Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas Greetings from Caversham

Christmas greetings from Caversham. I hope that you and your family are well, have had a good Christmas, and that you will enjoy the rest of Christmas and then be looking forward to the New Year 2010. What a year 2009 has been, with such dreadful flooding and other natural disasters, as well as the unbearable casualties brought about by war in various places across the world. Yet in all this, as Christians, we find good news and hope. So I look forward to hearing your latest news.

I have been celebrating Christmas as usual with Tony and Caroline and their family in Derbyshire, including Anna and Carl’s 2-and-a-half year old daughter, Louisa Isobel, and their 3 months' old new baby, Toby James.

I’m thankful to have had a second whole year free of cellulitis, but I have not enjoyed quite such good health as last year, though nothing in particular to complain about (I have two months’ iron tablets just now for anaemia). This is probably because I’ve had to work really hard all the year, with little let-up. We continued studying the Disciple 4 course until July and 2009 has been the Centenary year for our church, Caversham Heights Methodist Church. There has been a very full programme of events and special guest preachers throughout the whole year. Since I am the Media Publicity Director, it has meant a lot of work for me – advertising each event or preacher beforehand in the three local papers and two local radio stations, and writing about them afterwards (with photos) for the same papers.

As well as the Centenary, I have had several really good celebrations elsewhere. At Easter, I returned to Llandudno for the second ECG Event (‘Equipping, Calling, Going’) which took the place of the former Easter People and, although run by different people – ‘NXT Ministries’, ‘Youth for Christ’, and ECG – was very similar, especially in regard to the in-depth Bible Studies so popular at ‘Easter People’. A main emphasis at ECG is in catering for the 20s and 30s age group and the provision of events and activities specially geared to their needs and aspirations. This year I looked after the MET (Methodist
Evangelicals Together) stand in the exhibition, and I am eagerly looking forward to doing the same, again in Llandudno, when ECG 2010 will be held on 6th to 11th April with Steve Brady as the Theatre Bible Teacher – see

As last year there was a family gathering at Bethany School in Kent for my great
granddaughter Louisa’s second birthday on 10th May, which was much enjoyed by all of us. At two, she was able to entertain us with all her newly acquired skills.

I took turns in leading the experimental Wednesday afternoon midday services during
May at our church, but not too many people came, so we decided to re-think this later.

My cousin Jack Baul died in May and, since he never married and had no family except
cousins, we had to arrange the funeral at Ripon Methodist Church by email and I found it necessary to print the orders of service myself. John David gave a warm eulogy to his uncle, and it was good to meet so many of my nephews and nieces whom, because of distance, I had not seen for years. They also had not met each other for years. One nephew, Nigel, was unable to be there because his IT business had expanded so much that he was in the middle of moving it to larger premises. So those who were there decided that it was time to have a big family get-together and they joked that it would have to be in Pontefract to make sure that Nigel could come.

I went to the Methodist Conference in Wolverhampton in July where I was thrilled to be present at the ordination of our Deacon, Becky Bawden, and I was also glad to be able to step in once more to run the MET (Methodist Evangelicals Together) stand in the Exhibition, which gave me a unique opportunity to meet old friends from far and wide as well as listening in to the debates when not busy.

This year Churches Together in Caversham decided to carry out Street Evangelism in Caversham at the time of the Reading Pop Festival sited nearby, with a Welcome CafĂ© in the New Testament Church of God opposite the shopping precinct, and a number of us worked on a rota basis to hand out Bible reading booklets. After several interesting conversations with lovely young people from far and wide, I was startled to find that the greatest need was right on my doorstep! The CTC had been taken down but I was still sitting outside the Black Church (the NT Church of God) when a neighbour saw me and, thinking I must be ill, came to see if she could help! We offered her a cup of tea and explained why we were there. At first, she argued against what we were doing but she continued to ask questions, breaking down after a while and then being very reluctant to end the conversation! The NT Church of God were holding a regional convention that weekend, with their Bishop and 3 speakers from America. So it was a shock to me when I was pressed into addressing (by interview) their Sunday afternoon session about serving God in your 80s! Quite scary, but they begged me to ‘Come again!’

