Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Churches highlight new evidence on problem gambling

Today the Commons Delegated Legislative Committee will review Government proposals to double the stake and the prize money for pub gambling machines. For the first time ever, this would increase the levels of prize money available to casual gamblers to above the level of weekly benefits.

An alliance of nine UK Christian organisations is calling for the Government to heed evidence published yesterday that further undermines the proposals. Their campaign, Fruitless, calls for the Government to rethink the measures. The groups claim that the Government is in danger of breaking its commitment to establish gambling policy on evidence, and to use regulation to minimise problem gambling.

Two reports published by the Gambling Commission on the eve of this crucial Commons vote offer substantial evidence that problem gambling is more prevalent in areas of social deprivation and amongst those who drink heavily or have poor health. This indicates that the proposals, which increase the potential for people to lose money in pub gaming machines, will hit the most vulnerable hardest.

The proposals have been criticised by faith groups, academics and commentators, as the Government has been unable to produce positive evidence to support the move.

David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the British Methodist Church, said; “In the light of the current economic situation and the growing body of evidence it would be irresponsible to increase the stake and prize money for pub gambling machines. We only have to look at the Australian experience to see the potential a poorly regulated gambling industry has to create social problems.

“At this time of over 2 million unemployed and many families facing a difficult financial future it cannot be right to encourage increased gambling amongst the most vulnerable in our society.”

For more information about Fruitless, visit www.fruitless.org.uk.
Fruitless is an alliance of 9 UK Christian organisations, including, the Methodist Church, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Evangelical Alliance, CARE and The Salvation Army.
For the Gambling Commission’s research concerning alcohol, tobacco and health with regards to gambling, visit: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/Client/mediadetail.asp?mediaid=493&id=1.
For the research on socio-economic factors, visit: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/Client/mediadetail.asp?mediaid=494&id=1

Source: Methodist News Service 31/03/09

Churches dismiss BNP’s election posters

Three British Churches have reminded people of the true Christian message of love for all people following the inclusion of Jesus in a BNP election campaign.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, The Methodist Church and The United Reformed Church support inclusive policies and promote diversity.

Christine Elliott, Secretary for External Relations for The Methodist Church, said: “When Jesus was asked about what was the most important rule of life he said, 'Love God with all of your being and love your neighbour as yourself.'

“It’s ironic that the BNP is using the world’s most famous Jew to promote its racist message.

“Our traditions have a history of promoting racial justice and inclusion and rejecting messages of hate and fear.

“It is always important that people go out and vote, especially in these extremely difficult economic times. Sadly, in the past, economic problems have been exploited by extremists as opportunities to scapegoat minorities.”

The three churches will be launching an election pack at the end of April, which will call on local church leaders to engage positively with politicians and reject racist political activity.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Put People First - G20 Summit, 2009 – London

On 2 April, leaders of twenty of the world’s most powerful nations will meet in London for the G20 Summit.

The G20 meetings will be a massive opportunity to build a future that works for the benefit of people everywhere, and where global warming isn’t ignored.

A mass rally will take place just a few days before G20 leaders meet – on 28 March in London’s Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park.

So come along, join tens of thousands of others, and take part in this huge event.

A Special Mothering Sunday Service

Mother's Day, Mission in Britain” has a very large compass and I could tell you of the work of Chaplains in prisons, hospitals, schools and Universities or in the Armed Forces, amongst other things but, for the ‘Mission in Britain’ service on Mothering Sunday and in this church’s Centenary Year, I want to speak about ‘Home’”, declared the visiting preacher, the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, at Caversham Heights Methodist Church on Sunday, March 22. Mark is the Methodist Connexional Team Secretary for Internal Relationships(formerly known as ‘Home Missions’).

This is the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, Methodist Connexional Team Secretary for Internal
Relationships, at Caversham Heights Methodist Church to celebrate the church's centenary year. On the Communion Table behind him is the special candle presented the previous Sunday by the President of the Methodist Church of Great Britain to unite all the churches he will have visited in his year as President. In the foreground is the basket of Mothering Sunday posies that were later presented by children to all the ladies in the congregation.

Dr Wakelin continued, “On Mothering Sunday, we return to the church where we were nurtured in the faith and celebrate all that that church means to us. It is our spiritual home and we give thanks for it. Today has also come to be known (thanks to the greetings card companies) as Mother’s Day and so it is important to emphasise the importance of home and the Mother in the family and in bringing children to faith.

“If you dig down deep enough inside each one of us here, you will find something very beautiful, because each one of us – every person everywhere – is made in the image of God and capable of showing His likeness to the world about us. As we follow Jesus and grow closer to Him, we will be able to show and spread His love wherever we go. The central message of Christ’s Gospel is Love – God’s love for us -and I sense a feeling of excitement in the whole Methodist Church that is about to explode in a new way in our country.”

Dr Wakelin with church stewards, Jim and Daphne Phillips

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Brighton hosts Britain’s first divorce fair

A divorce fair to help those going through separation drew exhibitors ranging from
financial consultants to psychic healers and ‘ministers’ offering separation ceremonies. The Starting Over Show was organised by 44-year-old Suzy Miller with the aim of offering ‘the sort of exhibition [she] would have liked’ when she went through her separation six years ago. On hand for the 300 visitors were family lawyers, debt advisers, alongside chocolate manufacturers and feng shui consultants offering advice on redesigning client’s living space from a spiritual perspective.

Ministers of the Rhythm of Life church, a growing organisation with over 350 ministers, offered rituals to help couples and children forgive and ‘let go of their pain’. Paula Hall, a Relate psychotherapist, said she was concerned about the number of financial services present. ‘Vulnerable people going through a divorce are not in a good position for the h ard sell,’ she said.

Source: The Times (16/3)

I have very mixed feelings about this divorce fair, partly because i feel that it could encourage couples to rush to explore what is on offer there instead of trying to work at their relationship and finding reconciliation, and partly because there appears to be little input from the mainstream Christian churches or other faith groups nor any form of careful scrutiny of organisations wanting to exhibit help.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Spring sunshine

We are having a week of wonderful Spring sunshine that has transformed our drab winter landscape and each day as I watch this continual transformation it lifts
my spirits and I rejoice in the creator God who never fails to bring this about. Each day, at the beginning of Spring there are new blooms to add to the delights of the season.

The bright yellow forsythia is now in its full glory and the lilac buds are now almost at bursting point. There are more yellow daffodils than we had last year and yesterday was the first day when the carpet of grape hyacinths suddenly painted the ground blue! In between these are the yellow primroses and multi-coloured primulas and many of the tulips have fat buds just waiting to come into flower.

Elsewhere, the wallflowers show just a tiny hint of the yellow and bronze colours to become beautiful blooms quite soon and the fresh, almost red new
leaves of the rose bushes spell out a message of hope and promise of wonderful roses to come later. Down the road and up in Caversham Heights, the cherry trees are in full blossom - always a glorious sight after the dark days of winter! It's too early for my apple blossom yet, but the buds are formed and the sunshine will encourage their growth.

On my kitchen window sill the tomato plants have germinated well and up in the (cold) greenhouse there are some very healthy early pea seedlings that are causing great delight because for the last two or three years we have not managed to grow any peas at all, and I DO like peas, especially straight from the pod! I lost my first sowing of broad beans this year because of the very severe frost catching them in the unheated greenhouse. Only one stalwart seedling survives! But a second sowing of broad beans has just begun to sprout and so have the French beans. Perhaps I'll raise next year's broad beans on my kitchen windowsill, because I proved last year that if you get them established in the ground as early as possible you can be clear of blackfly. I may have to deal with that this year, I'm afraid.

