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Friendship links between places of worship

An increasing number of places of worship have ongoing and positive links with one or more nearby places of worship of other faiths. 

Relationships of friendship

An increasing number of places of worship have ongoing and positive links with one or more nearby places of worship of other faiths.  Some of the ways that they form and sustain these are:

  • Having reciprocal exchanges of faith leaders speaking at each other’s services or meetings once or twice a year
  • Greetings sent to each other at key festivals
  • Invitations to join social celebrations at times of key festivals
  • Occasional exchange visits for interested congregation members
  • Joint events for, eg, Inter Faith Week, Mitzvah Day, Sadaqa Day, Sewa Day, Big Iftar etc
  • Periodic activities together – such as a joint social excursion

Places of worship differ – even within the same faith – in their structure. There may not be a ‘like for like’ pattern in terms of their worship or clergy.  However, that does not mean that there cannot be positive ongoing interaction.

In some instances, there may be dialogue about particular issues.

Oftentimes, a good relationship between individuals who are established within each community can be the basis for wider inter-community engagement. This might be friendships between the religious leaders, or between youth workers or other members of the community.

Photo: The Christian Muslim Forum

Twinning of places of worship

‘Twinning’ is where two places of worship of different faiths which have already developed a positive relationship enter into a more formal arrangement. This can involve such activities as:

  • Exchange visits of leaders and congregation
  • Joint activities from time to time, for example involving their young people
  • ‘Pulpit exchanges’ (invitations to speak) once or twice a year
  • Reciprocal invitations to join each others’ major celebrations

The degree of formality of the arrangement, and the extent of it, can vary. 

Twinning:

  • Is about developing friendship and trust
  • Is about creating positive networks
  • Is about growing in understanding of each other as communities
  • Is about including informal leadership, for example women’s groups
  • Is about possible cooperation where there are any social issues on which there is a shared outlook
  • Is not about agreeing on specifics of religious belief or practice
  • Is not about compromising the faith of one or other place of belief
  • Is not about providing or receiving financial benefit

The Christian Muslim Forum has done work to support a number of church-mosque twinning arrangements:

http://www.christianmuslimforum.org/images/uploads/Twinning_Report.pdf

http://www.christianmuslimforum.org/index.php/news/610-rochdale-oldham-wolverhampton-walsall-church-mosque-twinning

Establishing and maintaining a twinned relationship can be a labour intensive but also rewarding process and the Christian Muslim Forum, with Near Neighbours, has offered support in this.

Twinning can be between places of worship of any faith.  Thus a Buddhist vihara might twin with a Zoroastrian centre or a church with a gurdwara.  In each instance, the nature of the ‘twinning’ arrangement needs to be carefully worked through.

It is important to bear in mind that when there is a close ongoing relationship between two places of worship there will naturally be conversation about faith, belief and religious practice.  This may from time to time be in facilitated conversations but will also happen in the natural course of encounters between members of the two congregations. It is important to give thought to how different views, for example, on significant figures or teachings will be addressed and what resources there are at national or regional level in the respective traditions that can be called on if needed.

Photo: The Christian Muslim Forum