Sunday, 31 August 2008

We call on Him

We call on Him
Whenever storm clouds gather
We call on him to light our darkest day
Why must it be that only when we're lonely
And hopes are dim, we call on him

Why dont we call on him
Before we lose our way
To count our blessings
And thank him while we may

We call on him
When no-one else will answer
We ask of him
A reason to go on

When our cup of joy
Becomes a cup of sorrow
Filled to the brim
We call on him

Why dont we call on him
Before we lose our way
To count our blessings
And thank him while we may

Friday, 29 August 2008

Why Disagreement in the Anglican Church doesn't mean Division

It was difficult for ordinary folk following the press coverage of the Lambeth Conference - where Anglican bishops from all over the world meet every 10 years - to get the full picture of what happened there because the press coverage tended to concentrate on the disagreements between the bishops.

So the Bishop of Reading, the Rt. Revd Stephen Cottrell, decided to write an article in the Reading Evening Post to clarify the position. He wrote -

"For most of us the church means the local church and its relevance by the impact and influence it has on our community. But we Christians also need to take account of the global and universal nature of our faith. Therfore it does matter that the Christian faith proclaimed in one bit of the worldis recognisably the same in another. Not to mention continuous with the faith that has been received from previous generations.

"Problems start to emerge when the questions we face in one part of the world prompt conclusions that other parts of the world cannot understand or support. In a rapidly changing world questions of gender and sexuality have created such uncertainty and sometimes disagreement among different parts of the worldwide Anglican church. But though these disgreements have been quite public, there is no doubt that these tensions can be found in all churches and probably in other religions as well. We are all challenged by the questions our different cultures pose; and sometimes we are led to differing responses.

"But let me tell you some good news. The bishops of the Anglican Communion didn't agree with each other. No surprises there! Neither did we agree to differ. For many, the issues are too important for this. But we have agreed to keep on talking; to take better account of the way our actions affect each other; to keep seeking consensus; and to strive for a unity that is honest about difference and diversity and where its legitimate limits lie.

"Painful though this is, I dare to believe it is a message for the world where we too easily assume that disagreement can only mean division."

That IS good news and I dare to believe that God's Holy Spirit will watch over all the bishops as they seek consensus until they reach their goal of unity.

Chinese ridicule London's part in Olympic Closing Ceremony

Chinese press and bloggers have been less than favourable about London's contribution to Beijing's Olympic closing ceremony – criticising contributions from the London Mayor Boris Johnson and David Beckham.

As the torch was put out in the "Bird's Nest" stadium, one blogger described Mr Johnson as "arrogant, rude and disrespectful" when he accepted the Olympic flag. There were mixed opinions too about the eight-minute cameo performance featuring a London bus, Beckham, the singer Leona Lewis, Led Zeppelin's guitarist Jimmy Page, dancers and singers.

The Titan Sports Daily contrasted the "neatness" of the Chinese performers with the "outrageous outfits" worn by the Britons. Unlike the Chinese custom which tends not to reveal their weakness to the outsiders, "the British seem to like to laugh about their stupidity in a funny way", it said.

"During the performance, when the London bus pulled over, all the passengers waiting for the bus rushed into the door at the same time, which truly damaged the British image," it added. In the run-up to the Games, Beijing officials had run a campaign to "civilise" the city's inhabitants, teaching them of the importance of queuing in Western culture.

It also complained that Lewis and Page were not A-list celebrities. "Unfortunately, the singer and Jimmy Page are absolutely not famous enough to be known or recognised by millions of the Chinese audiences. As for David Beckham, he was supposed to kick the football towards the red circle in the centre of the 'Bird's Nest'. In the end, just like any of his penalties at a football match, he totally missed it. He kicked the ball to the left and it dropped in the crowd, then was picked up by a lucky Chinese volunteer who would not let go of the ball."

The Daily First praised the use of a red London bus, but questioned whether the performance had anything to do with sport or the Olympic Games. Mr Johnson was also criticised for accepting the Olympic flag with one hand only."