So when I set off yesterday for a routine visit to the podiatrist, my heart was full of joy and, without having to wear a big coat, I greeted everyone I met with, 'Isn't it a wonderful morning?' Usually, it made the other person's face light up and evoked a similar response, but in the outgoing bus, an older lady sat heavily down beside me and said with feeling, 'I wish I was in my grave.' 'Surely not', I replied and after a little while in similar vein, I tentatively asked if I dare ask how old she was. As if it were a great burden, she groaned, '80'. I'm sorry, but I couldn't help it! I replied that she was only a baby, because I am in my 88th year and I'm enjoying life. The other passengers were enjoying this but, of course I don't know (and she wasn't inclined to tell me) what illnesses or troubles she might be burdened with. I only wanted her to be able to share my joy at God's wonderful sunshine and all His creation.

On my way back home on the bus, a frail elderly man - no, I didn't ask HIS age! - got on at the Library and came to sit next to me. For the final time, I said my piece, 'Isn't it a wonderful morning?', and his reply was, 'Huh! Spring's come much too early!' It was then time for me to get off the bus and I had no chance to cheer him up. So, today, on yet another such wonderful morning, I feel I must offer a prayer for all those who, for one reason or another, illness or depression or the effects of old age, are unable to rejoice in this wonderful gift of Spring sunshine with all the wealth of beauty that it brings. Thank you, Creator God and Father.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Church welcomes Prime Minister’s commitment to nuclear disarmament

The Methodist Church has welcomed news that Gordon Brown has pledged to consider cutting Britain’s nuclear arsenal. The Prime Minister made the pledge yesterday
as he announced that Britain would be at the forefront of the move towards a multilateral deal on nuclear disarmament.

In response to the news that Britain will be hosting a conference of recognised nuclear weapons states, Policy Adviser Steve Hucklesby said; “We welcome the Prime Minister’s intention to negotiate a road map to disarmament by all nuclear states.

“Russia and the US have between them hundreds of tonnes of weapons-grade uranium in their nuclear arsenals. In comparison, the UK nuclear weapons system is tiny and the possibility of reducing this further is welcome. However, the only offer that other nuclear states are likely to note is a complete decommissioning of all UK nuclear weapons. This would save the UK over £20 billion in investment on new nuclear submarines, an investment that simply does not make sense in a time of economic crisis.

“Nuclear powers must show that they are committed to the decommissioning of all nuclear weapons. This move is vital for global security. Only then will we be able to dissuade non-nuclear states from joining the nuclear weapons club.”

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Methodism is Moving!

Methodism is a Movement! Methodism is moving! That was the exciting message brought to Caversham Heights Methodist Church by this year’s President of the Methodist Church of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Revd Stephen Poxon, when the Methodists from all over Greater Reading and North Hampshire met for worship there on Sunday 15th March.

He had the packed congregation on the edge of their seats as he told of a Circuit (group of Methodist churches) that had no churches, having sold all its churches to free them from the financial burden of upkeep so that they could serve Christ better within their community. Elsewhere, a group of the members in a large church in the West Midlands had bought a dilapidated secondary school from the Council and refurbished it for outreach purposes, to such an effect that the Council now hires it back from them for conferences! He had many similar stories!

The President’s visit to Caversham Heights was to celebrate the centenary of its Methodist church, so his main message was that this was an occasion for looking forward rather than for looking back! He told of his recent visit to preach at the 200th Anniversary of a Methodist chapel in East Anglia where he was humbled to learn that its first preacher had been ‘the Father of Methodist Missions’, the Revd Thomas Coke, who became the first Methodist Bishop (in America).

