More than 20 years after he became Britain’s first clergyman on the catwalk, Rev Andrew Roberts (pictured centre) will reprise the role at CRE Midlands 2020 – this time as the event’s presenter.
Based in Kingswinford in the West Midlands, Andrew, a Methodist minister, is author of the bestselling book Holy Habits (BRF).
‘I’m delighted that the superb suit made for me by Juliet Hemingray (pictured right) in the 1990s, which I use when officiating at special events like weddings, still fits!’ said Andrew. Formerly national director of training with Fresh Expressions, an agency that encourages new ways of ‘doing church’, Andrew has a wide-ranging speaking and teaching ministry. In 2018 he was a special guest of the Bishop of New York and next year will head down under to speak in Australia.
Held in an inflatable theatre on the first day of CRE Midlands (11am, Wed 4 Mar 2020, NAEC Stoneleigh Park), accompanied by lights and music, Clergy on the Catwalk will feature colourful, contemporary vestments and round-the-parish leisurewear from leading ecclesiastical designers like Hayes and Finch and Collared Clergywear.
‘The church has modernised in the past 30 years and what clergy wear reflects those changes,’ explained CRE event director Brett Pitchfork. ‘Gone are the usual three shades of grey. In has come a spectrum of colour and design which can be seen in everything from a royal wedding to the humblest Christening.’
Photo: CLERICAL COLLECTION: (left to right) Rev Cindy Kent MBE, Rev Andrew Roberts, Juliet Hemingray
The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth (pictured above), has welcomed the return of CRE to the Midlands for the first time in five years (NAEC, Stoneleigh Park, nr Coventry, 4/5 Mar 2020).
‘I’m delighted that more than 100 specialist organisations will once again bring their skills, services, ideas and resources to Stoneleigh Park,’ said Bishop Christopher. ‘I encourage people from all church traditions to enjoy a day of rich discovery.’
Often dubbed ‘the ideal church show’, everything from computers to communion wine, puppets to pulpits, will be on display. A series of seminars, given by both regional and national experts, will cover issues of vital concern to local church leaders and members of all kinds – from parish magazine editors to treasurers, youth workers to worship leaders.
The Gospability Choir, created by Coventry singer Sandra Godley and made up of more than 20 people who have overcome mental or physical health problems, will help open the exhibition (10am, Wed 4 Mar). Gospability sang at Windsor for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle before the couple’s wedding last year.
Clergy on the Catwalk will follow – a presentation of the latest in clerical clothing, from formal vestments to round-the-parish leisurewear, modelled by ordained ministers. Several theological colleges will form a Study Zone, for people of all ages interested in lifelong learning – from short courses to doctorates, summer schools to evening classes.
On the exhibition’s second day (Thu 5 Mar) long-established composer Chris Bowater leads a day-long conference on corporate worship.
‘Battles over musical styles, levels of volume, kinds of instruments and old versus new – they’ve gone on for decades,’ said Chris, a father of the modern worship movement. ‘Ironically, in heaven worship unites us! So what is it we fight over – and why?’ Attempting to answer these and other allied questions forms the basis of CRE Midland’s Worship Thursday. Chris will be joined by several leading songwriters and worship leaders representing different traditions and styles.
‘Local churches face a multitude of questions and the exhibitions will offer some vital lightbulb moments,’ said CRE event director Brett Pitchfork. ‘Experts will fill every aisle, guiding visitors through the complexities of local ministry. Located in the heart of England, Stoneleigh Park offers thousands of free parking places in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.’
Up to 2500 local church leaders and members, representing all major denominations, are expected to visit the two-day event.
Hand-blown by Muslims, hand-painted by Christians and shipped by Israelis, Bethlehem Baubles are seeking to renew the authentic Christmas spirit.
Each product arrives on a bed of straw in its own presentation box along with a certificate of origin with no plastic used.
Founded by Ros Pollock (pictured above) while she was posted to Jerusalem with the UN, Bethlehem Baubles aims to provide a grass roots, fair living wage to a struggling community.
‘Christmas should be about connecting with the things that really matter,’ said Ros. ‘In an age of mass production and commercialisation, we are offering you the chance to return to these simple origins and renew the authentic spirit of Christmas. Together we can make a difference for some skilled artisans, by offering an original and thoughtful gift that represents a deep sense of connection and community.’
With a unique design for the collection each year, Ros believes her baubles have the potential to become an abiding part of the Christmas experience – perfect for stocking fillers and ‘that tricky relative who you never know what to get.’
‘We’ve paired up with Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans (BFTA) who work closely with Muslim and Christian communities at an individual level,’ she explained.
BFTA is a non-profit NGO established in 2009. It works to spread the fair trade message in Palestine and links Palestinian producers to global fair trade markets. In 2015, BFTA became the first guaranteed member of World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower the most vulnerable producers in Palestine, support them to become active agents in their own livelihoods and develop their social rights and communities.
Order now for Christmas.
In today’s litigious world, churches face risks far beyond property damage.
‘They should regularly consider the situation and be comfortable that they have sufficient insurance and risk management arrangements in place,’ says Russell Hickman, church specialist at Access Insurance.
Access serve over 2,500 churches in the UK, providing advice on getting the right cover in place, as well as helping in the event that a claim needs to be made. From the last 1,000 claims Access have helped church clients to make, several stand out as warnings to other churches.
‘In one case a woman fell down a flight of stairs after the lights were turned out, in an apparent attempt to encourage people to leave the premises. The compensation she received for her injuries was over £70,000,’ recalls Russell. ‘Thankfully the church had adequate insurance.’
In another, cameras were damaged as volunteers packed them away. The £5,500 claimed was paid out quickly and the projection, recording and broadcasting was able to continue. Often claims happen due to outside sources totally beyond the control of the church. In one instance, Access assisted a client after a hit-and-run driver caused severe damage to their building. Repairs costing over £13,000 (22 per cent of the church’s income) were paid for.
‘It’s best to consult and take advice from an expert when arranging church insurance,’ says Russell. ‘The feedback we get is that we understand the context in which churches operate and pay attention to detail. Probably the fact that I’m a church secretary helps me immensely!’
The faith of Access’ leaders informs the way that business is conducted. By 2025 Access aim to give £500,000 to charity each year. They are also in the process of setting up a fund churches can apply to for small grants for community, outreach and evangelism projects.
• Access Insurance are on stand F15 at CRE Midlands 2020