In the News

 

June's News

Church of England Alexa skill asked 75,000 questions in first year - Sir David Attenborough backs major new report on plastics from Tearfund - English cathedrals celebrate £8m National Lottery funding boost - First performance of a Song for the Season of Creation

 

Church of England Alexa skill asked 75,000 questions in first year

A year after its launch, the Church of England’s award-winning Alexa skill has been asked more than 75,000 questions, according to recent data. The smart speaker skill was originally launched with prayers, explanations of the Christian faith and details of where to find the nearest church for local events and services based on location.

The data also reveals a trend of highest numbers of people using the skill in the evening. As a result of this, the Church’s Digital and Church House Publishing teams added a wider range of mealtime, evening and night prayers during the year.

More family prayers have also been added, and integration improved with A Church Near You, the national church finder tool, to show maps of where the nearest church is. A range of videos have also been added to bring the Christian faith to life and showcase the social action work of churches across the country.

In a typical week people ask the following questions by topic area:

Read today’s daily ‘EasterPilgrim’ reflection – 16%

Say a prayer – 40%

Explore the Christian faith – 31%

Share a grace before a meal – 6%

Where is my local church? – 7%.

The skill is average 4.2 out of five stars on the Alexa store, with comments such as “Love it - great example to the kids on how to pray”.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: "The aim of the Alexa skill is to help users to know more of the love of Jesus Christ, to enable regular churchgoers and those exploring faith to connect with God in another way and at a time that’s right for them.”

Adrian Harris, Head of Digital at the Church of England, said: “We are pleased with the levels of engagement in the first year of launching the skill, which was built in just three months in 2018.”  The skill has also been recognised at a number of leading digital industry awards. 

To activate the Church of England skill “Alexa, open the Church of England”. A full list of commands is available on the C of E’s dedicated Alexa page at https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/try-church-englands-alexa-skill

 

Sir David Attenborough backs major new report on plastics from Tearfund

A new report has revealed for the first time that one person is dying every 30 seconds in developing countries from diseases and illnesses caused by plastic pollution and uncollected rubbish dumped or burnt near their homes.

The new figures were released in No Time to Waste: Tackling the Plastic Pollution Crisis Before it’s Too Late, by international relief and development agency Tearfund, in collaboration with conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the Institute of Development Studies and waste management charity WasteAid.

The report looks at the health impact of plastic pollution and rubbish on the world’s poorest people for the first time.

It found that each year between 400,000 and a million people (at the upper end one person every 30 seconds) are dying in developing countries from illnesses and diseases like diarrhoea, malaria and cancers caused by living near uncollected waste and plastic pollution.

The report calls on multinational companies to fundamentally change their business models by committing to reporting the number of single-use plastic items they distribute in developing countries by 2020, and halving this by 2025.

“This report is one of the first to highlight the impacts of plastic pollution not just on wildlife but also on the world’s poorest people,” Sir David, a vice president at Fauna & Flora International, said.

“It is high time we turn our attention fully to one of the most pressing problems of today – averting the plastic pollution crisis – not only for the health of our planet, but for the wellbeing of people around the world.”

“We need leadership from those who are responsible for introducing plastic to countries where it cannot be adequately managed, and we need international action to support the communities and governments most acutely affected by this crisis.”

Globally two billion people (one in four), don’t have their rubbish collected.  This often leads to disease and death. When rubbish isn’t collected it often builds up in rivers and causes flooding, which can lead to diarrhoea and a host of infectious diseases.

Often the only other way to dispose of waste is to burn it in the streets, with the resulting fumes being extremely damaging to health as well as - in some countries - being the single largest source of carbon emissions, contributing to climate change.

Dr Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy & Influencing Director at Tearfund said: “Tearfund’s new Rubbish Campaign calls for urgent action from four multinationals - Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

“They sell billions of products in single-use plastic packaging in poorer countries where waste isn’t collected, in the full knowledge that people will have no choice but to burn it, discard it in waterways or live among it.

Other key facts in the report:

  • Every second a double-decker busload of plastic waste is burned or dumped in developing countries.
  • Global plastic production emits 400 million tonnes of greenhouses gases each year – more than the UK’s total carbon footprint.
  • An estimated 8 – 12.7 million tonnes of plastic is entering the oceans every year.
  • Every 30 seconds the UK throws away 2 double-decker busloads of plastic waste.
  • Living amongst plastic pollution and uncollected waste doubles the incidence of diarrhoeal disease.

To read the report log onto www.tearfund.org/notimetowaste

 

English cathedrals celebrate £8m National Lottery funding boost 

Four Church of England cathedrals have benefited from a cash injection of over £8m to help them engage with their communities through imaginative outreach, arts, heritage and learning projects, thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Leicester, Lichfield, Newcastle and Worcester Cathedrals announced awards from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a wide range of creative community-focussed projects, including bringing Worcester’s 12th century undercroft into public use as an imaginative learning hub and new city venue, and creating a sacred space for all to enjoy in Newcastle’s city centre.

The news followed a huge international reaction to the fire at Notre Dame which showed something of the value of cathedrals to local and wider communities, as well as their vulnerability, and the need for securing long-term funding for repairs and restoration. Development projects, like those funded through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, remain crucial for all of the Church of England's cathedrals.