Finally, the year ended with the death and December funeral of my sister-in-law, Alice Mary Morgan, who will be much missed because she was never happier than when helping others and writing letters of encouragement.

I have continued to proofread translations of Scripture in strange languages for Wycliffe Associates and I have just returned Mark Chs. 4 – 6 in Zapotec Miahuatlan (a Mexican Language). I am still a representative to the Circuit Meeting, I prepare Prayer Guidelines each month and, as I have already said, I am Media Publicity Director at my church.

Tony and Caroline continue with their very full programme of teaching and concerts, etc. Caroline teaches reed instruments at the South-East Derbyshire Music Centre at Heanor, is a peripatetic teacher in local private schools and arranges concerts for ‘Music in Duffield’ Tony’s own professional chamber orchestra, English Pro Musica (based in Nottingham) is still in great demand. The orchestra sometimes works with his choir, the Ryton Chorale (based in Bassetlaw), which is very well established. Tony continues teaching Music at Nottingham University and High School and the Leicestershire Youth Orchestra, as well as running a thriving business selling instrument cases worldwide – see .

David, their eldest son, has been completely transformed by the miracle ‘cure’ for his illness. He has regained his former energy, as he works for Bassbags, and even has a steady girl friend. Richard is now at Cambridge, training to teach science. Anna and her husband Carl moved in the summer to become house parents at a much larger school – Old Swinford Hospital School in Stourbridge. They are thrilled with their little daughter Louisa and new baby Toby. Youngest of the family, Emily is still working for the accountancy firm KPMG in London, and has now moved in with her boy friend. So this Grandma is eagerly wondering if there are likely to be any more weddings before long. (I must stop counting chickens …)

Sheila is in good health and spirits in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she is head of a University English Department. The apprentice hairdressing project (Vuon Len) set up there in her father’s memory continues to give new hope to ever more apprentices - see

I continue to blog on and to enjoy the rich blessings of being part of the Methoblogosphere, though the frost was too severe for me to go to the recent DigiMission day conference in London.

2010, should prove to be an easier year for me, without the Disciple Course and all the centenary events, but I have already booked for the MET weekend conference in January in Torquay (which gives me the chance to visit Dermot and Charlene), the ECG Event in Llandudno at Easter and I hope to be able to help with the MET stand at the Methodist Conference in Portsmouth in June. Also, after the sadness of funerals this year, I am looking forward to the wedding in Pontefract on February 5th of my
nephew, John David, to Annaliese, another member of the West Riding Police Force, especially as this will unite two families who have both suffered bereavement in recent years. So there will be a happy family gathering in Pontefract after all.


Snow Relief Centre

Reading had never known anything like it until last Monday! It kept on snowing until the early hours next morning. At 12.30 that morning there was a queue of cars moving at 1 mile an hour up Hemdean Road because whichever way they went at the top end of the road there would be some kind of incline and the gritters couldn't get out because there were so many abandoned cars on Vastern road and the IDR. The local BBC was saying that Church Road Caversham was blocked off - still is - both ways and the Caversham to Henley Road was impassable. Tilehurst was even worse.

Thousands of cars were abandoned in Reading and the radio said that they had opened up rest centres in the Oracle shopping centre and the Town Hall and a church in Caversham Heights had opened up as a rest centre. I wondered if that was ours. It was!

Soon, I was listening to our Minister, Jenny Dowding, speaking on the radio saying that they opened up at 6pm and people were still there. 'People came out of the woodwork and brought milk and food, and where there were children they were taken to local homes. Other people brought bedding to make the others more comfortable. We managed to do breakfasts and we're just wondering if we are going to have to serve lunches as well. The trouble is that people are still coming in from the North, having already been held up several hours and not knowing that they can't get any further.'

