Monday, 31 August 2009

Churches Together plan climate prayer day in October

The Environmental Issues Network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) is calling on Christians to pray for the earth on 4 October. The initiative is timed in advance of the United Nations summit on climate change in December. The CTBI wants churches to organise prayer events throughout the country. The Bishop of London says he will be praying ‘that God’s will be done during the decisive Copenhagen conference’ and the Bishop of Liverpool hopes Christians will ‘pray for the earthing of heaven on this day of prayer’. The prayer day is endorsed by the Methodist Church and several Christian aid agencies. The Society of Friends is sending a statement to world leaders before the UN summit.

Source: The Church Times (28/8)

MPs answer why Christians should vote for their party

Three parliamentarians from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties put the moral case for their parties in a new book. The three politicians respond to the question ‘Why should a Christian vote for your party?’ in ‘Votewise Now!’, published by The Jubilee Centre – a Christian social reform organisation. The rest of the book offers other advice to constituents who want to vote in line with their consciences. As the next General Election looms, ‘Votewise Now!’ summarises the moral issues at stake, proposes a Christian view on each and helps readers to analyse the promises of the parties. There is also an accompanying group discussion guide and a video on the global economic crisis.

Source: (26/8)

Friday, 28 August 2009

Methodists urged to care for bankrupt pensioners

As the recession bites into the budgets of the elderly, Methodist leaders are encouraging their members to look out for older citizens who may be covering up their financial problems. Pensioner bankruptcy is on the increase, but older people are often reluctant to ask for help. Methodists therefore aim to help both churched and unchurched OAPs in their neighbourhoods who are in debt. The Insolvency Service says bankruptcy among over 65s has risen by more than 200 per cent in the last five years. Many pensioners have been hit by a ‘triple whammy’ of mounting debt, decreased investment returns and lower annuities.

Source: Methodist Recorder (27/8)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Visiting the Shetland Islands

What a delight it has been to join the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference on their visit to the Shetland islands - through the pen and camera of Vice-President Dr. Richard Vautrey! These are places that I shall never visit now and so I have followed thier trip with great interest on .If you have missed all those posts, do go and take a look. Thank you so much, Richard.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Gospel Outreach to Reading Rock Festival

The first of 80,000 rock fans booked for the Reading Rock Festival this year began pitching their tents on the festival site by the banks of the Thames in rather dismal conditions as a light drizzle fell from leaden skies, but those I encountered in Waitrose or waiting for the bus were in high spirits , expecting to be well rewarded by the bands whom they had paid £200 to hear this year. One 16-year old waiting for the bus told me that she had pitched her tent and was now going home (in Emmer Green) for the night because her GCSE results are due in the morning. She said her tent would be all right because she had left a friend on guard.

A special, temporary pedestrian bridge has been put in place across the Thames to give access to the festival site from the Caversham and Mapledurham side of the river, and local businesses, restaurants and pubs that have been preparing for this event, are now fully stocked and are displaying welcoming notices, especially along Caversham Road, the route from the station. Many elderly residents avoid the whole area for the duration of the Rock Festival, and many take their car into Henley to do their grocery shopping, but I enjoy seeing this great gathering of young people.

We, in Churches Together in Caversham, have also been preparing as our congregations donated gifts of biscuits, bottled water, etc., and have been offering to help hand out copies of the
United Christian Broadcasters booklet ‘The Word for Today’ (their normal daily Bible reading notes), to serve tea, coffee and gifts and offer ‘spiritual refreshments to all rock fans who come to the New Testament Church of God which is situated opposite Waitrose in the centre of Caversham. A new upright banner with the Churches Together logo and photos of the 12 churches in Caversham on it will stand outside and a huge banner across the top of the building says ‘YOU HAVE ARRIVED - Now take a break for nourishment and spiritual refreshment'. A similar ‘YOU HAVE ARRIVED’ banner is being placed at the site with instructions how to reach the church. The Caversham Baptist Church is also opening up their premises in the same way as part of the same Gospel Outreach.

Tonight we held a prayer meeting and discussed final details, which included printing tomorrow leaflets to go in the booklets informing that, if they would like to know the name and address of a church in their home area, they should come to the church and volunteers will consult the Internet for them. So we are also now prepared for teams of volunteers to hand out the booklets, serve teas and coffees and offer prayer and spiritual help on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps you will add your prayers to ours and be on the lookout for any young people returning from the Festival who decide to try your local church.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

National sponsored walk for people with learning disabilities.

