Chair – Dr Yvonne Stollard (Jewish)
Yvonne is a member of Birmingham Progressive Synagogue. She is a retired primary school teacher and has lived in Worcestershire for over 25 years.
It was whilst living in Kent in the 1980s that Yvonne became interested in interfaith dialogue through being introduced to the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ). On moving to the Midlands she served as Honorary Secretary of the Birmingham CCJ for eight years. She has been a lead teacher with the ‘Ladywood Interfaith Education Project’. This a partnership between St John’s Church (Ladywood), Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, the Buddhist Pagoda and Shirelands Road Mosque. The project provides experiential teaching on the four religions for primary school children. She is also on the steering committee of ‘Faith Encounter’, a project with an interfaith dimension for training people as faith guides for their places of worship in Birmingham.
Currently, she is the Jewish representative on Worcestershire’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE).
Yvonne is passionate about encouraging people to find out about people of different faiths
Secretary – Rev’d Sarah Cottrill
Vice-chair – Malik Fayaz (Muslim)
Treasurer – Adam Thorne (Baha’i Community)
Rev’d Ian Spencer (C of E) – Ian is an Anglican Priest and Warden of Holland House Retreat Centre in Cropthorne, Pershore.
Although centred on the Christian faith, the House unconditionally welcomes people of all faiths and none.
The House motto is “in harmony with Creation”, which underpins all their decisions and work.
Ian sits with a Zen Buddhist Sangha (Wild Goose Zen Sangha) and is a trained Hatha Yoga teacher associated to Christians Practicing Yoga.
He writes, “……following Christ is for me following the narrow way of self-emptying. Here, all belong. Interfaith work is a wonderful way of following Christ’s example.”
Rev’d Jnañamati Williams (Order of Amida Buddha, Great Malvern/international) – Jnañamati has been an ordained priest in the Pure Land tradition since 2010 & until recently has had an itinerant role. He now resides in Worcester & is associated with the Amida Mandala Temple in Great Malvern. Jnanamati has been assistant to the head of the Amida Order, is a member of ITZI an international organisation that promotes therapy as an engaged spiritual practice, is an HCPC (state registered) art psyhotherapist and tutor of Buddhist psychology with the Amida Academy. Jnanamati has been a chaplain with St Richard’s hospice & at the Royal Worcester Hospital. He is currently working for a counselling charity in Hereford as an art psychotherapist & clinical co-ordinator
Revd. Helen Caine (S. W. Worcestershire Methodist Circuit)
Rev Helen Cain is the Superintendent Minister of the SW Worcestershire Methodist Circuit. I have enjoyed living and working in Worcester since September 2014. Prior to this I served in North Dorset and South Bedfordshire. My first calling was to social work, and I served in an around NE London and Essex, much of the time with Barnardo’s. I was working in a challenging and stimulating multi-cultural context with children and families. More recently, St Andrew’s, Pump Street, has tried to develop work with older residents and isolated people, including those affected by dementia. I am really pleased that the location of our church, near the shopping centre, has proved its usefulness for holding outdoor events for WIFF.
Revd. Canon Owain Bell
Owain is an Anglican priest living in retirement with his wife, Kim, in Kempsey. For forty one years he served as a parish priest in the North East and in the Worcester diocese. He is the former chair of WIFF.
A transforming event in his life was a friendship with a Muslim Afghan refugee who came to live at his Worcester Rectory in the winter of 1979. As a result of their friendship Owain’s eyes were opened to the treasures of Islam. This was the first of many meetings and friendships with people of different Faiths all of which have profoundly enriched his life. ” This” he writes ” is what inspires me to want to help others to reach out in a similar way to discover the riches and blessings that lie beyond mere tolerance”.
Revd. Mary Austin (St Andrew’s Methodist Church)
Mary is the former secretary of WIFF & a retired Methodist minister living near Worcester having served most recently for 10 years in Kidderminster. Interfaith has interested me since way back in the late 80s and early 90s when helping my husband out on a market stall brought me into contact with other stall holders of different faiths. This resulted in wonderful interfaith dialogue when not interrupted by customers! Friendships developed and we enjoyed attending a Hindu and Sikh wedding. A few years later I developed a friendship with a Jewish young Mum who I met. We enjoyed amazing conversations when we frequently agreed on far more than disagreed! It was also a delight to be welcomed into their home for Shabbat, Seder and to the synagogue for their daughter’s Bat mitzvah. Over the years I have met many of other faiths and am thrilled to be involved in the Interfaith Forum in retirement.
Revd. Sheila Simmonds
Sheila was ordained as an Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counsellor in July 2014, following a two-year intensive course with the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation in London. Her background is a 40-year working life in hospitals and health care settings including general practice, as a medical secretary and receptionist, and she is also a trained and qualified aromatherapist and Reiki practitioner. Sheila is currently serving as a volunteer chaplain at both Malvern Community Hospital and at St Michael’s Hospice in Bartestree, Hereford, working with the terminally ill and dying. She previously spent eight years as a chaplain at St Richard’s Hospice in Worcester. The next step is to qualify as a Soul Midwife. Sheila’s background is Christian, especially Celtic and Mystic Christianity, but with a deep interest in other faiths and traditions, including earth traditions.
A specialist subject is the history, culture and spirituality of Australian Aborigines, and she has recently returned from another visit to Australia which included further indigenous exploration. Sheila has four grown-up sons and five small grandchildren.