Yesterday at 3pm at the Brighton Methodist Church in Dorset Gardens something mysterious and beautiful happened. Over 100 people gathered together to celebrate the diversity of faith in our City at the IFCG* annual interfaith service. It was a unique moment of beauty, explained by Mrs Sara Stonor, the Vice Lord Lieutenant representing the Queen, in her closing prayer – “…Woven into an exquisite harmony, a most blessed harmony, for we, in our diversity are as one”.
All sorts of people were there, contributing so much – the Mayor of Brighton and his delightful wife, the MP for Kemptown – Simon Kirby, the Vicar of the Methodist Church Rev Robin Selmes, and many very special people, but the real stars, it seemed to me, were those that brought their charisma with them, like cloaks of many colours. It was as if they shone, and naturally radiated the mystical language of spirit that none of us fully understand, and yet we can all connect with. These amazing people were Caroline Lucas, Razia Aziz, Judith Silver, the Druid Damh, the Islamic reader Mohammed, Rev Debbie Gaston and Ruth Scott. There was also the passionate Buddhist Sahajatara, the Bahai Fariba, Tina Oberman and Rev Andy Lowe who also sang in the choir, but for me it was the mystical seven that stand out in my mind – radiant spirits, with their powerful faith and their voices.
Of course by singling out the praises of certain people I realise that I am being completely disrespectful to so many that were there – my unique family, who made the tea and ushered everyone around, and the incredible choir, which really taught me a very good lesson, and of course the congregation. In previous years I have always invited the Brighton and Hove voices (around 40 good singers that have a massive repertoire) to sing at the interfaith service. But my fellow executive of the Brighton and Hove Interfaith Contact Group, the wise Charlotte Gravestock, wanted the Rev Razia Aziz to set up a real ‘interfaith” choir, with just a couple of rehearsals before the service, to ‘do’ the music. For a few weeks I felt as though I had lost my baby blanket and rattle as well. Could Razia produce something as good as a blooming great chorus that meets every month, and performs the length and breadth of Sussex on a regular basis? The answer was yes – and she could do better, with half the number. Between her and the wonderful Judith Silver they not only did it, they did it to perfection. And the sight of the choir alone moved one to tears – 21 people of all cultures, colours, faiths and backgrounds standing side by side, singing in harmony at Brighton and Hove’s annual interfaith service – it was truly breath-taking.
Some moments will remain with me forever – the choir singing with Razia and Judith, and Caroline Lucas reading Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpieces – Where the Mind is Without Fear… and On the Seashore – which produced a gasp of delight as she ended with the words “On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.”
*Interfaith Contact Group www.interfaithcontactgroup.com