A group of Jesuit Novices from countries across Western Europe visited Smethwick, in the West Midlands, to learn about inter-faith engagement and meet religious groups in the town.
The visitors – members of the Roman Catholic Order of the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits – attended a week-long conference, the Internovitiate, at Manressa House, an international centre for novices, in nearby Harborne, Birmingham.
Arriving at Galton Bridge railway station, they were welcomed by Sandwell Deputy Mayor, Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, on the historic Thomas Telford bridge built in 1829, giving them a taste of Smethwick’s industrial heritage.
They then walked along the High Street to get a feel of modern-day Smethwick, where they were greeted by Surinder Josan, owner of All Seasons DIY, a family-run business in the area for more than 40 years and the immediate past President of the British Independent Retailers Association.
The day was hosted by Holy Trinity Church, Smethwick and also included visits to the nearby Abrahamic Foundation and the Guru Nanak Gurdwara to meet members of the local Muslim and Sikh communities.
The group also enjoyed presentations about a number of local inter-faith projects including Faithful Friends on Tour, Women First and the Common Ground Community Orchard.
Event co-ordinator and Novice of the Society of Jesus, Dunstan Rodrigues, said: “We’re delighted to have been invited to Smethwick, we’ve had an extremely warm welcome from everyone we have met, beginning with the Deputy Mayor, the team at Holy Trinity and the other individuals and groups we have visited.
“It’s been extremely encouraging to see the work going on in Smethwick and to learn from the wide range of different religious traditions in this diverse community of Smethwick.”
Reverend Nick Ross, from Holy Trinity Church, said: “It was a privilege to host this visit so we could talk about the richness of Smethwick’s diverse faiths and cultures, and the experience of interfaith work in the town, and to be refocused by the questions and comments from young people who are much less familiar with ministry in this sort of setting.”