Multi-Faith Conference At Windsor

From Friday 8th to 10th of September a conference was held at Windsor castle and Windsor Great Park. It was attended by delegates from all the prominent faiths in Britain. Many Head teachers and experts in the field of education attended. Phrakrusamu Lom Pabhassaro was unable to attend, due to commitments, and so I represented the temple in his stead, which I was honoured to do.

It was a lovely sunny morning as I drove to Windsor and very soon I had arrived at Bishops Gate, an entrance to the Great Park. The huge gate swung open electronically and the small winding road led me through the forest to Cumberland Lodge, where I was to stay for the duration of the conference. A huge majestic house, steeped in history, awaited me.

Lunch was served; I soon realized that this would be no location in which to diet. Tables were prepared on the lawn and the eighty five participants dined and introduced themselves to each other.

The conference programme was a full one, with only gaps to eat and sleep. The day continued as we gathered in the conference room to be welcomed by the principals of Cumberland Lodge and St Georges House. The Reverend Canon Roger Royle introduced himself, he was the conference chairman. He is an educator and broadcaster.

The objectives of the conference were to determine whether Religious Education plays a significant part in promoting citizenship, by developing pupils understanding of the diverse religious and ethnic identities in the UK, and the need for mutual respect and understanding.

At six thirty, after an afternoon of much discussion, we met in the huge drawing room for drinks and reception. The room held so much history, for it had been a home of The Duke of Cumberland, (and many other Royals throughout the years). The duke, second son of George second, had been a soldier and he had fought and won many battles. Outside the window was a statue of him, now obscured by trees. His nickname was the butcher, mainly because of his victory and crushing the Scots at Culloden in 1745. This battle was a blood bath, and if you visit the site in Scotland the silent eerie feeling can still be felt. Then dinner, I was fortunate enough to dine with some very interesting, prominent people in their field. After dinner, back to the conference until ten thirty.

The following day was filled with more speeches and discussion until four thirty when we travelled to the castle. We had twenty minutes to get changed, for we were to have dinner in the Undercroft at the castle.

We arrived and had a tour of the State apartments, before having tea in the vicar’s hall. There was then a church service at St Georges Chapel, where a choir sang for us. We then had a private tour of the Chapel. What really thrilled me was seeing Henry V111 tomb. I also saw George V1 and the Queen Mothers tomb. They were together and joined by their daughter, Princess Margaret. It was a small unobtrusive area. It was interesting to see Henry V11 tomb and to learn that he had founded the school of Eton. Every year the head boy comes to lay flowers on his tomb.

There was so much to see and absorb. Then it was time for another reception, in the Deans Cloisters before dinner. The after dinner speaker was the right Hon George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2001.
Back to Cumberland Lodge where the silence was wonderful and only the rustling of the leaves could be heard. Sunday morning saw most of the participants go to the small church in the park for Holy Communion. I went for a walk and the dew was twinkling on the grass in the early morning sunshine. Mist rose from the ground as the sun shone through the trees in white rays. Two small deer watched me but disappeared from view when I thought of using my camera.

Then breakfast and back to the castle for group discussions and concluding comments. You know what was fascinating was to be allowed into usually prohibited areas of the castle grounds. It’s a community in there with many houses and dwellings. As I looked over the wall from the Vicars rooms I could see Eton in the distance, but right below I could see a Thai restaurant. (Wouldn’t you just know it?)

Then back to Cumberland Lodge for lunch and our farewells to each other. I don’t know if the objectives of the conference were reached, I do know there was a lot of talking, so from that I do
hope some positive gains were made. As I drove through the park and reached the huge gates that opened and allowed me to exit, I realized what a privilege it had been for me and what an
interesting experience it had all been. Then I got onto the M4 and got stuck in a traffic jam. Oh well that’s life.

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