What does the Faith Covenant do?
Connecting, exploring, taking action together
Faith communities play a positive role in their neighbourhood to support people most in need, strengthening resilience, reinforcing local identity and helping to connect communities.
The Essex Faith Covenant, the first county-wide Faith Covenant in the UK, was launched on 14th October 2017. It continues to drive the partnership between faith communities and public services through a set of principles that guide engagement, aims to remove some of the mistrust that exists and promotes open, practical working on all levels.
Since the launch, eleven local authorities have signed up to the Covenant (Basildon, Braintree, Brentwood, Castle Point, Chelmsford, Colchester, Epping Forest, Harlow, Maldon, Rochford, Uttlesford). Active Essex, Essex Police, Essex Fire, Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and the local mental trust are also signatories. A growing number of faith groups are also becoming involved bringing the total number of signatories to over 30.
By promoting tolerance and understanding of different faiths and working collaboratively, the Essex Faith Covenant aims to make a real difference and build more resilient and inclusive communities. In signing up to the Essex Faith Covenant, faith communities and public service partners pledge to follow a joint vision, a set of principles that unify us, and focus our attention on helping others. The overriding sentiment of that vision is that together we are stronger. Together, we can proactively build trust between faith groups and public services, we can create opportunities to learn from each other and share best practice, and we can come together to serve the community, particularly the most disadvantaged.
On 14th November 2019 an event was held at Anglia Ruskin University to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the launch of the Essex Faith Covenant. Given that faith communities play an important role in helping to manage demand on public services, it provided an opportunity to seek a progress update on how the work of the signatories of the Covenant has impacted on communities across the county.
The event was held during Inter Faith Week with over 100 representatives from faith organisations, public services and the wider community attending. A number of organisations linked to the Faith Covenant set up market stalls for attendees to visit. These included Essex Fire and Rescue Service, United in Kind, Essex Mind and Spirit and Active Essex.
Powerful presentations from Stephen Timms MP, who has led the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Faith and Society, and Daniel Singleton, Executive Director at Faith Action, stressed the importance of closer working relationships between public services and faith organisations to bring communities closer together.
Signatories to the Faith Covenant provided a vital role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many became members of the Faith and Communities Tactical Coordination Group (TCG). The TCG was established to provide information and advice to faith and community groups and also to inform development of future resilience / recovery / pandemic response work. It was stood down at the end of May 2021. Faith groups that have engaged included Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish (both Reform and Orthodox), Muslim and Sikh, and Humanists. The TCG was chaired by the Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester. The group brought together faith and community leaders to work with public services in a way that had not been seen before. The rapid response, deployment and delivery of the work was underpinned by a collaborative mindset and a desire to have collective impact. Further information on the work of the TCG can be found here
Going forward, the Essex Faith Covenant is looking to consolidate it position, extend its reach and continue to demonstrate how its influence is making a significant impact across the county.