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Maidenhead’s pulpit swap

A dramatic new inter-faith venture is taking place in Maidenhead in a three-way three-faith pulpit swap. This is going a significant step further than the usual pattern of interfaith meetings between the clergy of different religious groups, or of general meetings open to everyone. Instead, ‘Pulpit Swap’ will involve an imam, vicar and rabbi all occupying each other’s pulpits and preaching to each other’s congregations.

The idea came to the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, after the attack on the churches in Sri Lanka: “After Sri Lanka, along with the recent attack on mosques in New Zealand and a synagogue in Pittsburgh, I felt the religious leaders had to rise to the challenge and show that, while we cannot control what extremists do, mainstream communities can forge a better way forward.

“It is important to demonstrate publicly that Jews, Christians and Muslims can practise what we preach, and live in harmony with each other.

“We already have hundreds of interfaith groups around the country, but polite cups of tea are not enough. Swapping pulpits will be a powerful message to our three communities and to wider society. Hearing sermons from different faith leaders means we will be really listening to what each other is saying.

“A pulpit swap may sound simple, but it is predicated on a high degree of trust – both by the incumbent minister to open up their pulpit, and by the congregation to tolerate hearing from a different faith. We hope this will serve as a pilot project that will be emulated throughout the UK”.

Rabbi Romain started the process by preaching at the mosque during Friday prayers on 26 April, and he will later preach at All Saints Church. Imam Hashmi will preach at the synagogue and church, while Revd Jeremy Harris will visit the synagogue and mosque.

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