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The Bible: all set to become cool on the curriculum

First-time exhibitors Museum of the Bible and RE Today magazine will be at CRE2017 to present the latest version of their groundbreaking Augmented Reality Bible Curriculum for schools. 

Committed to making the Bible accessible to today’s generation, Museum of the Bible will show visitors how churches of all kinds can utilise smart phones and tablets to teach the stories of both Old and New Testaments to people of all ages.

At a seminar on the first day of CRE2017 (3pm, Tue 17 Oct), Museum of the Bible’s Mark Markiewicz and Julia Diamond-Conway, RE Today’s national adviser, will outline how technology is set to revolutionise RE in schools. 

‘Visitors will also have an opportunity to see and use it for themselves,’ explains Mark, ‘and discover how it can be used in their schools and churches.’


As well as creating the most technologically-advanced museum in the world, opening in Washington DC in November 2017, Museum of the Bible has displayed artefacts and academic resources in cities around the world, including Vatican City’s Braccio di Carlo Magno and the Havana Cathedral in Havana, Cuba. Plans are already well advanced to bring a similar museum to central London.

Click here to watch a demonstration of the Augmented Reality Bible Curriculum in a US high school.

Museum of the Bible are on Stand 30 and RE Today on Stand 31 at CRE 2017.

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How the mitres have fallen – but it’s not the end of colourful clergy

Mitres, stoles, capes and chasubles – the traditional clothing of Church of England clergy – may disappear from churches services after the Church of England voted last week to allow ministers to ‘wear what they want’.

It’s proved a difficult time for ecclesiastical designer Juliet Hemingray, a long-time CRE exhibitor, who has led the way in not only adding colour to vestments but, through her designs, making allusions to biblical narratives.

‘They are visual aids,’ she explains, ‘and do not form a barrier between wearer and observer. The subject matter on the stole or scarf, for example, can start helpful conversations.’

Juliet’s business began in 1979 when a close friend asked her to decorate a plain black preaching scarf with scenes that would appeal to children.

‘Orders poured in for bespoke designs reflecting the faith of customers,’ she recalls. ‘I have created 13 jobs and enabled more than 30,000 people to portray the Gospel in a way that is personal and meaningful. One friend in Tennessee told me he couldn’t remember any sermons from his early church life but recalled symbols on vestments and hangings. They meant a great deal to him.’

Juliet believes there is room for both options – vestments or more informal clothing.

‘My choice is obviously the first, purely from a Gospel-preaching standpoint,’ she says. ‘But you should make the most of whatever you are wearing and when you are not speaking, let the garment speak!’

Her view was reflected at two recent meetings in Lancashire. More than 4,000 schoolchildren gathered at Ewood Park, the home of Blackburn Rovers, for a talk given by the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North. Dramatically, he revealed an Arsenal shirt under his vestments, using the long-standing rivalry between Division One team Blackburn and Premier League Burnley FC to discuss the importance of loyalty.

Only a week before Canon Mark Jones, vicar of St Leonard’s Church in nearby Padiham, wore a Queen’s Park Rangers’ shirt – the team he supports – in front of 200 children from the local primary school. He wore it to illustrate how belonging to and supporting a child is an important part of any christening service. He ‘baptised’ a baby doll for two seven-year-old pupils.

In an area in which some members of the clergy have ignored the rulings and worn no clerical identification or the minimum for some time, the new pronouncement gives everyone the opportunity to be free and easy on some social occasions and add colour and pomp on others – without causing offence. It may even offer those ‘wearing parables’ to speak clearly to their congregation without uttering a word.

Step forward, Juliet!

David Hall

Juliet will be on Stand S129 at CRE 2017

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So a comedian walks into CRE 2017

Scrooge, Santa, Slade and a snoozing Saviour are all part of a fun and forgotten history of Christmas, to be presented at CRE2017 by award-winning comedian Paul Kerensa.

A practising comedian and writer for more than 15 years, Paul admits he has been ‘practising as a Christian for a little longer.’ He’s become the BBC’s go-to guy for gagging up new sitcoms, helping writing teams win Best New Sitcom for Miranda at the British Comedy Awards and Best Sitcom for Not Going Out at the Royal Television Society Awards. More recently, he has written for Chris Evans’ Top Gear.
 