Help was offered to more than 100 drivers and the road was not opened up until mid-afternoon the next day, so lunches were also needed. So our church people here were fulfilling the Presodent's message, even before thet received his message. It is still extremely cold, with lying snow on the gardens and hills but the roads and footpaths are clear. The main hazard now is ice and more snow is forecast. This time we hope the the Reading Borough will be more prepared and so pevent too many roads being blocked.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Methodist President’s Christmas Message

The President of the Methodist Church has challenged people to look beyond the romanticism of the Christmas story in search of the reality.

Revd David Gamble Christmas said Christmas was actually much more about the real world than it was about a lovely story of far off places in far off times.

“It's about a young unmarried mother,” he said. “And our country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the European Union. It’s about a homeless couple and their young child out in the cold. Look on the streets of our cities. Think of the television pictures of refugees.”

Rev David Gamble reminded people to consider the hungry, the hurting, the oppressed and the abused this Christmas.

“That's the central part of the Christmas message,” he said. “God is with us. And behind and within the lovely Christmas story is the truth of God with us in our world and in our lives.”

The full text follows:

“I wonder how we shall remember Christmas 2009?
I have to admit that I don't always remember Christmas for very Christmassy reasons. Sometimes it is things to do with home or family. For example, 1995 was the Christmas we got a new cooker. It was delivered at the beginning of December. Eventually someone came to disconnect the old one on the morning of Christmas Eve, which seemed like good news, but wasn’t so good at 3.00 in the afternoon when still no one had come to connect the new one. They did come eventually – but not until very late.

Or I remember Christmas 1988. My wife, Liz, was pregnant and our baby was due in the middle of March. But then, just after Christmas, Liz went into hospital and our son, Joe, arrived two months early. When they came home at the beginning of March, I’d been so busy going to work, taking family members hospital visiting, doing the washing and so on, that the Christmas decorations were still up.

Or 1980, when my mum, who was housebound, asked to be taken out Christmas shopping on the last weekend in October. She bought and wrapped all our presents. The next day she contracted pneumonia and she died on the Monday. We opened her presents on Christmas Day. Many people associate Christmas with the death of someone special to them.

Other memories relate to work. In my first Circuit I was chaplain to an open prison for women. One Christmas we took a small group from the prison carol singing around the local village. Unfortunately, when we got back the group was one short!

So, many Christmas memories don’t seem to have much to do with the Christmas story itself. They’re not about the carols or the Christmas Day sermon, but about things – happy and sad - that were going on in our lives and the world at the time. Who will ever forget Christmas 2004, when, in the middle of the season of goodwill, the tsunami struck?

But that is part of the paradox of this time of the year. On the one hand is the Christmas story, which we like hearing again and again. On the other hand we have the real world; things going on for us, our neighbours and friends; things on the news, new cookers not turning up, people in prison, people being born too soon, people being ill, or dying. The real world.

But that’s the whole point! Christmas is actually much more about the real world than it is about a lovely story of far off places in far off times.

It's about a young unmarried mother. And our country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the European Union. It’s about a homeless couple and their young child out in the cold. Look on the streets of our cities. Think of the television pictures of refugees.

It's about shepherds who didn't go to church and weren't all that respectable being there to witness how God was doing something new - while the churchgoers and the religious leaders weren't there.

It’s about wise men looking for a new king and finding him not in a palace but behind a pub.

It’s about Mary and Joseph having to escape with their baby, as sanctuary seekers. Who is to say they wouldn’t have been desperate enough to hide themselves in the back of a lorry coming through the channel tunnel in their attempt to save their precious son? And what kind of a welcome would they have received here in 21st Century Britain? And for those who didn’t escape, it's about innocent children being brutally killed. You don’t get much more real than that! And for Bethlehem in 2009 you could also read Baghdad or Afghanistan.

Christmas is about the real world – as we know it. And it’s in that real world – at times very cruel, painful and dangerous – that God acts. Not in heaven. Not even in the temple. But right in the middle of human life at its toughest. People being born, people dying, people on the run, people with nowhere to go, people for whom there is no room.

