Our Diocesan Interfaith Advisor is Revd David Gifford
David aims to be a bridge between the diocese and other faith groups and communities who are our neighbours. He hopes to share information and news from time to time and update are made to this page accordingly. Please contact David Gifford for details about his work.
There are lots of resources available to help churches and individuals explore interfaith dialogue and build communities.f you are interested in finding out more about resources available for those interested in interfaith partnership and relationship building, please contact David Gifford.
The following is a list of organisations and their websites that may offer some useful information and support:
- Presence and Engagement - The Church of England’s national programme equips Christians for mission and ministry in the wonderful diversity of our multi-faith society.
- Near Neighbours - A national Church Urban Fund network that aims to bring near neighbours in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse together.
- The Interfaith Network - A national network that advances public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain.
- Interfaith Week - This usually takes place in November and aims to: Strengthen good interfaith relations at all levels; Increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution that their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society; Increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.
- Council of Christians and Jews - The leading nationwide forum for Christian - Jewish engagement
- Christian - Muslim Forum - The leading national forum for Christian-Muslim engagement.
- Interserve - A non-denominational Christian missional community that works in cross-cultural mission in the UK as well as abroad.
- Global Connections - Global Connections have brought together resources and materials to help Christians understand and share their faith with people from other faith backgrounds.
- Herefordshire Interfaith Group - a local group for the benefit of all those who follow a faith, have a spiritual inclination or just want to learn more.
- South Shropshire Interfaith Group - based in South Shropshire the group encompasses Ludlow, Craven Arms, Church Stretton & Bishops Castle and many smaller towns & villages in the surrounding area representing interfaith dialogue and encounter.
The month of Ramadhan and fasting
Ramadhan is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar and holds a special significance as it is the month in which Muslims all around the world fast, i.e they refrain from any food or drink from dawn until sunset each day.
Ramadhan will commence on April 2nd 2022. As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the month is either 29 or 30 days and each year Ramadhan shifts by around 10 days (i.e., in 2023, Ramadhan will commence circa. March 22)Fasting is a required act of worship for all adults who are healthy and capable of fasting, the Quran gives the reason for fasting as a means of developing a greater awareness and consciousness of God: “Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God” (Translated Meaning of Quran: 2:183) This verse also mentions the fact that previous religious communities were also prescribed to fast and indeed references to fasting can certainly be found in Christianity and Judaism (both of these communities are extensively referred to in the Quran as “People of the Scripture”). Fasting is also a means to engender a sense of gratitude for the blessings and create empathy towards those who don’t have such good fortune. It’s also a method to create self-discipline and self-improvement.
In addition to fasting other acts are strongly encouraged, prayers, reciting the Quran and charity being among them, so every evening, additional prayers are held in most mosques and fund-raising activity also takes place. Abstaining from poor behaviours which are generally discouraged such as quarrelling, raising one’s voice, backbiting, gossiping and breaking family ties are emphasised in even stronger terms during this month, the idea being that if one is prone to these acts, then by breaking these habits for the month will facilitate leaving such things for good.
The end of the month is marked by the Festival of Eid, in which special prayers are held in the morning, charity is distributed, and families generally get together to mark the end of the fasting period. Although fasting is required during Ramadhan, voluntary fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and the three middle days of each month as well as various occasions throughout the year are recommended.
Zack Pandor, a Muslim member of Herefordshire Interfaith Group explains how Muslims observe Ramadhan:
"A typical day for me in Ramadhan would be Breakfast around 4:30 (this would change by a minute or two each day), consisting of cereal and a banana and a large glass of water, followed by prayers.
Then a few hours sleep before work (start around 08:30 until 4:30) with a break for prayers around 1 pm.
After work, I will probably try and get a ‘power nap’, about an hour or so then prayers and get ready for breaking the fast around 8 pm. It’s traditional to have dates and water to break the fast and I normally have some fruit and a homemade fruit yoghurt as well (see recipe below). We will then say a short prayer and then have our main meal. What you find after a few days of fasting, when your body has adjusted to a new routine, is that a small amount of food is sufficient.
After dinner, we have the main night prayers at the mosque, and we get home around 1130pm, so a few hours sleep, then back up again for breakfast.
