Category : T19 Categories

(Church Times) Pros and pitfalls of Vision and Strategy discussed in C of E webinar

The Church of England, beset by fears of scarcity and chasing a vision of “something bigger and better”, should look to the experience of the Church in Iran, which has survived being stripped of everything that it possessed, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, told a Church House webinar this week.

Finances and buildings were “both a huge gift to us but also a great curse; they are like nooses around our necks”, she said. “And I think if something were to happen, and they were all to be swept away, we would find at that point new life coming.”

Her comments were made during the first in a series of webinars exploring the Church’s Vision and Strategy for the 2020s: “Has strategy eaten theology for breakfast?” Introducing it, Dr Nick Shepherd, a senior vision and strategy consultant at Church House, acknowledged the existence of concerns about the salience of strategic terminology and planning (Comment, 1 July 2022).

Dr Francis-Dehqani offered episcopal solidarity with such concerns in June (News, 8 July 2022), when, in an address to her diocesan synod, she warned against “putting too much emphasis on our human powers — that if only we try hard enough and pull together well enough and all follow the same programme, then we can solve the problems and challenges and ensure the future survival of the Church, either much as it has been in the past, or preferably producing a shinier, bigger, better version.”

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(FA) Richard Haass–The Dangerous Decade: A Foreign Policy for a World in Crisis

There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Those words are apocryphally attributed to the Bolshevik revolutionary (and Foreign Affairs reader) Vladimir Lenin, referring to the rapid collapse of tsarist Russia just over 100 years ago. If he had actually said those words, Lenin might have added that there are also decades when centuries happen.

The world is in the midst of one such decade. As with other historical hinges, the danger today stems from a sharp decline in world order. But more than at any other recent moment, that decline threatens to become especially steep, owing to a confluence of old and new threats that have begun to intersect at a moment the United States is ill positioned to contend with them.

On the one hand, the world is witnessing the revival of some of the worst aspects of traditional geopolitics: great-power competition, imperial ambitions, fights over resources. Today, Russia is headed by a tyrant, President Vladimir Putin, who longs to re-create a Russian sphere of influence and perhaps even a Russian empire. Putin is willing to do almost anything to achieve that goal, and he is able to act as he pleases because internal constraints on his regime have mostly disappeared. Meanwhile, under President Xi Jinping, China has embarked on a quest for regional and potentially global primacy, putting itself on a trajectory that will lead to increased competition or even confrontation with the United States.

But that is not all—not by a long shot. These geopolitical risks are colliding with complex new challenges central to the contemporary era, such as climate change, pandemics, and nuclear proliferation. And not surprisingly, the diplomatic fallout from growing rivalries has made it nearly impossible for great powers to work together on regional and international challenges, even when it is in their interest to do so.

Further complicating the picture is the reality that American democracy and political cohesion are at risk to a degree not seen since the middle of the nineteenth century. This matters because the United States is not just one country among many: U.S. leadership has underpinned what order there has been in the world for the past 75 years and remains no less central today. A United States riven internally, however, will become ever less willing and able to lead on the international stage.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

A Lancelot Andrewes sermon for his Feast Day–‘One, that should save His people from their sins; save not their bodies for a time, but their souls for ever’

There is born a Saviour, is the first. The Angel addeth farther, Saviour Which is Christ. For, many saviours had been born, many had God sent them that at divers times had set them free from divers dangers of their enemies; Moses, from the Egyptians; Joshua, from the Canaanites; Gideon, from the Midianites; Jephtha, from the Ammonites; Sampson, from the Philistines. And indeed, the whole story of the Bible is nothing else but a calendar of saviours that God from time to time still stirred them up.

But these all were but petty saviours, there was One yet behind that was worth them all. One, that should save His people from their sins; save not their bodies for a time, but their souls for ever, which none of those saviours could do. One therefore must spoken of, wished for, and waited for, a Saviour Which was Christ. When He came they looked for great matters, as said the woman at the wells side, for He was the most famous and greatest Saviour of all. And this is He, a Saviour Which is Christ. He, of Whom all the promises made mention, and He the performance of them all; of Whom all the types under the Law were shadows, and He the substance of them all; of Whom all the prophecies ran, and He the fulfilling of them all; He, of Whom all those inferior…saviours were the figures and forerunners, and He the acomplishment of all in them was wanting. This is He; Jacob’s Shiloh, Isaiah’s Immanuel, Jeremiah’s Branch, Daniel’s Messias, Zachary’s oriens ab alto, Aggei’s desideratus cunctis gentibus, the desire of all the nations then, and now the joy of all nations, a Saviour Which is Christ.

