The Bishop of London, wile praising vicars in the East End of London, has said that other vicars should follow them and grow beards to engage with the Muslim community.
Rt Rev Richard Chartres believes that this will help the Christian community build strong links with Muslims. Referring to priests in Tower Hamlets, he wrote in the Church Times about how this would “represent a new way to [connect with] the culture of the majority of their parishioners”.
“Beards are no longer confined to those excoriated by their opponents as ‘trendy lefties’ and websites offer a gallery of suggestions for the modern male of all ages,” he added.
Many Tower Hamlets residents are of Bangladeshi Muslims. The bishop admired the vicars beards “of an opulence that would not have disgraced a Victorian sage”.
In his opinion: “The clergy of Tower Hamlets are safe from episcopal censure, and their desire to reach out to the culture of the majority of their parishioners can only be applauded.”
One of the many priests praised by the bishop was Rev Adam Atkinson, Vicar of St Peter’s church in Bethnal Green, who decided to grow a beard after a staff of a local barber’s shop, convinced him to do so, instead of getting a tattoo.
“It is an icebreaker – St Paul said ‘I become all things to all men that by all possible means I might save some’,” Atkinson said, adding, “In our area there are three main groups, the poor, the ‘cool’ and the Muslims and beards cover at least two groups reasonably well.”
Noting the solidarity this move has created, he said, “A Muslim friend said ‘I will lend you a hat and you can join me on Friday [prayers]. It was done in a jokey way but it was quite affirming.”
This article originally appeared on Independent.
Vicars should grow beards to reach out to Muslim community: Bishop of London