Yearly Archive 2020

Dave HallByDave Hall

Priests in poverty: College is ‘life-saver’ for Fr Barry

Poverty among clergy may not be as big a scandal it was in the 1890s but the College of St. Barnabas is still vital to people like Fr Barry Thorley.

The college was founded by former missionary Canon William Cooper who described himself as ‘a broken man’ from the physical hardships he endured during his ministry in the Australian outback and wilderness of Canada. Back in Britain, he came across other former missionaries and older clergy living in abject poverty and ill-health, most notably in the Brighton Workhouse, and he determined to do something to alleviate their suffering.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the college and Fr Barry Thorley (pictured), a current resident, said: ‘St Barnabas has been a life-saver. I’m no good at trowelling sentiment but it’s hard to exaggerate how much this place means to me.’

Poverty among today’s clergy means the college is still fulfilling its original mission and no-one eligible is ever turned away for lack of means. There is, for example, no requirement that a prospective resident must be in receipt of a Church of England pension. Financially independent of the Church of England, and pre-dating Church of England Pensions Board Homes, the college has an absolute capacity of 63, of which 28 are nursing wing beds – for which there is constant demand.

‘Our independence means we have to actively raise funds to achieve our charitable aims and objectives and our 125th anniversary gives a great opportunity both to increase awareness of the college and bring in some cash,’ said Mike Herbert, head of fundraising. ‘A number of events are being planned throughout 2020 to mark this impressive milestone.’

Mike is leading by example and doing a 125km sponsored walk from Gravesend to Eastbourne at the end of March, while another member of the staff will cycle 125 miles along the Pilgrim’s Way later in the year.

‘The college does a great job helping vulnerable elderly people in need,’ he said. ‘Continuing demand means our help in needed as much now as in Cooper’s day.’

• The College of St. Barnabas is on stand D1 at CRE Midlands 2020

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Home soggy home: 100 set for cardboard ‘sleep out’

Around 100 people are set to spend a night out in a cardboard box – to raise funds for the work of Birmingham City Mission (BCM). The Sleepout will take place in BCM’s HQ car park in Birmingham on Fri 28 Feb.

‘We have all seen it on our streets – homelessness, addiction and loneliness,’ said BCM’s Hannah Noble. ‘Rough sleepers huddled in doorways, soggy cardboard boxes and discarded beer cans. It’s no surprise there has been a renewed focus on homelessness in our politics and media.’

On any given night there are currently up to 5,000 rough sleepers in England, according to Shelter’s latest statistics – double the number of 2010. Last year a 31-year-old homeless man, Kane Walker, died in an underpass in Birmingham’s city centre. His death put a national spotlight on the average life expectancy of homeless people in the UK – 45 years for men, 43 for women.

Since it began in 1966 Birmingham City Mission, an exhibitor at CRE Midlands, has sought to help the city’s homeless. Its care centre now provides food, activities and support to around 200 homeless and marginalised people each year, many struggling with addiction and mental health problems. For them, the centre is ‘trust, safe, support, friends, my family.’ Through building relationships, giving practical help and sharing the Christian message, the care centre offers hope and a chance for guests to move on in their lives.

‘Homelessness is real but there are solutions,’ said care centre manager Steve Bagnall. ‘Not every situation is solved, but overall there is more success than not and we value your prayers for our guests.’

A Sleepout information and registration form can be found here.

• Birmingham City Mission are on stand F21at CRE Midlands 2020

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Budget for blessing: keep your financial dreams afloat

More than £100,000-worth of consultancy packages will be available to churches and other not-for-profit organisations at CRE Midlands.

Action Planning, a leading multi-disciplinary consultancy serving the not-for-profit sector, is giving away the services to mark its 30th anniversary. Under the title Pearls of Wisdom, 56 separate consultancy packages are available, with an average market value of £2,000, ranging from governance reviews to board awaydays, income generation workshops to branding reviews and HR support to executive life coaching.