Source: The Independent 17/08/08

I must confess that I myself was very disappointed with the 8 minutes British welcome to the Olympic Games of 2012, though not entirely for the reasons given in this article. I thought that Boris Johnson receiving the Olympic flag with one hand was a sign of his strength, much as the commentators praised Chris Hoy when he managed to carry the British flag in one hand briefly during the opening parade. The London bus was a good symbol to use for London and George Beckham symbolised British sport, while the umbrellas were a sign of British weather. However, I couldn't see that any of the rest had any real meaning as an advert for Britain and I certainly couldn't see the whole 8 minute presentation as a compelling invitation/reason to visit Britain in 2012. It was an opportunity missed as far as I was concerned. What did you think?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Reading Pop Festival 2008

Last weekend Reading and Caversham had its annual invasion of what our local evening newspaper persists in calling ‘the great unwashed’ for the annual Reading Pop Festival. They began to arrive a day earlier than usual – on the Wednesday – and this year the police set up temporary police booths at the railway station, so that they could search all those arriving by rail for drugs and weapons and they made 140 arrests. It appears that some of the young people had come up with what they thought were ingenious ways of hiding drugs – inside tent poles, chocolate spread jars, and hair gel tubes, for example – but the sniffer dogs did a good job!

However, the vast majority of festival-goers were good-spirited, law abiding and co-operative. By Thursday the town was gridlocked by all the fans coming in by coach and car and, both on Thursday and Friday, I found it necessary to allow extra time for my bus journeys across town for appointments. From the bus it was interesting to see all the temporary stalls, selling all kinds of things from tee-shirts to food and drink, that had sprung up all along Caversham Road. There were some very amusing woollen hats with long tails worn by a number of fans.

There were many more pop fans than ever before, demonstrated by the fact that last year there were 60,000 who came to the Festival and this year they numbered 80,000. With 200 bands performing over the weekend, there were a few problems associated with such a huge crowd of people. Crowd control, as the fans who had not obtained tickets via the Internet queued for tickets, was extremely difficult. Not least, there were the same number of toilets as last year and this caused stampedes to use the toilets. This was made worse when one of the toilets was set on fire and went up in flames. Inevitably, when you consider the amount of drink that fans carried on to the site, there were a few incidents for the security police to deal with, but the vast majority had a really fabulous time.

This year a temporary pedestrian bridge was constructed over the Thames to provide easy access for those fans who camped on the Caversham side of the river near the Warren, but there were still boats carrying fans across as well. As you can imagine, such huge numbers of visitors to Caversham made quite a difference to its normal residents. Fans who came by car left their cars all over the normally quiet streets of Caversham Heights instead of the special Festival car park. It was advisable to visit the supermarkets very early before the fans were up and about or after the bands had begun their performances, though the latter meant that things liked cooked meats were sold out by that time. Some residents opted out and went into Henley for their weekly groceries. However, this year the wind must have been in the other direction because we could barely hear the music in our gardens and there were no complaints on that score.

Friday, 22 August 2008


An international gathering of women theologians has issued a rallying call for churches to transform the economic and political systems that increase poverty and damage the environment. The theologians, meeting in Bangalore, India, urged churches to ‘engage’ the systems ‘that deny human dignity and scorch the earth’ and to ‘reject greed and over-consumption’. They also resolved to develop a global ecumenical movement on social and economic justice, drawing on women’s insights. ‘Resistance to empire is growing and women are very much in the forefront,’ said Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. The Alliance co-sponsored the meeting with the World Council of Churches.

Source: Christian Today (19/8)


Todd Bentley, the controversial evangelist at the centre of revival meetings in Lakeland, Florida, has stepped down from leading his Fresh Fires organisation after filing for separation from his wife. A Fresh Fires statement said that Bentley had ‘entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff’. The Lakeland meetings have drawn and influenced a number of UK church leaders who believe they have seen fruit in healings and changed lives. Critics have condemned Bentley’s style of pushing people to the ground while shouting ‘Bam’ and say his claims to receiving revelations from angels are unbiblical. Bentley, who had been receiving marital counselling for three years, will ‘refrain from all public ministry for a season to receive counsel in his personal life’, Fresh Fires say.

Sources: Christian Today (20/8); Christianity Today (9/08); Evangelicals Now (8/08)

Thursday, 21 August 2008

'Before they call, I will answer'

I have just received this by e-mail and I really must share it with you all, with the request to pass it on, please. This will bring comfort and challenge to any who are in distress and should also spur our churches and young people's groups to respond to the prayers of less fortunate people overseas.

Isaiah 65:24 'Before they call, I will answer'

This story was written by a doctor who worked in South Africa

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).

We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). 'And it is our last hot water bottle!' she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

'All right,' I said, 'put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.'

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten -year old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. 'Please, God' she prayed, 'send us a water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.'

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, 'And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?'

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say,'Amen'. I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything, the Bible says so; But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator! Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.

By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.

Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box. From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it out - yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, 'If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly too!'

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted!

Looking up at me, she asked: 'Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?'

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon.'

'Before they call, I will answer' (Isaiah 65:24) This awesome prayer takes less than a minute. When you receive this, say the prayer, that's all you have to do. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want - but do send it on. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards.

Let's continue praying for one another Father, I ask you to bless my friends reading this right now. I am asking You to minister to their spirit at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them. Where there is spiritual stagnation, I ask You to renew them by revealing Your nearness, and by drawing them into greater intimacy with You. Where there is fear, reveal Your love, and release to them Your courage. Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them. Give each of them discernment to recognize the evil forces around them, and reveal to them the power they have in You to defeat it. I ask you to do these things in Jesus' name.

I can only add, AMEN.

Churches challenged to tackle discrimination and inequality

The Equally different? Campaign is designed to support churches and Christian communities as they seek to be more open and inclusive. It flows from the Church’s first major report on equality and diversity issues, presented to the Methodist Conference in July this year.

The report challenged the Church to eliminate discrimination in an increasingly diverse Christian community. In particular, it highlighted the need for proper theological reflection on the issues and practical action to counter discrimination, both within and outside the Church. The Conference commended the Equally different? Campaign as a practical way to uphold and resource churches in this work.

Materials to support the campaign include house group and workshop materials and a challenge to churches to embark on a month of reflection on equalities and diversity issues. These are all available to download free of charge at More resources will be added as they become available, such as worship material and youth and children’s work guides, as well as additions to the existing categories. There is also a downloadable introduction to guide churches on how best to use the resources to encourage inclusivity.

Alison Parker, Equalities and Diversity Project Worker, says; ‘Issues of equality are the business of all Christians; this is about you and me as much as about 'others'. This campaign is not a shortcut to an inclusive Church, but should help to support Christians as they explore their calling to seek equality for all. The website is a growing resource - there’s plenty of material already there for people to get their teeth into but there’s also much more to come.’

The website will also feature an interactive forum where people can leave comments and share their own resources and thoughts. The campaign resources are designed to be flexible and accessible so that they can be tailored to the needs of different church groups and communities.

For more information contact Anna Drew.

Anna Drew
Lead Media Officer
Methodist Church House, 25 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5JR
Tel 020 7467 5191 Fax 020 7467 5229

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Eco-Congregation Award

At the morning service on 17th August at Caversham Heights Methodist Church, in the Reading and Silchester Circuit,the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Peter Beard, presented to the Revd. Dermot Thornberry (the minister of the church) a plaque celebrating its success in being granted the Eco-Congregation Award of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. The church is the first in Reading to gain the Award, following four year’s work by a small group of members with the encouragement of the former minister of the church, the Revd. Rosemary Fletcher.

Ecology is defined as the interaction of people with the environment and churches applying for the Award have to demonstrate their active concern with many aspects of the environment in which their members live. They have to show their concern for their neighbours in the local community and their neighbours in the wider world community, particular the developing world. They have to demonstrate their awareness of the impact of climate change on the physical environment and the actions that a church and its individual members can take to mitigate its effects.

Each Sunday worshippers include paraplegics from the Milbury Care Group and other handicapped members of the local community. The Church provides a home for many local community groups including a pre-school, the 2nd Caversham Girls’ Brigade Company, a flower club, a Women’s Institute, a Townswomen’s Guild, the Red Cross and the Polio Fellowship. It is the host to two well- patronised groups started many years ago by members of the church, the Caversham Heights Society and the Stay Awhile lunch club for pensioners.

The poverty and injustice suffered by people living in the developing world have for long been a concern of members of the Church. Ten years ago it established a partnership with the United Church of Zambia at Mindolo in Kitwe for which it provides prayerful, financial and material support. Members are firm supporters of Fair Trade and have been actively involved in the Make Poverty History, Fairtrade and Tools With A Mission campaigns.

The Christian church celebrates creation and is committed to respect for the earth. Evidence of a concern to preserve the natural environment is a priority in the assessment for the Award and the Church has had to demonstrate that it has taken action in respect of fuel economy, recycling and the elimination of waste. The attention of church members has been drawn in Church newsletters to the practical action that they can take to care for God’s world.

The Award is valid for three years, during which time the Church is required to examine its commitment to its objectives and to ask itself if there are areas where it could still do better.