 

First performance of a Song for the Season of Creation

The choir of St Bride’s Church Fleet Street gave the first ever performance on Rogation Sunday of A song for the Season of Creation, written for churches to include in their creationtide services later this year.  

A recording produced with the support of the CofE’s Mission and Public Affairs is available at http://www.stbrides.com/webcast/2019/05/a-song-for-the-season-of-creation.php

The song was launched to give choirs, groups and congregations time to download copies and practise the song for services being held during the season 1st September to 4th October.  

The song, which uses poet Malcolm Guite’s words, has been commissioned by the CofE’s Environmental Working Group and has been arranged for singers of various ranges. Sheet music, rehearsal files and recordings can be downloaded free of charge from the St Bride’s website. 

The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, Lead Bishop for the Environment said: “We can see the urgency to care for God’s earth, our common home.  Music and worship give form to our Christian lives.  This is a song for God’s creation we can all sing this Season of Creation”.

 

 

May News

Bishops welcome new online safety laws - Funding Repairs is 'top problem' facing Churches - More Churches than Pubs - Sri Lanka Easter Church Bombings

 

Bishops welcome new online safety laws

Church of England bishops have welcomed the recent publication of a Government White Paper, including plans to impose substantial fines against social media companies that breach their duty of care towards the vulnerable.

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who in 2016 launched a campaign to encourage a safer online environment, said: “The new plans are an encouraging sign that the online world will start to be regulated to protect people like Molly Russell, 14, who tragically took her own life. We know that her family believe that social media was partly responsible for their daughter’s death.

“It’s about time that social media companies are held responsible for their content and are accountable for their actions. No other organisation in the ‘real’ world has that freedom. We manage to regulate electricity, water companies, broadcasters, shops etc through consumer bodies, yet for years social media companies have been allowed to self-regulate. These new clear standards, backed up by enforcement powers will hopefully be the step change to start really protecting our children and young people online.”

The White Paper, which includes plans to hold individual executives personally liable for failings, follows the publication of a House of Lords Select Committee report on Communication.

 

Funding Repairs is 'top problem' facing Churches 

A new online poll has revealed the top five problems facing the UK's church buildings.

In the poll, run on the National Churches Trust’s website, people were asked to identify what they thought was the biggest problem facing the UK's church buildings. The top problems were identified as:

• Not enough money available for repairs – (identified as top problem by 32% of people)

• Declining congregations – (identified as top problem by 26% of people)

• Shortage of volunteers to help look after church buildings –  (identified as top problem by 16% of people)

• Lack of modern facilities – (identified as top problem by 14% of people)

• Lead theft – (identified as top problem by 8% of people)

 Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said:

"Over the last two years, there has been a 56% increase in applications for our grants, with numbers rising from 381 in 2016 to 593 in 2018. One of the reasons for this increase is that less money is available from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the end of Government backed schemes such as the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund.”

“Our nation’s religious heritage belongs to all of us and is too precious to lose.”

 

More Churches than Pubs

The UK now has more churches than pubs, according to new data published by the National Churches Trust.

There are around 39,000 pubs in the UK, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, with more than 11,000 pubs having closed in the UK in the last decade – a fall of almost a quarter (23%).

However, there are around 40,300 church buildings in the UK open to the public and being used for worship, according to research carried out for the National Churches Trust by the Brierley Consultancy. 

The number of church buildings is also substantially higher than other key public buildings in the UK. There are currently around 14,300 supermarkets operated by grocery retailers, 11,500 post office branches, 7,500 bank branches and 3,600 public libraries.

An increasing number of churches in the UK are also becoming local ‘community hubs’, hosting children’s nurseries, senior citizen lunch clubs, concerts and exhibition venues.  Some even house post-offices, GP surgeries and farmer’s markets. Around 6,000 of the UK’s approximately 32,000 polling places are located in church buildings. 

 

Sri Lanka Easter Church Bombings

More than 250 people were killed following Easter service bomb attacks against churches in Sri Lanka. “The scale of the horror takes our breath away,” says Release International.

“But terrorism can never overcome the central truth of the Gospel – Christ is risen. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka and wherever Christians face violence around the world.”

Around 2m Christians live in the Buddhist-majority nation where Christians from Buddhist and Hindu backgrounds face discrimination for their faith. 

The growth of Christianity in Sri Lanka since 1980 has met with violent opposition from Buddhist extremists. Persecution has intensified since 2012, coinciding with a rise in Buddhist nationalism.

Militants have burned churches and attacked Christians. In many cases, violent mobs have been led by Buddhist monks.Christians say local government officials and police do little to prevent the attacks – and are sometimes complicit in them.

Anti-Christian violence has abated somewhat since 2015, when President Maithripala Sirisena came to power, pledging to uphold religious freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.

 

April News

Cathedrals to mark moon landing anniversary - Knife Angel sculpture installed at Coventry Cathedral - Bishop backs call for rural strategy - Celebrations mark 25 years of women's ordination to the priesthood

 

 

Cathedrals to mark moon landing anniversary

Space suits, meteorite fragments and a giant sculpture of the moon are to be displayed in one of the Church of England’s ancient cathedrals as part of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

A lit art installation, Museum of the Moon, by artist Luke Jerram, with detailed NASA imagery of the moon’s surface, will be suspended from the nave of Ely Cathedral for a science festival on space exploration, Artificial Intelligence and future technologies.

The festival at the cathedral will include science-themed worship as well as lectures from high-profile figures including the Astronomer Royal Lord Rees and lunar expert and broadcaster Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.  There are also exhibits on show loaned from the Science Museum and the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge.

Ely Cathedral joins Lichfield Cathedral in mounting a spectacular display to mark the anniversary of the lunar landing, with Lichfield’s nave floor due to be transformed into a huge visual reproduction of the Moon’s surface.

The cathedrals are among 14 church projects receiving a total of £70,000 in grants from the Scientists in Congregations scheme to foster greater understanding about science and faith.

Scientists in Congregations is part of Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, a project run by the Universities of Durham and York in collaboration with the Church of England. The project is funded by Templeton World Charity Foundation.

 

Knife Angel sculpture installed at Coventry Cathedral

A sculpture dedicated to victims of knife crime has been temporarily installed at Coventry Cathedral for this month (April).

The 27ft (8m) Knife Angel sculpture is made from 100,000 blades handed into police across the country.  (see it at:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-47569093)

Messages from families of the victims of knife crime have been engraved on the sculpture's wings.

The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, said the Knife Angel was "a stark reminder of a form of violent crime infecting our city and threatening lives with great danger, especially our young people."

Artist Alfie Bradley, who created it at the British Ironworks Centre in Oswestry, said it was "a memorial to those whose lives have been affected by knife crime".

The Knife Angel was unveiled in 2017 and has been displayed in Liverpool and Hull.  The sculpture will be displayed in Coventry until 23 April.

 

Bishop backs call for rural strategy

The Church of England’s lead Bishop for Education has backed calls for a comprehensive Rural Strategy, following the publication of a new study.

The report, recently published by the Rural Services Network, calls for action by the Government, citing concerns that the UK’s exit from the EU could serve to compound existing rural challenges.

The Bishop of Ely, Stephen Conway, who has previously called for a rural strategy, said: “We welcome the Rural Services Network’s report, and echo its call for a cross-Government rural strategy. 

“The Church of England is at the heart of rural communities with around two thirds of our 16,000 churches in rural areas, and half of our 4,700 schools found in the countryside. Where the post office, the pub and shop have disappeared, these are often the only community focus left, and are crucial to the identity and wellbeing of villages and rural areas.

 “We are committed to helping rural communities flourish through our churches and schools, but this requires fit-for-purpose infrastructure, transport, job opportunities and the other vital services for which this report calls.”

 

 

Celebrations mark 25 years of women's ordination to the priesthood

Events have been taking place this Spring to mark a quarter of a century of women’s ordination to the priesthood in the Church of England. The first group of women were ordained priests on Saturday 12 March 1994, in Bristol Cathedral.

Following a recent celebration at Lambeth Palace attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, services have been held at cathedrals and churches throughout the country.

Meanwhile the number of women entering training for ministry continues to grow. Women now make up nearly a third of the 20,000-active clergy in the Church of England according to the latest figures which also show a 38% increase in the number of women starting training for ordained ministry in the past two years.

2019 also marks 50 years since women were first licensed as Lay Readers, and five years since legislation was passed to enable women to be appointed bishops. 

 

 

 

March News

Church leaders give blessing to plastic-free faith Easter Egg

New standards on gambling advertisements

 

Church leaders give blessing to plastic-free faith Easter Egg

 

The Archbishop of York and the lead Bishop for the environment have welcomed a 'plastic free' version of The Real Easter Egg.

 

Out of the 80 million eggs sold in the UK every year The Real Easter Egg is the only one which includes a 24 page copy of the Easter story in the box, is Fairtrade and supports charitable causes.  And now, this year the Real Easter Egg is going plastic-free.

 

The change is in response to a survey which found that 96% of Christians think it is important for Easter Eggs to be plastic-free and news that 11.5 million tonnes of food packaging waste is produced every year.  

 

New standards on gambling advertisements

Following publication by the Committee of Advertising Practice of new standards protecting children from irresponsible gambling advertisements, The Bishop of St Albans, The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, said:

"While I welcome the proposals, these new standards are, in fact, another lost opportunity in the fight against problem gambling. 

“With little consequences for companies flouting the rules and few teeth to enforce these new directives, the Committee of Advertising Practice needs to step-up their approach.

"With so many of the proposals relying on betting firms to self-regulate I sadly have little hope for major changes to the way gambling advertises. 

"This endless barrage of adverts has normalised gambling and we now have 55,000 children who are problem gamblers and it is time for the gambling industry to take this issue seriously.” 

 

David Marshall from the Meaningful Chocolate Company, who make the Real Easter Egg, said: "Easter eggs don't have to cost the earth. We have replaced plastic bags, tamper-seals and Best Before stickers with paper versions. There is still the same amount of chocolate in the Real Easter Egg and the box sizes are the same, but the redesign means our Dark and Original Egg will save at least 5 tonnes of plastic and 175 tonnes of card in the next five years."