The services will be provided free of charge by 39 of Action Planning’s community of expert consultants.

‘Many not-for-profits are in a position where they would benefit hugely from outside support but don’t have the budget,’ said Action Planning chair David Saint, who will speak at CRE Midlands on Raising funds for capital projects in your church (12pm, Wed 4 Mar). ‘This is an opportunity to put budgetary considerations to one side and access expertise that could transform your organisation for good.

‘After 30 years of serving the not-for-profit sector, we wanted to do something to capture the imagination and delivered genuine value. We’ve been able to do this because of the structure of Action Planning. The community of expert consultants we’ve gathered together delivers breadth and depth of expertise.’

Pearls of Wisdom packages will be delivered throughout 2020 and eligible organisations will have until 16th March to apply. The offer is aimed at not-for-profit organisations with an annual income of at least £200,000 in the last financial year, and/or at least two full-time equivalent paid staff members in post. Full eligibility criteria, along with application instructions, can be found on the Pearls of Wisdom website.

• Action Planning are on stand P66 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Post-Brexit: Andy pens worship song calling us to be reconciled

A song that encourages churches to build unity in post-Brexit Britain has been written and recorded by CRE contributor Andy Flannagan.

Reconciled highlights the need for repentance and intentional, bold relationship building with our neighbours,’ said Andy. ‘I hope it will be sung by many churches and be a useful tool as church leaders work out how to challenge their people to be prayerfully and politically involved in our nation.’

Andy, director of Christians in Politics, spoke on Brexit at CRE North in Manchester last March.

‘It is very easy to feel paralysed by both the complexity and toxicity of the issues surrounding it all,’ he said. ‘We may feel as if we are sliding towards chaos but we follow a God who since the dawn of time has brought order from chaos. It shouldn’t scare us. If you think we are in chaotic times, try living in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar!’

Order emerges from chaos through restored relationships, believes Andy.

‘The cross sits at the centre of history because it makes possible the reconciliation between us and God and between us and those who may not feel like “us” anymore,’ he said. ‘There is currently a real danger of a cultural divide becoming a chasm. We need to build relationships across divides.’

Reconciled can be heard on YouTube and the chord sheets and lyrics can be downloaded from

Pic © Virginia Lattul

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Dave HallByDave Hall

To get the best, come as a group

When CRE comes to town, Rev Hilary Howarth rounds up a posse to visit the exhibition.

Hilary, minister of the Triangle Community Methodist Church, Bolton, said: ‘It is a brilliant day out and I know it can make a lot of difference to church life. Our departmental leaders and helpers get fresh ideas. The resources on show are a real inspiration.’

A local preacher for many years, Hilary became a minister in 2002 and served in Chorley and Northwick and Winsford circuits before returning to her roots in Bolton to lead The Triangle Community – three fellowships that came together to form a new church.

Rev Hilary Howarth

‘It’s great when people like Hilary “get” the event,’ said CRE’s Steve Goddard. ‘We would encourage all church leaders to look carefully through our 130+ exhibitors and programme of seminars and presentations at Stoneleigh Park and invite key leaders and influencers to join them – from bishop to bell-ringer, vicar to verger. Already half the people who have bought advance tickets tell us they have never yet been to a CRE. They are in for a day of rich discovery.’

Entry to CRE Midlands is just £3 each for a group of three or more, if tickets are bought in advance from here (£8 each on the door).

Cartoon by Rev Taffy Davies

Dave HallByDave Hall

Bishop Peter Ball documentary: ‘I’m now more angry than shocked’

More angry now than shocked – that was how Justin Humphreys (pictured), CEO of independent Christian safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight, reacted to The Church’s Darkest Secret, a BBC documentary broadcast this week on serial abuser Bishop Peter Ball.

The harrowing two-part programme included testimonies from victims, police, lawyers and church officers, as well as dramatic reconstructions. Ball was sentenced in 2015 to 32 months in prison for a series of offences, including misconduct in public office and indecent assault, more than 20 years after the first allegations against him were made. He served 16 months of his sentence. Further charges were allowed to lie on file. He died last year, aged 87.

