380.The Man in Blue – Haywards Heath, York & Leeds

On 7 July I visited the Haywards Heath Campus of Central Sussex College. After that I travelled to York for the annual conference on FE Chaplaincy and on the afternoon of 9 July went to Leeds to visit Leeds City College.

I left Southall at 06.50 to be on time for the two 75 minute sessions on bereavement organised by Central Sussex College. I had to introduce ‘faiths & beliefs in further education’ (fbfe) and discuss bereavement from a faith and a secular perspective.

The best part of these sessions is when the members of the college staff get a chance to ask questions and discuss their experiences. We did not only discuss issues around bereavement but also other issues to do with faiths and beliefs and mutual respect. Having a 62 year old, tall, skinny Dutch ‘man in blue’ (me) in front of them was a discussion opener in itself.

Doing this work is helped by Guru’s teaching of respect for all regardless of their background. Guru wants people to be good Muslims, good Hindus, good ‘whatevers’, the Guru is not into conversion. The underlying teachings of the Guru Granth give guidelines valid for people of all dharms, all religions.

I have been to four annual FE chaplaincy conferences, and have enjoyed every one of them. In this year’s conference there were three speakers that I particularly liked. The first was somebody from ‘Youth for Christ’, who said that we should not go into an institution with our own agenda, but should ask the colleges : what can I do for you ? He also said that he was not in favour of faith schools, people of faith should mix with all.

The second speaker was a ‘vicar’ who worked with young people. He told us that he went to the local football club, not to talk to them about faith but to give practical help, like cleaning the terraces after the match. I think both speakers were applying Guru’s teachings on seva.

The third speaker talked about working with people of different faiths, and was mostly factually right and had a common sense approach. On the afternoon of July 8 we had the chance to go for a walk in York and attended evensong in the Minster, about which I will post separately on my weblog.

The last worship at the end of the conference was done by two Christian chaplains and me. The theme was education and I used the meditation on Sikh words linked to education which I have posted on this weblog.

The session about the main six faiths in the UK in Leeds City College went well and I hope that I was a good ambassador for Sikhí. I took pictures of local trains at Leeds station which will appear on the weblog.

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370.The Man in Blue – Peace of Mind in the Kingston Gurdwara

As happens to me too often I went through a period during which I was very busy both with working for Faiths & Beliefs in Further Education (fbfe) and also with the various other things I get up to.

On the 30th of April I held my bi-annual fbfe London Region Forum. It was quite successful, and it is likely that things are going to be less hectic between now and September.

I had agreed to a first visit to Kingston College for the 1st of May, but I felt more like having a day off instead of going to yet another college to make my case for multi-faith activities.

It was a beautiful morning and I decided to leave early and pay a visit to the Kingston Gurdwara before going to the college. As there is no direct rail link between Kingston and Southall I took the 607 bus to Ealing and from Ealing the 65 bus to Eden Road in central Kingston. From there I took the K1 bus to the Guru Har Rai Gurdwara.

The only sangat present in the Gurdwara was a lady busy preparing langar. She asked me if I liked some ‘nasta’ and whether I wanted ‘chai’ or ‘dudh’. I sat down and enjoyed my parantha, sabzi and chai with chini (not khand). The lady either spoke Hindi or city Panjabi strongly influenced by Hindi.

The big advantage for me was that she used fewer nasal sounds and less high speed talking, so I could actually understand her and answer her in my version of Panjabi (you are allowed to laugh).    

But my inadequacies in the field of understanding and speaking Panjabi are not the subject of this article. What I found was that by simply being in the Gurdwara, listening to the reading of the Guru Granth, enjoying my cup of tea and my bit of langar I calmed down, I relaxed and when I went to the Kingston College everything went really well.

The Gurdwara is to be a refuelling station where both physical and spiritual food is on offer. Even when no function takes place, when there is no kirtan, katha (and especially no extremely noisy dhadis) the Gurdwara is (should be) a place of peace.

Nobody needs to do anything very special, just treat all comers with respect, try to leave those that just want some peace and quiet alone, and sit down with those that need a listening ear.

What we do not need is sevadars that shout at each other, or even worse at the sangat. What we need even less is Prabandhaks fighting each other.