And what is meant by this term Christ? A Saviour anointed; or, as in another place it is said more agreeable to our phrase of speaking, a Saviour sealed a Saviour under God’s Great Seal. That is, not as those other were, saviours raised up of a sudden upon some occasion, to serve the turn for the present, and never heard of till they came; but a Saviour in God’s fore-counsel resolved on, and given forth from the beginning; promised and foretold, and now signed and sent with absolute commission and fullness of power to be the perfect and complete Saviour of all.

And to be it, ex officio; His office, His very profession, to be one, that all may have right to repair unto Him, and find it at His hands. Not as Saviour incidentally, as it fell out; but one, ex professo, anointed to that end, and by virtue of His anointing appointed, set forth, and sent into the world to exercise this function of a Saviour; not for a time, but for ever; not to the Jews, as did the rest, but even to all the ends of the earth. So runs His bill, Venite ad Me omnes, come all; and, qui ad Me venerit non ejiciam foras, of them that come to Me, I will cast none out.Servator omnium hominum, the Saviour of all men, and as the Samaritans said of Him, Servator mundi, the Saviour of the world, of Samaritans, Jews, Gentiles; of kings, of shepherds, and all.

And there is yet more particularity in this word Christ: three offices did God from the beginning erect to save His people by, and that, by three acts the very heathen took notice of them1. Purgare, 2. Illuminare, 3. Perficere. 1. Priests, to purge or expiate; 2. Prophets, to illuminate or direct them; 3. Kings, to set all right, and to keep all right in that perfection which this world admitteth. And all these three had their several anointings. Aaron the Priest, Elisha the Prophet, Saul the King. In the Saviour Which is Christ, His will was all should meet, that nothing in Him might want to the perfecting of this work. That He might be a [76/77] perfect Saviour of all, He was all. A Priest after the order of Melchizedek; a Prophet to be heard when Moses should show his peace; a King to save His people, Whose name should be Jehova Justitia nostra. David’s Priest, Moses’ Prophet, Jeremy’s King.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Lancelot Andrewes

Almighty God, who gavest thy servant Lancelot Andrewes the gift of thy holy Spirit and made him a man of prayer and a faithful pastor of thy people: Perfect in us what is lacking of thy gifts, of faith, to increase it, of hope, to establish it, of love, to kindle it, that we may live in the life of thy grace and glory; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Augustine

Almighty God, who knowest our necessities before we ask, and our ignorance in asking: Set free thy servants from all anxious thoughts for the morrow; give us contentment with thy good gifts; and confirm our faith that according as we seek thy kingdom, thou wilt not suffer us to lack any good thing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

Prayers for the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina This Day

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from William Temple

Most loving Saviour, we would abide in Thee: make our hearts Thy dwelling-place; fill our minds with the thought and our imaginations with the picture of Thy love; take away whatever in us of selfishness or weakness hinders our hearing or obeying Thy call; teach us day by day to live closer to Thy side, which was pierced that we might live.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) Hilary Mantel, Prize-Winning Author of Historical Fiction, Dies at 70

But it was a long and arduous road to reach those heights, beginning with a tough childhood. “I was unsuited to being a child,” Ms. Mantel wrote in a 2003 memoir, “Giving Up the Ghost.” She endured numerous health problems, leading one doctor to call her “Little Miss Neverwell.” The doctor was the first of many to fail to properly treat her.

Her illnesses later proved so debilitating that she could not hold down regular jobs, steering her to writing. But even then it was a writer’s life of fits and starts. Mainstream success did not come to her until she was well into her 50s….

In her 20s, Ms. Mantel was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition in which tissue similar to that lining the womb grows elsewhere. Around that time, a doctor ordered her to stop writing. Her response, described in her memoir, was typically forthright: “I said to myself, ‘If I think of another story, I will write it.’”

At 27, having had the endometriosis diagnosis confirmed, she had surgery to remove her uterus and ovaries, although that did not stop the pain. The complications from her illness made a normal day job impossible, she said.

“It narrowed my options in life,” she said, “and it narrowed them to writing.”

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Posted in Books, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Saint Anselm

Truly, O Lord, because Thou madest me, I owe unto I Thy love my whole self; because Thou didst redeem me, I owe Thee my whole self; because Thou makest me such great promises, I owe Thee my whole self, nay more, I owe unto Thy love more than myself, insomuch as Thou art greater than I, for whom Thou didst give Thyself, to whom Thou dost promise Thyself. Make me, I beseech Thee, O Lord, to taste by love that which I taste by knowledge; to perceive by affection what I perceive by understanding. I owe more than my whole self to Thee, but I have no more than this, neither can I of myself render even all this to Thee. Draw me, O Lord, into Thy love, even this whole self of mine. All that I am is Thine by creation: make it to be all Thine by love.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(Guardian) Divine comedy: the standup double act who turned to the priesthood

Josh arrived at Oxford in 2012 to study history, Jack in 2013 for English. Once there, Jack devoted himself to comedy. The first time Josh saw him on stage, he couldn’t get over Jack’s brilliance. After the show, he went over and said: “You should do a sequel of that, but with me in it, too.” Jack was quick and witty. But he was also more honest than other people Josh had met at university. No one else talked about how punishing it was. Likewise, Jack admired how straightforwardly, unapologetically himself Josh seemed. In each other they both discovered qualities they could not see were also in themselves: someone grounded and earnest, who reminded them of home.

Jack is taller, more angular than Josh. The first time Josh saw a Rembrandt self-portrait, he thought: at last, people who look like me getting some representation in art. He has soft features, a stooped posture and droopy eyes that suggest a melancholic disposition. This impression falls away as soon as he speaks. When together, Josh is the more animated of the pair. At any hint of a joke from Jack (and when I interviewed them as a pair, there were many of these – I, the waiter, any passers-by becoming audience while they tried out accents and characters), he throws his head back and slaps his knees appreciatively. Jack is more sensitive and self-critical. He sometimes disappears into himself without warning. We spoke every few months between 2021 and 2022. The deepening of his commitment to Christianity during this period meant that on each occasion we talked, the version of himself from our last meeting had already become an object of some disdain.

There are two distinct routes to faith among those who don’t grow up Christian. The first is person-led. One priest I spoke to followed a girl he fancied into a church. He walked in an atheist and came out a believer. The process isn’t always so quick, of course. One devout Christian, named Chris, told me that it had started on his gap year when he met a Pentecostal Christian in Huddersfield. Every day the two spoke about faith. At the end of the year, Chris went to visit his new friend’s church. There the friend spoke to him through the Holy Spirit. In that heightened state, he told Chris truths about himself no one else knew. After that, Chris could think of no further reason not to become a Christian.

Others arrive at church after trauma.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Humor / Trivia, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(R U) Terry Mattingly–The Last Rites For Elizabeth II

“Queen Elizabeth was one of those people in this mortal life who always thought ahead,” said David Lyle Jeffrey, distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. When preparing these rites, the queen was “clearly looking for prayers, Scriptures and hymns that made connections she wanted to make for her family, her people and the world. … I think she succeeded brilliantly.”

An Anglican from Canada, Jeffrey said the events closing the queen’s historic 70-year reign were an appropriate time to explore the “essence of her admirable Christian character.” Thus, the retired literature professor wrote a poem after her death — “Regina Exemplaris (An exemplary queen)” — saluting her steady, consistent faith. It ended with these lines:

She who longest wore the heavy crown

Knew but to kneel before the unseen throne

And plead her people’s cause as for her own,

And there to praise the Lord of All, bowed down,

More conscious of his glory than her high acclaim,

Exemplar thus in worship, in praise more worthy of the Name.

After the “Kontakion of the Departed,” Bishop David Conner, the dean of St. George’s Chapel, noted the importance of this sanctuary to Queen Elizabeth. She had worshipped in the Windsor Castle chapel as a girl, sometimes singing in the choir and taking piano lessons with organist Sir William Henry Harris. The queen included some of his music in the committal service.

“We are bound to call to mind,” said Conner, “someone whose uncomplicated, yet profound Christian faith bore so much fruit … in a life of unstinting service to the nation, the Commonwealth and the wider world, but also, and especially to be remembered in this place, in kindness, concern and reassuring care for her family, friends and neighbors.

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Posted in Church History, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Poetry & Literature, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Gallup) U.S. Public Opinion and the Election: the Economy

The importance of the economy in the upcoming election is underscored by measures showing how poorly Americans rate economic conditions today. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is at one of its lowest points over the past 30 years (although not as low as in 2008). About eight in 10 Americans rate the economy as “only fair” or “poor,” and over two-thirds say the economy is getting worse, not better.

Americans’ low confidence in the economy persists despite the fact that about seven in 10 U.S. adults say it is a good time to find a quality job, among the highest such readings across Gallup’s history of asking this question.

That seeming contradiction — inflation and the economy as major concerns at a time when employment is recognized as being robust — highlights one of the difficulties in assessing what the public wants to be done about the economy. I will have more on that below.

Surveys show that Americans are personally feeling the negative effects of inflation, highlighting its potency as an issue this fall. My colleague Jeff Jones recently summarized Gallup data on the personal impact of inflation, noting that “a majority of Americans now say they are experiencing financial hardship from higher prices.” Jeff goes on to review a variety of actions the public is having to take in efforts to deal with the issue, including cutting back on spending and reducing travel.

An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted earlier this month similarly shows that twice as many Americans say their personal finances have gotten worse over the past year as say they have gotten better. And over seven in 10 report they “have had to cut back on, at least, one necessity or nicety in the past six months to meet their monthly expenses.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Psychology, Sociology

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Are Overzealous central banks making another horrible mistake, so (we should) batten down the hatches?

The world can kiss goodbye to an economic soft landing. Western central banks are on a misguided mission to restore their damaged credibility, tightening monetary policy violently after the post-pandemic recovery has already wilted and output is nearing contractionary levels.

Britain’s fiscal blitz has the luck of timing. It is a counter-cyclical stimulus, cushioning some of the blow, even if it risks rattling bond vigilantes, and even if it is wasteful in subsidies for the affluent.

Critics say the energy bailout will cap inflation in the short run but stoke more inflation in the long run, to which one can only reply, like Keynes, that in the long run we are all dead. World events are going to wash over such quibbling with a torrential deflationary force.

The central banks are pushing through with triple-barrelled rate rises after the inflation fever has broken; after the commodity boom has deflated; and after key monetary indicators on both sides of the Atlantic have turned negative. They are prisoners of lagging indicators.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, England / UK, Euro, Europe, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, The Banking System/Sector

(NYT front page) ‘They Are Watching’: Inside Russia’s Vast Surveillance State

Four days into the war in Ukraine, Russia’s expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus was already hard at work.

Roughly 800 miles east of Moscow, authorities in the Republic of Bashkortostan, one of Russia’s 85 regions, were busy tabulating the mood of comments in social media messages. They marked down YouTube posts that they said criticized the Russian government. They noted the reaction to a local protest.

Then they compiled their findings. One report about the “destabilization of Russian society” pointed to an editorial from a news site deemed “oppositional” to the government that said President Vladimir V. Putin was pursuing his own self-interest by invading Ukraine. A dossier elsewhere on file detailed who owned the site and where they lived.

Another Feb. 28 dispatch, titled “Presence of Protest Moods,” warned that some had expressed support for demonstrators and “spoke about the need to stop the war.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Charles Kingsley

Come to us, O Lord! open the eyes of our souls, and show us the things which belong to our peace and the path of life; that we may see that, though all man’s inventions and plans come to an end, yet Thy commandment is exceeding broad — broad enough for rich and poor, for scholar, tradesman, and labourer, for our prosperity in this life and our salvation in the life to come.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(The Big Issue) Child poverty in the UK: the definitions, causes and consequences in the cost of living crisis

Child poverty in the UK is reaching worrying levels. Paltry wages, low benefit payments and a cost of living crisis mean the UK’s poorest families are getting poorer.

Analysis from the Resolution Foundation has projected that a further 500,000 children will fall into poverty by April 2023.

Children’s charities, schools and food aid organisations are working tirelessly to plug the gaps created by the welfare system. Food banks are now being set up in schools so children have enough to eat.

Children are perhaps the most vulnerable group in any society, and often first to feel the effects of rising poverty across society. Here are the basics on what child poverty is, what causes it and the impact it has.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, England / UK, Poverty

(Washington Post) Nicholas Eberstadt–What’s behind the flight from work in post-pandemic America

Since the start of the 21st century, per capita growth dropped to less than half its previous 1950-2000 tempo. With the rate creaking along now at just over 1 percent per annum, incomes would take more than 60 years to double; from 1980-1999, the doubling pace was 31 years.

A significant factor in modern America’s slower growth — and the lower expectations it unforgivingly imposes — is the drop-off in work. The country is aging, of course, but population graying does not explain the collapse of employment for men of the 25-54 prime working age (women’s labor force participation rates have been declining too, but not as steeply). Nor can it account for the anomalous emergence of a peacetime labor shortage in post-pandemic America, even as workforce participation rates remain stuck well below pre-pandemic levels.

Instead, these are manifestations of a troubling, once unfamiliar but now increasingly entrenched syndrome. Call it the “flight from work.”

Although the unemployment rate for prime-age men in August was a mere 3 percent, only 86 percent reported any paid labor. The remaining 11 percent were labor-force dropouts — neither working nor looking for work. These “not in labor force” men, who now outnumber the formally unemployed by more than 4 to 1, are the main reason that the country’s prime male work rate has been driven below its 1940 level — when national unemployment rates were nearly 15 percent.

Astonishingly, yes, the United States has a Depression-scale work problem.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

(FA) Nicholas Eberstadt and Evan Abramsky–America’s Education Crisis Is a National Security Threat

The erosion of the United States’ educational edge will eventually weaken the country’s global reach. With a less highly educated workforce than it could or should have, the United States will have less economic, political, and military heft with which to defend its interests and uphold the economic and security architecture that has defined the postwar order. Eventually, Pax Americana will come under pressure. It is not hard to imagine a progressively less peaceable and more economically insecure international environment in which the United States has much less influence as a result of its stagnating pool of high-skilled labor.

Fortunately, the United States still has good options for coping with loss of educational hegemony. But they all require Washington to take initiative—something it seems unaccustomed to lately. Through more active and imaginative diplomacy, the United States could seek to forge new coalitions or alliances that would add human resource ballast to the liberal order. This might entail patient cultivation of new security partnerships with some of tomorrow’s major centers of highly educated labor: India, Indonesia, Vietnam—maybe even Iran. Other intriguing possibilities include a closer integration of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, which might bring North America’s strategic potential more in line with its tremendous demographic and economic potential.

Meanwhile, the United States could attempt to reverse its ominous educational slowdown. Stagnation in educational attainment is impeding economic growth and likely robbing the United States of trillions of dollars in output each year—a price that will only rise if the United States doesn’t shift course. Part of the problem is that Americans do not want to buy a lot of what U.S. educators want to sell, and it is hard to blame them. The quality of public primary and secondary schooling is woefully uneven, and a high school diploma does not always come with marketable skills. Higher education is increasingly bureaucratized, ideological, and expensive. If Americans treated education as if their future depended on it, they would look for far-reaching overhauls, not marginal changes, and they would look beyond teachers’ unions and university administrators for better ideas. Revitalizing the country’s human resources—not just educational attainment, but health, workforce participation, and even family—will increasingly be strategic imperatives for the United States.

The coming demographic and educational changes are predictable. But they are not entirely inevitable, and they are unfolding slowly. The United States has time to adapt and address its educational shortcomings before it is too late. To avoid squandering its educational edge and putting its position of global primacy at risk, however, Washington must acknowledge that education is no longer just a domestic policy issue but a national security issue on which the very future of the United States depends.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Education, Foreign Relations, Globalization

(NYT front page) The Fed Intensifies Its Battle Against Inflation

Federal Reserve officials, struggling to contain the most rapid inflation in 40 years, delivered a third big rate increase on Wednesday and projected a more aggressive path ahead for monetary policy, one that would lift interest rates higher and keep them elevated longer.

The Fed raised its policy interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, boosting it to a range of 3 to 3.25 percent. That’s a significant jump from as recently as March, when the federal funds rate was set at near-zero, and the increases since then have made for the Fed’s fastest policy adjustment since the 1980s.

