Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture, 17 November 2020

This event was timed to follow Interfaith Week and the Very Reverend Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester Cathedral, delivered a most inspiring talk entitled “Interfaith: connection and inclusion for the common good.” Over forty people zoomed in to hear the Dean talk about how we should all celebrate diversity and difference in our cities and towns, as we are all made in the image of God. He cited Nelson Mandela as an example of someone who had a vision of the common good, someone who was able to make peace even with those who had put him in prison for 27 years. Mahatma Gandhi also had a vision of a united humanity. The Dean contrasted these great men with what has been happening in the United States where the common good is not put first and he prayed that things would calm down there swiftly.

Dean Govender suggested that Mandela’s vision of enemies living in peace together should be an example to us and that we should create conditions where all people can flourish. We should look for the well-being of everyone, celebrate difference and make connections with people outside our normal boundaries. Our Interfaith group is a good example of this and we must ensure that religion does not divide people. No one should think his or her religion is better than the others, as all the religions are connected and we are all humankind. Inclusion of others is important, regardless of gender, creed or sexuality. We should work together – as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “Face to face is good but side by side is better.” The Dean challenged us by asking what we were doing to promote this vision? We each must develop harmony, respect and compassion for the homeless, the poor and for children.

Following his address there were many questions and the discussion ranged far and wide, from suggesting projects we could all do together, comparisons between life here and in South Africa (the Dean’s original home), the problems of aging congregations in churches and the need to attract young people, the evils of terrorism and whether faith schools should be banned or not. The Dean stressed the importance of promoting the common good and good values, and how we must look to the future.

It was an excellent evening and we thank the Dean most sincerely for a truly uplifting and positive experience.

Carolyn Jones (Hon. Sec., Altrincham Interfaith Group)