The "Open Hands Project" has been a fascinating journey, and one that is still a long way from over.
It began with a story of an American church soon after 9/11: many of their women volunteered to accompany some of their Muslim neighbours to shops and meetings because they were intimidated by the hostile responses they were getting from members of the public …. and we realised that we would be unable to do such a thing here because we simply didn't have any points of contact with the local Muslim community - nor even any idea if such a community existed. That seemed a worrying indictment to a Church who took seriously Jesus' command to love our neighbours.
The Open Hands Project arose out of this process; essentially as a research exercise to see what groups there were, and what links or networks would be appropriate. Our aim is to build friendships with those from other faith groups, to try to understand each others' viewpoints, and to make sure that we are in a position to provide support and encouragement to each other should it be needed for any reason - in short to establish an informal community of faith communities !
The journey so far has also made us clearer about what we are not. There has been a tendency for some to assume that this exercise means we are moving towards a multi-faith position - i.e. where we all see all faiths as equally "true" - and that is not the case. Our Muslim or Hindu neighbours each see their faith position as the correct one, as do we as Christians: genuine tolerance does not require us all to agree, but to respect the fact that we disagree profoundly and yet seek to build genuine relationships of trust and understanding. To seek to blend our very different understandings of God into some bland generic worship seems to us to essentially devalue all the faiths involved.
This Directory has arisen out of the research process, and we hope it will be of use to you. It's central question has been, "if I lived in Chepstow and was a XXXX, where would I worship, or where might I find contacts ?". We will be maintaining the directory online at www.openhandsproject.com, and hope you will keep in touch as you discover details that have changed or other groups to include.
Let's keep talking !!!
Chepstow Baptist Church