Category : England / UK

R S Thomas “The Answer” for Easter

From there:

Not darkness but twilight
In which even the best
of minds must make its way
now. And slowly the questions
occur, vague but formidable
for all that. We pass our hands
over their surface like blind
men feeling for the mechanism
that will swing them aside. They
yield, but only to re-form
as new problems; and one
does not even do that
but towers immovable
before us.

Is there no way
of other thought of answering
its challenge? There is an anticipation
of it to the point of
dying. There have been times
when, after long on my knees
in a cold chancel, a stone has rolled
from my mind, and I have looked
in and seen the old questions lie
folded and in a place
by themselves, like the piled
graveclothes of love’s risen body.

Posted in --Wales, Easter, Poetry & Literature

(CEN) Paul Richardson reviews Steve Bruce’s new book ‘British Gods: Religion in Modern Britain’

Steve Bruce, Professor of Sociology at the University of Aberdeen, is a leading proponent of the secularisation thesis. Religion has been in decline in Britain for 150 years, he argues, and there is little reason to think this process is going to be halted. Religious believers will not find his new book a comforting read but it does have lessons to teach us. Members of the Church of England concerned with evangelism and church growth would do well to read it.

Bruce is adept at dismissing those who have argued in defence of the persistence of religion. Grace Davie has spoken of vicarious religion in which a small proportion of the population are seen as carrying out religious activities on behalf of a larger number of people who are not directly involved. The role clergy often play when disaster strikes could be seen as an example of vicarious religion but Bruce argues clergy are candidates to act as honest brokers because they no longer have religious significance. ‘Like eunuchs working in a harem,’ he writes, ‘the clergy are invited to play significant social roles because they are impotent’.

For many Christians the charismatic movement is an important sign of renewal. Bruce argues this has not brought many new members into the churches. Most of those who have been at attracted were already Christian. Only 1 per cent of those who attend Alpha courses have not at some time been regular church goers. Bruce sees dangers for Christianity in the way the charismatic movement prefers feelings over doctrine and moves away from a distinctive culture of church architecture, liturgy, dress, ritual and hymns. In some ways it represents a secularisation of Christianity. Examining New Age beliefs and practices Bruce, correctly argues, they are not widespread enough to take the place of Christianity.

When it comes to new African or West Indian churches, Bruce maintains that their language and style is too alien to enable them to be effective carriers of the gospel to the white, British population. He may have a point here but he is mistaken in arguing that church growth in London is only fuelled by the immigration. The Diocese of London has seen significant growth and John Wolfe has analysed why this has happened. David Goodhew has also written of growing churches in London and elsewhere but Bruce nowhere refers to his work.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism

A [London] Times Article on the Aftermath of the IICSA report–Independent watchdog to police abusive priests

Bishops’ powers will be passed to trained “diocesan safeguarding officers”, who will be able to make decisions “independently of clergy” and will be supervised centrally.

The church said that bishops still have an “important role to play” in promoting the importance of child protection policies, but added that they “should not hold operational responsibility” for decisions about abuse cases.

The church also gave its backing to the creation of an independent body to oversee the work of its national safeguarding team, which will be the first time that an external watchdog has been set up to police abusive priests.

It will consist of a board with a “majority of entirely independent members” to provide “independent scrutiny and feedback”.

Read it all.

Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Harriet Monsell

Gracious God, who didst lead thy servant Harriet Monsell through grief to a new vocation; grant that we, inspired by her example, may grow in the life of prayer and the work of service, so that in all our sorrows and in all our joys, thy presence may evermore increase among us, and that our lives may be so ordered as to reveal the mind of Christ, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History, England / UK, Spirituality/Prayer

(Archbishop of York) Stephen Cottrell: Covid-19 has brought us to our knees – now I pray we rise up

Even though our poorest communities have suffered disproportionally, there can be no ‘me and you’ or ‘them and us’ with Covid. It must be we. Covid will not be dealt with anywhere until it is dealt with everywhere.

The most obvious sign of this is the vaccine programme itself. It is wonderful that our country is taking the lead. But we won’t get beyond Covid until the whole world is vaccinated.

This rediscovery of a most basic human truth, that my well-being is tied up with my neighbour’s well-being, should now be the guiding principle for all public policy as we move forward.

Secondly, and flowing from the realisation that we belong to each other, we have learned to appreciate the real dignity and value of people’s labour: especially those whose jobs we may have considered menial and unimportant a year ago.

