At the beginning of Interfaith Week Connie Fisher discovers how cooking and singing is building bridges between religions.
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OK, so here's a question.
If you were cooking up a plan to help people live together in harmony,
what ingredients would you need?
A large packet of patience, perhaps a dollop or two of tolerance,
and certainly a good few spoonfuls of understanding.
Well, it's the beginning of Inter Faith Week and,
on this week's Songs Of Praise, I'm in London to discover how
cooking together is helping to build bridges between different religions.
We also hear from actor and activist Adam Pearson on bullying,
becoming a champion for people with disabilities
and finding acceptance in church.
I started to realise
that it was the one place where everyone was nice to me.
And I'm in St Albans to find out why the cathedral has a catwalk
installed in the centre of the nave, complete with models.
And, of course, we have some great hymns and songs from across the UK,
including one led by Stuart Townsend and Lou Fellingham in the
and a very special performance from the newly crowned Radio 2
Choristers Of The Year.
But we begin, right here in London, with a modern worship song
that's quickly becoming a classic.
There are hundreds of churches all over London.
Many have stood for centuries and, over that time,
have witnessed great change in the society around them.
Take here for example.
Magnificent Christchurch, Spitalfields was built 200 years ago
and today has a thriving international congregation.
But, just around the corner...
this Victorian building was originally a church.
It then became a Jewish synagogue in the 19th century
and is now a busy mosque.
Modern Britain is not only multicultural
but also multi faith, which of course raises questions for Christianity.
How do you love your neighbour
if your neighbour follows a different faith?
Today marks the beginning of Inter Faith Week, the time to
promote understanding and cooperation between different faith communities.
And if there's one thing that is common across almost all religions,
it's the importance of food.
So what better way to bring people together than through cooking?
Trouble is, I'm no Nigella in the kitchen.
But, thankfully, I've got a few friends who can help me out.
-Ready, guys? ALL:
Well, I'm drawn here because you've got some Welsh leeks, so I'm happy.
-I'm at home now.
-Daniela, what's going on here today?
OK, well, we've all come here together.
Everyone is coming from different faiths -
Christians and Jews together - to cook for the homeless shelter.
This early morning cooking session is organised by Jewish charity
Mitzvah Day 365.
So a mitzvah literally means a commandment,
but its colloquial sense means a good deed, something
you do to be nice to somebody.
And quite rapidly we realised, of course, that these
values are shared by other faith groups.
The charity engages in inter faith social action projects
throughout the year, building up to Mitzvah Day itself on November 22.
-Reverend James, you're from the London School of Economics.
-That's right. I'm the chaplain.
I've brought some students along to help out today.
But not home economics.
No, indeed. For one day only.
We do a lot of interfaith dialogue at the LSE and, quite often,
that involves conversations about intractable
disagreements that we have.
And those conversations are most fruitful when friendship
and trust has built up, so what better way to build those friendships
than by collaborating together on a really worthwhile social project?
What's the Jewish dish today?
The Jewish dish is the apple strudel.
Strudel, right. And what's the Christian dish?
And the Christian dish is the mince pies.
They look a little bit thin to me.
Oh, I know!
So what brings you here at seven in the morning, as a student?
-I know. It's the earliest I've been up in like six months!
I just think, personally, as a Christian, I think...it's
just sad how much, nowadays, there's so much conflict and so much idea
that you can't talk about things, or things are, you know, taboo issues.
I think I've just got a lot of friends,
actually, from different faiths.
I just see them as people, you know, first and foremost,
and not their religion.
I'm slightly afraid of your cooking, I've got to be honest.
I know, it's a bit... I know! I'm not going to make Bake Off, am I?
-In the oven.
Does interfaith cooking really work, or is it a bit of a mash-up menu?
No, it isn't a mash-up menu.
Whether the cooking works is another thing,
but the reality of meeting and cooking with people
is a very good thing.
All right, here's a big dollopy question for you.
Just going to throw that in the bowl.
What if you don't get on?
So as a rabbi for students, I work a lot with people
who are in conflict at university about various different things.
You shouldn't ignore differences.
They are real and they're actually part of what makes a diverse
and exciting world,
but it can also be where the rubber hits the road, as it were.
And when that happens,
find the things that you do agree on and then you will find,
people always do, around family and community
and creating meaning in life.
And for your personal faith, what impact does this have on you?
It broadens my horizon.
I think, for me, God is bigger than my perception.
And when I experience other people who know God
and who love God in a similar way, but in a slightly different way,
it just educates me.
Smells good to me!
As a baby, Adam Pearson was a happy, lively child,
a twin with hardly a care in the world.
But at the age of five, his life changed forever.
Adam was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis,
a condition that has led to growths on his nerve tissue.