So, looking towards the next 100 years in Caversham and Reading, Stephen Poxon said that the Methodist Movement could not be confined within church walls. But it needs firm foundations, unlike all the buildings he had seen completely destroyed by a tsunami in the Solomon Islands. It also needs flexible walls, to allow for growth, and even more flexible stones (people) so that when people fall down they do not hurt themselves but bounce back again with new life. The collection taken during the service amounted to just over £300 for the Methodist Relief and Development Fund that gives emergency aid to the poorest of the poor in the world, in places like Bangladesh, whose relief work the President had described in his address.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

'Difficult to keep it going'

When my husband died in the year 2000 the family set up a charity in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in his memory. He himself had found it difficult to gain higher education and he took a keen interest in the work that our daughter was doing in ho chi Minh City.

'Vuon Len', which means 'making the effort to succeed in spite of adversity', was opened in June 2002 with the aim of providing free skills training to young people who have no means of finding the necessary fees for skills training.

Each course lasts for 6 months and equips normally ten trainees with the skills they need to be able to find work in hairdressing salons and to make extra money as freelance manicurists. The apprentices complete their course with a good understanding of how a salon should be run. They invariably leave 'Vuon Len' better-groomed than when they arrived, exhilarated by all they have achieved and with tangible hopes for their futures. Most of the former apprentices are now settled in stable hairdressing jobs, a number of simple salons have been set up, both in the city suburbs and the countryside, thanks to the skills learnt at 'Vuon Len', and there has been a very significant trickle-down effect with former trainees teaching their relatives and friends.

Today I thought I would share with you the latest e-mail from my daughter, Sheila, which tells you how difficult it can be to keep small charities going. She wrote,
"Just this week we've had the bombshell that ₤800 has to be paid by the end of May, ₤400 immediately, for a compulsory Environment Protection Certificate, which has suddenly become obligatory for all state-approved premises first, to be extended to other premises later, without which the premises will be forced to close. These sudden demands for money are typical and this time it seems to be to help pay for the massive cost of replacing all the city's waste water pipes with larger ones to try to solve the flooding problem ( the photo was the other day ). They are currently doing the pipes in front of my house. They work from 8pm to 5am so it's very difficult to sleep, and for months there have been terrible traffic jams as everyone tries to get past the roadworks all over the place.

The environment certification is a long process which has to be begun immediately to meet the deadline before the forced closure in case of failure to comply. Environment inspectors will keep coming to do tests on the waste water. Yesterday was the deadline for the first payment and I managed to find enough as it is very difficult to envisage closure when there are young people counting on VL for their futures, eager to study and who understand nothing about environment certificates.
But it's so difficult to keep it going."

So we have been very grateful for the support of the Tanner Trust and, in the beginning, the Chic Salon in Jersey. If you are interested to read more about Vuon Len, please go to www.vuonlen.org.uk where you can see photos and case histories of the apprentices who have been trained.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Redemption Song

Caversham Heights Methodist Church is very fortunate to be part of the tour of the Riding Lights Theatre Company with their new production 'Redemption Song' - next week, on Thursday, 19th March - for this is not just a stage play. We have experienced Riding Lights performances before and so we are fully aware that this will be 'a moving combination of powerful theatre, meditation, prayer and corporate worship'.

The play starts with the cross and ends with the cross - that savage, unlooked-for place that more than any other reveals the true identity of Jesus Christ. Full of vividly drawn characters from the Gospels, Les Ellison's new play gives many illuminating insights that take us under the skin of the passion story. Whether poor or powerful, privileged or dispossessed, no one walks away untouched by an encounter with the one life which constantly provokes the question, 'Who do you say I am?'

The performance is divided into six episodes to create space for other expressions of worship, music and reflection arising directly out of the drama. The whole presentation becomes a powerful act of remembrance, which is both participatory and reflective. Shot through with moments of great joy and great conflict, robustly and compellingly performed, 'Redemption Song' asks each of us to review our understanding of our own faith in the searing bright light of the crucifixion of Christ.

York-based Riding Lights is one of the UK's most successful independent theatre companies and is internationally renowned for thirty years of touring productions. If you are able to join us at Caversham Heights next Thursday, we will be delighted to welcome you - at 8.00pm. The tickets are £5 each and can be booked through either 0118 954 6680 or 0118 947 0903.