‘As a Christian, I must fight for the church and pursue what is right and just,’ said Justin. ‘As an organisation, thirtyone:eight has been working in this area for more than 40 years, and although we have seen much change, it doesn’t get any easier especially in the face of such appalling stories.  At the same time, it gives us a renewed conviction that things must change.  I believe that change begins with me choosing to be the change I want to see!’

Peter Ball, former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester.

The nature of the abuse included naked praying, masturbation, and flagellation for Ball’s own sexual gratification. Archive footage of Ball from an ITV programme from the 1980s on his monastic lifestyle is shown, as is his appearance on Wogan, the BBC talk show, and press images of Ball with establishment figures such as Margaret Thatcher and the Prince of Wales.

‘The church needs leaders who are prepared to speak out and remind the institution of the need for change in its safeguarding record,’ said Justin. ‘This is not just the case in the Anglican church but across all church denominations and groups. This generation of Christian leaders have a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations of a church culture that is open, transparent and a place of safety for all. I pray they may have the courage to take it.’

• thirtyone:eight are on stand E30 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Modern slavery: Now hope begins at home

When Jared and Helen Hodson came across people living in slavery they did more than pray – they took vulnerable folk into their own home.

Seeing how much could be achieved, even with three sons of their own, they set up a charity, Hope at Home, to encourage others to do the same. At CRE Midlands they will explain how widespread trafficking is in the UK and how others can help in the rescue work.

‘More than 100,000 people are in modern slavery here in Britain,’ said Jared Hodson. ‘The Bible makes it very clear – we have a duty to help unfortunate people. We need people to pray, provide finance but also to use a spare room to provide short-term accommodation to help those who are rescued, recover. Many churches have an advice centre or provide food in a soup run but we are challenging them to take that care further by offering short term accommodation to these people at risk or who have been a modern slave.’

Jared and Helen Hodson.

The charity was established two years ago but the family had been welcoming people into their home for the previous four years. The experience gave them valuable expertise and helped them create important contacts. It also opened their eyes to the desperate need to provide a ‘family’ and network of support for their guests.

‘We always ask our three boys, now teenagers, before taking someone in and they have never refused anyone,’ said Jared, who worked for a large hotel chain training staff in the UK and other parts of the world, a job which provided ‘lots of hospitality.’

Since 2017 he has been working full time for Hope at Home and his previous experience has been invaluable. Helen is an experienced community development worker and freelance writer and has worked with people of all backgrounds. The couple have surrounded themselves with an experienced team including an immigration lawyer, accountant, former police officer and magistrate as well as working in partnership with agencies across the country.

‘We would love people to visit our stand, understand the enormity of the problem and take up the challenge,’ said Jared.

• Hope at Home are on stand P5 at CRE Midlands

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Dave HallByDave Hall

All he has to do is act biblically

This time last year he had never heard of Open the Book – now he’s played Jesus and Wise Man 3 in front of hundreds of children. 

In early 2019 the Bible Society asked James Greig (pictured above), who has a background in TV production, to help them produce some videos covering the organisation’s 20th anniversary celebrations. The job entailed travelling across the country interviewing a host of storytellers along with past and present members of Open the Book, a project which started with a small group of mostly newly-retired people in Bedford. Twenty years later it involves more than 17,000 volunteers reaching some 800,000 children every year.

‘I was struck by the sheer enthusiasm, passion and joy that everyone seemed to get from being part of it all,’ explained James. ‘It is a simple idea – acting out the stories of the Bible – but with a far-reaching and powerful impact.’ 

In the Autumn, James received an email – ‘out of the blue’ – asking him whether he was free the following Thursday to help with a fledgling project in the village called Open the Book. If so, would he play Jesus? Buoyed by the positive comments he had heard from the anniversary events, James ‘dived straight in’. 

