Report on 2020 given at AGM 28th February 2021

Introduction

Firstly, I would like to thank Maaike Hartog for the way she took on the Reading Interfaith Group. She did a great job!

The Women’s Coffee Morning Group Maaike established is currently confined to zoom, but definitely plans to continue.

I would also like to thank David Jenkins, Carol Boulter and Emrah Sener for their quite exceptional support over the past few months.

I’m a former chair of Reading interfaith Group, who stood down in 2011, determined not to interfere with what my successor planned, but stayed a signatory to the bank account,

During the Autumn Maaike said she was going back to Netherlands.

As a signatory to the account, I felt responsible for the group and thought it very important that it should continue.

My Objectives for 2021

  • We need to be honest about where the group is now.
  • We need to operate within a legal framework.
  • We need to re-connect with our supporters.
  • We need to clearly communicate our aims.
  • We need to fix ourselves firmly in the wider community.

1-Being Honest

This has been influenced by my Quakerism since we can be fanatical about truth. It troubles me when the pictures we use are 10 years out of date, take membership fees and give nothing back, or say one thing in the constitution and then since time passes, find ourselves doing something different.

 Our group was established in 1983 so have many years of experience. This knowledge helps us deal with the uncomfortable truths from November 2020.

Christmas Challenge

  • We have lost contact with many of our supporters (particularly men!)
  • We have lost touch with our constitution.
  • The group lacks stability.
  • Our Facebook account did not serve its purpose. Images over 10 years out of date. difficult to maintain, erratic updates. Sometimes contains inappropriate content. Unsafe as interfaith can be controversial with some people. Not inclusive as many people are reluctant to use social media.

2- Creating a Legal Framework.

The law has changed since 1983 so we are very grateful to Herjeet from Reading Voluntary Action for her time and expertise.

Fortunately, we do not have to register as a charity as we do not sufficient money in our account to make this a legal requirement.

Unincorporated associations

In the last few months, we have worked to fulfil the criteria of an unincorporated association.

“An ‘unincorporated association’ is an organisation set up through an agreement between a group of people who come together for a reason other than to make a profit (for example, a voluntary group or a sports club).

You don’t need to register an unincorporated association, and it doesn’t cost anything to set one up.

Individual members are personally responsible for any debts and contractual obligations.”

To do this we had to

  • Recruit volunteers who were prepared to act as trustees
  • Redraft the constitution to reflect our aims, and a realistic prediction of how we can operate.  
  • Recruit a membership.
  • Hold an AGM where members can vote for trustees and approve the constitution.

At present we have 18 members.

3- We need to reconnect with our supporters.

1-Produce a monthly newsletter. More inclusive than social media, Regular, Versatile, Attractive, Can include contributions to reflect all faith backgrounds, Provide some support in challenging times.

At present we have 69 subscribers to the newsletter

2-Create a new mail address so all correspondence includes links to our website and for subscribing to the newsletter. Also allows for continuity.

3- Continue to promote the Women’s Coffee Morning Group.

4-We need to communicate our aims.

a-Create a mission statement

  • To enable members of different faiths to learn about and experience each other’s beliefs, practices, and traditions.
  • To acknowledge each other’s differing spiritual paths
  • To challenge misinformation and prejudice.
  • To promote friendship through interfaith dialogue and hospitality locally and nationally. 
  • To support interfaith initiatives organised in the Reading area by faith and community leaders.

b-Redesign our website

The previous one was on a blog format which made it difficult to contain a combination of static material and regularly updated information.

  • We now have a good website address in rifg.uk
  • There is now a combination of static material (history, aims constitution, who we are) and parts that could be regularly updated (events, past newsletters, posts)
  • Our mission statement is clear and obvious.
  • People will know who we are and how to contact us.
  • We can advertise Reading’s history.
  • We can celebrate Reading with photographs.
  • We can also include quotes relevant to interfaith.
  • We can advertise events in a consistent format.
  • We can include past newsletters and other relevant posts.

5- We need to fix ourselves firmly in the wider community

(These organisations are both Christian. We also welcome any opportunities to help other faiths who wish to organise interfaith events.)

  • Organise events- The date for our Autumn event fixed for 24th October and subject to the consent of its business meeting will be held at the Quaker Meeting House in Reading. Our group is very grateful for the generosity of Reading Quakers over many years. We are considering having a hope-related theme. The Autumn Event will involve invited speakers, a bring and share tea and will be advertised in the community as widely as we are able.
  • We need to make direct contact with organisations that have worked with us in the past. Although this process has begun it will be considerably easier to do after the AGM.
  • We need to establish stronger links with Reading Borough Council
  • We need to build up a strong mutually supportive relationship with the press

Long-term aspirations/ plans

To win with interfaith groups overseas especially if they are based in communities to which Reading is already twinned.

Postscript

How I see the Role of members

  • Accountability- Vote at an AGM to keep RIFG accountable and working to pursue its aims in the most effective way.
  • Connecting-Informing their faith group and wider community about Reading Interfaith Group, Contribute to the newsletter
  • Events-Sharing ideas and then helping us to provide additional events.

Report drawn up by Sarah Griffin


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