If that is not possible, you may find that you can book for one of the other performances on the tour -

Saturday 14 March Chiswick, London
Sunday 15 Totteridge Green
Tuesday 17 Watford
Wednesday 18 Brighton
Thursday 19 Caversham
Friday 20 Windsor
Saturday 21 Romford
Sunday 22 Seasalter
Tuesday 24 Tisbury
Wednesday 25 Sturminster Newton
Thursday 26 Newton Abbot
Friday 27 (To be confirmed)
Saturday 28 Exeter
Sunday 29 Cardiff
Tuesday 31 Harbury
Wednesday 1 April Knutsford
Thursday 2 Nantwich
Friday 3 Leyland
Saturday 4 Studley
Sunday 5 Loughton
Tuesday 7 York
Wednesday 8 Hessle
Thursday 8 York
Friday 10 Peterborough
Saturday 11 Chorlton

If I have aroused your interest, you will want to have the following contact details (and I am confident that you will be glad you made the effort to attend one of these performances) -

Riding Lights Theatre Company,
Friargate Theatre, Friargate Street,
York YO1 9SL

Tel: 01904 655317 E-mail: info@rltc.org

www.ridinglights.org/redemptionsong will give you actor profiles and much more.
Posted by Olive Morgan at 15:58 0 comments
Labels: Caversham Heights Methodist Church, crucifixion, Jesus Christ, Redeption Song, Religion and Faith, Riding Lights Theatre Company

Early Centenary Highlights

We are only midway into the third month of the centenary year of
Caversham Heights Methodist Church but already we have had a number of exciting events, with many more still to come. Many of us are eagerly looking forward to the visit to our evening service this coming Sunday of this year's President of Conference, the Revd Stephen J. Poxon,

who will be accompnaied by the Chair of the District, the Revd Dr Andrew Wood, since this is part of the President's visit to the Southampton District. We are catering for about 200 people because it will be a Circuit Service and, since we are the host church, I am hoping that a good number of our folk will turn out to hear the President even though a number of them feel very strongly that evening services should be abolished as out of date!

Then on Thursday (the 19th) we have our third visit of the Riding Lights Theatre Company. It is 5 years since they last came to Caversham and so we are expectanrly awaiting their new production 'REDEMPTION SONG'. I will write more about this in my next post.

Three days later, on Sunday (the 22nd) we have another visiting preacher for our annual Mission in Britain Service. This time we will welcome the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin whom many will remember in the days when he was head of MAYC (Methodist Association of Youth Clubs). Mark is now one of the Connexional Team Secretaries and his brief is Internal Relationships, so we look to him to point the way forward as we serve Christ in this community in the 21st Century.

History meets mission in new Church initiative

Jo Hibbard has been appointed Methodist Heritage Officer in a brand new initiative designed to enrich the life of the Church through greater engagement with Methodist heritage sites.

The Church aims to provide greater financial and organisational support for its 106 heritage sites across Great Britain. Jo will work with the newly convened Methodist Heritage Committee to develop the profile of these sites as effective tools for contemporary mission.

‘This is a huge opportunity for the Methodist Church, and I’m excited to be a part of it,’ said Jo. ‘This isn’t about preserving the past for its own sake, but interpreting our historic places and collections in light of the life and mission of the church today.’

‘Methodism is a relatively new denomination, and we have homes and chapels built, for example, at times of industrial revolution and social deprivation. Their stories resonate with us today, and the church has an important contribution to make to our concerns about money and hope in hard times. My role is to help the sites pull these strands together into a memorable experience that speaks to every visitor.’

