In spite of COVID-19, the ongoing effects of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and, more recently, the ethics of direct debits altered by energy companies hit by financial squeeze, charitable giving to churches is alive and well.
That was a key message from speakers and exhibitors at CRE National 2021 (Oct 12-14).
‘We’re here to talk about generosity,’ said Grant Forrest, chief executive of the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS). Forrest spoke animatedly about what he describes as the emergence of Generation G – ‘not defined by age or other strict demographic, but by a desire, a willingness to give. And not just to give but to give generously,’ he emphasised. ‘It’s perhaps a difficult time to be talking about giving, but nevertheless what we’re seeing first-hand is evidence of increasing generosity. And that is about the link between the giver and the receiver.’
PGS, with its values of community, relationship and generosity is designed to be an extension of each local parish church treasurer’s team, to ease the process of giving and ‘be the catalyst for Christian philanthropy.’
Reacting to the pandemic, PGS introduced a phone line to augment the online and paper-based means of facilitating regular giving. The telephone operators have proved valuable in providing pastoral support to donors during a time of great uncertainty. Via this channel alone, from its introduction in April 2020 to date, more than 4,500 new direct debit mandates have been initiated, grossing in excess of £300,000 per month.
In Anglican churches supported by PGS, charitable giving has remained resilient throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
‘It’s important to us that direct debits are seen to be used as a safe, ethical way,’ added Forrest. ‘But it’s also about reframing the “ask” of the donor and communicating needs cogently, regular giving and speaking more openly about generosity is the backbone…. a gamechanger’. In a Q&A, Revd Dan Henderson, vicar of St Andrew’s Church, Hove concurred: ‘You could see the change [in his congregation] between giving being a “chore” and something we “had to do” to becoming a joy.’
Alternative means of engaging donors were also explored in the CRE workshop led by David Lynch and Alice O’Brien from the UK arm of Dutch tech firm Givt.
‘In the Christian community,’ said Lynch, ‘giving is considered to be an act of worship. But with the challenge of hybrid church – where congregations may not be meeting physically together, or where antiviral practices require a rethink of major touchpoints – we have children today who don’t see the act of giving’. Donating may still be occurring via BACS transfer or card payment, but when unseen, the ‘trigger’ to give may not be as tangible.
Givt is therefore deploying technology to recreate the physical deed of giving. An app-based solution using a combination of Bluetooth-enabled ‘beacons’ in traditional collection plates and QR codes which can be displayed or projected in places of worship, Givt is a flexible and easy-to-use tool that does not even require the donor to have internet access at the point of giving.
‘What we find,’ said O’Brien, ‘is that as the options to give increase, so too does the generosity of the donor. Givt is here to compliment other forms of giving, and we want to be part of the conversation about how and when people are minded to give.’ And it seems to be working. In 2020, Givt report that just under two-thirds of 18-25s gave through a mobile app.
Forrest concluded: ‘While the buildings may have been closed, it’s been about the missional impact of generous giving in parish churches. That’s allied with the ongoing need for financial resilience. And all with a heartfelt desire to continue the work of transformational ministry and its practical impact in local communities right around the country.’
A post-lockdown celebration was how thousands of visitors to the Christian Resources Exhibition viewed their visit to the event at Sandown Park, Surrey this month (Oct 10-12 2021).
Steve Goddard, owner of CRE, said: ‘People arrived with more purpose than I have ever known – to discover fresh, innovative ways to re-build their churches following the trials and tribulations of the past 18 months.’
As one visitor commented on leaving: ‘I simply cannot believe there is so much happening in the church and so many organisations offering specific help. It has been a wonderful day.’
Visitor numbers totalled 2395 across the three days, plus 605 registered exhibitor staff giving a total of 3000.
‘As expected there were lower visitor numbers because of the pandemic,’ said Steve, ‘but the excellent quality of enquirer encouraged dozens of exhibitors to re-book for next year.’
Lord George Carey launched the second instalment of his memoirs – The Truth Will Set You Free – and spoke about the family trauma when his then 51-year-old son, Mark, was arrested for allegedly abusing a girl, when he was only 12.
‘When police said they were taking no further action it was a great relief. The claim had been total nonsense,’ said Lord Carey, ‘but it left Mark out of the ministry for two years, unsupported by his diocese who then suggested he attend a safeguarding course. That was 25 years ago and we have learnt so much since.’