For more information about how your church could work towards the Eco-congregation Award visit:

Caversham Heights Methodist Church website:

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Help for Burma after Cyclone Nargis

Mike Freeman, Bible Society’s Volunteer Recruitment Officer, was part of the emergency response team with Samaritan’s Purse helping people caught up in the wake of Cyclone Nargis in Burma. He worked with churches in Burma to distribute aid among thousands of people whose lives, homes and livelihoods were wrecked by the disaster.

More than 80,000 people died – including some 8,000 Christians – and more than 50,000are still missing. But in the three months since the cyclone, the prayers and financial support of Bible Society supporters have had a tremendous impact.

With their help, practical aid, Scripture portions and Bibles have been distributed to people in more than 50 villages and 15 towns worst hit by the storm – including:

- 50,000 Bible tracts in two languages, called Cyclone Nargis to a hopeful future

- Bibles to Christians

- more than 700 bags of rice

- clothing for over 1,000 families

- cooking utensils for 300 families

‘Christians who have lost everything above all want to have hope. So they ask for Scriptures. As well as food and shelter, they long for the hope described in the Bible,’ said Revd Saw Mar Gay Gyi, General Secretary of the Bible Society of Myanmar.

‘I have met people who, despite everything that’s happened, believe God loves them and feel they have been surrounded by the compassion of God’s people.

‘Buddhist families have been moved by our actions – as we give aid to everyone, not just the Christians. One family, when they saw what we were doing, said “this is the love of God”.’

Please continue to

- for Revd Mar Gay Gyi and his team as they work faithfully to demonstrate God’s love in practical ways to communities in desperate need

- for individuals who have received Scripture portions and Bibles, that they would find answers, comfort and hope in the Bible’s life-changing message

You can continue to financially support the distribution of Bibles and aid in Burma. Make a gift today at


Friday, 15 August 2008

'Make Me a Christian'

Since it is being shown at a time when I am in church (and, for some reason, I didn't manage to get it on BBC iplayer), I have not been able to view the Channel 4 reality show 'Make me a Christian' yet. However, it sounds very interesting.

The Reverend George Hargreaves thinks Britain is in a state of moral decline and that a return to a more 'Christian' way of life would stop the rot. He and his team of mentors aim to show how, by convincing a group of non-Christian volunteers to live by the teachings of the Bible for three weeks. In this three-part series, a group of volunteers from around Leeds in West Yorkshire give up their normal lives and attempt to live like Christians for three weeks. They're not obvious candidates for such an experiment - there's:

Martin, a biker who's a tattooist and a militant atheist
Aaron, a young man who was brought up Christian until he was 12, and now has a girlfriend who is 10 weeks' pregnant
Faye, a lap-dancing manager who can't live without continually acquiring expensive designer shoes
Sarah, a middle-class mother who is so professionally busy that she and her husband have hardly any time to spend with their children
Kevin, a man in his 20s who, unbeknown to his girlfriend, goes out every week drinking and womanising
William, who found Christianity unfulfilling and has converted to Islam
Laura, a lesbian who sometimes sleeps with men.

Their mentors come from different branches of Christianity but they share a number of core beliefs.

Week one
First stop was York Minster – an awe-inspiring cathedral that's almost 1,000 years old – where they were asked to participate in a communion service. Then it was back to Leeds, where George Hargreaves gave each volunteer a Bible and asked them to read some every day.

The second episode of this Channel 4 reality show 'Make Me a Christian' threw its participants some big challenges, according to Revd George Hargreaves, one of the series’ team of minister-mentors. The idea of doing street evangelism ‘by way of foot washing’ stunned some of the volunteers. William, a Muslim participant, said it was ‘unknown in his experience of Muslim culture that a teacher should humble himself in front of those he is teaching’. And ‘A visit to a Salvation Army centre had a profound effect on Martin’, shown in last week’s episode as a promiscuous clubber. Although the series’ formula features a lot of Christian ‘dos and don’ts’, George believes all the participants got the message that ‘the dos and don’ts come through a relationship’ and belief in Jesus as God.

Can this diverse group live as Christians for three whole weeks, and how will it affect their lives?

The mentors visit the volunteers in their own homes, to get a picture of their lives and to give them guidance. The parents are asked to spend 15 minutes each day with their children. The lesbian is ordered to get rid of her explicit pictures and books. The young man and his pregnant girlfriend are given some instruction in the basics of Christianity. The lap-dancing manager is discovered to have more than a passing interest in witchcraft and magic - her books and ceremonial paraphernalia are taken away. The womanising 20-something is persuaded to agree not to 'look lustfully at a girl'. The biker, so far, is challenging every instruction and the others are beginning to get fed up with his refusal to listen.

