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(Telegraph) Divorce rates increase for the first time this decade as over-50s untie the knot

Divorce rates in England and Wales have increased for the first time this decade according to the Office for National Statistics.

There were 106,959 divorces of opposite-sex couples in 2016, an increase of 5.8 per cent compared with 2015, with men and women getting divorced at a rate of 8.9 per 1,000 married people – up 4.7 per cent.

The last time there was an increase in divorce rate was between 2009 and 2010.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Marriage & Family, Sociology

(Church Times) Too few children in too many pews, latest C of E mission statistics warn

The average C of E church has just three children attending, and the smallest 25 per cent have, on average, none at all, according to the latest Statistics for Mission.

The data, collected by parishes a year ago, shows the overall decline in attendance to be almost twice as pronounced among children. The average attendance by children, defined as being under 16, fell by 22 per cent between 2006 and 2016, compared with a 13-per-cent fall among adults.

In the smallest 25 per cent of churches, the average weekly attendance by children — at church services or Fresh Expressions on Sundays or weekdays — was zero. In the largest 25 per cent it rose to 11; and in the largest five per cent it was 35. The median is just three.

Most measures of attendance fell by between ten and 15 per cent between 2006 and 2016. On average, 927,300 people (86 per cent of them adults, 14 per cent of them children under 16) attended C of E services and acts of worship in October 2016, which was down from 961,100 the previous year.

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

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Give, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy waiting people freedom and strength; that we may be loosed from all our fears, and labor with a steady hand; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Uncategorized

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved….Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore

Psalm 16:7-8;11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

Rod Dreher–Face It, Parents of Faith: There Is No Peace in the midst of the current culture

I write in this space quite a bit about how conservative Christian parents (and others) are largely — and willfully — clueless about what’s going on in this post-Christian culture, and how they ought to be thinking about it and responding to it. When I talk to pastors, educators, and others about what they’re seeing on the ground, I find this view of mine affirmed with depressing regularity. We are in a terrible crisis, but insofar as far too many Christian parents think, it’s a crisis of a threat from Islam, or from liberal elites, or homosexuals, or any number of villains that are easy to identify. I don’t deny that all of these groups, and many others, do pose a challenge to the Christian faith, but by far the most important and neglected challenge is that posed by the widespread failure of parents and church communities to pass the faith on to their children.

This is not a problem you can address by voting, or by judicial rulings, or by restricting immigration, or by watching more Fox News. Nor is it a problem you can address by going to church on Sunday, dropping your kid off at youth group mid-week, and leaving it at that. Nor is it a problem you can address by simply affirming the correct set of propositions.

Over and over, I hear from pastors and Christian educators that the biggest obstacle to forming the hearts and minds of the community’s children in an authentically Christian way are parents. Parents who want to outsource the job to the school and the church, versus working in harmony with the school and the church to accomplish this mission. Parents who get mad at the school or the church for being demanding of their children (and of them). The plain fact, amply demonstrated by the sociology of religion, is this: there is no single factor more important in determining whether or not a child will keep the faith than the example set by parents.

Read it all (emphasis his).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Children, Marriage & Family, Secularism, Seminary / Theological Education

(New Yorker) Jill Lepore–What Do We Do With Our Dead?

Throughout the nineteen-forties, most American cemeteries were subject to the same racially restrictive covenants as housing, and were just as resistant to integration, even after courts deemed this practice a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Black graves were more likely to be unmarked, their occupants buried in the old ways, a traditional “homegoing.” In the fifties, consumer conformity drove the conventions of burial; the rising cost of dying outpaced the rising cost of living. Black funeral directors sold the same wares. “Negro undertakers gross more than $120 million for 150,000 funerals each year,” Ebony reported in 1953, in an article titled “Death Is Big Business.” “If a person drives a Cadillac, why should he have a Pontiac funeral?” one funeral director asked Jessica Mitford, as she reported in “The American Way of Death,” in 1963. What sounded like a hoax worthy of Barnum had become by then the way a great many Americans buried their dead—on satin sheets in stainless-steel caskets, with hymns piped in their crypts through high-fidelity stereo, beneath vast, manicured lawns. “The desirable crypts are now in the new air-conditioned section,” another funeral director told Mitford when she updated the book.