"Prospects" is a Readin based, national Christian charity supporting people with learning difficulties. It has launched a series of sponsored walks around the UK. Cocering 1,000 miles, the aim is to highlight the needs of 1.5 million people with learning disabilities in our churches and in society.

Tony Phelps-Jones, Prospects' Director of Mission and Ministry, is walking the whole 1,000 miles. He is being joined on parts of the route by people supporting the project and by people with learning disabilities walking according
to their ablity.

The Reading leg will be on October 7t, with the finish in St. Albans on the 8th. Co-ordinator of the Reading leg is on 0118 951 6979. More information is on

Church must be ready to help rising unemployed

Unemployment will continue to soar as the workplace feels the full effects of the recession, charities have warned. Church groups supporting the jobless urged Christians to become involved. Revd Paul Nicholson of Zacchaeus 2000 Trust expressed it bluntly: ‘Church people should get off their bums, get out there and befriend these people’. He said there are now 7.5 million people in the UK in poverty. Andy Dalton, outreach worker at Holme United Reformed Church, on the edge of Bradford, said things have become really tough on their large, deprived housing estate. People need ‘a lot of handholding’, he said. Bill Nicholls, a former Youth Trainer in Wolverhampton said the situation is worse than the 1980s. He said, ‘The church has a key role’ and is ‘a powerhouse of talent’, but he was afraid it ‘has lost its vision’ to help.

Source: Church Times (21/8)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cadbury launch new Fairtrade chocolate bars

Cadbury Milk Chocolate launched its new Fairtrade-certified chocolate bars in July, becoming the first mass market chocolate to gain certification from the Fairtrade Foundation. Look out for the bars with the FAIRTRADE Mark in a supermarket near you!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Fijian Church leaders appear in court

I am sorry to have to bring you very disturbing news from Fiji today. May I ask for your prayers, so that our fellow Christians in Fiji know that they are not alone but are supported by a giant cushion of prayer.

Leaders forbidden to speak, preach or meet together

Nine Methodist Church leaders in Fiji have appeared in court, pleading not guilty to charges of breaching Public Emergency Regulations.

The nine leaders, including the Church’s President, Revd Ame Tugaue, and General Secretary, Revd Tuikilakila Waqairatu, appeared in court yesterday and have been released on bail until a full hearing on September 24.

For the last three weeks the leaders have been forbidden to speak, preach or take part in meetings, making life almost impossible for a church whose spiritual life-blood is based on gathering together. The church’s solicitor is in negotiation with the police and the Fijian Government to relax the conditions for the next bail period.

Last month the Church agreed to comply with the Government’s demands, cancelling this year’s Methodist Conference and negotiations are proceeding with the police concerning an administrative meeting planned for August 31. Currently the Government insists that only ordained ministers (excluding the arrested leaders) should be allowed to attend, but the Church does not want to exclude lay people.

Steve Pearce, World Church Partnership Coordinator for the Methodist Church in Britain, said; “It is clear that the military government is active in the life of the courts. Where police actions contradict court decisions, the courts are reluctant to assert themselves. Negotiation and dialogue are difficult in these circumstances but the Church is clear in its wish to avoid confrontation.”

Speaking to Steve this morning, the Church’s Deputy General Secretary, Revd Tevita Bainavanua, expressed his frustration during a monitored phone call, saying, “We can talk about Jerusalem and Galilee but not Fiji! We are telling our people not to do anything to worsen the situation.”

The Church continues to work and worship despite this situation, which is consuming much time, energy and finance, with the prospect of a long court case ahead. Traditional choir festivals will go ahead as planned, beginning August 22, although no national festivals will take place.

Source: Methodist News Service 13/08/2009

Monday, 10 August 2009

What the 'noughties' HAVE done for God!

Were any of you listening to/watching last night's TV programme 'What have the 'noughties' done for God?'? I had not noticed it in the evening's programme and I was sight-checking part of John's Gospel in the Huastec language for Wycliffe Associates (UK) when the TV programme in the background changed. So I stopped checking when I could (at the end of a page), to listen. Actually, I discovered that I was listening to Newsnight (as I usually do) and, with the end of the first decade of the 21st Century in sight, the BBC had begun a series on the changes brought about during this decade - the 'noughties'.

I found it a most depressing account of the decade, since it dwelt on the arguments and divisions that have been prominent in the media and the often highlighted decline in churchgoing. It was said that the habitual church-going world had vanished very quickly, and marriage and the sanctity of human life have been downgraded; that freedom of speech now comes above religious belief, which is now less influential, with no monopoly on the moral highground. It went on to say that today there is a fuzzy faith, so that the church now meets the people half-way, bringing the secular world into the church with cafes, and that many Christians question the rules (on homosexuality, for instance) - in turn, causing schism and a two-tier Church of England.