All this is just the start of their three hard weeks. Can they embrace Christian ideals and learn to live in a different way or will their old lives prove just too strong to resist?

Source: The War Cry (16/8)

Monday, 11 August 2008


I may not be able to blog for a few days because I'm just waiting for my son to collect me and take me to his home in Derbyshire where aalmost all the family are gathered for our summer break together - all, that is, except for Emily who went back to London uesterday and perhaps David who had to go into hospital there this morning. We are hoping that he may not have to stay in, but there is always a big question mark with David's health.

I am looking forward to seein (and playing with) my great-grandchild, Louisa, who will have changed quite a bit since I last saw her in Kent on her first birthday.I will also enjoy watching the Olympics on their bid screen - and I won't be feeling guilty that I ought to be doing something, so it should be a good holiday for me.Lorna will appreciate it when I say that I've been working hard before going away to get some piles of papers sorted out and to catch up on any housework that has been crying out to be done ltely, so it will be good to come back to a much more tidy house.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Timing is Everything - Especially God’s !

An email this week brought exciting news from friends of mine who are working as Bible Translators for Wycliffe Bible Translators USA -

"In answer to your prayers, and ours, I want to share the following report
from Dick Mueller for your encouragement. Four years ago God did not let
this happen; however in His timing ...

“March 4th the first Volume of six Hutterisch Bible stories arrived in Linda
Maendel's house. Linda is my Hutterite coworker in Elm River colony in
Manitoba. We opened the box and each grabbed a book and started looking
at it. We gave Linda's 70 year old Mother a copy. She had read little, if any
Hutterisch previously. We asked her to read the book aloud. She began
reading aloud, and continued to read until she had finished the 180 page
book, about 10 or 15 minutes later.

The next morning we went to the school, and gave the books to three 6th
to 8th graders. They immediately each began reading, seemingly not even
taking any time to look at the beautiful color pictures on each page. At
about a third of the way through the book Damion said, "I want one!," and
kept reading till each of them finished the book. After they finished, we
asked them which language they could read and understand better? Damion
answered, "Hutterisch, because that is my language."

One mother of a 3 year old says she has already read the book over 100
times. Another says her preschool son calls it “My Bible.” PRAISE GOD!"

For Enquiries and Donations:-

Wycliffe Bible Translators
PO Box 628200
Orlando, FL 32862-8200
(407) 852-3600

Wycliffe Bible Translators
4316 – 10St. NE
Calgary, AB T2E 6K3
(403) 250-5411

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Abseiling, quad-biking, dragonboat racing

The new Vice=President of the Methodist Conference, David Walton, has written about his time spent with the Association of Black Methodist Youth Clubs in Dorset. He writes,
"Abseiling, quad-biking, dragonboat racing - these were just some of the activies available at the PGL camp in Weymouth which was the setting for this year's ABMY Conference. The Association of Black Methodist Youth Clubs is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year."

Visit the President and Vice-President's blog to see the photos and read more about this exciting occasion.


BRITISH Methodism’s last re­maining higher education institute, Southlands College, is in talks to hand over responsibility for management of the college to its parent body, Roehampton University.

Southlands is one of four constituent colleges of Roehampton University, along with Digby Stuart (Roman Catholic), Whitelands (Anglican) and the Froebel Institute (Humanist). They amalgamated in 1975 to form the Roehampton Institute, which gained university status in 2004, now based in south-west London.

In a bid to centralise its services, the university has asked Southlands, Whitelands and Digby Stuart colleges for a long-term lease of their properties. The university already holds a 999-year lease on Froebel College, while Digby Stuart was due to enter into a formal 125-year lease this week.

If agreed, the university would take full responsibility for ongoing “maintenance and development” of Southlands, paying staff costs and managing areas such as accommodation, catering and conferences. Some of Southlands’ services are already being subcontracted to a centralised university authority from this summer.

The proposals have been in the pipeline for some time. However, the Methodist Council and the Conference are required to give approval to any changes agreed.