Remember the meaning of the name Immanuel in Isaiah’s prophecy? God is with us. That's the central part of the Christmas message. God is with us. And behind and within the lovely Christmas story is the truth of God with us in our world and in our lives. In good parts and bad, joys and pains, hopes and fears. Remember, too, that some people won’t be able to suspend normal life for a few days over Christmas. If you are literally starving; if you are a refugee or a sanctuary seeker; if you are a child being abused in your own home, worried sick that your dad’s going to be around more over the next few days – you can’t suspend normal life, however much you’d like to.

If the gospel is really the good news it claims to be (and I believe it is) then it has to be good news for the hungry, the hurting, the oppressed, the abused. Good news. God is with us.

Sharing that good news is a huge challenge – but it’s also our great joy. God be with you.”

Source: Metodist News Service 22/12/2009

Monday, 21 December 2009

Special Christmas Celebrations

During Advent at Caversham Heights Methodist Church, we had a Mitten tree in our church porch on which members of the congregation hung children's mittens, hats and scarves that they had knitted - though a few were bought, and last week all these gifts were taken down and dedicated together with the gifts of toys brought to the church on Toy Sunday. Then all the gifts were taken to Christian Community Action, the local ecumenical charity helping families in need across greater reading.

Yesterday we had two wonderful services with our new Minister. We had had a very heavy snowfall which kept many elderly people at home, but fortunately friends gingerly transported me to and from the church for both 10.30am and 4pm services. It was a traditional nine lessons and carols service in the morning, beginning with a bbrief drama in which the dialogue told of the important part angels had in the Nativity story. Each lesson was followed by teaching from Jenny on angels. Quite interesting and very educational The closing prayer (for the whole congregation) was that we might all use our eyes and ears to be more aware of angels, for we often entertain angels unawares, and that we may help our neighbours and spread the Good News of the Nativity.

The afternoon children's service was wonderful, with little angels and shepherds doing unexpected things like ripping off their headdress or running to Mummy when they should be on stage. All the children (and some older 'children' like me!) were loaned bells to ring in the choruses of the carols. Most of them were too young to act the Nativity, so one of the youth group acted as narrator and handed out presents from a sack in stages. The little ones first unwrapped a manger and it was put on the communion table; then Mary and Joseph, animals, shepherds and wise men, etc. The little ones (with supervision) put everything in or round the stable themselves. Finally, the last BIG parcel unwrapped was the world which, when placed above the stable, lit up - to illustrate that Christ, the Light of the world had come. Just before the last hymn, all the children in the church (not just those on stage) were given Stars on sticks (lit by a switch on each handle) and they all kept going round and round the church waving their stars as we sang 'Shine, Jesus, shine'. So a very happy time was had by all.

There was a good congregation of mainly parents and grandparents but the severe cold kept many of our regular congregation at home. Such a pity, because I often hear them complain that we have few children in our SS these days and I keep telling them that we have but they don't all come on the same Sunday. Today they did! As they grow older, I believe they will come more often and under Jenny's ministry will build up into something more like the SS we used to have. At present we have a good group of young people and lots of very young families. For some reason Junior age children are missing in our church families. What happy Christmas services!

The Free Churches condemn failure to reach climate deal

The Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches have condemned the world’s richest countries for failing to reach a binding agreement at the Copenhagen climate change summit.

The Free Churches have been arguing that, as the world’s biggest carbon emitters, developed countries have a moral responsibility to take the lead in agreeing a new deal to counter global warming when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

“The failure by negotiators at the climate talks in Copenhagen to agree to cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, after two weeks of negotiations, represents an immense set-back for rich and poor countries alike,” said the Revd John Marsh, moderator of the general assembly of the United Reformed Church.

“History will judge our generation harshly for failing to act on the clear scientific evidence for global warming linked to human activity,” he added. “We therefore urge the British government to continue exerting pressure on all key players to agree the necessary cuts in emissions to reduce the risk of global temperatures rising above 2 degrees.”

