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Britain’s first Faith Museum opens in Bishop Auckland

The Faith Museum is Jonathan Ruffer's creation, who is one of Britain's richest men and investment banker, who grew up near Bishop Auckland. He invested the last 10 years to design Auckland Project, a series of museums, galleries, parks and other attractions.

The Faith Museum is an exceptional enterprise, dedicated to telling the story of Britain’s religious faith. It features items accentuating the birth of Christianity under Roman rule, the power of the medieval monasteries, the isolating effects of the Reformation, the growth of opposing Christian traditions, the challenge of science to faith and the religious diversity of the recent years. 

Mr Ruffer, who became an active Christian at Cambridge University in the late 1960s, says the inspiration of the Auckland Project hit him whilst he was undertaking an eight-day Ignatian silent retreat 10 years ago.

“It was simply supposed to be a wash and brush up, but when I was there I was mugged by God, challenged to turn my life into one that was working with the voiceless wherever I chose. Being unimaginative, I thought it best to return to my roots here.”

According to Mr Ruffer, during the retreat, a priest and a kitchen worker fell ill. The attendants received daily updates on the priest but not on the kitchen worker. Mr Ruffer was appalled.

“I found myself shaking my fist and saying to God, ‘Who’ll look after the little person?’ The answer came straight back. So that’s a dangerous question to ask. It was clear it was what I was called to do. The key was accepting what it was. I always define it as an Abrahamic call, in that I was clearly being sent on a journey, and, like Abraham, I wasn’t vouchsafed the destination. I really have spent years not knowing what I was doing. What I could see was that there is no faith museum anywhere, and the fact that it’s taken us 10 years to get to — it was the only specific, tangible thought I had, and it’s the last thing to fall into place. I do think that what we are trying to do here hasn’t been done before. That doesn’t make us pioneers. It hasn’t been tried because it is impossible in an age like this when there is such an animus against people with faith, and those with faith are often vituperative toward others with faith.”

The museum starts with a gallery uncovering the origins of faith in Britain from 6,000 years ago and ends with contemporary artists and their personal responses to faith. It also highlights a collection of more than 250 objects from private and personal collections across Britain, many on loan as the Faith Museum works to build its own collection.


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