Lord Carey was delighted with the return of the exhibition and considered how the church might continue to come out of the pandemic. He said: ‘I want our clergy to go out and be more vibrant in their preaching and teaching. There is a long way to go but we have to give the world a greater vision of hope.’
Most seminars attracted good numbers, particularly those covering technical issues to do with live streaming. An initiative providing new resources for home groups was particularly well attended, too. The Christian Resources Together book awards, held at CRE for the first time, attracted 110 publishers, retailers and associated personnel.
Jeff Lucas flew in from the USA to lead a series of studies on the book of Daniel and its significance in the light of Covid-19 and lockdown. Roy Francis, who led an initiative looking at the Windrush legacy, said: ‘It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about the arrival of Christians from the Caribbean and Africa who changed the face of Christianity in the UK.’
Martin Smith, former front man of rock and worship band Delirious? will be in concert at CRE National on Wed 13 Oct* (11.30am, Cindy’s Bar).
Between 1994 and 2009, as principle songwriter for Delirious?, Martin toured everywhere, from Peru to Poland, Uganda to the USA, China to the Czech Republic. Whether it was a cathedral or a mainstream music festival, Delirious? plugged in and played, supporting Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams in the process and playing in their own right everywhere from Glastonbury, Wembley Stadium to the Roxy, LA.
As a solo worship leader, writer and producer, Martin has been involved with almost every aspect of the new worship movement. From Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble? to Waiting Here For You, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever to History Maker, Martin’s songs have connected with generations of worshippers. Married to Anna, father to six children and part of the Bright City worship team at St. Peter’s, Brighton, Martin continues to write, tour and lead worship.
* NB This replaces the concert at CRE originally scheduled for Tue 12 Oct at 3pm
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Darren Rayner loved catering so much that when the opportunity came to join Kingdom Coffee he went one better – within a few years he bought the company.
Now 55, with a wife, sons and a brother-in-law all in the family business, he is delighted with the way it is beginning to pull out of the Covid-19 disaster.
‘We are a company that is sustainably focused and committed to a strong belief in continuous improvement,’ he said. ‘We are passionate about doing all the good stuff that supports our planet now and in the future.’
Darren and his family team have seen the company, exhibiting again at CRE National 2021, soar to being one of the UK’s largest suppliers of Fairtrade certified coffee, both in whole bean and ground. The company roastery is involved in new initiatives such as owning an export company in Colombia – to get the best quality beans at a fair price for farmers and customers.
The coffee and tea are sold according to a long list of alternatives giving customers, churches or individuals, an opportunity to select a strong or weak variety and other choice options.
‘We are the only roaster in the UK that has invested heavily in removing the harmful emissions from the roasting process,’ he said. ‘This is done by including a catalystic converter which takes out some 96 per cent of these gasses. We believe that waiting and developing the right packaging and doing it without effecting the product has always been very important. We now have the answer – a more environmentally-friendly alternative with a high-barrier film designed to maintain the delicate and aromatic notes of our freshly-roasted coffee whilst having the added advantage of being widely recyclable.’
He is proud to be partners with the UK’s largest Fairtrade tea brand – ‘a tea bag that believes, like we do, that every cup counts. It was the first tea company in the world to make all the heat-sealed teabags unbleachable, non-GM, plant-based and fully biodegradable.’
• Kingdom Coffee are on stand A15 at CRE National 2021
The church should support entertainers but be very careful not to turn church services into a show.
So says Sir Cliff Richard in an exclusive interview for CRE National 2021, to be aired in Cindy’s Bar (1pm, Wed 13 Oct). It’s part of a day celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Arts Centre Group (ACG).
For decades, the arts were considered a poor choice for serious-minded Christians – until a small group of musicians, actors and broadcasters, including actor Nigel Goodwin, Sir Cliff and Rev Cindy Kent MBE, formed the group in 1971, supporting artists to be ‘fully professional and fully Christian’. Still going strong, Rev Cindy, CRE’s ‘queen of conversation’, will host this special day-long event looking at the world of entertainment and the local church.
Speaking of the need for the ACG, Sir Cliff points out his frustration with the media towards his Christian faith all those years ago, some writers suggesting he could not be an entertainer and a Christian. Meeting with other Christians in the world of entertainment helped him deal with the issue.
‘Church music was hymns and carols, solely for use within the church,’ he says, ‘but over the years the church has had to change and fortunately has changed quite well, though it still gets stuck sometimes.’ He admires many churches in America, for example, fully utilising their members’ gifts but he is also well aware that services can become ‘almost a show.’