The Revd Graham Sparkes, head of Faith and Unity at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: “No doubt people will point the finger of blame in many different directions. But the fact is that those who will suffer most have no voice and no political power. They are the poorest in our world, and are least equipped to deal with the catastrophic effects of climate change. “

Steve Hucklesby, policy adviser for the Methodist Church, said: “The reality is that the US, Europe, Australia and some others are emitting a great deal more greenhouse gases than our eco-system can sustain. The science is clear; we know what needs to done to prevent catastrophic climate change. There is no realistic alternative to a strong international treaty that commits developed nation states to deep cuts in emissions.”


The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) is the Baptist family in England and Wales. (There is also the Baptist Union of Wales). It is made up of churches, regional associations, the national resource centre and Baptist colleges. The Union works with others in mission locally, regionally and internationally. There are some 150,000 members of Baptist churches associated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

The Methodist Church has about 295,000 members and 800,000 people are connected with the Church. It has about 5,800 churches in Great Britain, and links with other Methodist churches bring the worldwide membership up to 70 million.

The United Reformed Church comprises one hundred thousand people in 1600 congregations. It has brought together English Presbyterians, English, Welsh and Scottish Congregationalists and members of the Churches of Christ. Worldwide, more than 70 million Christians are members of the Reformed family of churches, the largest Protestant tradition. The name “Reformed” is used because the churches emerged out of the reform movements of the sixteenth century.

The three denominations are the largest of the Free Churches in Britain. The Joint Public Issues Team, created in September 2006, combines the expertise of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in the area of public issues. Through close collaboration, the churches aim to increase the effectiveness of their engagement in public life and parliamentary affairs.

Source: Methodist News Service 21/12/2009

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

New film, 'Nativity'

Methodist Web Radio treats listeners to an interview between actor Martin Freeman and Steve Goddard, editor of the Christian website, on the new film, Nativity, playing in cinemas this Christmas.

Hear why Martin thinks the nativity story is the greatest story ever told and why he thinks religion isn’t such a bad idea:

Merry Christmas!

Source: Methodist News Service 15/12/2009

My Minister tells me that our people have already downloaded clips from the film and an interview with Martin Freeman for her to use on Christmas Day. That means that I shall miss it because I shall be with my family in Derbysire. It's not fair!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Our Centenary Year

We are so nearly at the end of the Centenary Year (2009) at Caversham Heights Methodist Church that I thought I would attempt to sum it up on my blog.

It has certainly been a very good Centenary year, beginning with a Concert ‘A Hundred Years of Entertainment – something from every decade’ and the Covenant Service in January. As well as our Annual Pancake Party in February, we were thrilled to welcome the National Methodist Youth Brass Band and even managed to supply enough beds for them to sleep off-floor! Their concert (and shared worship the next day) were a real highlight of the year. March was a very special month when we had the Women’s World Day of Prayer service, followed a week later by a visit for the President of Conference, the Revd Stephen Poxon, together with the District Chair, the Revd Dr Andrew Wood.

On the following Thursday, the ‘Riding Lights Theatre Company’ performed their very challenging production of ‘Redemption Song’ which gave us much food for thought and on the next Sunday our guest preacher was the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, Connexional Secretary for Internal Affairs. A very powerful 8 days! Following our Easter celebrations at the beginning of April, we much enjoyed the preaching of former Minister here, the Revd Terry Harris, now enjoying retirement in Devon.

In May we hosted the Churches Together United Christian Aid Service, and later were inspired by the preaching of two guest preachers, the new Anglican Rector of Caversham, the Revd Dan Tyndall, and Bishop Crispian Hollis, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth

June was THE Centenary month with ‘Items of Special Interest’ in the church’s 100 years’ history displayed all month, and a Flower/Art Exhibition in the Hall, a Reminiscences Evening, the Sunday Starters’ Anniversary, and guest preachers, the Revd Jackie Case (who grew up in this church) and the Revd Dr Lord Leslie Griffiths (a former Minister of the church), who was the preacher for the actual Centenary
Anniversary, when the cake was cut and there was a hog roast lunch in the garden of two members’ home. A day to remember!