 

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said; "I am delighted that an Easter Egg, which shares the Story of Easter, is leading the way by reducing packaging."

 

The Bishop of Salisbury, The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said; "As the lead bishop on the environment for the Church of England I am delighted that an Easter Egg, is taking seriously the care of our planet."

 

February's News

Join the Big Pancake Party on Shrove Tuesday 5th March - BBC to run a ‘Year of Beliefs’ - Bishop responds to climate concerns raised by World Economic Forum

Join the Big Pancake Party on Shrove Tuesday 5th March

Did you know that about one in eight British adults worry about not being able to afford enough food?

Recent research carried out on behalf of the Church Urban Fund has found that food poverty is a growing issue, with more families using food banks and children going hungry during summer holidays without their free school meals.

The Church Urban Fund’s Together Network is working to change this,  but says:  “We need your support: will you join the Big Pancake Party on Shrove Tuesday on 5th March 2019 and eat away at hunger?”

It is very easy to hold a Big Pancake Party, says CUF:

“Gather together some of your friends or family, eat pancakes, have a great time and raise funds for those in need.

“You could hold it in your home, school, church or community. It could be big or small, it could be on pancake day itself or on another day that works for you. We have plenty of ideas and resources to help.  Just go to http://www.cuf.org.uk/the-big-pancake-party

 

BBC to run a ‘Year of Beliefs’

The BBC is going to ‘shine a light’ on faith and spiritual values in Britain today by running a year of programmes dedicated to religion and ethics.

The move comes a year after the BBC promised to ‘raise our game’ in the way that it treated religion.  That promise followed a year-long review of its religious and ethics output.

So what series should we look out for?  Here are just some:

On BBC 1, Earth’s Sacred Wonders will look at the rituals and monuments of faith around the world; Medical Ethics will be a documentary filmed at Great Ormond Street Hospital; and Pregnant and Platonic will be a documentary on people who have children without being in a romantic relationship.

On BBC 2, Inside the Vatican will show a year in the life of the Vatican community, including Pope Francis; and the popular Pilgrimage series will return.

The Bishop of Repton, the Rt. Revd. Jan McFarlane, who chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust, welcomed the BBC’s plans.  Especially “bringing issues of faith, belief and ethics to as wide an audience as possible.”

 

Bishop responds to climate concerns raised by World Economic Forum

The Bishop of Dudley, Graham Usher, has described a risk report, recently published by the World Economic Forum as ‘significant,’ warning that those in the world’s most deprived areas will be affected most severely by Climate Change.

Bishop Graham said: “It is significant that the threats posed by climate change have been recognised by the world’s top economic experts.

“While this report serves to strengthen calls for urgent action to protect and sustain God’s creation, it also highlights the peril of inactivity and delay, which particularly places the economically poorest people in our world at risk of devastating consequences.”

Bishop Graham Usher is a member of the Church of England’s Environmental Working Group.

 

 

January 2019

Christians in the Middle East - Church of England parishes supporting winter shelters 

 

Christians in the Middle East 

Christians have been in the Middle East for nearly 2000 years, but they now face the threat of ‘imminent extinction’, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

In a recent letter to The Sunday Telegraph, Archbishop Justin Welby told of a visit he had made about 15 years ago to the home of an elderly Palestinian Christian man in Galilee.  ‘Foolishly, I asked, “How long has your family been Christian?” The man gave me a look and replied, “Since about the time of St Paul".’

Yet, now Christians in the region are facing ‘the worst situation since the Mongol invasions of the 13th Century’, Archbishop Justin said.  It is vital that these Christians in the Middle East know ‘they are not forgotten by the world, or treated as an irrelevant minority, a societal optional extra, or even a threat’.  Archbishop Justin called on the Government to take in more refugees.

According to the Barnabas Fund, following a freedom of information request, the Home Office has not admitted a single Christian among the 1,112 Syrian refugees resettled in the UK in the first three months of last year.

The four Christians out of 1,358 Syrian refugees recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), for resettlement in the UK were rejected. Only Muslim refugees were granted permission to resettle.

Prince Charles has praised the ‘extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness’ of the thousands of Middle Eastern Christians facing persecution.

Speaking late last year, the Prince said he had been “deeply humbled” by meeting Christians from the Middle East ‘who, with such inspiring faith and courage, are battling oppression and persecution.’ 

He wanted to assure these Christians of ‘steadfast support and most heartfelt prayers’ as they battle ‘oppression and persecution.’

 

Church of England parishes supporting winter shelters

More than 2,300 Church of England congregations are running or supporting night shelters this winter as homelessness projects expand to cope with rising demand.

Some of these ‘church’ night shelters are adding extra beds, and others are opening for longer during the week.

The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, and Chair of the Christian housing charity, Housing Justice, said: ‘The reasons why people end up on the streets are complex, with many facing mental ill-health, many having been in care as children, and a good number having been released from prison. 