His new book, available at CRE in October, will be ‘a new appreciation of the complicated relationship between the Church and the festival of Christmas.’ In it he explains how Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! and The Christmas Song were both written in a sweltering summer heatwave and that King Herod had a wife called Doris. Also, according to ‘a reliable legend’, St Nicholas was the first to use an automatic door.

Introducing the book at CRE, Paul’s talk will be packed full of comic moments, visuals and even music.

‘It may only be October,’ says Paul, ‘but the shops have decided Christmas starts in September, so at least we’ll be feeling festive in a churchly way.’

He’s a regular at festivals such as Spring Harvest, New Wine and Greenbelt where he brings his trademark Powerpoint presentations full of silliness, songs and spoof gameshows such as Biblankety Biblank and Catchpharisee.
 
‘I’ve always loved being among fellow believers. Mine is a potentially lonely job in an industry not known for its sympathy towards people of faith,’ he says. ‘CRE is a great chance to equip us with what we need to get our jobs done and make a difference in this world. I’m always delighted to be part of it. I come away used as a resource, but also resourced myself!’
 
Paul Kerensa will speak at CRE2017 at 2pm on Tue 17 Oct. He will also be a special guest of Rev Cindy Kent MBE, at lunchtime in Cindy’s Bar.

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Blessed assurance: Laurie’s campaign for good financial stewardship

No widow ever thinks her husband was over-insured!

That’s the view of Laurie Mellor, who recently presented a cheque for £395,000 to a widow on the unexpected death of her 51-year-old husband.

‘Nobody ever wakes up one morning and thinks, “It’s such a nice day I’ll take out some life assurance”. Generally, it needs an adviser to explain the benefits of what is essentially an altruistic act,’ he explains. ‘Whilst no amount of money can ever compensate for the loss of a loved one, the money enabled the lady in question to pay off her mortgage. She then invested the balance to produce a monthly income, making her secure for life.’

Laurie is founder of independent financial advisers The Mellor Practice, exhibitors at CRE 2017. Though he has had more than 30 years’ experience in insurance, a death claim reminds him of the value of his role.

‘I recognise that not all Christians are comfortable with the notion of life assurance,’ he reflects. ‘Sometimes it is right to “just trust the Lord”. However, if we have the means to pay the premiums, good stewardship may well dictate that we make provision via a suitable life policy.’

Laurie also has two books to his name: The Sick Rose: England’s Spiritual Crisis (2010) and Sales Success in Tough Times: How to Thrive, Not Just Survive (2003).

And going back even further, some will also remember him as bass player in 1980’s evangelistic band, Rev Counta and the Speedoze!

The Mellor Practice are on Stand S50 at CRE2017

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The hidden cost of ministry in ’target culture’ times

Research by St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy in 2013 discovered that two in every three ordained clergy frequently consider giving up the ministry because of stress.

At the same time, a government survey suggested vicars enjoy more job satisfaction than any other profession.

‘They can’t both be right!’ says Jeremy Moody, chief executive of CRE 2017 exhibitor Sons & Friends of the Clergy, a 362-year-old charity providing support to Anglican clergy and their dependants.

‘What is clear is that many face financial hardship, especially if they have families. The National Minimum Stipend of £23,800 is significantly less than the average full-time salary in the UK of £27,600. They also face increased stress, especially given the emergence in the church of what some call a “target” culture (managerialism).’

Clergy wellbeing was debated in the General Synod in York recently. Canon Simon Butler of St Mary’s Battersea proposed a national clergy covenant, modelled on the armed forces version, setting a benchmark for clergy care and support.

‘The General Synod responded in typical fashion,’ says Jeremy. ‘It set up a working group to report back in two years’ time!’

No recent research has been conducted about clergy indebtedness but a 2001 survey suggested that one in ten had debts in excess of £10,000. Just under one in five with a non-earning spouse and dependent children, struggled to pay household bills if relying solely on the stipend.

‘In the past 16 years these figures will certainly have got worse,’ stresses Jeremy, ‘especially with the greater availability of debt and only modest growth in stipends. But many clergy are reluctant to admit they have a problem. Clergy marriage breakdown is a major issue, but one that the Church is reluctant to address.’

