Launch of pioneering centre for
Faith in Economic Life
A pioneering centre for faith and economic life in Leeds which has the backing of churches throughout the city, will be formally launched next Friday November 9th.
The Oastler Centre, the new replacement for the Leeds Industrial Mission, has been established with the support of the churches of the city to be a voice for faith in the economy, to promote workplace chaplaincies, care in the workplace, and faith-based engagement in the regeneration of the more deprived areas of Leeds. It will be formally launched by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Brian Cleasby at 6pm on November 9th at the Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre. He will meet leaders of the various faith communities in Leeds and be presented with a specially commissioned artwork celebrating the 800th anniversary of the foundation of Leeds, ‘A Common Thread’ - a woven timeline that celebrates the critically important role that faith has played in the development of economic life in Leeds since 1207.
Guests at the launch will be welcomed by the Oastler Centre’s recently appointed Director, Revd Dr Philip Bee. The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, will speak about the historical importance of faith in economic life. Local artist, Jane Eastwood, who created A Common Thread, and teaches textile design at the University of Leeds, will draw out some of the meanings contained within of the artwork. Mike Love, Chair of the Leeds Christian Community Trust, will present the woven timeline to the Lord Mayor of Leeds, who will respond on behalf of the City.
The Oastler Centre is named after Richard Oastler of Leeds, a 19th century campaigner against the exploitation of workers and ‘child slavery’. It has the backing of the West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council and is sponsored primarily by Leeds Christian Community Trust (LCCT), with support from the Methodist District, the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds and the Luton Fund. Its director, the Revd Dr. Philip Bee, who is based in an office at Leeds Church Institute, is realistic about the challenges. “For a city of its size Leeds has very few chaplains so the Centre will have an ongoing programme of extending workplace chaplaincies, offering training to prospective chaplains and creating a chaplains network for sharing good practice and professional development.”
Dr Bee has a background in economic life, working in corporate finance for the International Tin Council, Tenneco and British Gas in London during the 1980s. Since ordination as a Methodist Minister he has served as a University Chaplain and as Superintendent Minister in Huddersfield East.
When it comes to faith in the economy, Dr. Bee says much is owed to the pioneers of the past. “The launch of the Oastler Centre gives us the opportunity to raise a positive profile for faith in Leeds,” he says. “It is significant that it should be launched on the 800th anniversary of the City. For much of that history, local churches and individual Christians have contributed to the prosperity of Leeds as well as caring for the most vulnerable members of society. “We remember, for example, the huge impact that Sunday Schools have had on improving literacy and creating a skilled workforce for the city. We recognise the social and economic contribution made by other faiths too, with the arrival of the Jewish community in the nineteenth century, and the other mainstream religions since the middle of the twentieth century. ‘A Common Thread’ has been sponsored by a variety of faith-based organizations in Leeds and I wish to especially to acknowledge the support received from the Leeds Christian Community Trust, the Methodist Church, the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, and the Leeds Church Institute.”
The picture above shows a piece of artwork that was made for the 800th birthday of Leeds. Each of the 800 threads represents each of the 800 years of the city of Leeds