‘Behind the distressing rise in numbers, we must remember that behind each statistic is a person, a human being made in God’s image and thus worthy of dignity.  I give thanks for all those who work tirelessly to serve those who live on our streets or in other unstable settings.’

 

 

December 2018

Stunning new £2-million Bible-and-art website

BBC to axe ‘Something Understood’

Four out of five Christians have 'taken action' on poverty

 

Stunning new £2-million Bible-and-art website

If you want to enjoy art with your Bible reading, then visit the stunning new £2-million Bible-and-art website, ‘The Visual Commentary on the Bible’ (https://thevcs.org/) which was launched late last year.

‘The Visual Commentary on the Bible’ matches three works of art with passages of Scripture.  Each triptych has been chosen by a theologian or an art historian (so far, there are 44 listed on the site), who also provides a short commentary on the picture, relating it to the Bible verses.  The images on the site are high-resolution, and with the powerful zoom facility, users can enjoy the artworks in great detail.

So far, there are 50 completed triptychs, or ‘exhibitions’, and another 50 await copyright permissions. In the next seven years, it is hoped that the number will grow to 1500. 

The site is free to use.  It is funded by Roberta and Howard Ahmanson, the US billionaire philanthropists, and draws on the expertise of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College, London.    

 

BBC to axe ‘Something Understood’

The Radio 4 programme Something Understood will not be made after April 2019, despite recent pledges from the BBC that it would protect its religious broadcasting.

No new series will be commissioned, but instead the programme’s slot will be filled with repeats from the series.   Something Understood explores spiritual and ethical topics through reflection, music and literature, and has been running since 1995. 

The Bishop of Repton, the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, who chairs Sandford St Martin Trust, said: ‘The BBC  has reneged on its professed commitment to religious and ethical broadcasting less than a year since the publication of its report.’

This year has also been designated by the BBC as the ‘Year of Beliefs’, in which specialist programming and documentaries about religion and faith were promised. 

A BBC spokeswoman said that the BBC ‘has to save £800 million by 2021, so … has to make tough choices.’

 

Four out of five Christians have 'taken action' on poverty

There is a link between reading the Bible and wanting to relieve poverty.

So found a recent poll by the research firm Barna Group, on behalf of Tearfund. In fact, 87% of Christians have taken action on poverty in this past year alone, and say they see it as a core part of their discipleship.

Now a report on the poll, Christians Who Make a Difference, has been released.  It considers the links between Christian belief and practice – and how it responds to poverty.

The research found Christians more likely to donate to charity:  73% as opposed to 63% of all other UK adults. Furthermore, 49% of Christians has personally given food, clothing, furniture or other resources to someone in need.

Christians were also slightly more likely to recycle, eat less meat, and use a green energy provider, (39% as opposed to 35% of all other UK adults).  Among those Christians who go to church at least once a month, the percentages were even higher.

The study also discovered that growing up in a Christian household is a significant predictor of later poverty activism.  Six out of ten poverty activists grew up in a home where Christianity was practised regularly, even though they no longer attend church.

Dr Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund said: ‘This new research shows that serving those in need plays an important role in spiritual growth.  An end to extreme poverty is possible - but we must act together, as the Church, united in a whole life response to extreme poverty.’

 

November 2018

#Christingle 50 Campaign - Church Children's Groups - Evangelism Initiative 2020

#Christingle50 campaign

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Children’s Society bringing Christingle to this country with a service held in Lincoln Cathedral in 1968.

To celebrate this landmark anniversary, the Children’s Society is running its #Christingle50 campaign, which aims to support vulnerable young people through raising funds at Christingle events and a collaboration with The Royal Academy of Music.

Some 200,000 10 to 17-year-olds in the UK are experiencing emotional neglect on a regular basis, and many are also struggling with other difficulties at home. The charity found that:

11% of 10 to 17-year-olds experiencing emotional neglect also do not have their own bed; 21% 10 to 17-year-olds experiencing emotional neglect had also been homeless in the last five years; and 20% of 10 to 17-year-olds experiencing emotional neglect also lived in a household that had used a food bank in the last five years.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society explains: 'Too many young people will wake up on Christmas morning like any other - feeling alone and unable to cope.'

The Children’s Society has created an original song for schoolchildren, congregations or community choirs to include in their Christingle services. The song, ‘Light a Candle’, is available to download and listen to or learn for free from The Children’s Society website.

You can support young people by donating to the #Christingle50 campaign, or by attending a local Christingle Service. For more information, visit www.christingle.org. 

 

Church children's groups are 'failing through lack of prayer'

Why do many Sunday schools and church groups for children falter, or even close down?  Scripture Union thinks it knows the answer.

After conducting a recent poll of more than 1,500 ministries, Scripture Union says that people would be "amazed" by how many leaders and volunteers set aside "no or minimal" time for prayer. Hence, their ministries simply do not survive.

In a recent interview, SU's national director Tim Hastie-Smith told Premier Christian radio that prayer was "absolutely vital" and needed to be "at the centre" of church ministries in order for them to thrive. The organisation identified prayer and taking time to understand and respond to local needs as "two of the most important factors" in determining success.

 

Evangelists ‘believing for the nation to be changed’ in 2020

A major new nationwide evangelism initiative for 2020 was recently launched at Lambeth Palace.

The campaign, Advance 2020, is a unique initiative on the part of more than 100 evangelists and ministry leaders.  They have agreed to lead a major evangelistic thrust in 2020, and beforehand, to multiply the gift of younger evangelists, through mentoring and accountability groups.

‘Arise, shine, for your light has come…’ the words of Isaiah 60 had inspired evangelist Andy Hawthorne with the vision to start Advance 2020.

He explained: ‘God was saying “step out in faith and do some big reaping events again”. But I also felt the Lord say: “And you aren’t going to be the main evangelist”.

‘For 25 years I’ve been the front guy for The Message, but I strongly felt the Lord say “You need to release younger evangelists”. I’ve gathered 12 younger guys around me and invested in them, believed in them, and we have wrestled together on what Gospel we preach to produce disciples, with a high level of accountability to each other.’

The group meets regularly and uses a WhatsApp group to share stories, pray for each other and keep in touch. As he has road-tested the mentoring vision with his Advance group, Andy says the 12 have seen thousands respond to Christ at events across Europe on a regular basis. ‘It feels like the most significant thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime … I’ve seen thousands more people come to Christ.’

There are now 45 groups – men and women’s groups – with 300-400 evangelists. The Advance 2020 vision is to multiply the groups, mentoring younger evangelists, sharpening each other’s message, whether they preach from a stage or share Christ in one-to-one conversations.

Challenging the evangelists in the room to ‘think big’ in 2020, he said, ‘What would it look like for us to step up for a year; if we were to multiply the gift of evangelist to proclaim Christ to 500,000 young people in that year; if we do this together, praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit through word and deed mission; if we are spurring one another on; recommissioning the gift of the evangelist; believing for the nation to be changed in a year?’

He invited the evangelists to work together, starting their own Advance groups and bringing them to the Advance 2020 Summit in October 2019, where 2,000 evangelists are to be recommissioned for a ‘reaping year’ in 2020. In the run-up to the event, 100 11-18 year olds will also be mentored, starting on The Youth Evangelism Weekender, 30 November to 2 December 2018.

Andy Hawthorne was joined by Roy Crowne from HOPE, Gavin Calver from the Evangelical Alliance, Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf from the Church of England; Rev Canon Yemi Adedeji, from HOPE and the One People Commission, plus Dave Plowman and Wendy Palau, from the Luis Palau Association, who each committed their ministries to the Advance 2020 vision, inviting the 100 in the room to do the same.

Those involved in the project include Hope, the Evangelical Alliance (EA) and the Church of England.

 

October 2018

Traidcraft - New Vision for RE 

Christian fair-trade business Traidcraft may stop selling goods

Traidcraft plc is in trouble.  With very poor recent trading figures and despite enormous efforts by the staff and management and Fair Traders, it warns that the present model for the company may be no longer viable.

Traidcraft’s charity branch, Traidcraft Exchange, will continue to support farmers and lobby government through its charitable arm, and the decision about closing the trading arm is still in a consultation period and not final.

Traidcraft plc first started in 1979, selling fair-trade coffee, sugar and chocolate as well as rugs and handmade baskets from Bangladesh. They went on to sell fair-trade clothes and wine.

Most of us remember them from church stalls and markets. Their aim was to keep a close link between producer and purchaser.

A spokesperson for Traidcraft said:  ‘Traidcraft plc’s mission to put the principles of fair trade into commercial practice is not, in any sense, fulfilled but we appreciate that it is time to consider new approaches.’

 

New vision needed for Religious Education

A new vision for RE is ‘vital’ for properly equipping our children.  So says the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders.

He was responding to the recent publication of the Final Report by the Commission on Religious Education.  He said: ‘this report calls for a new vision for Religious Education (RE) which is vital if we are to equip children for life in the modern world where religion and belief play such important roles.’

The report stresses the need for RE teachers who are resourced and supported effectively. It also recommends structural change in how RE is determined.

Nigel Genders said:  ‘Today, most people’s experience of religion and belief is national and global, so we support the move away from a local determination of the subject. We believe this will help pupils make sense of religion and belief as it is lived today and this proposed change is educationally valid and would bring RE into line with all other curriculum subjects.

‘We fully support the policy of developing a Statement of Entitlement to RE and are pleased to see the Commission endorsing an approach which we already use in Church of England schools.

‘However, the Commission’s proposed Statement of Entitlement requires further work if it is to ensure that children and young people develop religious and theological literacy as part of their knowledge and understanding.

‘We look forward to playing our part in working with the education community to achieve this.’

 

 

 

September 2018

Growing Numbers of young people train as Priests - 50th Anniversary Celebrations for the Methodists and UMC - Gaming with Scripture Union

Growing numbers of young people train as priests

Growing numbers of young people are seeking ordination to the priesthood, as the Church of England makes progress towards achieving a key target of recruiting more candidates for ordained ministry.

The number of people aged under 32 years old recommended for training for ordination this year rose by nearly a third, or 32%, to 169, compared to 128 in 2016, a report on vocations from the Church of England shows. This means nearly one in three, or 29%, of those entering training for the priesthood this year are expected to be under 32 years old.