Several other guests representing the arts will be guests on Cindy’s Sofa. At 3pm Frank Williams (vicar in the original Dad’s Army) and Sue Hodge (‘Allo ‘Allo) will be the guests of Chris Gidney from Christians In Entertainment. And there will be a special focus on encouraging the next generation of aspiring performers, broadcasters, authors and journalists.
So where next for the church, the arts and the ACG?
‘It is impossible to know. We can only travel the road we are on,’ says Cliff. But he points out that at 81 years of age he is certainly looking for someone to take over his role!
Cliff’s The Great 80 Tour is on the road from Thurs 7 October. Find further information on last-minute ticket availability.
Cliff’s performance of The Great 80 Tour at the Royal Albert Hall will be filmed and broadcast live to over 500 cinemas throughout the UK on Wednesday 27 October and then two encore screenings on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 October. Find a cinema near you.
• The Arts Centre Group @ 50 takes place on Wed 13 Oct at CRE National 2021
Photo: Alan Olley
St. Philip and St. James’ church is located in the leafy, regency suburb of Cheltenham. Built in 1882 by renowned ecclesiastical architect, John Middleton, the church is Grade II* listed and a fine example of Gothic Revival in a Decorated style of architecture. Affectionately known as Pip and Jim’s, the church boasts the first columbarium space in the country.
‘The church’s congregation is a young and vibrant one which is expanding,’ said Trinity Church Furniture sales agent Mike Seward. ‘For over 16 years the congregation dreamed of creating a more flexible space, in service of the local community. The vision was for a church that would be open and busy seven days a week with church services and events, as well as community groups, meetings and celebrations. ‘
To allow the building to cater for these increasing requirements, the church commenced a reordering project which has been dubbed the largest in the diocese since Gloucester Cathedral. To replace the pews, Trinity’s Theo Chair was specified. The chair’s linking design allows for both straight and curved row layouts. Coupled with the chairs lightness and ability to stack 30 high on trolleys put Theo in perfect alignment with the new demands of the space. When space is needed in the nave for activities, the chairs are quickly and easily stacked on their trolleys and wheeled over to be neatly stored in cupboards.
‘We have been supplying furniture in the UK and internationally for over 40 years,’ said Mike Seward. ‘The relationships we have made over this time have helped many places of worship create wonderful spaces that enable a greater and more flexible use of the building and thus serve the wider community.’ Working in the furniture industry for nearly 20 years Mike has focused on the ecclesiastical sector for more than seven years. He lives in Surrey and is an active member of St John’s Church, Crawley.
• Trinity Church Furniture are on stand O4 at CRE National 2021
Three printers are busily working away in a Grimsby workshop, producing parts for the world’s first 3D-printed Christingle puppets.
Each puppet takes over 50 hours of printing to create the separate items which are then carefully put together with additional work on the foam and fabric.
‘When we were asked to make a puppet specifically for Christingle we couldn’t believe the interest it created!’ said David Jones, son of One Way Puppet’s managing director, Ian Jones.
‘We had the vision for the puppet some years ago but simply did not have the time to plan and create it until a church contacted us and commissioned something specifically for Christingle. Afterwards they agreed we could make it available to other puppet teams and churches.’
Within a short time they had more than 80 orders – with more coming in.
One of their 3D printers will be working on the One Way stand at CRE National 2021 next week. The Christingle puppet, alongside a wide range of other resources, will also be on hand and the One Way UK team will be there ready to demonstrate how effective their puppets can be!
But it’s not just Christingle puppet components their printers are used for. From complex mechanisms to butterflies and keyrings, a huge range of things can be created. During the first lockdown the 3D printers were part of a larger group in Grimsby utilised for five months to help produce 11,000 faceshields which were donated free to the NHS, GP surgeries and care homes. Concerned about more plastic waste? The team at One Way UK are too, so their 3D printers use a filament called ‘PLA’ which is biodegradable and actually made from plant-based resources so no plastic waste is created!
Ian Jones has been leading a puppet team in his church in Grimsby since 1998 and the team of 20-plus have a busy programme in churches, care homes, schools and other community events, including trips to Romania, Bulgaria and Burkina Faso.
‘I am passionate to inspire others to share the Gospel,’ he said with the company not only utilising puppets but gospel illusions, drama, storytelling and other creative arts.