Even more notably, policymakers predicted on Wednesday that they would raise borrowing costs to 4.4 percent by the end of the year and forecast markedly higher interest rates in the years to come than they had previously expected. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, warned that those moves would be painful for the U.S. economy — but said curbing growth to contain price increases was essential.

“We have got to get inflation behind us,” Mr. Powell said during his post-meeting news conference. “I wish there were a painless way to do that; there isn’t.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Philander Chase

Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith We give thee heartfelt thanks for the pioneering spirit of thy servant Philander Chase, and for his zeal in opening new frontiers for the ministry of thy Church. Grant us grace to minister in Christ’s name in every place, led by bold witnesses to the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, even Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Dwight L Moody

Fill our hearts with your grace, O Lord, our souls with your love and our lives with your glory; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(R U) Giorgia Meloni’s Politics And Faith: Meet The Woman Who Could Be Italy’s Next Leader

Pope Francis has been openly anti-populist, but the Italian people seem open to it now that the situation has gotten more dire economically as a result of COVID-19, rising inflation and an energy crisis triggered by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The pope has been good about staying away from the morass of Italian politics, leaving it to the Italian bishops to exert influence.

As Vatican observer John Allen Jr. wrote in a recent Crux column: “Italian Catholics also have a commendable capacity to live with contradiction, reflecting a healthy sense of the complexities of things. Small case in point: I recently went to a local pharmacy for a Covid test, and I noticed a poor box to support the hospital founded by Padre Pio atop a shelf. Upon further inspection, it was the same shelf that offered the pharmacy’s collection of jumbo-sized boxes of condoms.”

Meloni is an embodiment of such contradictions. For example, she supports family values and other Catholic doctrines, but has a daughter, named Ginevra, with her boyfriend Andrea Giambruno, a journalist.

Allen said Italy is a place where “the sacred and the secular have been forced by bitter experience to work out a modus vivendi, for the most part respecting the legitimacy and autonomy of the other.”

Despite all these contradictions, Meloni is poised to be prime minister. Her campaign slogan may be “Ready” — but it remains to be seen if she, the majority of her countrymen and the world are ready to see her lead Italy.

Read it all.

Posted in Europe, Italy, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(TLC Covenant) Rowan Williams–Queen Elizabeth’s Anglican Faithfulness

[Archbp Geoffrey Fisher’s book of prayers and meditations]…were the foundations for her thinking about her calling. And they helped her make what must have been a difficult discernment in her later years. As British society grew both more religiously plural and more secular, she responded not by watering down what she had to say in her annual Christmas broadcasts but by gently increasing the references to her faith and to the role of religious faith in general.

Reading through these Christmas texts, it is striking that, as her society ceased to take for granted the frame of reference that was hers, she recognized that part of her task was to remind us of it. Never triumphalist, never aggressive, she simply reiterated her own commitment, her acknowledgment of God’s grace, and her insistence on the need to remember what the Christmas festival was actually about.

Contrary to what some over-anxious and over-apologetic observers might have feared, this did not offend or alienate the faithful of other communities. It reassured them that the monarch understood how and why faith mattered. And that was partly because she was increasingly willing to take part in interfaith events (and was indeed criticized by some Christian rigorists for doing so). This might be at large public events like Commonwealth Day services.

But my strongest memory is of an event at Lambeth Palace, late in my time as archbishop, when we had organized a small exhibition of treasures from different faith traditions and invited the queen to come and view this, to meet a number of religious leaders, and to address the group. What she said in her address was a powerful statement of a genuinely theological rationale for the Church of England’s role in a religiously plural society.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NYT front page) Health Panel Recommends Anxiety Screening for All Adults Under 65

A panel of medical experts on Tuesday recommended for the first time that doctors screen all adult patients under 65 for anxiety, guidance that highlights the extraordinary stress levels that have plagued the United States since the start of the pandemic.

The advisory group, called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said the guidance was intended to help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years or even decades. It made a similar recommendation for children and teenagers earlier this year.
The panel, appointed by an arm of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, has been preparing the guidance since before the pandemic. The recommendations come at a time of “critical need,” said Lori Pbert, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, who serves on the task force. Americans have been reporting outsize anxiety levels in response to a confluence of stressors, including inflation and crime rates, fear of illness and loss of loved ones from Covid-19.