July was concerned with saying ‘Goodbye’ to a much-loved Minister, the Revd Dermot Thornberry and his wife Charlene, with a Farewell Party and a Circuit farewell service.

We began September with our new Minister, the Revd Jenny Dowding, who was recovering after 12 weeks in a straitjacket following an accident, and our Harvest Weekend with guest preacher Professor Sir John Marsh. Then in October there were three guest preachers – Major Samuel Edgar (Salvation Army), Chairman of West Midlands Free Church Federal Council, Deacon Vic Downs (a very welcome returnee), and Mr. John Bell, former Vice-President of Conference.

November began with our Autumn Fair in aid of the Fund for World Mission and ended with a concert by the Reading Male Voice Choir in aid of the Racecourse Community School in Zambia (whose teachers are paid by our church) and where we have our twin church. In between these there were two guest preachers – the Revd Andy Moffoot, who has served as a mission partner in Kenya, and former Minister, the Revd Rosemary Fletcher and her husband James Rowley, who made a popular all day visit just before returning to Sri Lanka where they are serving as Mission Partners.

Finally, for our last guest preacher this month we were privileged to have the Revd Professor Frances Young, OBE, the eminent theologian and author, and our final service of the year will be led by the Revd Dr John Ogden, who is ‘sitting down’ now and the service will also take the form of a farewell Thank you service for his ministry here. So ends our year of centenary celebrations. (Rachel Peirce’s wedding almost seemed part of the centenary.)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Methodist Climate Cyclist arrives in Copenhagen

Survey shows that 1 in 5 people are using their cars less

Ben Bradley has cycled 140 miles to the United Nations climate change summit at Copenhagen, with a group organised by Christian Aid.

Ben, Events Coordinator for the Methodist Church, has spent the last three days travelling with a team of 28 Christian Aid cyclists to bring a simple message to world leaders in Copenhagen: It’s not raining, it’s pouring – time to act on climate change.

Last month, a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Methodist Church showed that around 1 in 5 people are using cars less in favour of other forms of transport such as cycling. It also showed that around one in 20 people are flying less.

On arriving in Copenhagen, Ben said: “We may all be tired from cycling, but in an important sense, the real journey starts here. It’s make or break time – at Copenhagen it is essential that our leaders make some hard choices and decide on real action for the future of our planet.” People can find out more about Ben’s journey by visiting his blog:

The cyclists will join a mass rally in Copenhagen today, lobbying world leaders to take bold action and make real commitments to tackle climate change. While in Copenhagen, Ben also plans to deliver a letter of solidarity from the President of the British Methodist Conference to a church representative from Bangladesh.

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have urged the European Union to agree cuts of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and for these cuts to be made without extensive use of carbon offsets. The three churches have produced a report and study guide called Hope in God’s Future. The booklet, available from Methodist Publishing (, takes the reader on a journey using the changing mood of a worship service as a framework for considering climate change and our impact on the planet.

Source: Methodist News Service 12/12/2009

Friday, 11 December 2009

The most important card you’ll send this Christmas

Last post for 2nd class – 18 December
Last post for 1st class – 21 December

Methodist, Baptist and United Reformed Church leaders are reminding people to send Christmas greetings to Immigration Minister Phil Woolas MP, asking him to end the detention of children in the asylum system.

Last month, the Churches launched One More Card, a campaign encouraging people to add Mr Woolas to their Christmas card list. Eight-year-old Moya is among those who have already sent cards. In her handmade card she writes: “To Mr Woolas, Happy Christmas and please stop locking children up in detention.” An image of her card is available here:

Britain is the only country in Europe to lock up the children of people who have had their asylum claims declined and the Churches are calling on the Government to keep families together.

Paediatricians, GPs and psychiatrists have described children seeking sanctuary in the UK as among those most vulnerable in society, requiring special and humane treatment.

Dr Rosalyn Proops, Officer for Child Protection at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said; “We are very concerned about the health and welfare of children in immigration detention. These children are among the most vulnerable in our communities and detention causes unnecessary harm to their physical and mental health. The current situation is unacceptable and we urge the Government to develop alternatives to detention without delay.”