Senior Methodist leader Revd Lord Griffiths has requested prayer over discussions to hand over the denomination’s sole remaining higher education college. Southlands College is described by Lord Griffiths as one of Methodism’s ‘best-kept secrets’. The college has 1,500 students, houses a Methodist research centre and most of its governors are currently appointed by the Methodist Council. The chair of governors, Revd John Pritchard, told the Methodist Recorder, they are consulting with ‘eminent Methodists’ over handing management of the college to the university. This would centralise services and reduce costs in the face of rising financial demands. Consultations are said to have produced a ‘mixed’ response. Lord Griffiths, a former chair of governors, said they need God’s help in knowing ‘How do we keep the Methodist interest alive?’

Source: Methodist Recorder (31/7)


Anglican bishops will today consider a covenant setting out core doctrine which all of the denomination’s 38 provinces will be expected to abide by. This is one of several important changes the Archbishop of Canterbury is proposing to secure future unity. Another suggestion that has emerged during this week’s talks has been to stage a ‘mini-Lambeth’ every three years to give bishops more frequent contact and opportunities to resolve disputes. The leadership of the Communion is also challenged today by one of those leading the boycott of Lambeth by conservatives. Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda criticises Dr Rowan Williams in The Times and says the spiritual leadership of the Anglican Communion should not be entrusted to someone appointed by the British government. He described this ‘as a remnant of British colonialism’ that ‘is not serving us well’.

Sources: The Times (1/8); The Guardian (1/8)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Parakeets attack church spire

Hundreds of exotic birds have pecked their way through the spire of a south London church,causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.So these suburban arakeet 'pests' face drastic cull. The rose-ringed parakeets were initially welcomed by parishioners of St John's in Croydon - until they decided to hack away at the soft wood shingles, creating gaping holes. Now the church, built in 1836, faces a £5,000 repair bill.

Parish secretary Bernard Day said: "The birds turned up a couple of years ago. We have tall cypress trees and they seem to find them particularly alluring. "There were just a few to start with, but numbers grew rapidly and before we knew it there were at least 250. At first they were a joy to watch, they really brightened up the place. But a few months ago they started pecking at the spire. They love the shingles and have pulled out at least 100 of them. Maybe they're looking for insects. Who knows? Now we're at a complete loss. We're concerned they're going to start nesting."

The church is already under financial pressure after thieves removed £3,000 worth of lead from the chapel roof and adjoining parish room earlier this year. Mr Day, 95, said: "First the lead, now the birds. We're not really sure how to get rid of them.
Parishioners suggested a hawk to scare them off, but I don't think that's very practical. The structure of the spire doesn't allow for tiles to replace the shingles. In my opinion, the only solution would be to shoot the birds. Unfortunately, we're not allowed to."

John Tayleur, of the British Trust for Ornithologists, suggested using noise and a bird of prey to scare the parakeets. He said he was surprised they were chewing shingles but they often ate mortar for the minerals it contains and because the grit helps them digest food. Parakeets settled in Britain from India in the 1960's, but numbers have boomed in the last 20 years. There are now about 30,000 in Britain, mainly in London.

Source: Daily Telegraph (28/7)

Tonga crowns king in lavish rite

George Tupou V has been crowned king of Tonga in the capital Nuku'alofa, marking the South Pacific state's first coronation in more than 40 years. He was anointed with oil and had a gold crown placed on his head in the Christian ceremony, performed in a church before 1,000 guests. The new monarch was called upon to rule "wisely, justly and truly".

Thousands of people had lined the route to the church and cheered when the new monarch emerged. Earlier, Prime Minister Fred Sevele defended the lavish festivities marking the coronation saying that "the great majority of Tongans" would make no apologies for them Officials say some 5.7m Tongan dollars (US$2.5m) have been spent on the event in a country where poverty is widespread.

The new king's father, the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, ascended to the throne in 1967 and died in 2006. The king talked to the BBC before his coronation.

Sitting on a golden throne on Friday in the capital's Centenary Free Wesleyan Church, George Tupou V was "anointed, blessed and consecrated" by the Archbishop of Polynesia, Jabez Bryce. The king wore silk knee breeches, a medal-decked jacket and a maroon-coloured cape trimmed with white ermine fur. His three-metre-long train was carried by child pages.

A 21-cannon salute and the tolling of church bells marked the coronation. Royal guests included Japanese Crown Prince Naruhito, Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and the UK's Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

The new king will rule over a semi-feudal political system where he and nobles decide the make-up of the cabinet and parliament. But he has said he supports reforms, scheduled for 2010, in which most seats in the country's parliament will become popularly elected. The promised reforms follow destructive riots in Nuku'alofa in 2006.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/08/01 00:34:16 GMT