(This article first appeared in The Inquirer)

We arrrived early - not knowing the normal congregation and we're pleased to see a scatter of folks in the Chapel but as 10.30am approached still they kept coming and the entire place was abuzz with the air of anticipation.  As the punters packed into the pews, this felt like the opening night of a show, a concert - but in fact this was a multi-faith service Padiham-style.

Hosted by Unitarian Minister Rev Jim Corrigall and presented jointly by Rauf Bashir of the Free Spiritual Centre in Pendle, this was a colourful, warm, evocative service of music, song, sound and prayer.  Held on Sunday 24th September, this was a feast for any who felt hungry for good news and positive stories in the modern world.  This was a welcome collision of east and west, a positive smorgasbord of styles, tastes and forms.

First up were Sacred Sounds - an inter faith women's choir of about 20 who effortlessly shared with us choral harmonies drawn from Celtic, Jewish, Gospel, Hindu and Muslim traditions.  And the we were treated to the rhythmic drumming and devotional singing from the Muslim Sufi tradition known as Qawwali - the six strong Shahe Marden group.  It's always hard to capture the sung word on the page but this was an intense, deep, strong form of contemplation and worship that drew in even the most reluctant worshipper.

For our part we were glad we had come so far - the distance and the easily start had fallen away from us as we were swept up into the warmth, the welcome and the wave of welcome and worship here in Padiham.  The sheer friendship was palpable.

I found myself reflecting on the troubles of the world, of the suspicions of difference, fuelled by ignorance and thinking how this was sort of service, this shared experience set me at ease.  And looking round the chapel at the younger people, the mix of generations, I thought this too can surely only help in this modern war of news coverage and virtual reality.  For the reality created here in the Unitarian Chapel in Padiham - this was positive, emotional, strong and real.

Even as we broke for comfort, before resuming for more (and the clamour was for more) you could feel the smiles, hear the joy and see traditions shared from neighbouring towns just minutes away here in Lancashire. And whilst Padiham, Nelson and Burnley are close today, this was faith drawn from across continents and across centuries. People have sought to understand the issues of miracle, joy and wonder before us and have turned to wisdom, thought and music as a means of expression and engagement. Today it worked and made sense.

This would all be credit indeed, due to both Jim Corrigall and Rauf Bashir, but the service and the concert were followed by a literal feast for over 200 of us in the Chapel's Unity Centre - well named and all rather apt and very welcome indeed.

Rauf Bashir in his words to those gathered had said "Just as the rain and the sun do not differentiate between people, neither should we.  Only when you experience friendship across cultures, do you understand that there are good people in all communities."  And here in Padiham Unitarian Chapel this Sunday morning he was right.  Thank you Rev Jim, thank you Padiham, thank you World.image1.JPG