The programme included the change that radical Muslims had brought about by the bombing of New York and London, and also the new prominence of atheism, with an atheist exhibition in Cambridge and posters denying the existence of God on London's buses. Showing a ruined church, it stated that people want a religious home but not a prison, and it concluded that 'this is an age of doubt which offers great opportunities but threatens it with ruin'. Most depressing! But is it right?

How do you view the last decade, the 'noughties'? This programme emphasised all the negative aspects of life in the last ten years, but what about the positive side? I would like you to listen to last night's Newsnight on BB2 iPlayer and join me in listing what we HAVE actually done for God in the 'noughties', please.

In many churches, fresh ways of worshipping and 'Back to Church Sundays' have brought many people back to church in this decade. Countering that sense of being imprisoned in the four walls of the church, its people are now taking the Gospel out on to the streets much more than in previous decades, using all kinds of new expressions of church, like cafe churches and the surfers' church in Devon! The
most notable of all is Share Jesus international 'Pentecost Festival 2008 and 2009' which flooded the streets of London with all kinds of events to bring the living Jesus to the people of London. Again, outside the churches, events like , Easter People and , , and , to name but a few, keep gathering together many hundreds of Christians (young and old) to worship and learn with great enthusiasm. There is no decline there! The emphasis today is that the church is not the building but the people who worship there. There are churches who are selling their church buildings in favour of worshipping in the school or community centre.

In Reading, an ecumenical charity called has grown in the 'noughties' from one small shop and advice centre to five shops in all, covering the outskirts of the town - and plans are in hand to open a sixth in another area. CCA demonstrates God's love by meeting people's practical needs and restoring self-worth to immigrants and those who are rehabilitating after treatment for drug or alcohol addiction or a spell in prison. The shops sell donated goods ,and donated furniture furnishes the flats of those starting a home.

Then there is the remarkable success of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the provision of the Scriptures in the heart languages of so many peoples throughout the world - a work which gathered pace tremendously during the 'noughties' and set a target of Vision 2025. Alongside this, Wycliffe Associates (UK) have produced EasyEnglish translations, with limited vocabulary at three levels, for people whose second language is English and for the Deaf. This work has been so successful that it created a demand for similar work in other languages and now teams of people across the world are working to produce easyBibles in their own heart languages. Forgetting everything else, all this translation work alone has done mighty things for God in the 'noughties'. I am glad and proud to have lived to see this transformation, making it possible for all kinds of disadvantaged people to be able to read and hear the Word of God in their own language.

I must mention the work made possible through the which has made small miracles possible around the world - training and assisting small farmers to grow more efficiently and providing clean water in poor countries. The 'noughties' have done so much for God through the giving to MRDF!

Finally, not least are the countless churches here that are twinned, as my church is, with work in other parts of the world, building churches, paying teachers' salaries and providing equipment. This work goes on quietly, regularly, and added up tells a story of powerful work for God in the 'noughties'.

I could go on, and I'm sure you could all add to what I have written. Why don't we let the outside world know what IS being done for God? Isn't it time that the Media ran some Good News stories instead of concentrating on the arguments and negative aspects of church life? It would make much better reading than the depressing news we keep hearing every day, and please, please, PLEASE can't someone produce a really good film for TV Newsnight showing the positive side of our work for God?

Friday, 7 August 2009

Mission opportunity ham-strung by church’s ‘clunking fist’

A probationary minister who planned to offer communion in Trafalgar Square as part of a unique arts initiative was blocked by officials within his own church. Revd Kenneth Chalmers - see my post on 24th July - wanted to create ‘a sacred space’ on the square’s vacant fourth plinth as part of the ‘One and Other’ arts project. But Methodist Church headquarters intervened after complaints that a probationer was not authorised to conduct communion.

Instead, Mr Chalmers led a worship service while the superintendant minister of Methodist Central Hall stepped in to offer communion from the foot of the plinth. Revd Martin Turner was dismayed by the church ruling, saying that a ‘wonderful initiative’ had been hampered by ‘the great clunking first of the Methodism establishment’. Nevertheless, Mr Chalmers said he was elated by doing the ‘God thing’ in public in the historic tradition of Methodists like John Wesley and Lord Soper.

