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Create communities of beauty, Archbishop urges faith groups

Tuesday 24th February 2015

Archbishop calls for communities that 'recognise the divine' during faith anti-poverty conference in Birmingham.

Archbishop Justin Welby with pupils from the Church of England-run St Alban's Academy in Highgate, Birmingham, during a four-day visit to the city, 23 February 2015.

The Archbishop of Canterbury urged faith groups to “have the imagination to create communities of beauty” during an anti-poverty conference in Birmingham yesterday.

Archbishop Justin Welby addressed more than 150 people of different faiths from across Birmingham and the Black Country, who were gathered to reflect on tackling poverty.

The event was hosted by Near Neighbours, a government-funded programme to encourage people from different traditions to make friends, deepen relationships and change their neighbourhoods together.

Last year the Archbishop welcomed the expansion of the programme after it was awarded an extra £3m of government funding.

In his speech the Archbishop reminded the conference, which included people from the Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish faiths, about the importance of working together for the good of the community – despite disagreements about faith. He added that learning to disagree together well is an important part of working together.

He also hailed the “astonishing” example of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities, which bring together people with learning disabilities and those without.

“L’Arche is a reminder that the apparently ‘strong’ need the apparently ‘weak’. The weakness of the strong is that they do not know their need of those who appear weak.”

The Archbishop, who spoke of the “immense privilege” of living in a time and place where people from many different faiths and cultures could gather in one room, urged participants to expand their horizons of what might be possible.

Concluding on a challenge, he asked: “Do we have the imagination to build communities of beauty that recognise the reality of the divine?”

The Archbishop today concludes a four-day tour of the Diocese of Birmingham, which he kicked off on Saturday evening with a visit to the Urban Devotion inner-city prayer community.

The visit has reflected the Archbishop's priorities of renewing prayer and praying communities, supporting reconciliation in and beyond the church, and equipping Christians to share their faith.

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