Who would have thought that alongside the heroes of the National Health Service’s inspiring example of selfless care, we would have also come to value those who stock the supermarket shelves or drive the delivery vans or volunteer in food banks?

We used to measure each other’s worth by the size of their salary. Now it must be the size of their heart.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

Archbishop Justin Welby’s reflection on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day on the first anniversary of the UK’s national lockdown

One of the great songs of lament to God in the bible begins “by the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept.”. An anniversary is a time to lament, to mourn, to sit and weep for what could have been and is not. Pause for a while today, remember what has been lost, above all who has been lost. Lament – for to do so is to honour and treasure. As a Christian I follow and love Jesus Christ who loved and mourned his friends, his country, suffering.

Anniversaries are also moments of new beginnings. It is just a day. But it is also a moment. And one of the signs of being human – of being spiritual as well as material – is that we make moments that pass into moments of significance. The anniversary calls on us to ask where we are going?

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, History, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Bells to toll and thousands of candles to be lit for National Day of Reflection today

The words Reflect, Support and Hope will be projected in yellow on the front of Lichfield Cathedral, while Blackburn and Leicester cathedrals will light thousands of candles to mark lives lost, to mark the National Day of Reflection.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral will suspend two hundred tear drops above the altar and Chelmsford Cathedral will be transformed into a vibrant space of colour and light.

In Portsmouth churches will deliver more than 50 boxes of chocolates along with cards to GP surgeries, care homes and schools in the area as a gesture of thanks to key workers for their contribution during the pandemic.

Area Dean of Portsmouth, Revd Canon Bob White, said: “We are very aware of the stresses and pressures they have faced over the past year and want to thank them and let them know that they are in our prayers.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(Christian History Magazine) Patrick the Saint

Despite his success as a missionary, Patrick was self-conscious, especially about his educational background. “I still blush and fear more than anything to have my lack of learning brought out into the open,” he wrote in his Confession. “For I am unable to explain my mind to learned people.”

Nevertheless, he gives thanks to God, “who stirred up me, a fool, from the midst of those who are considered wise and learned in the practice of the law as well as persuasive in their speech and in every other way and ahead of these others, inspired me who is so despised by the world.”

Over and over again, Patrick wrote that he was not worthy to be a bishop. He wasn’t the only one with doubts. At one point, his ecclesiastical elders in Britain sent a deputation to investigate his mission. A number of concerns were brought up, including a rash moment of (unspecified) sin from his youth.

His Confession, in fact, was written in response to this investigation. Reeling from accusations, Patrick drew strength from God: “Indeed he bore me up, though I was trampled underfoot in such a way. For although I was put down and shamed, not too much harm came to me.”

If Patrick was not confident about his own shortcomings, he held a deep sense of God’s intimate involvement in his life. “I have known God as my authority, for he knows all things even before they are done,” he wrote. “He would frequently forewarn me of many things by his divine response.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Patrick

Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: Grant us so to walk in that light, that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Posted in --Ireland, Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

(C of E) Millions join worship online as churches bring services into the home in pandemic year

Clips and content from the services have been seen 40 million times on social media channels.

The Church of England’s prayer and discipleship apps – in which people can join in ancient services of morning and evening prayer from wherever they are – have been accessed eight million times, up 50 per cent on the previous year.

The figures for online services are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg as churches’ response to the challenge of the pandemic triggered a major change in the way Christians worship and reach out to their neighbours.

At least 20,000 services and other online events are now listed on the Church of England’s ‘church-finder’ website AChurchNearYou. A year ago there were none.

And a special hymn download service, designed for local churches to use as part of online worship, has seen more than a million downloads.

As churches look ahead to an expected easing of restrictions and more public gatherings, many are assessing how to incorporate the lessons of the last year into their regular patterns of worship and outreach after the pandemic.

Read it all.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The Bishop of Worcester calls for targeted sanctions against those responsible for military coup in Myanmar

On 8th March 2021 the Bishop of Worcester received a written answer to a question on targeted sanctions against the Myanmar regime:

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar. [HL13549]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is looking at a range of measures to ensure the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar are respected.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Myanmar/Burma, Politics in General

A National Day of Reflection for the first anniversary of lockdown

The Church of England, Marie Curie, Hope UK, Care for the Family, Ataloss and many charities and organisations across the UK, will join forces on Tuesday 23rd March for a National Day of Reflection to commemorate the first anniversary of the nationwide Coronavirus lockdown.