There were, nevertheless, dissenters, a cadaver counterculture. In 1971, the “Last Whole Earth Catalog” offered instructions for a “Do-It-Yourself Burial” that you could arrange for fifty dollars. Cremation is generally cheaper than burial, and it makes a certain sense if you have no intention of maintaining the geraniums on the family plot. Long forbidden in the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and disparaged by Christians, it slowly became more acceptable. By 1980, the cremation rate in the United States, which had been virtually zero, had risen to nearly ten per cent. For people with no religious faith, cremation proved particularly appealing. (That number is growing, fast: one in three younger millennials has either never or rarely attended a religious service.) In the Gilded Age, the rich were the ones who wanted to be cremated; in the Second Gilded Age, cremation is the only kind of end the poor can afford. Stagnant wages and the financial crisis of 2008 appear to have accelerated the flames: people who’d lost their homes could hardly afford mahogany coffins. In 2013, Time declared cremation “the new American way of death.”

Ashes scatter. In 2016, for the first time, more than half the American dead were cremated, marking a change to the landscape of every city and town—tombstones uncarved, graveyards abandoned—and a weakening of the ties that bind the living to the dead. The dead are a people and the past is a place that half of Americans no longer visit, except to topple stones.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Caribbean picks up the pieces after Hurricane Irma

The Island of Anguilla in the Diocese of North East Caribbean and Aruba featured in the most recent BBC 2 series, An Island Parish. It was badly affected by Hurricane Irma.

Speaking to The Church of England Newspaper on 27 September, Bishop Errol Brooks, whom the TV programme described as a ‘rock’, said the western half of Anguilla had suffered the worst. This is the Methodist area and two of their churches had been “really messed up”.

Of the three Anglican Churches the roof of St Andrew’s Island Harbour had been badly damaged. The winds that blew throughout the day had lifted a sheet or two of the roof in the main church St Mary’s in the Valley, and water had got inside.

While the worship area of the new section of St Augustine’s remained intact the 200-year-old section of the church had been badly damaged. “I do not know where to start,” said the assessor.

Damage was worse on the island of Dominica, where one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films was shot. The roof of St George’s Church has gone and the rectory, where this writer stayed when doing a locum on the island, is badly damaged. Barbuda, a small island off Antigua, had now been evacuated. The island of St Kitts however escaped without any damage.

Read it all (may require subscription).

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Caribbean, Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, etc.

Anglican Church of Bermuda Launches a New Training Course in partnership with St Mellitus College, London

Saturday, October 21 at 11.00am – St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Paget: Inspired Souls- Reflections on Saints and Holy People from Around the World

“Modern celebrity has become an increasing feature of our media obsessed society. From The Rolling Stones to Rhianna, the phenomena reflects something of a human need for heroes who exhibit an unusual quality. In the history of the Christian faith, can the same human tendency be applied to the veneration of saints?

“What is it about their lives and experiences that attracts interest throughout the ages? The lecture focuses on the stories of saints and holy people from diverse backgrounds and their relevance to modern life.”

Saturday, October 21 at 2.00pm – St Paul’s Anglican Church, Paget: Come as we are: Representation and the Church

“Europe is experiencing a resurgence in a political narrative around nationalism as a reaction to mass migration, terrorism and growing social and economic inequality. In the face of such challenges, how does the Church live out the reality of the Gospel and the kingdom of heaven where an emphasis is on loving others and the stranger is preeminent?”

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Seminary / Theological Education

Anglican Oriental–Orthodox International Commission To Meet in Dublin, Ireland for the First Time

The Anglican Oriental–Orthodox International Commission will meet in Dublin from October 23 to 28 for the first time since its foundation. Hosted by the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, who is one of the founding members, the Commission will consider two main items. The first is the completion of an agreed text on the Holy Spirit that will be linked with the mission of the Church. It is hoped that the agreed statement will be completed and signed by the two co–chairs in the course of the meeting. The second agenda item is an initial exploration of areas around “authority in the Church”.

This will be the sixth meeting of the Commission since its foundation in 2001. While in Dublin, members will attend St Maximous and St Domatius Coptic Orthodox Church in Drumcondra for prayers in the Coptic tradition.

They will also visit the Chester Beatty Library, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Marsh’s Library, the Book of Kells in Trinity College. They will attend Choral Evensong and a reception in Christ Church Cathedral hosted by Dean Dermot Dunne and a reception in the Mansion House to meet the Ardmhéara Bhaile Átha Cliath/Lord Mayor of Dublin Mícheál Mac Donncha and leaders of other faiths in Ireland and members of inter faith groups.

