Chairman’s Report – AGM 5th May 2020

A significant contribution of the Altrincham Interfaith Group is that it provides us with a way of meeting and making friends with people from different backgrounds. As a speaker from a previous shared meal once said “Learning about other faiths enables you to better understand your own”. This last year has provided us with many opportunities for making friends and for learning about the faith of others.

On 25th June, we enjoyed a spirited Cultural Entertainment Evening when Ann Angel skilfully hosted contributions from the Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities. We had bagpipes, singing accompanied by a guitar, Hindu dancing, Muslim story-telling and Jewish choir singing. There was frequent lively audience participation in the singing. A capacity audience of all ages thoroughly enjoyed the evening in All Saints Church Hall, Hale Barns.

On 11th July, there was an informative talk on “The Buddhist Path” by Ken Garrod at Westleigh, St Vincents Church. About 40 people attended this fascinating talk. The speaker answered questions readily and helpfully.

Altrincham Interfaith Group members supported the November Remembrance Day events locally, laying wreaths at the cenotaphs.

On November 21st Rev Bruce Thompson gave the Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture at St Ambrose Preparatory School, Hale Barns. His title was “The Responsibility of Faith in an Age of Impunity – how we might challenge the irresponsible words and actions that are disfiguring society”. It was lively and very relevant coming three weeks before the General Election. The audience of about fifty responded to his call to tackle the innuendo and hate messages on social media and in society. There was a thoughtful question and answer session afterwards.

Representatives of AIG have attended wider Interfaith occasions, including the Mayor of Trafford’s meeting on Community Cohesion; the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Manchester Cathedral; and two very moving Holocaust occasions, a Study Day at Menorah Synagogue and the Trafford Commemoration at the Waterside Plaza, Sale.

On February 15th we held the Shared Meal at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. The Mayor of Trafford, Councillor Rob Chilton, attended together with 160 guests. After opening prayers by Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim representatives, we enjoyed a delicious meal provided by members show-casing their unique styles of cooking. The address was given by a member of the Hindu Community, Ghanshyam Nabar, who spoke interestingly and personally about his Hindu faith. Everyone who was there felt the friendship and warmth of the occasion and the way people from different communities mixed together.

Since mid-March we have not been able to meet due to the coronavirus lockdown but electronic communication has taken place. On April 16th seven of us had a social Zoom meeting. We were able to share the ways different communities are keeping in touch with each other, practising their faith and carrying out social service during these unusual times.

I’d like to thank the committee for their support during the year. We are so fortunate in the services of our superlative secretary, Carolyn Jones. She keeps us in touch and co-ordinates our activities with skill and good humour – even when the computer lets her down! We are also grateful for the accountancy skills of our treasurer Gordon Levy. This year he successfully managed to secure a grant from Trafford Council which covered the hiring charge of the hall for our shared meal. Ann has ably facilitated the work of the Social Committee – on which more other members would be most welcome. Our Facebook page is kept up to date by Azhar Rasul, Cedric Knipe, Kaushik Chakraborty and Carolyn. Cedric regularly sends our contributions to the Messenger newspaper.

I hope this report gives a flavour of some of our activities this year. Thank you all for your support.

Mrs Ruth Neal (Chairman AIG)