This is Zack's Yoghurt Recipe:
• 3 tablespoons of thick Greek yogurt per person
• Chopped Dates, walnuts and berries
• Cold pressed honey (avoid the supermarket stuff!) or brown sugar to taste
The BBC Children’s website usefully tells us that Judaism began around 4000 years ago in the Middle East. Take a look at this attractive website explanation which will help build a good basic foundation of this faith.
Throughout history the story of the Jews is one of journeying and that for many reasons. So today Jews are found all over the world in what is called the Diaspora. The State of Israel in the Middle East is a Jewish State, but most Jews live outside in the diaspora; according to the Jewish Agency for Israel 2022, just over 7 million live in the State of Israel and 18 million around the world.<
In the UK the Jewish Community is found mostly in urban areas like Manchester, London and Leeds, but cities like Newcastle, Hull, Birmingham, Oxford and Bristol still have vibrant Jewish communities.
Judaism is very diverse with groupings from the most observant and traditional to those who are entirely cultural or secular with many shades in between.
From the last census there are just over 271 000 Jews in the UK.
Hereford did at one time have a small Jewish community during the Middle Ages. Indeed, the Jewish community in Hereford is believed to have started during reign of King Henry II and then in around 1216 the Right of Jews to live in Hereford was confirmed during early part of the reign of Henry III.
However, in common with all Jews across the country they were expelled under the orders of Richard III in 1290; but it was not until 1656 that Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews back into England.
Following that there was no organised Jewish community as such in Hereford until the founding of a Liberal Jewish community as late as the 1990s.
Today the Jewish Community is still very small, but finds a sense of community with the Liberal Jewish Communities of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire (called the Three Counties Liberal Jewish Community) and meet once a month for Shabbat (Sabbath) and the major religious festivals. You can learn more about the Three Counties Liberal Jewish Community via their website.
Christianity arose out of Judaism; Jesus was a Jew, as were all the disciples and apostle, Paul. Our liturgy at services contains much material and passages from the Old Testament (perhaps better called The Hebrew Scriptures). Even some church architecture can be traced back to synagogue design. Islam also has a respectful attitude to the Hebrew scriptures and includes many of the prophets.
It may be said that the strength and dynamic focus of Judaism for many is in the Home as well as (for many instead of) the synagogue.
There are a number of words that help us to build a better understanding of being Jewish these are:
- Synagogue - often referred to as Shul שול. It is a Yiddish word meaning, “school.” This informs us that the synagogue is a place of learning, teaching and often community gathering. Synagogues replaced the Temple in Jerusalem after its destruction by the Romans in CE70.
- Shabbat - The Sabbath. This starts at sundown on the Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. The family will often have a meal together with special candles, bread loaf called Challah and red wine and say special prayers to welcome in the Sabbath. The challah is broken and shared and the wine is poured into one glass or goblet kept for the Friday Shabbat meal and this too is shared with everyone. The more observant Jewish families will refrain from work so will only walk to the Synagogue on the Saturday as using any engine – like a car, bus or train is considered to be work. Some too will not use electricity, carry, or spend money.
- Rabbi - A spiritual leader or more properly a teacher; not like an ordained Christian priest or minister. In fact, any Jew can conduct a service (within the rules of their own tradition)
- Tanakh - the Hebrew words for the Bible/Scriptures. It will include Torah (the Law), Nevi’im (The Prophets) and Ketuv’im (The Writings - like the Psalms and Proverbs). The Sefer Torah are the scrolls that are brought out to be read at the Shabbat Service in the Synagogue
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah - This is a ceremony held in the synagogue when traditionally a boy (Bar Mitzvah) and in more progressive communities a girl (Bat Mitzvah) reaches the age of 13. Mitzvah means Commandment and so Bar Mitzvah is Son of the Commandment as Bar Mitzvah is Daughter of the Commandment. For some it is seen as a coming-of-age ceremony or ritual, for others it is an affirmation of Jewish identity. If you are invited to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony / service, it is well worth attending. Learn more about Bar/Bat Mitzvah day
- The Mishnah - Rabbi Judah the Patriarch published the Mishnah in the second century CE and it contains sections dealing with agriculture, sacred times, women and personal status, damages, holy things, and purity laws
- The Talmud - This literally translated means “study” and it expands on the Mishnah. The Talmud is not like a book you read as a novel or as a book of the Bible, it contains rabbinic decisions on interpretation of Torah and is more like a reference book of precedent. The Talmud is studied and for many young men and women this would be at a Jewish educational establishment called a Yeshiva. There are two Talmuds; the Babylonian Talmud, written in Babylon (Iraq today) and the Jerusalem Talmud- written in what is now Northern Israel.
