Simeon the Stylite (who died on 2 September 459 aged 68) was a big fan of self isolation. He spent 37 years alone on a platform one metre square, at the top of a pillar 50 feet high in Telanissa (modern-day Taladah in Syria). Boys from the nearby village would pass him parcels of bread and goats’ milk and he spent the days praying and talking to visitors brave enough to climb the ladder.
We may consider Simeon’s self-imposed asceticism as eccentric but it is said his preaching ‘conveyed temperance and compassion and was marked with common sense and freedom from fanaticism.’ Perhaps Simeon’s isolation meant he discovered truths impossible to acquire in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
While we all wish for a swift end to these unprecedented times, we would do well to see such trying circumstances as an opportunity to learn important lessons about ourselves – and in so doing experience the grace of God anew (see James 1:2). In turn, we will become a richer blessing to others.
As a team, we’ve practised intense social isolation since taking over CRE four years ago! None of us lives within 40 miles of the other and, working from home, we use all methods of electronic communication currently available to us. However, we are well aware that for many individuals and organisations it is a very different story. The Coronavirus crisis has put many endeavours at serious risk, long-term. We expect CRE National 2020 (13-15 October, Sandown Park, Surrey) to go ahead as normal, but we are reviewing the situation on a daily basis and expect to make a final decision sometime in June.
Whatever happens, CRE will stay in business – whether our next exhibition is at Sandown Park in October, or at Westpoint, Exeter, on 17-18 March 2021.
It’s been encouraging to see several of our exhibitors going out of their way to help local churches in these extraordinary times. Novum AV and Church Edit, for example, have introduced special facilities to enable churches to communicate more effectively, by way of improved websites and broadcasting services. We will be publicising similar initiatives over the next few weeks – so check back often!
In conclusion, we would like to thank you again for your continued support. We are especially mindful of people attempting to work from home who have young children around their legs and, like Simeon the Stylite, are also going up the pole!
With every blessing
Christian Resources Exhibitions Ltd
Organisers of CRE Midlands (4/5 Mar, NAEC, Stoneleigh Park) were encouraged by a positive response from exhibitor and visitor alike after fearing the worst from coverage surrounding the Coronavirus.
‘We groaned when, just before the exhibition opened, we heard the London Book Fair had been cancelled,’ admitted managing director Steve Goddard. ‘Several emails arrived from people who had pre-registered for the exhibition, apologising that they weren’t going to come because of the health risk. And those were just the ones who thought to tell us!
‘However, as we know from putting on the exhibition for more than three decades, the quality of enquirer matters far more than quantity. While visitor numbers were understandably lower than we had originally anticipated, enough decision-makers came to make the event a genuine success.’
Almost half the visitors had never been to a CRE anywhere before.
‘Virtually every exhibitor told us our visitors were like sponges – determined to soak up new ideas, products and services,’ said Steve. ‘For that, we were truly thankful.’
Media coverage of the exhibition was extensive. As well as previews in periodicals like Church Times, Church of England Newspaper and Methodist Recorder, CRE Midlands was covered on nine BBC local radio stations and gained column inches in several regional newspapers including the Sunday Mercury, Coventry Observer, Rugby Advertiser and Warwick Courier. ITV’s Midlands Today filmed the exhibition and ran a feature twice in its regional news bulletin. The Daily Telegraph made a major splash of it all.
Dozens of stand bookings were taken for the next two exhibitions – CRE National at Sandown Park (13-15 Oct 2020) and CRE South-West at Westpoint, Exeter (17-18 Mar 2021).
‘We are grateful to everyone involved at Stoneleigh Park for backing us through a difficult few days,’ said Steve. ‘We are praying that the Coronavirus crisis will be over before CRE National at Sandown Park (13-15 Oct 2020) – not just for our sakes but for thousands of other event organisers worldwide.’
A number of people have asked whether the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE Midlands, 4-5 March) is going ahead, because there is so much in news about the effect of Coronavirus in other countries.
We want to assure everyone that the exhibition is going ahead as planned and we and our 150 exhibitors look forward to welcoming you.
The safety of visitors and exhibitors is at the forefront of everything we do. The UK risk level for coronavirus has been increased from low to moderate. However, the risk to individuals has not changed and remains low.
We are closely following government/medical advice and will have hand sanitisers in place around the hall. We ask all visitors to also adhere to the recommended common-sense advice about personal hygiene.
Being diagnosed with peritoneal cancer will not stop one determined lady from strutting her stuff as a model next week.
Rev Deborah Sandercock, priest-in-charge at St. Margaret’s and St. George’s in Prestwich, Manchester, will join up to a dozen other clerics for Clergy on the Catwalk, a special presentation of ecclesiastical clothing at CRE Midlands (11am, Wed 4 Mar).
‘The cancer has involved intensive treatment and I have lost my hair twice,’ said Deborah. ‘I went from blonde/fair to black, then no hair at all. One of the reasons for being involved in the catwalk is to show it is possible to live a full life with cancer.
‘Physical and emotional changes in the body can result in diminishing self-esteem, so it is important to demonstrate you are the same person inside. As a vicar, I want to be easily recognisable for my role but I also want to bring brightness, colour and hope, especially to those living with the disease. My congregation never know what hat, hair colour or wig I am going to be wearing – but by doing so I am allowing people to talk about it and my faith and role as vicar.’
A wide variety of formal and informal ecclesiastical clothing will be displayed on the catwalk by leading ecclesiastical textile designers like Hayes and Finch, Collared clergywear, Rev Naomi Nixon from Coventry and Lottie’s Eco from Stanford Bridge, Worcester, who make clergy clothing out of biodegradable bamboo.
World Book Day is next Thursday 5 March and the CLC Bookshop at CRE Midlands is joining in by offering a range of books for children and adults at just £1 each.
A registered charity, World Book Day is on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and, most importantly, reading. It’s the biggest event of its kind and will be marked in over 100 countries.
‘Don’t miss out on this opportunity for some great bargains, both for yourself and for others,’ said CLC’s Daryl Wearring.
Research shows that parents reading with their children for as little as 10 minutes a day can make a significant difference to the child’s achievement levels and shared reading has the single biggest impact on a child’s independent reading habits.
That’s why World Book Day is calling on everyone in the UK and Ireland to share stories for 10 minutes a day in schools, libraries, bookshops and at home.
• The CLC Bookshop is on stand at CRE Midlands 2020
It began over supper with simple ideas sketched on napkins but soon their designs were featured on the One Show, Songs of Praise and in Vogue USA.
Revd Sandra Sykes and Sarah Walden, the team behind Collared Clergywear, are a mother and daughter who never imagined they would enter the world of clergy fashion.
‘After I was ordained, I shared with Sarah my dismay and frustration at the lack of choice, comfort and style in female clergy clothing,’ recalled Sandra. ‘So much was merely badly adapted from menswear. Women in ministry were not being truly celebrated and the clothes available highlighted that.
‘We believe that God calls us as we are and wants to help us be more fully ourselves; that ministers are called by God for who they are. Women should be able to wear clothes that, while making them recognisable as clergy, they would normally delight in wearing.’
Collared, launched at CRE National 2015, is now winning plaudits all over the world.
‘We appreciate how women need to juggle ministry, work and family life,’ said Sandra, a vicar in Great Waltham, Essex. ‘We recognise the modern clergy woman has a calling to ministry as diverse and unique as each woman. She needs clothes that are practical, comfortable, yet stylish.’
As a small company, Collared delight in offering a personal touch.
‘Any garment can be customised individually on request,’ said Sandra. ‘There is a choice of sleeve length and pockets can be added to most items on request. Who doesn’t love pockets!’
A collection from Collared will be one of four clergywear specialists featured in Clergy on the Catwalk at CRE Midlands (11am, Wed 4 Mar).
• Collared Clergywear and Hayes and Finch are on stand P41 at CRE Midlands 2020
Join us and trek three peaks in three countries over six days – that’s the invitation from a Christian charity serving Eastern Europe.
Celebrating 30 years in operation, Link to Hope will launch The Balkan Three Peaks at CRE Midlands and want to recruit 15 people to join them in walking the Balkan Three Peaks – in Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo – in September 2021.
The trekkers will traverse the Western Balkans, an area where ancient tracks connect remote regions, and pass through villages, meadows, mountain peaks and woodlands, covering 100km in six days.
Graded four out of 10 in terms of difficulty, the walk is to raise funds for life-changing educational and social care projects in Eastern Europe. Established in 1991, Link to Hope has been working with poor and marginalised communities in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and Bulgaria. Their projects involve setting up kindergartens, feeding the elderly, house rebuilding, disability projects and working and supporting orphans in the war zone in Eastern Ukraine.
‘For our thirtieth year in 2021 we want to challenge ourselves,’ said Link to Hope’s general manager Lisa Hector. ‘What could be better than trekking three peaks in three countries? We know through our work there how amazing the countryside and people are and we would really like people to join us in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are only 15 places and we think launching the anniversary trek at CRE Midlands is the perfect place to do it.’