“We look forward to welcoming the Anglican Oriental–Orthodox International Commission to Dublin and our hopes for this consultation are that the Commission might see that there is a spiritual core and a religious dynamic to Dublin historically and in lived actuality,” said Archbishop Michael Jackson.

Read it all.

Posted in - Anglican: Latest News, Church of Ireland, Ecumenical Relations, Orthodox Church

(NYT) Branding Ritual Scarred Women in Secret Circle

Last March, five women gathered in a home near here to enter a secret sisterhood they were told was created to empower women.

To gain admission, they were required to give their recruiter — or “master,” as she was called — naked photographs or other compromising material and were warned that such “collateral” might be publicly released if the group’s existence were disclosed.

The women, in their 30s and 40s, belonged to a self-help organization called Nxivm, which is based in Albany and has chapters across the country, Canada and Mexico.

Sarah Edmondson, one of the participants, said she had been told she would get a small tattoo as part of the initiation. But she was not prepared for what came next.

Read it all (and please note the headline above is from the NYT print edition).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Women

(Inquirer) Pew: Almost half of Philadelphia’s 839 sacred spaces have new congregations – or none

Philadelphia has 839 historic sacred spaces — churches, temples, and mosques — or one for every 1,900 residents. That’s a lot of big, beautiful buildings facing uncertain futures.

The Pew Charitable Trusts decided to inventory the city’s current and former houses of worship, and released a report Wednesday on the lay of the laity’s land, looking at the vulnerabilities these structures face — from physical deterioration to changing neighborhoods and shrinking attendance.

“You hear a lot of anecdotes but we didn’t know how many were still standing, what condition they were in, how they were being used, and their impact on civic life,” said Larry Eichel, director of the Philadelphia research initiative at Pew.

Despite dwindling religious participation, most of the city’s sacred spaces — 83 percent — are still used for religious purposes. Nearly half are no longer used by the building’s original congregation.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Henry Martyn

O God of the nations, who didst give to thy faithful servant Henry Martyn a brilliant mind, a loving heart, and a gift for languages, that he might translate the Scriptures and other holy writings for the peoples of India and Persia: Inspire in us, we beseech thee, a love like his, eager to commit both life and talents to thee who gavest them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the South African Prayer Book

O Almighty God, who by thy holy apostle hast taught us to set our affection on things above: Grant us so to labour in this life as ever to be mindful of our citizenship in those heavenly places whither our Saviour Christ is gone before; to whom with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end.

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Now Shephati′ah the son of Mattan, Gedali′ah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemi′ah, and Pashhur the son of Malchi′ah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out to the Chalde′ans shall live; he shall have his life as a prize of war, and live. Thus says the Lord, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.” Then the princes said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” King Zedeki′ah said, “Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you.” So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchi′ah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mire, and Jeremiah sank in the mire.

When E′bed-mel′ech the Ethiopian, a eunuch, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern—the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate— E′bed-mel′ech went from the king’s house and said to the king, “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern; and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.” Then the king commanded E′bed-mel′ech, the Ethiopian, “Take three men with you from here, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.” So E′bed-mel′ech took the men with him and went to the house of the king, to a wardrobe of the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. Then E′bed-mel′ech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. Then they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

–Jeremiah 38:1-13

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(AI) A Pastoral Letter from the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church on women’s order

The bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) met at Church of Holy Communion, Dallas, Texas on October 2, 2017, for prayer, fellowship, planning for the renewal and planting of Reformed Episcopal parishes, and discussion of other matters concerning the church. Reformed Episcopal bishops from Canada, England, Croatia, Germany, and Brazil were present by teleconference call.

Among the topics discussed was the recent statement issued by the College of Bishops of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), regarding the ordination of women. This statement arose from the conclave held in Victoria, British Columbia, September 5-7, 2017, and represents the first attempt by the ACNA College of Bishops, since the completion of the study by the Task Force on Holy Orders, to address the differing positions on this issue among the dioceses of the ACNA.

Because the Reformed Episcopal bishops in North America are members of the ACNA College of Bishops, the release of the statement has prompted questions among REC clergy and laity about the impact it may have on the Reformed Episcopal Church’s understanding of Holy Orders. Consequently, the bishops have deemed it wise to issue a pastoral letter to the REC family of churches, to clarify our position and allay any fears about the direction of our church.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology