Preston Guild events bring faiths together
- 7 September 2012
- From the section Lancashire
Some national faith leaders have said they are "amazed" at the amount of public support for religious events at the Preston Guild.
Faith groups have played a major part in the celebrations.
About 5,000 people from churches throughout the area took part in the Monday afternoon churches' procession through the city.
There were also major ecumenical services at St Walburge's Roman Catholic Church and Preston Minster.
Faith groups from throughout the city also took part in the community procession.
For many Christians, the centrepiece of the religious contribution was at Avenham Park where 3,000 people joined church leaders for a two-hour ecumenical celebration.
Speaking at the service, Steve Clifford, general secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "It's amazing. The marquee is packed with people. When I look across this room, I'm sure not every tradition of the church is here, but you do see an enormous cross-section of the body of Christ in the UK."
The Avenham Park service had been two years in the planning and many national faith leaders had travelled to the city to be part of it.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, urged people not to forget how closely the churches are now compared with the last Guild in 1992.
He said: "Then there was a lot of verbal expression about what was going to happen. This morning I was in the Minster where all Christian traditions were there and 20 years ago this would probably not have been possible."
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said he was "very honoured" to be invited.
Preston resident and chairman of the Lancashire District of Methodists, the Reverend Stephen Poxon, said this service was unique.
"I think it is a very special moment," he said. "We often talk and pray for unity with all sincerity, but to actually see the main national church leaders come together in this way is a visible statement that we are putting our lives where are our prayers are."
A day after the Ecumenical Service, nearly 30,000 people lined the city centre streets as about 5,000 Christians, on 90 floats representing church organisations from throughout Preston, proceeded through a two-mile route.
Beneath bright sunshine, the crowds cheered, 11 bands played, sundry choirs sung and even the Popemobile was in the convoy.
Petula, a spokesperson for the Tanterton Fellowship, could have been speaking for any of the churches when she said: "It's fantastic. It's all about bringing people together. I think 'community' has died off in the last 20 years and we are all about bringing it back."
Later in the week, many of the city's faiths took part in the Community Procession.
The Preston Faith Forum's float involved 100 walkers from the Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Jewish traditions.
The organisers had brought forward the walk's start time to still allow Muslims to observe their Friday prayers.
Members of other faith organisations from around the city also took part in the parade.
Vijayanti Chauhan from Preston's Gujarat Hindu Society highlighted the progress being made in co-operation between the faiths when she said: "I took part in 1992 when there was a church procession and a faith procession. This year we have a multi-faith procession."
Many faith leaders have expressed the hope that at the next Guild in 2032, all faith groups will combine with churches to have one big faith procession.
Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.