York Minster will open from 11.30am to welcome people for prayer, quiet reflection and to light candles for family, friends and loved ones. The Minster will fall still at 12 noon for a national one minute silence. A Chaplain will be present throughout the day.

The Revd Michael Smith, Canon Pastor at York Minster said: “This unprecedented event has touched communities all over the world. There has been heart-breaking loss of life, disruption to every sphere of life, enforced isolation that has been extremely difficult to endure and severe economic strain. Even the most basic human interactions such as comforting the sick and dying, or attending a funeral have been impossible for many.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Health & Medicine, History, Religion & Culture, Uncategorized

(BBC) The Rev. Yvonne Clarke–First black female deacon fights to save parish

The first black woman to become a deacon in the Church of England is fighting to keep her parish open.

The Reverend Yvonne Clarke became a deacon in 1987 and was among the first women ordained as a priest in 1994.

Her south London parish of All Saints Shirley, in Southwark Diocese, which is also her home, is earmarked to close under plans to reduce financial pressures.

The diocese said it had not come to the decision “lightly”.

Ms Clarke said no-one had consulted with her about her future “in an appropriate way”.

“Instead, I have been informed about what will happen to me, that the changes will mean I lose my vocation and my home,” she said.

“It has been my mission to ensure that immigrants and children of immigrants to the area have been welcomed into the church.

“I work with the diverse community and I have brought a wider group of worshippers to the church.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Yorkshire Post) Archbishop of York: Future of our local churches after pandemic

But how will Archbishop Cottrell ultimately judge the success of his own mission from a pastoral and personal perspective? “I’m not sure is the honest answer,” he concedes. “Let me tell you what I long for. I do long for our churches to grow. I do long for that. I think our world will be a better place, I think people would lead happier more fulfilled lives in communion with God. Even if that doesn’t happen, I won’t think I have failed because I don’t think I am personally responsible for that – I have my part to play.

“I also long for us to live in a fairer, better world where families and households and communities are properly supported, and I think the Church has a part to play in that, and I certainly want to do all that I can to develop and strengthen the life of the local church.

“We might even increase and develop that presence into new communities, that we will have worked out what it means to be an online church as well as a physical church. They are the things that I hope for. If that bears fruit with more people being part of the Church, then I will rejoice.” He means it.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

For Their Feast Day–(CH) John and Charles Wesley

John and Charles Wesley are among the most notable evangelists who ever lived. As young men, they formed a party which came to be derisively called Methodists, because they methodically set about fulfilling the commands of scripture. In due course they learned that works cannot save, and discovered salvation by faith in Christ. Afterward, they carried that message to all England in sermon and in song. John Wesley is credited with staving off a bloody revolution in England such as occurred in France.

Although the brothers did not set out to establish a church, the Wesleyans and the Methodists are their offspring.

Both preached, both wrote hymns. But John is more noted for his sermons and Charles for his hymns. Here we present two hymns by Charles and a sermon by John.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Methodist, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(The Observer) Britain must reset its compass, from housing to wages, says archbishop of York

Britain needs to reset its compass in a political climate in which “we’ve learned to accommodate things that we know are wrong”, the archbishop of York has said.

Stephen Cottrell, who was enthroned in October, told the Observer: “Our compass has slipped; we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that things can’t change, that this is just the way the world is. Politics has, I think, shrunk. There’s a loss of vision about what the world could be like.”

As the number two in the Church of England, he said that he wanted the church to have a louder political voice. “I simply don’t accept a separation between the church and politics, faith and politics or, for that matter, anything and politics. It’s about how we inhabit the world – and everybody and every organisation and every community has a voice and a stake.”

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Books, England / UK, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint David of Wales

Almighty God, who didst call thy servant David to be a faithful and wise steward of thy mysteries for the people of Wales: Mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ, we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.

Posted in --Wales, Church History

(CEN) Lockdown has benefits for marriage, says study

The number of couples considering divorce dropped by two-thirds compared to before the pandemic according to a new study.

The study, from the Marriage Foundation, looked at 3,005 parents who completed the UK Household Longitudinal Coronavirus survey from the ONS. The data, which covers the period up to the end of September found little change since June.

Just 1 per cent of married dads and 0.7 per cent of married mums said they were considering divorce. This compared to 0.6 per cent and 1.1 per cent in June. Both these figures were lower when compared to pre-COVID times. Asked the same question between 2017-19, an average of 2.5 per cent of married dads and 5.6 per cent of married mums said they were considering divorce.