‘The telling of Jesus feeding the 5000 was only the second or third Open the Book assembly at our little village school,’ recalled James. ‘They’d also been spread apart, timewise. Yet when the children were asked if they remembered the previous stories, their hands shot up and they recalled the stories almost perfectly. I was bowled over by how impactful this simple act of storytelling is and for some, probably the only time they will hear bible stories.’ 

Open the Book staff will be at CRE Midlands 2020 to encourage more people like James to play the parts of some of the most significant people in history.

• Open the Book are stand A21/A22 at CRE Midlands

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Photo: James Greig by Gerry Stacey

Dave HallByDave Hall

Banging a gong for the countryside

The UK’s 15,000 rural churches will find valuable help at CRE Midlands – thanks to an organisation set up by the man behind the most famous gong in history.

J. Arthur Rank, legend of the British film industry and a devout member of the Methodist Church, set up the Rank Foundation following an illustrious career producing famous films like The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Henry V (1944), A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and a series of comedies starring Norman Wisdom.

The Arthur Rank Centre, which has been situated at Stoneleigh Park for nearly 50 years and specialises in helping churches outside urban conurbations, will exhibit at CRE Midlands.

‘Visitors to our stand will discover a arrange of resources and training programmes,’ said Rev Claire Maxim, a Church of England rector who took on the role of chief executive 18 months ago. The centre is the base for national rural officers for URC, C of E and Methodist churches and acts as a network hub for rural officers and agricultural chaplains.

‘We will tell people from rural areas what we can do for their churches,’ explained Claire, ‘whether they have problems with buildings, worship or liturgy, for example. And, of course, we carry clout politically with advocacy on legislation from a Christian perspective.’

The organisation’s magazine, Country Way, is another important resource, containing articles of specific interest to rural churches. Developing the creative and entrepreneurial skills of rural church leaders is the focus of a leadership training programme – and a series of conferences are organised for anyone involved in rural mission and ministry.

Visitors to CRE Midlands will also discover how to make Rural Mission Sunday 2020 – Sunday 19 July – a special celebration of the life and work of rural churches.

• The Arthur Rank Centre are on stand P12 at CRE Midlands

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Photo: Hawkshead in the Lake District.

Dave HallByDave Hall

Search on for catwalking clergy at CRE Midlands

The search is on for contributors to Clergy on the Catwalk, a special presentation of clerical clothing at the upcoming Christian Resources Exhibition (NAEC, Stoneleigh Park, 4/5 Mar 2020). 

A wide variety of formal and informal ecclesiastical clothing, for both genders, will be displayed by leading designers like Hayes and Finch, Collared clergywear and local designer Rev Naomi Nixon, new CEO of the Student Christian Movement. In her spare time, Naomi makes clerical tops and dresses to sell in Coventry’s St Clare’s at the Cathedral, a pioneer church community and shop, tucked between old and new cathedrals.

‘All Naomi’s items are high-quality cotton jersey, in beautiful prints and colours,’ said Rev Charlotte Gale (pictured above), who runs the shop. ‘We aim to provide well-made, comfortable and stylish clothes that fit “real” women and can be bought off the shelf – so no ordering and waiting.’ 

Clergy all over the UK have bought Naomi’s clericals but in the diocese of Coventry you are likely to see several women at a meeting of ministers wearing one of her tops or dresses. No men are supplied because ‘we can’t keep up with demand from women!’

Rev Esther Peers, pioneer curate in Leamington Spa, wearing her ordination gift, made by Rev Naomi Nixon of St Clare’s at the Cathedral, Coventry.

Up to half a dozen clergy will be needed for the catwalk which takes place at 11am on Wed 4 March.

‘No modelling experience is required. All denominations, shapes, ages – and both genders – considered!’ explains CRE Midlands event director Brett Pitchfork. ‘Each participant will be given £50 as a thank you.’

Clergy wishing to take part in Clergy on the Catwalk should contact CRE on 0161 240 4500. Email here.

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