• Link to Hope are on stand P44 at CRE Midlands 2020
Photo: Ken Spence
The end of the one-man, sound-system operation in churches could be on the cards – along with dated installations which need a regular check.
An annual MOT of your church’s acoustics, along with emergency repairs and training for several volunteer operators, is part of a new package being offered by sound and vision experts Novum AV, a Tamworth-based company.
‘We are instituting silver, gold and platinum packages for sound and vision systems in any church with the option of a thorough check of the system on one, three or five-year contracts for which we make sure the system works and that any hiccups are dealt with quickly on an emergency phone call system,’ said David Sharpe, Novum’s installations manager. ‘All this will mean that churches can trust their system to be problem-free, but if unexpected problems do occur, we provide expert help to sort out the issue. We can also offer training facility in churches in which we use the particular system to help provide extra helpers or cover when the one expert is on holiday or ill.’
One of the constant cries from those who volunteer to operate the many different sound operations in churches is ‘There are gremlins in the system’.
‘Our Beat the Gremlins scheme will be on offer at Midlands CRE,’ said David, ‘where I will be delighted to talk to church representatives about how we can help.
• Novum AV are on stand C11 at CRE Midlands
Before taking sides in the debate about Franklin Graham we need to do our theological homework.
That will be Rev Dr David Hilborn’s challenge to visitors at next week’s CRE Midlands (4/5 Mar, Stoneleigh Park, nr Coventry).
Hilborn, principal of Moorlands College, will speak on ‘Fake theology: even more dangerous than fake news?’ (12pm, Wed 4 Mar).
‘Headlines tell us that secularisation is on the march but theology still matters and is much disputed in the public square,’ said Hilborn. ‘Debates continue about American evangelicals’ support for Donald Trump while Franklin Graham gets “no-platformed” by local UK councils. Abusive practices are exposed with alarming frequency in religious networks, but analysts diverge on whether such practices are distinctively “spiritual” or just falsely “spiritualised” forms of common bullying and manipulation.’
Hilborn, previously principal of St John’s College, Nottingham, will recall momentous claims made following signs of local renewal that supposedly heralded national or international revival. Similarly, certain testimonies of healing anticipated a major wave of healing.
‘Biblical promises of wellbeing and prosperity get curdled into dubious financial practice and even fraud,’ he will argue. ‘Well-meaning attempts at co-operation between different faiths on peace and justice issues become fractious when interfaith prayer and worship enter the picture. So, theology still matters in the civic as well as church context.’
How do we discern authentic theology from ‘fake’ theology in a world where the line between genuine and ‘fake’ news is getting ever-more blurred?
‘I will explore biblical answers to these questions and suggest practical ways forward for Christians today,’ said Hilborn, who will speak as part of The Study Zone at CRE Midlands. The zone gives visitors of all ages an opportunity to choose a theological learning opportunity suitable for their lifestyle. Colleges in the Study Zone include:
* Capernwray Hall
* London School of Theology
* Cliff College
* Oak Hill
* Moorlands College
* Spurgeons College
The lives of a lot of people in our churches are secretly ruled by food.
So says Professor Deborah Lycett of Taste & See, a unique blend of fact and faith helping to bring freedom to lives ruled by food, dieting and emotional eating.
‘Many of us feel guilty and ashamed whenever we eat or step on the scales,’ said Deborah (pictured below), who teaches in the Faculty of Health & Life Sciences at Coventry University. ‘This unhappiness makes them want to eat more and they find themselves in an endless cycle of dieting, overeating and feeling miserable. But God wants to set them free! He wants them to taste and see that he is good and that food is good, too!’
Designed with and for churches and developed out of research at the university, Taste & See, exhibiting for the first time at CRE Midlands, is a 10-session audio-video, small-group programme that anyone can run!
‘The programme is not about dieting but learning to eat in response to our body’s natural signals of hunger and fullness, rather than in response to our emotions and what we see or smell!’ said Deborah. ‘The Christian principles of love, acceptance and freedom with responsibility fit well with this and are included in the programme.’
Scientific evidence suggests that for many people, diets are unsustainable in the long-term and yo-yo dieting is associated with a sense of failure which impacts on quality of life. Evidence also suggests that programmes which help us to become spiritually healthy, as well as physically and emotionally healthy, may play an important role in helping with eating or weight problems.
‘Lots of the evidence so far comes from America,’ said Deborah. ‘We want to find out whether this type of programme could potentially be helpful to people in the UK.
• Taste and See are on stand C14 at CRE Midlands