Multi/Inter Faith Network
It is easy to think that a multi faith network is a stumbling block to Christian witness in an organisation. We have found that the reverse is more often the case. A multi faith network can provide the perfect opportunity for a Christian group to get going.
These case studies offer a range of examples of how Christian groups have come to life as part of a multi faith network.
Brad works for Aviva, the international insurance company
Before lockdown he had run an ‘in person’ Alpha. He then set up a Yammer group (like facebook at work) for his Christian Group and the group grew as a result. He joined a Committee in his company which promotes the interest of Black & Minority Ethnic and faith groups.
The Christian Group launched Alpha online. Other colleagues set up an Atheist group so Brad invited a couple of them to Alpha. These colleagues found that Alpha helped them to understand the Christian faith better and gain respect for Christians - the leader of the atheist group is now one of the biggest advocates of the Christian network!
Brad is keen to create more opportunities for faith discussions. In the run up to interfaith week last November, he helped colleagues from other faiths to set up their own faith networks in order to facilitate further discussion. By doing so, he provided Christians with an opportunity to have a voice.
In his company, there had been a successful initiative sharing stories about mental health under #mystory. Brad encouraged members of the Christian group – and other faith groups - to tell their stories under #myfaithstory: What I believe / Why I believe it / How it impacts my workplace. This encouraged senior executives and their teams to talk about faith and values.
Brad concludes: “I am always looking for ways to engage my colleagues in discussion about faith to enable the Christian group to have a greater voice”.
Mal started work at a global engineering consultancy
He looked for a Christian Group but didn’t find one. What he did find was 3 separate Yammer groups that weren’t meeting at all and only occasionally posting. So Mal encouraged them to meet as the 3 separate groups virtually on ‘Teams’, and they sought to publish a “Love your Neighbour at Christmas” article on the internal Intranet. However this was not allowed as it was not an official Equality, Diversity & Inclusion network.
Diversity & Inclusion were however willing to support the development of a Multi Faith Network, so Mal brought together members of individual faiths and they jointly launched a Faith Network, which includes the official umbrella for the Christian Network. The 3 Christian groups are still meeting separately virtually but have different themes (one is fellowship and planning, one is Bible study and prayer, and the third is outreach). In a virtual world, people can go to any of these.
Mal says that one of the objectives with the network is to develop a culture where it is fine to talk about faith. The first formal Faith Network initiative was an online panel event entitled Faith in Lockdown, sharing the way people of Christian, Muslim and Sikh faiths have experienced lockdown.
Mal reported: “71 people attended, so off to a good start. Plenty of interaction in the chat, and people keen to get involved”.
Dave works for an Ambulance Service NHS Trust
He wanted to set up a Christian group at work but management was not keen. They suggested he set up a multi faith network (MFN). Dave did a web search, found Transform Work UK and was pointed to examples of other MFNs. With Transform Work UK’s help he produced terms of reference for a network. He was invited to meet other staff network leads which was a great joy as he discovered the leader of the BAME group was a Christian and wanted to not only join Dave’s staff group too but to support and encourage him as he led. Dave asked Transform Work UK to join him as he met with the Diversity and Inclusion Manager to discuss the operations around the Multi Faith Group and how it would effectively work in practice. It was a very positive meeting and the D&I manager was extremely supportive once clear working structures were put in place – it was agreed to set up a MFN in the Trust.
Now there is a monthly meeting of the MFN and a distinct Christian group meets as part of that. Dave has started a facebook group for all faiths with a membership of about 30.
Matt A. works for a global healthcare organisation
In late 2019 his employers launched an Employee Resource Group framework, like a Diversity Network in the UK. This was great timing as Matt had written to his UK Site Head asking if a Faith or Multi-Faith Group could be established. With 70,000+ staff across the globe with a very broad range of faith and belief experiences, it would be great for staff to feel they can be open about who they are and ‘bring their whole selves to work’.
The first step was to formulate a Charter for the group with ideals of looking to support the organization in fostering a culture of openness and diversity amongst people of all faiths or no faith at all. The next step was to find an Executive Sponsor. The UK/ North Europe Vice President found someone within the leadership team who had a passion and interest for their group and provided valuable advice on communicating to a global audience with a wide spectrum of faith and belief.
With formal approval, Matt was able to make use of the company wide communication to raise the group’s profile. HR were very supportive and the group launch was the featured weekly news article. The group went from one member (Matt) to over 120 in a few days. But how to make the group active? Matt set up a Kickoff meeting so members could learn more about the group and to recruit volunteers for leadership roles.
The Leadership is made up of those of different faith and beliefs. A strong contingent of Christian colleagues act as faith and belief representatives for those who want to meet for prayer.
At the start of 2022, Matt says: “We hope to use World Religion Day to encourage members to provide videos, podcasts and write ups of who they are, their faith and belief background and how this complements their work”.
You can see the myriad ways a multi faith network can provide a helpful context to set up a Christian group.
But there is no fixed pattern. Here is quite a different example ...
Matt C. is a member of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service,
This functions as part of the County Council and Matt is a member of their Inclusion Group. One day he raised the question of how the organisation could support individuals’ “spiritual wellbeing” as well as their mental and physical health. The inclusion team suggested contacting the leader of a Christian group in a neighbouring local authority before returning with a proposal. He did so and the leader explained her experience of multi faith networks was that they hadn’t worked particularly well as people hadn’t wanted to come somewhere “for an argument”.
Matt went back to the inclusion group, told them this and asked to set up a Christian group in order to support Christians within the organisation but also be open for anyone to attend in order to find out more about the faith. The group would also offer to pray for anyone and demonstrate acts of kindness and service to the wider organisation. The inclusion group agreed and Matt received support from the other inclusion groups in setting up the network.
Once the group began to meet they formalised their status as a network through a written Charter. The network now reaches out to all parts of the wider County Council and meets with operational fire crews to discuss differences in faith and how to work respectfully with those who believe different things.
Matt concludes: “Over the past year we carried out 6 ‘Donuts and Disagreements’ meetings with fire crews, spending a couple of hours on each discussing deep questions of faith and Christianity”.
Some key points:
An organisation may resist a Christian group starting because it may feel that is giving preferential treatment to one faith as opposed to another. They may feel more comfortable agreeing to a multi faith network but this is not always the case as with the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Your organisation is likely to be aware of its responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010. Religion and belief are ‘protected characteristics’ and employers have a duty not to discriminate on the basis of these. Your organisation may be very willing to start a multi faith forum or faith network to ensure that all faiths are equally represented in the workplace. This demonstrates they are fulfilling the requirements of the Equality Act.
Get to know the Diversity Lead in your organisation. Personal contact will make it easier to get something set up, whether a Christian group on its own or as part of a multi faith network.
You may feel you are compromising my Christian belief by being part of a multi faith network. However, you can resist a multi faith forum which does not accommodate a Christian group, and press for the opportunity to meet separately perhaps under a multi faith umbrella. As can be seen from Brad’s example above, actively encouraging other groups can provide Christians with new opportunities to share their faith.