns of working are calling out for attention and healing; we need to open ourselves to different ways of relating together in our teams and groups.  I believe we need to keep opening to new ways of “walking our talk” in the ways we serve you, each other and God.

Last week I retreated for four days to a small Carmelite retreat house.  The joy of having four days filled with nothing is indescribable.  Just to be with my Self.  Just to be in contemplation.  Just to be open to hearing that heart voice more clearly beyond all the fuzz and noise of the external dramas.  Just to know – however fleetingly - that all will be well.

There are big questions to explore – both personally and professionally – about how we shape our future.  Do we wait patiently for the future to unfold?  Or do we seek to shape and design the direction?  Recently, the leadership group agreed a ‘strategic plan’ for the work of the whole Interfaith Foundation over the next two years.  The outline is available on the website if you’d like to read it.  But any such activity raises so many questions: whose ‘will’ does this plan represent?; is it merely wishful thinking?; how should we measure progress in our work of service, consciousness-raising and ministry to others?

I now perceive that we are evolving our work across the interfaith community in at least three evolutionary phases:

Phase 1, from 1996 to the present day, has been concerned with creating and offering a training pathway for those who are drawn to this work to expand their own awareness and be prepared to step forward as interfaith ministers and spiritual counsellors. Already over 370 people have completed our training, and a further 110 people are in training.  Our curriculum is being refined.  Our faculty team and supporters are strong.  The Seminary training is established.

Phase 2, commencing around a couple of years ago, is to provide meaningful support and nourishment to those people we have ordained as ministers.  Under the umbrella of the new IMA, we’ve begun to create tangible support services for our ministers: regular newsletters, a public register of ministers, resource materials, insurance, networking opportunities, Convocation, post-graduate events, event publicity, a website, etc.  These community support services can be expanded in future with your involvement and participation.

Phase 3 is only just starting to become visible.  It’s concerned with bringing interfaith ministry to wider awareness amongst the public community beyond ourselves.  We are starting to forge partner relations with a few related bodies.  We are beginning to promote the core identity of interfaith ministry.  And – crucially – we need to create effective materials that our ministers can use and take out into the world to offer this awareness to the wider public.

This is how I see the map of our work in the months and years ahead.  Whether it unfolds in this way is beyond my will.