The thrust of the General Synod debate suggests church authorities are not doing enough to help their clergy. Jeremy will lead a seminar about the subject at CRE 2017 (12pm, Thu 19 Oct). Established in 1655, Sons & Friends of the Clergy is one of the oldest Anglican clergy support charities, and now certainly the biggest. The charity provides financial grants and other support to serving and retired clergy, ordinands and clergy families, where there is particular hardship or need, whether financial or health-related.

Sons & Friends of the Clergy are on Stand 125 at CRE 2017.

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At last! Jonathan Veira to perform at CRE

At home singing opera at Glyndebourne and Gospel at Gold Hill Baptist, Jonathan Veira’s considerable vocal and comic talents make him a hugely popular performer.

He has performed across the globe in a variety of musical styles from Mozart to John Adams. In addition to operatic roles, Jonathan regularly broadcasts on BBC radio and TV He has recorded numerous cds and contributed to TV programmes across many genres, including light entertainment and religious broadcasting, particularly BBC TV’s Songs of Praise.

His Christian faith has been an essential part of his life and work and he has recorded a number of albums with something to suit all tastes, from traditional hymns and carols to blues and gospel.

‘It will be great to be at CRE2017 with my old friend Cindy Kent MBE (who will host Cindy’s Bar) and “All Kinds of Everything” legend Dana,’ said Jonathan. ‘It’s intriguing to wander round the exhibition, checking out the extraordinary range of resources available to the church today. Every need is met – from chairs and candles, to hymn books and, this year, me! I look forward to performing a short programme of what I can offer to the modern church – and renewing many friendships.’

Jonathan will be a guest on Cindy’s Sofa at lunchtime on Wed 18 Oct, before performing at 3pm on the same afternoon. His books and CDs will also be available.

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Hope comes to life with Compassion Experience

See hope come to life in a purpose-built slum – that’s the thinking behind the Compassion Experience, a major front-of-house feature at CRE2017.

Originally constructed in the USA and inspired by an initiative of Compassion International, the Compassion Experience made its UK debut recently at Edgeborough School in Farnham when nearly 250 children and over 70 adults past through its doors.

Housing interactive, tactile, audio and visual stories of Sameson, the Experience follows the lives of a boy from Ethiopia and Shamim, a girl from Uganda. Both Sameson and Shamim grew up experiencing the vulnerability, restrictions and dangers that poverty brings in their respective cultures and contexts.

Beth O’Reilly, a Year 3 teacher at Edgeborough, said: ‘We aim to cultivate our children’s global perspectives and to teach them about life outside of Farnham. We want to encourage our children to recognise that not all young people have the same opportunities that we have.  By involving alternative educational tools such as the Compassion Experience, we hope to provide the children we teach with an experience that will not only be memorable, but also effective in helping them to develop attributes such as compassion and to contemplate how they might make a difference in the world.’

Compassion is an international child development charity with more than 60 years’ experience working with some of the world’s poorest children. At present more than 1.8 million children attend Compassion’s church-based projects in 25 of the world’s poorest countries.

‘We brought the Compassion Experience to the UK to bring the developing world to our doorsteps,’ said Justin Dowds, CEO of Compassion UK. ‘When people think of poverty, they often think of the lack of material things, but actually poverty is the lack of freedom to make meaningful choices. Poverty narrows children’s horizons and undermines their ambitions. Through our holistic child development program Compassion stirs hope in children. You can witness that hope coming to life through the Compassion Experience.’

‘The Compassion Experience will enable visitors to CRE to experience another world without leaving their own,’ explains Compassion UK’s Caroline Cameron. ‘We hope hundreds of visitors will consider bringing the trailer to their local churches and schools. Most importantly the presentation will offer a message of hope for children sponsored through our world-class child development programe.’

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Cut the clutter! Put it on an app

Mobile apps can simplify church communications and help you reach and engage new members.

So says James Dickson, founder of CRE exhibitor Piota (Put it on the App), makers of high quality, affordable mobile apps for churches, schools, charities and local community organisations.