Revd Roberta Rominger, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, Revd David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference and Revd Jonathan Edwards, President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain have already sent their card and are asking others to make sure they don’t miss the last posting date before Christmas.

People should send cards to Phil Woolas MP at the Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF and can find tips for drafting their Christmas message at

Source: Methodist News Service 11/12/2009

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Service on skates makes a n-ice impression

Attendance at Stuart Cradduck’s church may not have been slipping before, but the congregation certainly was after he put a plastic ice rink inside the building. The vicar of St George’s at Whyke in West Sussex came up with the idea to attract more people to a five-day Christmas tree festival held in the church. The Sun newspaper called Revd Cradduck ‘barmy’ and ‘eccentric’ as well as ‘cool’, but he had the last laugh as 4,500 people came through the doors. Asked why he did it, Revd Cradduck didn’t skate around the issue: ‘I want people to know that church isn’t just a boring thing. We want to show people that it’s a place to celebrate life.’

Source: The Sun (30/11)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Prioritise the poor, say Churches ahead of the Pre-Budget Report

Three UK Churches are calling for protection for the poor and job security in a response to think tank Reform’s call today to cut public sector jobs.

Ahead of the Government’s Pre-Budget Report, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church are challenging the centre-right think tank, which has called for job cuts in the police force and NHS in order to reduce public borrowing.

Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church said: “The Government must prioritise maintaining employment and improving opportunities for those on benefits. Previous recessions have been marked by sustained high unemployment even after economic growth has returned and we must not allow that to happen again. Unemployment is a personal disaster, a social disaster and by taking large numbers of people away from paying tax, an economic disaster.”

Economic gains over the past decade have not been shared equally as the gap between rich and poor has increased. Evidence shows that this economic inequality has a massive negative impact on social cohesion, solidarity and wellbeing. The Churches are calling on the Government to produce a budget that prioritises jobs.

Commenting ahead of the Pre-Budget Report, Frank Kantor, Secretary for Church and Society for the United Reformed Church, said: “The Government’s finances are in trouble because tax revenue has decreased dramatically. It is vital that any tax rises or spending cuts do not further shrink the tax base by costing jobs. A return to high and sustainable employment is essential for both society and the economy.”

Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, added: “A Pre-Budget Report that puts people’s welfare before market gains is vital. We cannot just return to business as usual – we need a system that promotes social justice, international co-operation and environmental sustainability. It will take more than one Pre-Budget Report to achieve this, but we pray that Wednesday’s announcement will take us in the right direction.”

Source: Methodist News Service 08/12/2009

Monday, 7 December 2009

Tory leader attacks Labour’s policy on marriage

David Cameron has reprimanded the government for its ‘pathological’ denial that marriage is the best option for couples and parenting. The Conservative leader said, if elected, he would encourage marriage. Mr Cameron singled out Children's Secretary Ed Balls for particular criticism because of his assertion that children’s welfare is not necessarily related to marriage. Mr Cameron pointed out that most other European countries are happy to promote marriage, and that he would give tax breaks to civil partnerships as well as married couples. Meanwhile, the government-funded Family and Parenting Institute suggested that the traditional family is disappearing and advised against trying to prevent its decline through financial incentives.

Source: Daily Mail (1/12)

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas outreach idea snapped up by churches

An evangelistic initiative that invites members of the public to be photographed in a nativity tableau has caught the imagination of a broad spectrum of churches. The idea, first brought to the streets by evangelist Chris Duffett in Chester last Christmas, was taken up nationally this year by the Baptist Union and then endorsed by Churches Together in England. Now at least 40 towns are offering the chance to ‘Get in the Picture’. Afterwards, the photos can be seen and downloaded for free from a website which also tells people about local Christmas services and presents a Christmas message. Churches Together in Peterborough have rented a shop in the city centre where Christmas shoppers can have their photo taken with a real donkey.