• One Way are on stand C9 at CRE National 2021
A couple from a West Midlands church are coming to CRE National next week to try and make science and the Bible more understandable to Christians.
Matthew and Davinder Gardner – both health care scientists – will launch The Faith Experiment, a series of seven interactive family-friendly workshops exploring different topics at the interface of science and faith.
Matthew explained: ‘Because of the Covid-19 lockdown we were not able to take the programme forward in the way we’d hoped, but we were recently awarded £16,700 from the ECLAS Project to fund a post-Covid relaunch event. This will enable us to go ahead and encourage churches to call us in to help members explore the relationship between science and faith. They do not have to be opposed to each other. We want to prove it by running up to seven sessions to break down the misconceptions and encourage curiosity.’
While the seven sessions have been tested at the couple’s church, New Hope Baptist Church, Coseley, they can also be covered in one day – to save the couple having to travel too far from their base.
Faith in Science C.I.C., based at New Hope Baptist Church, was awarded £16,700 to explore the relationship between science and faith through the church engagement programme Scientists in Congregations, which is run by Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS).
Matthew, 32, said: ‘In each workshop we use games and demonstrations alongside a short talk to help summarise the arguments, explore ways in which agreement can be found and finally provide enough information for participants to make up their own mind and/ or defend their belief in a positive and constructive way.
‘We want to help Christians feel confident and knowledgeable engaging in conversations about faith and ready if challenged to defend their faith when presented with an argument against it citing science. And we want non-Christians to open their minds to the truth that science and faith need not be in conflict and should indeed strengthen each other, and to encourage exploration of faith.’
Matthew and Davinder will bring their own experiences and perspectives of using science to help diagnose and treat disease to highlight how health care science, in particular, can be an area where science and faith exist in harmony.
• Faith in Science are on stand A7 at CRE National 2021
When Christ Church, New Malden wanted a complete revamp of their AV system (pictured) they went to CRE National 2021 exhibitor DM Music – who didn’t disappoint.
‘The system is excellent,’ said the Rev Stephen Kuhrt, Christ Church’s vicar. ‘They are a Christian company and know churches from the inside. They are thoroughly professional with nothing being too much trouble. And there is excellent after care.’
DM are excited to return to Sandown Park next week. Director Iain Harvey Smith said: ‘Since the last CRE National two years ago the church has seen a seismic shift in the use of technology due to Covid-19. We have been tracking these changes from the beginning of the pandemic.
‘To help stay connected many churches scrambled to create tech solutions, to Zoom, record or live-stream services. Many expected these to be temporary solutions – the borrowed camera, the low budget Amazon product, or commandeering an occasional table. As we now comprehend the longevity of the pandemic, and its effect on the church, more robust technical solutions are required. This can be a challenge and every church is different. A solution that works well for one church may not be right for another.’
Over the past 18 months DM have installed a great number of live streaming systems in churches. On top of this they have provided free advice to hundreds of others, offering guidance on setup and development. Their advice covers not only the best equipment for your needs, but more importantly how to approach streaming as a church – often focusing on practical, financial and planning aspects.
• DM Music are on stand D8 at CRE National 2021
The biggest update to their church website software since 2002 – that’s what one exhibitor promises visitors to next week’s CRE National 2021.
The Church Edit platform is used by more than 1,000 UK churches as well as 20 Church of England dioceses. Photo albums, calendars, podcasts, video streams and much more can be added easily to a Church Edit website.
‘Since May 2020, we have been working on a complete redevelopment to make it even easier for churches to create a beautiful and graphical website for their church to stand out online,’ said Church Edit founder Kyle Cottington. ‘With the new Design Builder feature, anyone will be able to create a responsive church website with full background videos and images, image scrollers and social media integration. With some beautiful design tools included you will no longer need to rely on a designer to create your site.’
Next to the Church Edit stand at CRE you will find The Life Events Diary – a free tool available to all churches in the Church of England allowing them to manage weddings, funerals, banns and baptismal services. With easy-to-use tools to collect the required information and to keep in touch with contacts before and beyond their event, the Life Events Diary has become an essential part of church administration. The Life Events Diary is also the only place where Church of England churches can digitally produce the new Marriage Document.
The Life Events Diary will launch a brand-new update to their online platform at CRE so that wedding enquiries entered onto A Church Near You will appear directly within a church’s Life Events Diary.
• Church Edit are on stand V8 and Life Events Diary are on stand V7 at CRE National 2021