Harry Benson, the Marriage Foundation’s Research Director commented: “This data busts the myth that there is going to be a divorce boom anytime soon. Both this study and the previous one, published last year suggests the opposite, that spending more time with your husband or wife is beneficial for many of the UK’s 12.8 million married couples.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family

(H Post) Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Kensington: Only A Shared Long-Term Vision Will End Our Housing Crisis

To solve the housing crisis, we need a similar long-term goal. Our housing crisis is really an affordability crisis. We don’t just need more houses, we need more good quality houses that people can genuinely afford.

What if we were to set a target for the number of truly affordable homes we need in 20 years’ time? What if we were to work out the financial gap between the cost of providing them and what they would cost at normal market prices? What if successive governments then had the task of planning ahead how to meet that gap by whatever means necessary?

The Church of England is stepping up to play its part. We own land and property and are looking to make some of that land available for affordable housing, and inviting others to do the same, even though it is bound to mean an element of sacrifice. Jesus taught us that there are two simple tasks at the heart of human life: to love God and to love our neighbour, whoever they happen to be. If that neighbour doesn’t have somewhere safe, stable and satisfying to live in, then we must do all we can to help them find that.

Thirty years ago, ideas such as the minimum wage as a way of fighting poverty and the need for radical policies on climate change seemed fringe issues – cranky policies proposed by a few wild and weird figures on the edges of political life. Now they are mainstream, and every government has to sign up to them. We need the same for housing.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture

New bishop for the environment appointed by Archbishop of Canterbury

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, has accepted the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme with a charge to lead bold, deliberate, collaborative action across the Church to tackle the grave existential crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Bishop Graham will work with the Mission and Public Affairs department of the Church of England to lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme, including the commitment to net-zero carbon impacts across the Church of England by 2030 set by General Synod in February 2020.

He will succeed the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, who retires later in the year.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecology, England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Sky News) Government urged to close loophole that allows extremists to radicalise others

The government has been urged to close a loophole in the law that allows extremists to operate with impunity, spreading hateful ideologies without fear of prosecution.

The Commission for Countering Extremism wants to see the introduction of a legal framework, enabling authorities to prosecute those who propagate harmful and hateful extremist views.

It said the “gaping chasm” in existing legislation meant many groups – from radical Islamists to far-right neo-Nazis – were able to spread hatred and radicalise others.

The commission – which was formed in the wake of the 2017 London Bridge attacks – said current legislation was focused on dealing with the threat of terrorism.

However, it meant that much extremist activity – so long as it did not cross a certain threshold – was not covered by the law.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Terrorism

Wednesday Food for Thought–Tim Keller on the Holy Spirit as our Second Advocate and a story from the 18th century Welsh Church

” … your defense lawyer may have hard and challenging things to say to you, yet always in order to help you case and cause. And he or she does not merely speak to you – but also speaks to the powers that be for you. This is why the translations of John 14:16-20; 25-27 that call the Holy Spirit the Advocate are also, I believe, on the right track. That’s how God’s Spirit is defined, or described, in the word Jesus uses to talk about him. But we must notice also that Jesus calls the Spirit another Advocate or counselor. Who, then, is the first Advocate? The only other place in the New Testament where the word paraklete is used is in 1 John 2:1-2: ‘If anyone does sin, we have an advocate (paraklete) with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ So Jesus is the first Advocate, and the Spirit is the second. And I want you to know that in this word – advocate, counselor – we have the key to understanding not only Jesus’ work on the cross but also the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Indeed, I’d argue that unless you know that Jesus was the first Advocate, you won’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit as the second Advocate at all….”

“The first Advocate is speaking to God for you, but the second Advocate is speaking to you for you. Throughout the Farewell Discourse, Jesus keeps saying that the job of the Spirit is to take all the things Jesus has done on our behalf – all the things that the apostles had still not yet grasped – and to ‘teach you’ and ‘remind you’ and enable the apostles to finally understand all that Jesus had taught them about his saving work (John 14:26).”