Source: Baptist Times (3/12)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Employers claim Christmas holiday is unfair on other religions

The Employers Forum on Belief says closing down over Christmas is ‘indirect discrimination’. The Forum, comprising major employers like Barclays, Sainsbury’s, West Midlands Police and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, advises that shutting offices could be resented by members of other faiths. They have to use up their holidays for their own religious festivals while Christians are given time off for Christmas. The Forum suggests that companies can ease tension by pointing out that shutting down at this time makes economic sense, and admits that celebrating Christmas should not offend minorities, yet recommends avoiding the use of religious-looking seasonal decorations.

Source: Daily Telegraph (21/11)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Methodist Church using investments to fight climate change

Aims to reduce carbon footprint of its portfolios
New investment policy on climate change ahead of Copenhagen Summit

The Methodist Church’s investment arm has outlined how its investments reflect Methodist teaching on the environment and take forward the fight against climate change. It aims to ‘create and manage portfolios with a carbon footprint that is relatively low and measurably declining.’

‘The new policy explains how we will encourage companies to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,’ said Bill Seddon, Chief Executive of the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church. ‘We will also look for better disclosure of emissions, including those produced from a company’s supply chains.’

The policy builds on the CFB’s work on climate change over many years. It has long been a signatory of the Climate Disclosure Project, is a founder member of the Institutional Investor Group on Climate Change and works with other churches through the Church Investors Group. It regularly asks companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions. ‘We are now looking for action to accelerate the reduction of those emissions,’ said Mr Seddon.

The new policy helps to integrate church investing with church teaching, most recently expressed in a report entitled ‘Hope in God’s future’.

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Church Policy Adviser, welcomed the CFB’s approach: ‘We are delighted that the CFB has adopted this policy. Climate change threatens to cause irreversible damage to the planet’s eco-system causing suffering to millions of people over the coming decades. It is vital that governments commit to massively reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen Summit, but we should not just leave it to them. We can all play a part and companies also have a responsibility to act. With this policy, the church will also be making its voice heard in boardrooms.’

Tackling climate change issues through an investment policy will not always be straightforward. ‘We know we will not always get it right,’ said Mr Seddon, ‘but the Methodist Church will always seek to act as a responsible investor.’

Source: Methodist News Service 03/12/2009

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Church leaders urge government to push for commitment at Copenhagen

The leaders of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches have called on the government to put pressure on the world’s richest countries to reach a binding agreement at next week’s climate change conference in Copenhagen.

The churches argue that since developed countries such as the UK and US owe their wealth to activities producing high levels of carbon, they also have a moral responsibility to take the lead in setting measures to counter global warming.

The statement comes amid widespread acknowledge that agreement on a climate treaty at Copenhagen – needed for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 – is unlikely.

The Free Churches have been supporting developing countries in their fight for a deal that mitigates the effects of climate change on the poor and vulnerable, and allows poor nations to develop economically.

The Revd John Marsh, moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, said:

“We share the anger and frustration of the world’s poorest countries with the intransigent positions adopted by negotiators of some of the richest countries ahead of the Copenhagen Summit which has rendered a binding agreement unlikely. The time for talking is over.

“The richest countries have a moral obligation to ensure that a series of clear decisions are now made in order to have a treaty committing them to a cut of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. We

call on the government to do everything in their power to persuade their American counterparts to commit to this timeframe and target at Copenhagen.”

Source: Methodist News Service 30/11/2009

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

EU says churches must employ homosexuals

In perhaps the first test of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission has overruled the British government’s decision to allow religious groups to avoid giving jobs to gays. The EU says that UK concessions break a Brussels directive on discrimination. The National Secular Society had complained to the Commission about the opt-outs. Churches will now only be able to turn down homosexual applicants for jobs involving religious activities or practices. One Christian charity responded: ‘If evangelical churches cannot be sure that they can employ practising evangelicals with respect to sexual ethics, how will they be able to continue?’ Gay campaigners are also pushing for legislation to force churches to bless civil partnerships.

Sources: LifeSiteNews (24/11); The Observer (22/11)