F is for Faith Leaders’ Forum

The Faith Leaders’ Forum in Watford is a new initiative that I have had the privilege of being part of (having been appointed by Watford Quaker Meeting).

The initiative came from a Muslim who is a long-standing member of the executive committee of Watford Interfaith Association and who is also a police chaplain. He consulted with the (Christian) town centre chaplain and some other people who encouraged him to go ahead.

The initial aim was to provide an opportunity for faith leaders in our town to be ‘friends before we need to be friends’, to make connections and to be better placed to explain to our communities about issues affecting another faith community.

Relationships between different faith and cultural groups in Watford are generally very good. People here live in very mixed communities, rather than in geographically separated areas, and this means that everybody tends to know people from different backgrounds as their immediate neighbours.

At the first meeting of the Faith Leaders’ Forum, held in a meeting room at North Watford Mosque, the level of pre-existing friendship was very apparent and reassuring. However, there were marked gaps and we felt the need to encourage participation from those groups not represented, while gently limiting the number of leaders attending from large groups (so the Christians are currently represented by a few people with wide contacts among Christian and other groups in the town). Discussion was wide-ranging and all were respectfully listened to.

We parted agreeing to meet again, to encourage other Faith Leaders to join us, and to enthuse to our communities about our meeting.


The second meeting was at St Michael’s vicarage in West Watford with a similar level of attendance and a few more faith groups represented. Most of the proposed formal agenda was discarded, but we heard about current concerns in some communities and considered how best to use our valuable time together. We’ve agreed to meet again at the Synagogue choosing a different day and time in the hope of enabling wider participation. We plan to consider what the difference is between Watford Interfaith Association and Watford Faith Leaders’ Forum, how we can best support one another and our vision for Watford.

I feel hugely privileged and much encouraged to be part of this new initiative. This time I took the role of making notes, which I have written up rather more like I might produce a Quaker minute of a discussion and consideration of issues, than by simply typing up the notes I made. It wasn’t yet appropriate to offer that to the meeting at the time in the Quaker manner, but offering record-keeping of the meetings is something I feel able to contribute.

This feels like a slightly delicate, very valuable, plant that we are nurturing. I look forward to seeing it take root and flourish.

dog rose

F is for Felt

A group of people is already busy in the art room when I arrive. Colourful creations are drying on the radiators all around the room. Water is sploshing around on the tables and people are rolling bubble wrap or selecting coloured wool.

Jenni soon explains to those of us just joining the group. All we need is wool, soap, hot water and friction.

We begin by teasing out tufts of wool and wrapping it around our thumbs. Then we soak it in hot soapy water and roll it between our palms. It’s quite energetic work, but, with persistence, it turns into a ball of felt. I make another one.

I’ve long wanted to try felt-making (and have been hoarding scraps of wool), but written instructions and photographs just don’t give the feel. This [Woodbrooke tutor development] weekend we’d been encouraged to ‘do what we needed to do’ and what I needed just now was some ‘hands-on’ learning. Felt-making was perfect. In the next hour or so I make several samples – felt balls, lengths and flat pieces. I am loving the colours and the way they blend together, and the freedom to make a mess.


And the group blends together while we learn. Different ages, different backgrounds, but all beginners here. Advising each other about what we had just learnt, about how long to roll for, how much water to use. And sharing our results, the colours, the way the wool shrinks and binds together, the appearance of a multi-coloured felt ball when sliced through.

We envision buttons, seasonal tree decorations, bookmarks, purses, pockets. I start to wonder what else would make felt. That old shabby jumper I’ve been loathe to part with – Jenni suggests using the washing machine.

I also begin to see lots of metaphors, blending colours together while retaining their identity, making new from old, rough times eventually producing something new and good, … , I’m sure you can think of more for yourselves.