“I love the fact that the Holy Spirit is not merely an instructor, but an Advocate. Though he is ‘the Spirit of truth,’ he does not merely teach and inform us; he calls us to live according to what he is telling us. He convicts us and challenges us (John 16:8-11). He says in effect, ‘You are a sinner – are you living with the humility and dependence on God that results from that fact? Yet you are also righteous in Christ – adopted and accepted into the family. Are you living with the boldness and freedom that should accord with that fact? Are you as free from the need for worldly power and approval and comfort as you should be?’ He argues with us, he exhorts, beseeches, and entreats us (all good translations of parakleo), to live lives in accordance with the accomplishments and realities of Christ’s love. And this is why Jesus says that through the Holy Spirit he will finally ‘show’ himself to his friends (John 14:21). They will finally see him and know his loving presence. … it’s natural for us to believe that it would have been better to have lived during the time of Christ and to have actually met him and heard him with our ears and seen him with our eyes. You might believe that you could know him better that way than you do now – but you would be wrong. Before he died, the Holy Spirit had not been released into the world in this powerful way, and you can only know Jesus fully through the Spirit’s influence, as he shows you in the shadow of the cross how high and long and wide and deep his love is for us. In other words, right here and now, through the Holy Spirit, you can see Christ and know his presence and his love better than the apostles could in that moment in the upper room.”

“This week, somebody criticized you. Something you bought or invested in turned out to be less valuable than you thought. Something you wanted to happen didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Someone you counted on let you down. These are real losses – of your reputation, of your material wealth, of your hopes. But what are you going to do, if you’re a Christian? Will this setback disrupt your contentment with life? Will you shake your fist at God? Toss and turn at night? If so, I submit that it’s because you don’t know how truly rich you are. You are not listening to the second Advocate about your first Advocate. You are not living in joy. You are forgetting that the only eyes in the universe that matter see you not as the ‘phony little fake’ you have sometimes been, but as a person of captivating beauty. If you’re that upset about your status with other people, if you’re constantly lashing out at people for hurting your feelings, you might call it a lack of self-control or a lack of self-esteem, and it is. But more fundamentally, you have totally lost touch with your identity. As a Christian, you’re a spiritual billionaire and you’re wringing your hands over ten dollars. It’s the job of the second Advocate to argue with you in the court of your heart, to make the case about who you are in Christ, to show you that you’re rich. And it’s your job to listen. How can you listen better? That’s a big subject, but if you are a believer, then the Holy Spirit will do his work as you use the ‘means of grace’ – reading and studying the Word by yourself and in community, prayer, worship, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper….” 

“I once heard a story of an eighteenth-century Welsh preacher who, when he was just a teenager, was standing with his family around the deathbed of one of his aunts. His aunt had been a strong Christian, but she was slipping away. Everyone thought she was unconscious and some said out loud, ‘It’s a shame; she’s had such a hard life. She’s seen two husbands die, and she’s often been sick, and on top of it all she has died poor.’ Suddenly she opened her eyes, looked around, and said, ‘Who calls me poor? I am rich, rich! And I will soon stand before Him bold as a lion.’ And then she died. Understandably, that had quite an effect on the young man. This woman had the peace that Jesus spoke of because she had listened to the Advocate. She was saying, ‘I’ve got the only husband who can’t die. I’ve got the only wealth that can never go away. And my Savior dealt long ago with sin – the only disease that can really and truly kill me. How can you call me poor?’ The second Advocate had told her about the first Advocate, so she could say in the face of great loss, as the hymn writer did, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.'”

–Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), pp.34-147, quoted by yours truly in this past Sunday’s sermon

Posted in --Wales, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

Meir Soloveichik for Eric Liddell’s Feast Day–Finding God in the Olympic Footrace

While Americans rightly exult in the achievements of U.S. medalists, “Chariots of Fire” also serves as a reminder that athletics and even patriotism only mean so much. When Liddell is informed that a qualifying heat takes place on Sunday, his Sabbath, he chooses not to compete in that race. The camera cuts from athletes at the Olympics to Liddell reading a passage in Isaiah: “Behold the nations are as a drop in the bucket . . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” David Puttnam, a “Chariots of Fire” producer, wrote me that the verses were “specifically selected by the actor, the late Ian Charleson, who gave himself the task of reading the entire Bible whilst preparing for the film.”

The Isaiah passage is liturgically important for Jews: Parts of it are declaimed in synagogue on the Sabbath when we read God’s command to Abraham to leave the center of civilization and found a family, and a faith, in a new land. Isaiah reminds Jews that Abraham’s children have encountered much worse than what Harold Abrahams experienced. While most nations now rest on the ash heap of history, the biblical Abraham’s odyssey continues. The countries competing in today’s Olympics come and go, while those who “wait upon the Lord” endure.