The website: My Jewish Learning provides further information about Judaism.
There are several major and minor Jewish Festivals throughout the year and most commemorate events in Jewish history.
The principal festivals are below. Some will have resonance with Christian festivals too. We provide a link after each festival below which gives more information for those leading services and for teachers.
We would encourage as far as is practical and appropriate that mention be made, prayers said, and material from the internet links may inform preachers who may wish to make reference to these Festivals
The three main Pilgrim Festivals - in biblical times people travelled to the Temple in Jerusalem:
- Pesach - Passover - March/April
- Shavuot - Pentecost - May/June
- Sukkot - Tabernacles - September/October
There are also main high holy days - these are:
- Rosh Hashanah - New Year - September/October
- Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement - September/October
- Simchat Torah - Rejoicing of the law - September/October
Other holy festivals include:
- Hannukah / Chanukah - festival of lights - November/December
- Purim - February/March
- Yom Hashoah - April/May
Passover or as it is correctly known Pesach ("PAY-sock")
Pesach commemorates the Exodus of the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, as told in the Torah book of Exodus. For 8 days nothing made from fermented grain is eaten, so unleavened bread (Matzah), no beer or whisky but cider, wine and brandy are permitted. Pesach begins with a traditional meal, called a Seder, where symbolic foods are eaten to commemorate slavery and its ending. You can see opposite a table laid ready for the Seder. The evening includes a traditional service around the dining table that tells the story. Jews are instructed to remember that but for the exodus they would still be slaves themselves today.
If you meet a Jewish person over the Festival, you can always wish them a Happy & Meaningful Passover with: "Chag Pesach Sameach" (""KHAG PAY-sock sah-MEY-akh")
To learn more about the history and traditions of this festival Reform Judaism provides some further reading.
Shavuot or Pentecost falls between May and June each year. Shavout commemorates the receiving of Torah by Moses on Mount Sinai. Dairy products are eaten in advance of entering the land of milk and Honey.
Sukkot - Tabbernacles falls in September to October and is festival...
The most holy days for Jews are...
Unlike Pesach or Passover, Purim is a minor festival – so unimportant that the psalms of praise normally recited at festivals are not recited at Purim. Purim falls in the spring and recollects a fantasy, recounted in the late biblical book of Esther (the chief wife of the king, and Jewish), of the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from king Ahasuerus’s wicked chief minister, Haman, who plans their elimination because of the refusal of Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, to bow to him. In a reversal of fortunes, Haman himself is deposed and executed, Mordecai replaces him and the Jews themselves embark on an orgy
of violent revenge. The book seems to have been written in the fourth century BCE. The rabbis who compiled the final canon were determined to include Esther. Not only does it display Jews acting in an unacceptable manner, but it attributes the deliverance entirely to human machination, not divine intervention. The book doesn’t mention God at all. But it made its way in, and the festival of Purim is celebrated with an exuberance uncharacteristic of Jewish festivals generally.
The book of Esther is read in synagogue from the megillah, a single stem scroll, with each mention of Mordecai greeted with cheers and of Haman with boos. It is the one day of the year when Jews are licensed to get drunk – so drunk that they cannot distinguish between “Long live Mordecai” and “Down with Haman” – a licence of which in fact few Jews take full advantage!
People dress up in masquerade, and a play of the story is often performed. The whole festival is analogous, in fact, to other riotous folk festivals where, for one day, the servants become the masters.
It is traditional to send gifts of food to friends, and to give to charity. The traditional food for the festival is Hamantaschen – triangles of baked or fried pastry filled with poppy seeds.
The word Purim itself means “lots” and refers to an incident in the book where Haman casts lots to decide on which day to carry out his planned massacre.