An inspiring meeting (the first of many) was held recently hosted by the Lord- Lieutenant of Surrey and the Dean of Guildford. It was the brainchild of the High Sheriff of Surrey, Shahid Azeem, DL. Participants included those from the many faiths which are reflected in our community of Surrey. Key guests were the Bishop of Guildford, The Right Reverend Andrew Watson and The Reverend Phil Simpson and Imam Hafiz Hashmi, who together serve as Chaplains to the High Sherriff. The Lord- Lieutenant set the scene by recalling how difficult it has been for every member of our community during Covid and how faith communities are at the heart of our county.
We then heard stories of projects of cooperation during this time. An example of this is work which began in Woking, led by members of Woking Mosque. The project was to ensure that any neighbours in need could be provided with food parcels. Food was sourced by the St Dunstan’s Church and together members of the church and members of the mosque worked together on the delivery. This example of people of faith coming together for the good of the entire community was truly inspirational. The Chaplains shared some experiences of their support of the High Sherriff during his term, highlighting a Royal visit to Woking Mosque. The High Sherriff spoke about his work with the University of Surrey and Royal Holloway, University of London in order to forge or strengthen links with those universities in Pakistan which share common specialisms. The Bishop of Guildford spoke about the mutually beneficial links which the Diocese of Guildford is forging with the Diocese in Sialkot in Mirpur in Pakistan. Many of the Christians from Mirpur who are settled in the UK have settled in the Woking area. Bishop Andrew and the High Sheriff spoke together enthusiastically about the potential support people in our county might provide to those Christians in Sialkot as they seek to build their own church.
In the wide ranging discussion which followed we noted together that people of faith and faith leaders have an opportunity to influence for the good the communities which they serve, and to really know the people. We can set an example about dealing with Covid, for example, encouraging people to have the vaccination and to observe the restrictions for the good of others.
Although we were all disappointed not to have met in person, participants were glad to have been part of what, we hope, is the first of many similar gatherings. We finished the meeting, looking forward to the next one and sharing a commitment to live out the High Sheriff’s clarion call that we are all Better Together.
The Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford and Shahid Azeem DL