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The Faith Garden
The Mayor of Kirklees, Cllr Andrew Palfreeman, officially opened a new Faith Garden at Oakwell Hall in Birstall on Tuesday, June 29 2010. The aim of the garden is to provide 'a special place', inspired by the world's major faiths and the natural environment of the park, which can be used for quiet reflection and as an outdoor classroom where children will learn about common themes of faith and understanding between different communities.
Visitors can use the garden, created in the Birstall museum and country park's arboretum, as a haven of peace, a place to explore or simply to sit and appreciate the world around them. The new educational package for schools - believed to be unique in the country - will encourage children to explore their own faith and values.
The garden was partly funded by the Area Committee for Birstall and Birkenshaw where Councillor Palfreeman is a ward member. "During my year as Mayor I want to bring different communities together through an appreciation of different faiths and cultures and there's no better place than Oakwell Hall, with its beautiful country park, to help achieve that. I'm delighted that my area committee was able to help with the funding and I'm sure the faith garden will become a special place for everyone who visits it," said Councillor Palfreeman.
The garden, which also received funding from the Kirklees Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education(SACRE), incorporates themes of faith such as circles and the points of the compass. It comprises a circular stone seating area with turfed surround, a circle of standing stones which represent the points of the compass and, to give a different perspective to the circle theme, a grass mound.
The opening ceremony was attended by both invited guests and members of the public already enjoying the gardens. Official guests at the opening included Year 3 pupils of Gomersal St. Mary's First School who piloted the educational package. They spent half a day at Oakwell, where they also walked a 'faith' trail, and then half a day at the North Kirklees Muslim Faith Centre, which is part of Interfaith Kirklees (Schools), Oakwell's main partner in the project.
While at Oakwell, the children made small tokens such as caterpillars and butterflies from play dough and put them inside the dry stone wall seating circle which was nearing completion. During the launch they asked guests to create their own 'temporary' tokens by writing messages and thoughts on rice paper which were then placed between stones in the wall of the museum's formal garden where afternoon tea was served in a marquee after the opening ceremony.