“It’s a crisis in this country,” Dr. Pbert said. “Our only hope is that our recommendations throw a spotlight on the need to create greater access to mental health care — and urgently.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(FT top) Vladimir Putin mobilises army reserves to support Ukraine invasion

Vladimir Putin said Russia’s armed forces would call up its reserves immediately to support its invasion of Ukraine and indicated Moscow would probably annex large swaths of the country’s territory.

In an address to his nation that significantly raised the stakes in the war, the Russian president announced “partial mobilisation” ahead of heavily stage-managed votes in four occupied regions of Ukraine to join Russia.

Moscow did not give an official figure for the newly mobilised troops but it is estimated they will significantly bolster the number of Russian forces on the ground in Ukraine, which western officials have in the past estimated to stand at between 150,000 and 190,000.

More than six months since Putin first sent troops into Ukraine in late February, he defined the war as an existential struggle for Russia’s survival against what he described as a hostile west.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Matthew

We thank thee, heavenly Father, for the witness of thine apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of thy Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from The Narrow Way

O Our God, we believe in thee, we hope in thee, and we love thee, because thou hast created us, redeemed us, and dost sanctify us. Increase our faith, strengthen our hope, and deepen our love, that giving up ourselves wholly to thy will, we may serve thee faithfully all the rest of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Narrow Way, Being a Complete Manual of Devotion with a Guide to Confirmation and Holy Communion (London: J. Whitaker and Sons, 1893)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

(Telegraph) Marcus Walker–The Church of England is clearly in rude health. It must recognise its strengths

The interplay of the national and the local and the strength that the Church of England still has in its atrophying muscles should be a cause of serious hope to those leading the national church. But, as Christ says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” so if we’re going to build on these strengths, we need to make a conscious decision to invest in them.

The local is our strength. Churches at the centre of their communities, priests at the centre of their churches – with the time to devote to their communities. The CofE knows this – three reports have been commissioned into why some churches grow and some shrink and all three came back with the same answer.

As one, From Anecdote to Evidence put it: “The findings show that single church units under one leader are more likely to grow than when churches are grouped together…There is a strong negative trend between the more churches amalgamated together and the likelihood of decline.”

Communities across the country are concerned that the old model of Anglican Christianity is slowly dying – and often for paltry sums of money, unable to be raised at a local level but easily available at a national level where the Church of England sits on £10 billion of assets. Where your treasure is, there will you heart be also: let’s put our money in our parishes, for that is where the real beating heart of the CofE is found. (And let’s celebrate the fact that we no longer have a recruitment crisis – we are now ordaining more new priests than we have clergy retiring or quitting early.)

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

(BBC Sounds) A Discussion looking back on the Queen’s funeral especially focusing on the faith issues involved

Herewith the BBC blurb about the show:

Exploring the faith behind the pomp and pageantry of the Queen’s funeral.

Millions will have watched the historic funeral service from Westminster Abbey and the Committal at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest. For some, the services will be full of meaning and resonance. Others will be less familiar with the Christian rituals that have evolved over centuries.

Ernie Rea is joined by writer and journalist Catherine Pepinster, Professor Douglas Davies, Rev Dr Giles Fraser and Andrew Carwood MBE (Director of Music, St Paul’s Cathedral) to discuss and illuminate the meaning, symbolism and significance of the Queen’s state funeral.

Listen to it all (28 minutes).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture

The New Dean of Llandaff Cathedral, Richard Peers, is announced

Canon Richard has had a long connection with the Church in Wales, leading retreats, preaching, and teaching across Wales. Richard has undertaken education consultancy in Church in Wales’ schools and assists as an adviser in change management to clergy. He is an Honorary Canon of St Asaph Cathedral.

“I am delighted to have been invited by Bishop June to be the next Dean of Llandaff,” says Canon Richard Peers. “The Church in Wales and Llandaff Cathedral have had an important place in my heart for many years. I look forward to praying, working, and living in Llandaff as part of the strong team in the Cathedral.

“This is an exciting time for the Church in Wales and for Llandaff Diocese and Cathedral. The Cathedral is a place where faith matters and I will be glad to lead the Cathedral as it further develops the diocesan vision to tell a joyful story, grow the kingdom of God, and build the capacity for good of churches across the Diocese.”

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Posted in Church of Wales, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry