Connecting, exploring, taking action together
Faith communities play a positive role in their neighbourhood to support people most in need, strengthening resilience, reinforcing local identity and helping to connect communities.
The Essex Faith Covenant, the first county-wide Faith Covenant in the UK, was launched on 14th October 2017. It continues to drive the partnership between faith communities and public services through a set of principles that guide engagement, aims to remove some of the mistrust that exists and promotes open, practical working on all levels.
Since the launch, eleven local authorities have signed up to the Covenant. Active Essex, Essex Police, Essex Fire, Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and NHS Mid & South Essex NHS Foundation Trust are also signatories. A growing number of faith groups are also becoming involved bringing the total number of signatories to over 40.
By promoting tolerance and understanding of different faiths and working collaboratively, the Essex Faith Covenant aims to make a real difference and build more resilient and inclusive communities. In signing up to the Essex Faith Covenant, faith communities and public service partners pledge to follow a joint vision, a set of principles that unify us, and focus our attention on helping others. The overriding sentiment of that vision is that together we are stronger. Together, we can proactively build trust between faith groups and public services, we can create opportunities to learn from each other and share best practice, and we can come together to serve the community, particularly the most disadvantaged.
Signatories to the Faith Covenant provided a vital role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many became members of the Faith and Communities Tactical Coordination Group (TCG). The TCG was established to provide information and advice to faith and community groups and also to inform development of future resilience / recovery / pandemic response work. Faith groups that have engaged included Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish (both Reform and Orthodox), Muslim and Sikh, and Humanists. The TCG was chaired by the Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester. The group brought together faith and community leaders to work with public services in a way that had not been seen before. The rapid response, deployment and delivery of the work was underpinned by a collaborative mindset and a desire to have collective impact.
Another example of the impact being made came last summer. Active Essex, Essex County Council and Thurrock Council delivered the Government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme, on behalf of the Department for Education. Working with a network of 108 locally trusted organisations, the team ran 218 Essex ActivAte clubs across the county, providing more than 230,000 spaces for those who may otherwise not have access to holiday clubs. A very successful project was delivered with Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Chelmsford Muslim Society and IQRA Learning Centre who delivered a fun, memorable and active Summer Holiday Club for children across Chelmsford and Essex. Over the 5 weeks, the club was fully booked with approximately 80 children attending each day from diverse backgrounds. (see attached image)
Going forward, the Essex Faith Covenant is looking to consolidate it position, extend its reach and continue to demonstrate how its influence is making a significant impact across the county.