The overall number of people recommended for ordination training is up 7% on last year, from 541 to 580. This follows a 14% increase the year before, putting the Church on course to achieving a key target of recruiting 50% more candidates for ordination by 2020.

The figures have been published alongside Ministry Statistics for 2017 showing just over 20,000 active clergy in the Church of England, with women making up nearly a third, or 30% of the total.  But the number of clergy in paid positions in 2017 fell by 50 from 7,790 to 7,740 compared to 2016.

Nearly a quarter, or 23% of paid clergy in senior posts, such as Bishops, Cathedral Deans or Archdeacons were women in 2017, compared to 12% in 2012.

Meanwhile, the vocations report shows that women are set to be the majority entering ordination training for the second year running, with 54% of this year’s recommended candidates being female.

Director of the Church of England’s Ministry Division, Julian Hubbard, said: “I am delighted that the Church of England has seen a rise in the number of vocations to the priesthood for the second year running. We are particularly pleased to see the increase in the number of young women and men entering training.

Catherine Nancekievill, Head of Discipleship and Vocation for the Church of England, said: “The Church of England is investing in worshipping communities across the country from coastal towns to rural areas and urban housing estates. This rise in vocations to ordained ministry is a welcome answer to our prayers and hard work across the country to ensure that we continue to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to every community.”

The Church of England is aiming to achieve an increase in the diversity of those entering ministry and a 50% increase in the total number of candidates for ordained ministry by 2020. This is part of its Renewal and Reform programme .

 

50th anniversary celebrations for the Methodists and UMC

The Methodist Church in Great Britain and The United Methodist Church (UMC) have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of their partnership with a series of services, workshops and discussions. The formal link between these two Churches is known as the Concordat.

Doug Swanney, Connexional Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain said: ‘Marking this 50th anniversary is not only about celebrating what has been but is also taking time to imagine how our ongoing partnership could best serve the Gospel in the decades to come. ‘Methodism remains a growing global movement and we both want to continue to play our part in that.’

 

Gaming with Scripture UnionImage result for scripture union guardians of ancora

The free down-loadable Scripture Union app game Guardians of Ancora is being played in 180 countries around the world in four languages, up to 1,000 children a week inviting a friend to play it also. To find out more about the game, click here for the Scripture Union website

 

 

August 2018

Remembrance 100 - Cof E Growth Programme - Marriage Certificates

Remembrance 100: Silence – a gift book for Remembrance

 

A commemorative booklet called Silence has been produced for churches to give away at Remembrance events this November. Silence includes many of the familiar Remembrance epitaphs, poems and exhortations and aims to help all those attending Remembrance services to engage with God in the two minutes silence.

On Sunday, 11 November 2018, people around the Commonwealth will observe Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day to mark the centenary of the end of World War 1. 

Roy Crowne, HOPE’s executive director, says: ‘As well as reflecting on loss, this year also gives us the chance to look forward as we mark the end of World War 1 and pray for peace. We have set up Remembrance 100 in partnership with others, to help churches bring communities together to mark this significant point in our history.’

Many organisations are working together to provide Remembrance 100 resources for local churches and communities. These include the Armed Forces Christian Union, Bible Society, Christian Vision for Men, Church of England, Churches Together in England, Deo Gloria Trust, HOPE, Lifewords, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Peace Alliance, the United Reformed Church, Scripture Union, Sports Chaplaincy UK, and the World Prayer Centre. For more information visit www.hopetogether.org.uk/remembrance or www.remembrance100.co.uk

 

Church of England funds ambitious growth programme

More than a hundred new churches are to be created in a £27 million drive by the Church of England to revive the Christian faith in coastal areas, market towns and outer urban housing estates.

New Christian communities in areas including the Kent coast, housing estates in Plymouth and market towns in Cambridgeshire are to be set up by the Church of England as part of its Renewal and Reform programme.

The plans have been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as a ‘wonderful example’ of how churches are seeking to be faithful to God and to serve their communities.

He said: “The Church of England exists to share the good news of Jesus through our words and our actions. Across the country, churches are bursting with life – which in part is shown through how they love and serve their communities. I’m especially pleased about these grants because they demonstrate our commitment to following Jesus to the places of greatest need in our society.

“These projects are wonderful examples of how churches are seeking to be faithful to God – and faithful to their communities in love and mission. Through their innovation, they signal a growing determination in the Church to share the good news of Jesus Christ in ways that make sense for those in our most deprived communities.”

John Spence, chair of the Church of England’s Strategic Investment Board, which approved funding for the work by the dioceses, said: “These grants are funding bold ambitious initiatives. Their scale and breadth show that the Church is feeling confident about its future.”

 

Bishop’s Bill calls on MPs to add mothers to marriage certificates

The House of Lords has passed a bill from the Bishop of St Albans to end the historic inequality of excluding mothers’ names from marriage certificates.

The Registration of Marriage Bill, which would also introduce electronic marriage registers, now moves to the House of Commons to be considered by MPs.

It is the first time a Bishop’s Private Member’s Bill has proceeded to the House of Commons in more than 20 years.

