Three years ago, I began my report to the AGM by quoting the ancient Chinese saying: "May you live in interesting times..." - if only we'd known then just how interesting they were going to become!
As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020, leading to chaos throughout the world, hundreds of thousands of deaths and lockdowns of many nations to attempt to control the spread of the disease.
WBC cancelled all public meetings until the 8th November 2020, meaning that WPoF could no longer hold any of our usual meetings in Woking during that period! So, the Horsell Common Preservation Society event, Refugee Week, the Interfaith Football Tournament, Party in the Park, The Last Post and International Day of Peace Event were all Covid-19 lockdown victims!
In April 2020 WPoF - due to the good auspices of Rev Phil Simpson - went online, meeting from our own homes! Thank you, Phil!
A decision was taken by the Trustees in the following months to cancel the AGM until more auspicious times.
Since that time the Trustees have had several meetings, including the Planning Meeting in September 2020, the Officers have had follow-up meetings to ensure that actions are being followed through and the Events Committee moved to meeting every month in order to keep up the momentum of planning activities and ensuring that WPoF would be ready to respond to any changes in Government policy on face-to-face meetings as the situation was extremely fluid at the time and even now there is no absolute certainty about the immediate future.
Our website is updated regularly to provide statements from a multi-religious perspective from WPoF on important events; a 'Thought for the Week' section has had many contributors from many backgrounds and all are available to read.
WPoF's online events began with the Prayer Vigil in June 2020. We have had regular online ladies' coffee mornings in which the participants are invited to chat about different topics each time. 12th September saw our first face-to-face, socially distanced Interfaith Cricket Tournament. And on the 26th September, the HCPS event took place using the Rule of 6!
We have had occasional, online cooking shows, where we have been guided into preparing cultural dishes, live, in our own kitchens.
Our Doing God Together event on 12th November involved speakers from 5 Faiths on 'What are Religions Doing About Race Inequality?' A very successful and thought-provoking event. In February we celebrated the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week with 'The WPoF Story' and were treated to wonderful recollections of the early days of WPoF, warmly received by our online audience.
Now we have initiated Faith in Action - regular interviews of individuals from different Faiths on how their Faith has impacted them in daily life and work. This has made a promising start in the first two with lots more to follow.
And so, to the future. The outlook with Covid-19 and its variants is very uncertain and may continue for some time to hinder our progress in face-to-face encounters with both each other and the wider public. Aside from getting vaccinated, observing social distancing, masking etc, there is little we can do about this, except for prayer. In the meantime, we need to continue working at our online events, continue to be imaginative and willing to try new ideas and techinques to attract people to our aims and engage, positively and with empathy to the communities of Woking.
This is my last speech as Chair of WPoF and reflecting on these last 5 years, it is amazing to think how we have moved and grown as an organisation - we have become more efficient, effective and confident both in the internal workings of WPoF, moving from a MANCOM and Trustees, to Trustees and Events Committee, from a Coordinator to an Administrator, to an increase in diversity of members and range of activities. We have a wonderful team and our diverse talents have contributed to the whole. I feel honoured and priviledged to have been Chair through this period. But new blood and change is a vital part of the life and continued existence of any organisation. So I simply want to say to you, my friends, thank you all - thank you for your support, advice, guidance, humour and occasional kicks-up-my-pants when needed and for generally putting up with me during these 5 years. I hope I've been able (and will continue to be able) to provide you wil the same kindness, encouragement and backing that you have all shown me.
Thank you and God bless.
Simon Trick, Chair, WPoF, Thursday 20th May 2021
Date: Thursday 20th May 2021