It's a condition he hasn't been able to hide.
My condition first started manifesting when I was five,
so I started, kind of, changing.
When you're quite young, your life is literally swings and roundabouts.
You kind of cotton on eventually that you spend a lot more
time in hospital waiting rooms than you do at school
and you haven't had a maths lesson for a month.
You put your head down and you get on with it,
and you've got to live the life you have.
Just getting on with it became virtually impossible
when Adam began secondary school.
It was the most difficult time of his life.
I got singled out really early on
and kind of bullied a great deal,
and I didn't handle it very well, either.
I got very angry and started saying things back.
It was a really tough five years.
But there was a place where Adam was accepted and welcomed -
his local church.
I was first introduced to church when I was eight years old.
Myself and my brother had heard that there was a club going on over
the Easter holidays at a local church.
At no point did I think, "Hang on, club, Easter, church.
"They might mention Jesus at some point or other."
And then the inevitable happened.
# We ask them for preaching... #
And kind of the more I heard, the more it kind of piqued my interest.
I started going to the Sunday school they had there.
The more questions I asked,
the more answers they had.
I was very accepted in church.
I slowly realised that it was the one place that everyone was
nice to me...kind of irrespective.
Having a disfigurement in wider society
really makes you public property.
People think nothing of staring, pointing, hurling abuse,
whipping out their camera phones and taking photos.
In July, Adam presented a BBC Three documentary confronting
disability hate crime.
I don't know how seriously the police are or aren't going to take this.
In a perfect world,
they'd deal with it like they would any other form of hate crime.
Though my big concern is that I'm not quite sure
they know what they're dealing with.
Adam has also started a career in acting, most notably
in the BAFTA-nominated film Under The Skin, with Scarlett Johansson.
So having been on TV and done films with Scarlett Johansson,
I've kind of become a spokesperson and the unofficial poster boy
for disability and neurofibromatosis.
With notoriety comes a certain amount of responsibility.
My Facebook's always coming up with messages, Twitter blows up from
people with disabilities and with the same condition I have,
some wanting advice, just some saying, "Well done, keep going."
I think we live in a very appearance-focused culture,
where we're all surrounded by images of quote-unquote perfection
that tell us how we should look,
and I think church and Christianity is an escape from that.
I think it's one of the very few things in my life
that's kind of constant
and that keeps me grounded.
Can you believe it's only six weeks until 2016?
Time to get my New Year's resolution sorted.
But are you planning a big life change in the New Year,
or do you know someone who is?
If you think it will inspire others, we want to hear about it.
E-mail us at...
But whilst I find shelter from the autumn weather,
let's remember the festival days of summer.
Here's Stuart Townsend and Lou Fellingham leading
the congregation at the Keswick Convention.
Churches and cathedrals have always opened the doors to events
other than worship, from plays to fetes and, more recently,
bands and film screenings.
But one cathedral had an altogether more stylish occasion
and we sent the always on-trend Diane-Louise Jordan
along to find out more.
Now, if I was to say to you, "St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire",
you might think iconic architecture,
or even a famous religious martyr.
But what doesn't immediately spring to mind is fashion and one
thing you perhaps wouldn't expect to see in a cathedral is a catwalk.
For the third year running, this amazing cathedral has become home
to the centrepiece of St Albans Fashion Week.
Local stores and designers get to display
the latest styles to hit the high street.
This is cathedral chic and, wow, is it popular.
I've met up with the cathedral's sub-dean
to find out how this all came about.
The thing that struck us immediately was that this was
a brilliant way to bring other people into the cathedral
and extend our welcome in a way that we couldn't do on our own.
Um, obviously, all churches want the community to be involved
but, actually, being involved on their terms and doing what
they want to do is a way of extending welcome, rather than just saying,
"Come and see what we do and do it the way we like to do it."
And actually, that's not a welcome at all.
But I just wonder, you know, how all your parishioners respond.
We've not actually had any negative comments.
I mean, I think some people are surprised at the size of the event,
but I think the cathedrals, like any parish church,
have really got a responsibility to belong to the community.
That's what they're for.
You are looking so cool.
I have to say, that's not a normal vicar outfit.
I can see the little bit of bling going on.
So what are your style tips?
Well, you can't really go wrong with a pocket square.
People think they're old-fashioned but they are really coming back,
and I think a fob watch just makes all the difference.
Charity shop, 20 quid.
You are the style kid, there's no doubt about that.
It's almost time for the show to start but, before it does,
I get to have a quick chat with the creator of the event.
-I'm so excited...
-On the catwalk.
-..that I'm actually on the catwalk.
But it does feel as if it's like the walk to eternity.
I can't imagine what the models must be feeling.