Speaking after the Lords passed the Bill, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said: ‘As someone who has performed hundreds of marriages, it has always seemed shocking to me that mothers are systematically overlooked.

 ‘This injustice dates to 1837 when children were viewed as a father’s property and little consideration was given to women. In this centenary year of women’s suffrage it is time to make this long overdue change.

‘I am pleased to have had the backing not only of Peers and many in the Church, but a huge number of others, including tens of thousands who have signed public petitions, campaigners for women’s equality, and even genealogists.

‘MPs from all parties support the aims of this Bill. I hope and expect the Government to treat it as a legislative priority when it comes to the Commons this autumn, and urge MPs to give it their approval.’

 

July 2018

Alexa for prayers - cashless transactions - marriage for generationY

 

Church of England brings prayers to millions with Alexa

The Church of England is launching an Alexa skill, enabling users to ask the Church of England for prayers, explanations of the Christian faith and where to find their nearest church for local events and services based on their location.Image result for Alexa

Daily prayer resources are central to the skill, offering a prayer for the day, as well as morning, evening and night-time prayers and a grace before meals all recorded for Alexa devices.

The skill is also integrated with A Church Near You, our national church finder that gets 13 million page views a year, to find the nearest services and events, and seeks to increase users' knowledge of the Christian faith by answering questions such as: what is the Bible? Who is God? What is a Christian?

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who is featured in a video to promote the Alexa skill, said: “We’re thrilled to be launching the Alexa skill today, to enable regular churchgoers and those exploring faith to connect with God in another way at a time that’s right for them. A quarter of UK households now own a smart device and, after transforming the Church of England’s and Archbishops’ national websites last year, this fast-growing area was identified as a priority for development.

“More broadly, this work is part of our wider Renewal and Reform programme, which seeks to ensure the Church of England is a growing Church for all people and in all places.”

Adrian Harris, Head of Digital at the Church of England, said: “Platforms such as Alexa give the Church the ability to connect people with God and to weave faith into daily lives, whether for daily prayers or exploring Christianity. We also see this as a fantastic opportunity to encourage people into their local church, which is why the link to A Church Near You is so important, particularly at key moments in the Christian year such as Easter and Christmas.

“We’re prioritising Alexa at this stage to reach as many people as quickly as possible, but plan to launch on Google and Apple devices in due course. The recent Church of England Digital Labs event highlighted the importance of voice as a major area of focus and the insights from this day were really useful.”

Thomas Allain Chapman, Publishing Manager at the Church of England, said: “The Alexa skill means prayers that Church House Publishing has previously made available in books, apps and e-books will now be available in audio to a new audience in many homes.”

This is phase one of the AI project, built jointly by the Church’s Digital and Church House Publishing teams, with future development planned to ensure users can find more answers to faith questions.

Users must activate the Church of England skill by saying “Alexa, open the Church of England”. A full list of commands is available on our dedicated Alexa page.

One million people go to a Church of England church and more than four million attend at Christmas. The integration with A Church Near You will mean even more users are able to find a local place to worship at key events.

This skill is one of the first significant faith-based skills available for smart speaker users in the UK.

 

 

The Church of England brings cashless transactions to its congregations

The Church of England has recently made contactless, virtual terminal, and SMS mobile payments available throughout England, in a bid to make transactions faster and easier for the Church’s congregations. In an increasingly cashless era, churches will now be able to offer cashless payment options for events including weddings, christenings, church fetes and concerts, as well as for making one-off donations and the booking of churches and halls. 

Over 16,000 churches, cathedrals, and religious sites will now have access to portable card readers through the Church of England’s Parish Buying portal through a partnership with SumUp and iZettle. The readers will be used to take contactless payments, Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as chip & PIN capable. The pay-as-you-go pricing is well suited to the needs of religious institutions, charging only a small transaction fee when the reader is used. The decision follows a trial which began in summer 2017 in cathedrals and parish churches.

Using iZettle, church-goers now have the choice to pay and make contributions in whatever way suits them best - whether it is by cash, card, mobile or wearable technology - which will benefit both the church and its visitors.

 

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Generation Y still hope to walk down the aisle 

Millennials still value marriage with almost three quarters of those who are unmarried (72%) intending to tie the knot, according to new research by the Church of England.

While official figures recently showed a decline in the marriage rate, a study commissioned by the Church of England’s Life Events team suggests that 18-to-35-year-olds still dream of having their big day. 

Among those who were single, almost six in 10 (59%) said that they would like to marry at some point. Just over one in 10 (12%) of respondents said they were engaged and planning their upcoming nuptials.   

Significantly, the survey also suggests that millennials attach a special importance to church weddings, with more young people preferring to marry in a church or chapel (47%) than a register office/town hall (34%).

Those who would consider a church wedding were asked why it appealed to them from a list of options. Almost a third said that it felt like a ‘proper’ wedding (31%). Marrying before God or receiving a blessing, was also in the top 10 (the seventh most chosen option). Millennials were also strongly drawn to ‘traditional/conventional’ wedding venues (72%).    

The research shows that for those considering marriage, almost one in six (17%) said that faith or religion had influenced their wedding ideas.