Source: Methodist Recorder (6/8)

Down Memory Lane

Over on Fools Rush In Grannie Annie sets us a meme to try, so here is my effort - and I hope you will also have a go!

1.] How come I can never find: A red pen when I want to do some sight checking (of Scripture in foreign languages) for Wycliffe Associates?

2.] I wish I'd never started: eating chocolate, because it's hard to stop or curb!

3.] I wonder why: it always rains on Wednesdays when my gardeners are due.

4.] Mama always told me: "No such word as 'can't'! If you want to do something badly enough, you'll find a way to do it!"

5.] There's this one thing in my closet that I just can't seem to get rid of: Old Connexional magazines that I always think may come in handy, but never do!

6.] My favorite guilty pleasure is: Eating chocolate.

7.] I always forget to: file all the papers straight after a meeting, with the result that every now and then I have to have a massive clear-up (and filing) of the papers piled high on my table(s).

8.] I have never: learned to swim.

9.] I'm obsessed with: getting the Under 30s more involved in the running of our church.

10.] One of my favorite memories is: stewarding for Easter People.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Methodist leader ‘appalled’ at atrocities in Pakistan

Christians urged to pray for Church in Pakistan

Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Britain, has expressed deep concern over violence against Christians in Pakistan.

Over the last week in Pakistan many acts of violence have been committed against Christians, including the burning of 47 homes in the village of Korian and 100 homes in Gojra City. More than 290 families have been made homeless and at least nine people have died in the violence, which has arisen as a result of religious tensions between Christians and Muslims.

Martyn said: “I am appalled at the atrocities that have taken place in recent days in Pakistan. People of all faiths have been deeply troubled by these acts, which represent personal disaster for very many families who have lost relatives, homes and livelihoods. It casts a shadow on all people of faith, both Muslim and Christian, who know that such violence should never be a part of religious life.

“I welcome the care and compassion shown by many Muslims to their Christian neighbours, taking them into their homes for safety and making efforts to rebuild peace in the communities.”

The Methodist Church in Britain has made an initial solidarity grant of £10,000 through Church World Service to provide emergency relief supplies such as food and shelter.

Martyn joined with Revd Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, in calling on the Pakistani government to take action to stem the violence. He said: “These recent riots are a matter of serious concern and it is the responsibility of the State to provide security to all its citizens and to call on all people of faith - especially local and national leaders - to focus their efforts on building peace rather than seeking reasons for further disunity.

“Our message is clear: acts of violence targeted at a religious minority are always wrong. When they do occur they must be investigated diligently and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

Martyn also called on Christians to pray for the Church in Pakistan over the coming weeks and commended the following prayer for use in churches and prayer meetings:

Merciful God,
Whose loving heart yearns for peace and justice to flow freely in all communities,
Be with all the people of Korian and Gojra in these difficult times,
May those who have lost relatives and friends be comforted,
Those who have lost their homes be sheltered,
Those who have lost hope find peace.
We pray for faith leaders, both Christian and Muslim,
and for national leaders in Pakistan and in Europe
May they work consistently for peace and keep justice constantly in view.
We pray for ourselves, that we may play our part in expressing
your love for the whole of creation in all we do and say this day. Amen.

Source: Methodist News Service 06/08/2009

Monday, 3 August 2009

C of E produces resources to help churches be more friendly

A new resource pack aimed at making churches more welcoming has been published for parishes. The Everybody Welcome materials, including leader’s manual, training DVD and booklets for the congregation, is designed to help churches turn visitors into committed churchgoers. The course has been produced by the Ven Bob Jackson, Archdeacon of Walsall, and George Fisher – Lichfield’s director of Parish Mission. The course advises on social skills like making eye contact, smiling and remembering people’s names, as well as training a welcome team to befriend newcomers, making services more attractive and the refreshments more palatable. Research indicates that 85 per cent of people visit a church every year, so more needs to be done to encourage them to come back.

Source: (29/7)

Girl with half a brain reignites debate over aborting disabled foetuses

A child with half her brain missing who has baffled scientists by enjoying a full life is being cited as an example of why babies with abnormalities should not be aborted. The ten-year-old German girl has surprised doctors by the way in which her remaining brain has rewired itself to enable her to function almost normally. Her existing hemisphere has even adapted to create nearly complete eyesight despite the fact she has only one good eye. The right side of her brain and her eye stopped developing when the girl was only seven weeks old in the womb. As in-utero scanning is increasingly being used to identify and abort babies with disabilities, pro-life supporters are angered that abortion has become a tool for eugenics.

Source: (28/7)