It's really intense.
-We have the longest indoor catwalk in the country...
..which I tell them, but I think perhaps
I shouldn't tell them that cos it freaks them out a bit.
It's a whopping 30 metres long.
Now, what inspired you to do this, Ellie?
I really wanted to put on a show and then I thought,
"If I'm going to do it, let's just go for it,"
and I've always loved the space.
It's so special. I went to school here
and we used to come to Eucharists here every month or so,
so when I thought about the ultimate venue, this was it.
Obviously, there'll be some people
who think this is a very sacred space and what are you doing here.
I think you're right and I think we take that really seriously.
There's no swimwear or lingerie, or anything like that,
and we pick tunes that are all clean and appropriate,
and we are so respectful of the space.
# Let my love in, let my love in
# Lay your heart on me... #
But before I take my seat,
there's one thing I can't resist having a go at.
So just really, really bright, beautiful smile,
hands out, relax arms and then just kind of sashay forwards.
-OK, watch this.
-Yeah? Let's do it.
I literally think this is me, this is all me. Here we go.
-Oh, look at that.
-Right at the camera.
-Look at that.
-That is perfect.
-What are you doing tonight?
-I'm on the catwalk tonight.
# Lay it all on me, lay it all on me
# Lay it all on me... #
Now from something you wouldn't expect to find in a place
of worship to something you would.
Here's a special performance
from the newly-crowned Radio 2 Choristers of the Year.
# Make me a channel of your peace,
# Where there is hatred
# Let me bring your love
# Where there is injury
# Your pardon, Lord
# And where there's doubt
# True faith in you
# Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
# So much to be consoled as to console
-# To be understood as to understand
-To be understood
# To be loved as to love with all my soul
-# Make me a channel of your peace
# Where there's despair in life
# Let me bring hope
# Where there is darkness, only light
# Let me bring light
# And where there's sadness, ever joy
# Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
# So much to be consoled as to console
# To be understood as to understand
# To be loved as to love with all my soul
# Make me a channel of your peace
# Make me a channel of your peace
# It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
# That we are pardoned
# In giving to all men
# That we receive
# And in dying that we're born to eternal life
# And in dying that we're born to eternal life. #
# Brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers... #
Thousands of people all over the UK enjoy being part of a choir,
but there's something just a little bit different about this one.
I'm a practising Christian.
I identify as Jewish.
I'm a Catholic.
I was brought up a Catholic, I'm now an atheist.
The choir is run by the Three Faiths Forum,
a charity that began building bridges
between leaders of Judaism, Islam and Christianity
and now works with people of all faiths and none.
As a result, their choir is wonderfully named the Mixed Up Chorus.
What is at the core of people's humanity?
What is it that we all have in common?
Well, music is one thing for me.
It's my passion, it's my profession
and, in particular, singing is a way to bring people together
because a choir is a great leveller.
# Alleluia! #
I'm originally from Milan, Italy, but my parents are Sri Lankan,
and I'm a Catholic, but I'm questioning my faith.
# Alleluia! #
I love singing and I love the environment here.
I feel that it's such a safe space, you know, and it's not only music,
it's not only my passion, but it's something deeper.
# Alleluia! #
We live in such a multicultural society
where all different communities exist here,
but we don't always have spaces
to know how to talk to each other
about some of those questions.
If someone next to you, God forbid, is singing out of tune,
use that as a call to help you sing even more in tune, yeah?
Can't we hit them?
Don't hit them.
I think very quickly they pick up on the ethos
and the message of the choir, which is really this idea that,
if we sing well together,
we can live well together.
And that message is being sung loud and clear
as the choir is increasingly in demand.
We sing music from different cultures around the world
and so often that brings up conversations which leads to hearing
about other people's faiths and backgrounds and languages as well.
THEY SING IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE
Can anyone remember what the words mean?
I'm actually in two choirs at the moment.
We're currently rehearsing
for a Christmas carol service at my church,
so that's quite different cos obviously that's worship,
whereas this choir,
even if we're not working towards an event or a concert,
the fact that we're just singing together is important anyway.
I think this choir demonstrates on a quite small scale
what could be achieved on a larger scale if more people were willing
to get out there, get out of their comfort zone, maybe.
There is really the opportunity to create bonds that previously
would have been unimaginable between people
and I've seen it happen countless times
within the simple context of just a choir.
Well, that's just about it from London.
It's been brilliant for me to see how people from different faiths
can come together so creatively.
We end with another rousing number.
But from me, for now, goodbye.
At the beginning of Interfaith Week Connie Fisher discovers how cooking and singing is building bridges between religions. And presenter, actor and disability activist Adam Pearson speaks out about bullying, hate crime and the acceptance he found in church.