“Chariots of Fire” also offers a message for people of faith who have grown troubled by the secularization of society and the realization that they are often scorned by elites. Like Liddell, we may be forced to choose religious principle over social success. Hopefully, however, we will be able to use our gifts to sanctify this world. As Liddell’s father told his son in the film: “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back in wonder.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, Missions, Sports

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Eric Liddell

God whose strength bears us up as on mighty wings: We rejoice in remembering thy athlete and missionary, Eric Liddell, to whom thou didst bestow courage and resolution in contest and in captivity; and we pray that we also may run with endurance the race that is set before us and persevere in patient witness, until we wear that crown of victory won for us by Jesus our Savior; who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer, Sports

Churchwarden Patrick Kidd Expresses Some Concerns about recent C of E leadership amidst the Pandemic

Take the time to read it carefully.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(C of E) Bishops and church leaders target Covid vaccination misinformation

With the UK’s vaccination programme this week reaching the 16 million dose mark, bishops and church leaders in the Church of England have been speaking out amid warnings that misinformation and low uptake among some communities poses a risk to the programme’s effectiveness in protecting the whole population.

As part of the NHS-backed #GiveHope campaign, launched last week, bishops and church leaders have joined together in sharing video messages encouraging communities to seek accurate information on vaccines, hold local conversations, and to encourage one another to take up offers of vaccines.

While uptake of the vaccine so far has met Government targets, significant numbers indicating mistrust, including in some UKME communities, mean that some people in younger age-groups may be less likely to take up the vaccine than the groups targeted to date.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(Spectator) The Archbishops of Canterbury and York–the Church in changing times

You can imagine our shock, then, when we read in the media about what is supposedly happening to our beloved church. That the parish system, with its beautiful vision of serving every inch of the country and every person in it, is being systematically dismantled. That clergy are being made redundant. That there are plans to somehow centralise everything and for services, even beyond Covid, to be online rather than in person.

So let us try to set the record straight. There are no plans to dismantle the parish network. We are committed to our calling to be a Christian presence in every community.

Throughout our history, some churches have closed and others have opened. We weep at the former and rejoice at the latter. But it is not new. The untold story is that in recent years the Church of England has planted or renewed at least 100 new congregations and churches.

Far from withdrawing from the poorest areas, there is a huge effort towards growing congregations and supporting ministry in those areas — including rural areas, where we invest £10 per head of population compared with £6 per head in urban areas.

Meanwhile, the suggestion that all we do is cut back clergy numbers is not only untrue and unhelpful, it creates unnecessary anxiety. We need more clergy and they are coming forward in record numbers. And where dioceses are saving posts, it is usually through retirements.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) C of E’s carbon footprint calculated for first time

The carbon footprint of Church of England buildings has been calculated for the first time. The estimate is that parish churches use about 185,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

The data has been gathered by the Energy Footprint Tool (EFT), an online calculator built by the statistics team at Church House, Westminster, which allows parishes to input their energy usage and discover how much carbon-dioxide equivalent they are using (News, 4 September 2020).

Once churches have entered their data, the tool offers advice for how they could cut their energy usage, and a simple comparison on how they are doing compared with churches of similar size.

It is hoped that wider usage of the EFT will help to push the Church towards meeting its target, set by the General Synod, of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030 (News, 14 February 2020)

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment, said that the 2030 target had inspired Anglicans everywhere to “pick up the pace”.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(BBC) How religious services have been changed by Covid

“Radio 1 Newsbeat has caught up with four to see how they’re adapting, as well as what they’re hearing from those who want to pray.”

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture

The Church of England House of Bishops Meeting, 9th February 2021

The Archbishop of York then addressed the House in his capacity as head of the Vision and Strategy workstream. In his address, the Archbishop drew on feedback from Regional Bishops’ groups on Vision & Strategy and spoke about the integration of the Vision & Strategy work with the Five Marks of Mission and Missionary Disciples; the House took note of the work so far.

The Bishop of Durham and the Diocesan Secretary of Sheffield then addressed the House as Co-Chairs for the working group – Younger and more Diverse, setting out the issues, barriers and opportunities to creating a younger and more diverse church. In discussion groups, bishops discussed the proposed approach, aiming to direct feedback into further work of the Vision and Strategy Group.

A similar process was followed with the Bishop of Dunwich speaking to the House as co-chair of the Mixed Ecology the Norm, a subgroup of the Vison and Strategy workstream.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Religion & Culture