‘Keeping your congregation engaged and in touch is not easy,’ said James, who worked in finance for 20 years before setting up Piota. ‘They want to hear from you but their inboxes are crowded. Add to that a young adult demographic that doesn’t do email, a website which broadcasts information but can’t personalise it and ever-decreasing attention spans. Even the most inspiring or urgent material goes unread.’

If you are struggling to cover everyone through a mix of emails, texts, Facebook feeds and website announcements, you already know the problem!

‘You need a high-quality mobile app versatile enough to double up as both a messaging centre and information hub for your congregation, volunteers and wider church family,’ contends James.

‘Our church app, which we will demonstrate at CRE, is your one-stop shop. It speeds up communications in rich formats, directly to everyone with the app or specific sub-groups. It’s a quick reference source with immediate access to everything people need to know, from meeting timings to last week’s sermon, to how to donate. It is affordable and should even pay for itself in cost and time savings.’

* Piota will be on stand S57 at CRE2017

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Rachel and team consider ‘revival’ among young people

TED-style talks on school missions, worship for all ages and intentional discipleship are among a host of subjects covered in the Youth Zone at CRE2017.

Open all day for three days, the zone will feature a range of speakers including:

Rachel Gardner (pictured above), Relationships Lead at Youthscape and president of the Girls Brigade, who will share from her long experience in engaging with young people in tough-to-talk-about topics.

Tom Butler, Head of Missions at the Message Trust, who will outline his work with young people in mission. Tom has 10 years’ experience as a youth pastor and is developing the trust’s mission teams, reaching and discipling young people.

Youth for Christ’s Laura Hancock, who will explore current youth culture in relation to the local church.

CRE’s Youth Zone comes at a time when new figures show one young person in six self identifies as a practising Christian. The statistics show that 13 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds say they are regular churchgoers and more than one in five (21 per cent) describe themselves as active followers of Jesus.

The study, commissioned by the HOPE Revolution partnership and carried out by ComRes, suggests that a commitment to Christianity is much higher among young people than previously thought. Another study, Youth for Christ’s Gen Z: Rethinking Culture research, showed similar results, suggesting that a surprisingly high number of young people still describe themselves as Christian.

‘We will look in depth at the results of our survey and take time to explore what it means for local churches in their attempts to engage with current youth culture,’ said YFC’s Laura Hancock, who will also lead the zone. ‘We will consider how best to take the good news of Jesus to a fresh generation of young people.’

Youth Zone exhibitors include:

Bible Education Services
YMCA Bournemouth
The Treasure Box People
Discover Archery
iSingPOP
Pulse Ministries
Hope Now
Nicodemus
Youth For Christ

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‘Card-carrying’ gospel duo set for Cindy’s Bar

From Croydon to Esher, via Germany, Italy, Poland, Jamaica and the USA – that’s the journey of Clif and Marie Reid, special guests at CRE 2017.

Surrounded by church choirs from birth, the duo started singing and playing at an early age in south London. Their love for music was further influenced by Thomas Whitfield, The Winans, Fred Hammond, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and the Clarke Sisters. Accomplished and exuberant vocalists in their own right, Clif is now a sought-after keyboard player. They have also produced their own album, If Only, offering upbeat urban Gospel.

Married in 1998, they have also launched My Truth, a conversational card game for married couples. Marie invented the game after writing subject headings on paper, screwing them up and challenging Clif to share his views on the subjects in question.

‘I was amazed and surprised at some of the insights Clif shared,’ admitted Marie. ‘Even after 17 years of marriage, I really saw his heart on issues more deeply. If this ‘game’ could bring out new insights for us I figured it could do the same for other couples.’

‘Answering the questions really made me dig deep,’ admitted Clif. ‘Marie and I have a strong marriage but this game made it stronger.’

The couple will sing each lunchtime in Cindy’s Bar, a dedicated venue offering entertainment and conversation, hosted by Rev Cindy Kent MBE.

‘CRE is a fantastic place to meet people and discover new ideas and resources,’ said Marie. ‘Seeing so many organisations in one place, focused on strengthening and supporting the church, is truly inspiring. We are honoured to share our music and card game, to help touch and heal hearts and relationships.’

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