As Heritage Officer, Jo will share with the Heritage Committee the overall responsibility for the Church’s work relating to heritage and mission. She was previously Development Manager for Coventry Cathedral, leading on tourism, marketing and PR, and events. Jo worships at Woodside Avenue Methodist Church in Coventry, where she is a worship leader

Source: Methodist News Service 13/03/2009

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Tsvangirai memorial service to be held in Coventry

A service will be held in memory of Susan Tsvangirai, the wife of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on Saturday 14 March 2009 at Coventry Methodist Central Hall at 1.30 pm.

The service is being arranged by Zimbabwean congregations in the UK and will be attended by a number of Mrs. Tsvangirai’s relatives currently living in the UK.

For more information, please contact Anna Drew.

Anna Drew | Lead Media Officer
The Christian Communication, Evangelism and Advocacy Cluster| The Connexional Team
020 7467 5191 [direct line] 07881783812 [mobile]

Monday, 9 March 2009

Christian teachers could be forced to act against conscience

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has warned the General Teaching Council (GTC) that its new code of conduct may force Christian teachers out of the profession. Alarm bells were rung by Principle 4 of the draft code. This says teachers must ‘proactively challenge discrimination’ and ‘promote equality and value diversity in all their professional relationships and interactions’. The bishops and other groups are worried that liberal groups or parents could use these to force church schools and Christian teachers to promote Islam and gay lifestyles. Oona Stannard, head of the Catholic Education Service, said ‘It would be unacceptable to expect anyone ... to promote something contrary to their own faith beliefs’. The Christian Institute lobby organisation voiced the same concerns.

Sources: Daily Telegraph (2/3), The Catholic Herald (6/3)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism

‘Belief map’ uncovers British views of origins

A survey of over two thousand people has identified the regions of the UK where religious views of creation are weakest and strongest. The east of England stood out as the region where the largest proportion (44 per cent) believed the theory of evolution removes any need for God. Literal readings of the Bible were strongest in Northern Ireland where 25 per cent believed in creationism and 16 per cent in ‘intelligent design’ (the belief that certain aspects of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause). In Wales, belief in theistic evolution (38 per cent) was the highest. The poll was commissioned by the Theos think tank to mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

Sources: The Guardian (2/3), Daily Telegraph (2/3)

Monday, 2 March 2009

Churches warn Prime Minister on moral challenge of climate change

Three church leaders have added their voices to The Church of England and The Church of Scotland’s in warning the Prime Minister that not acting urgently at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference would be a “moral failure”.

The Methodist Church, The Baptist Church and The United Reformed Church have backed Anglican Bishops who said the European Council must seize the opportunity this month to agree a strategy to secure an effective response to climate change at the Copenhagen Conference in December.

Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of The Baptist Union of Great Britain, Revd Stephen Poxon, President of The Methodist Conference and John Marsh, Moderator of The United Reformed Church, wrote to the Prime Minister criticizing the European Commission Communication of January 28 and calling for a comprehensive climate change agreement in Copenhagen.

“We believe that the recent Communication of the European Commission fails to set out clear proposals for a comprehensive, ambitious and equitable new global agreement on climate change,” said the church leaders.

“The current recession stands to impact many in our communities and we recognise that EU Heads of Governments are tempted to use the immediacy of the economic crisis to shy away from taking long-term action on climate change. We are convinced that it would be short-sighted to stimulate economic growth without simultaneously addressing deficiencies in the relationship between economy and ecology.

“We recognise that challenges facing you and other EU Heads of Government when you meet in Brussels in March will be immense,” said the church leaders in their letter. “Yet, if Copenhagen 2009 is to be the moment in history in which humanity has the opportunity to rise to the challenge and decisively deal with climate change, then key aspects of the EU’s negotiating position need revision.”

The letter also advises Gordon Brown that the January 28 Communication needs two revisions. Firstly, the EU’s emission reductions targets must be clearly aligned with scientific evidence to limit long-term global warming to less than two degrees centigrade. Secondly, the EU should invest the financial equivalent of an additional 15 per cent emission reduction in developing countries by 2020.

Source: Methodist News Service 02/03/2009