Yearly Archive 2023

ByDave Hall

After the Midlands, onward to Milton Keynes

‘CRE Midlands reminded me of the giddy days when it first began – the venue was packed with exhibitors and visitors and there was a busy atmosphere. The whole thing looked great.’

Not our words but those of journalist and communications consultant Clive Price who was around in the days when CRE was first launched on an unsuspecting public in the mid-1980s.

Exhibitors and visitors at CRE Midlands 23

Echoing Clive’s words, Gareth Cottrell, of exhibitors Konnect Radio, said: ‘I just wanted to congratulate you on a wonderful event. We’ve always enjoyed coming to CRE but this year it felt as if you upped your game. It’s been one of our highlights of the year.’ 

Heather Ford, of exhibitors Ecclesiastical, tweeted: ‘Tired feet, completely wildflower bombed out, but great conversations along the way. Looking forward to CRE in 2024.’

The Clergy Support Trust tweeted: ‘It was wonderful to have insightful conversations with clergy, their partners, families, members of their congregations and other Christian organisations.’

Abbi Leverton of Hope Fuelled Design said: ‘I had a fantastic time chatting to people about our work and making new friends along the way! Looking forward to next year already!’

Over the years, and to quote singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, we have tried to ‘get ourselves back to the garden’ – to be what the founders set out to create: a professionally-run trade show for local church leaders and officers to discover niche products and services. At this, our first-ever exhibition at Cranmore Park in Solihull, we think we succeeded.

In all 1,442 visitors came through the door over the two days, plus 469 exhibitor staff. While the numbers didn’t match the ‘giddy days’ described above, the intentional nature of the visitors has never been stronger. Most of them made a beeline to the stands they had earmarked before the exhibition opened – probably because we sent out the 60-page exhibition handbook to some 8,000 potential visitors several weeks before the exhibition – making our visitors much more business-like.

Juliet Hemingray, Rick Wakeman and Steve Goddard at CRE Midlands 23

Self-styled grumpy old rock star Rick Wakeman opened the event and, to his surprise, was presented with a bespoke richly-coloured cape created on the theme ‘Morning Has Broken,’ a traditional hymn made famous worldwide by Cat Stevens. Wakeman played piano on the recording more than 50 years ago.

The cape was made by long-standing CRE exhibitor Juliet Hemingray. Over the years, the Derby-based textile designer has been commissioned to produce thousands of stoles, frontal, banners, copes, mitres and chasubles and other religious regalia – including the enthronement robes for the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and current Archbishop, Justin Welby.

Rick Wakeman plays at CRE Midlands 23

‘It is the first time I have ever made something for a rock star, though,’ she admitted. ‘I hope he will perform in it.’

He already has – on the night following at a packed-out concert hall in Lytham St Anne’s!

With a successful exhibition disappearing in the rear-view mirror, we now ask for your prayers as we look ahead to 2024.

Talking in depth to dozens of the 170 organisations represented, it is clear the current economic climate is still tough for many of them, post-pandemic. Consequently, many have wanted to come to both our exhibitions in 2024 but have had to make a choice between CRE North in Manchester (scheduled for May 2024) and CRE South at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes (9-10 Oct).

Because of this we have decided it makes sense to cancel CRE North 24 and put all our resources into making CRE South 24 a similar success to CRE Midlands 23.

It is disappointing to be unable to take the exhibition north again (where it is based!) but we feel this is the best option. We are in the process of informing all the organisations booked for Manchester and hope they will join us in Milton Keynes in October next year.

If you are interested in taking a stand at the Marshall Arena please contact James Batterbee on 0161 250 2306 (E:

Steve and Allison Goddard

ByDave Hall

Help at hand for ‘vulnerable’ faith workers

One in three church leaders say they want to step down from their roles within the next two years due to job-related stress, according to a new survey.

Commissioned by trade union Unite, exhibitors at next week’s CRE Midlands, the survey reveals that three out of four of those surveyed regularly work beyond their contracted hours. They also face challenging situations, such as providing support to individuals suffering from acute mental illness.

Highlights of the survey of nearly 1,000 faith workers, who are members of Unite, include: 23 per cent struggling to pay bills, seven per cent missing meals and 21 per cent relying on friends and family for support.

Unite is calling on religious organisations to increase pay and reduce workloads. It is also urging them to implement their existing wellbeing policies and assess the adequacy of support systems for clergy. The survey indicates that if religious bodies do not take prompt action, they may face difficulties in filling vacant positions.

Rev Nicky Skipworth, who will be on the Unite stand at CRE Midlands, said: ‘Being truly in the corner of faith workers means not only supporting individual members when things go wrong at work but creating opportunities to speak up for them before that point. By doing so, we gather vital, real-world information which might not otherwise reach those who have the power to effect change in our faith organisation.’

The recent survey was completed by people who are lay, ordained, full time, part time, employed and office holder.

‘It shows not just the true diversity of faith workers, but the actual impact of stipends and salary levels which have made faith workers vulnerable, while they look after some of the most vulnerable people in their community,’ said Nicky. ‘We invite all CRE visitors to come for a chat and find out the concrete ways we can support you and your colleagues.’

• Unite, the Faith Workers’ Branch, is on stand DS3 at CRE Midlands

Book your ticket for CRE Midlands 2023 here from as little as £3

Organisations looking to book a stand should contact James Batterbee 0161 250 2306 (E: or Carol Malpass 0161 250 2467 (E:

Click to view the latest floorplan and price list for available stands

ByDave Hall

Putting mission on the map in Europe

Get involved in what God is doing in the wider world – that’s the message from Transform Europe Network (TEN).

‘We believe seeing what God is doing in another country can really inspire the UK church,’ said TEN’s Melanie Griffiths. TEN’s projects include:

For the Nations

This is a free six-week small group resource to get churches excited about mission. It includes two online sessions where those taking part will connect with Christians in Eastern Europe.


TEN is running two short team trips to Albania and Croatia in 2024 and looking for team members. These are: Albania women’s trip 2-9May, to help new Christians learn to read the Bible and to pray. Croatia kids’ camp in July 2024 (dates tbc).

Church teams

An opportunity for your church to send a team to help our partners in Eastern Europe and the Balkans with English classes, kids’ camps (pictured) or evangelism. ‘We can connect you with a partner and help you plan and run trip training for you,’ said Melanie Griffiths.


We are looking to recruit new teachers to teach English online to students in Eastern Europe, using Bible stories.

You will meet Nick Clarke, who coordinates our TENteach project, on the TENstand in Mission on the Map at CRE Midlands.

Photo above: A Transform Europe Network kids’ camp in full flow.

ByDave Hall

Christmas 23: ride on Ripple Effect’s wave of change

A range of charity Christmas gifts, helping families in rural Africa, will be on sale at CRE Midlands.

‘Each farmer we work with shares what they learn with their neighbours and communities, and another three families benefit, too – hence our name!’ explained Ripple Effect’s Ann Hatton. ‘Positive change quickly spreads – reaching far beyond one farm.’

In return for a church’s donation, Ripple Effect, formerly known as Send a Cow, will send the church information cards for the chosen gifts which can be displayed for everyone to see.

‘You’ll have everything you need to learn about the incredible impact your gift is having for farming families in rural Africa,’ continued Ann. ‘If you are an eco church, you can even go zero-waste by ordering online and choosing the e-card option. Each gift – a single seed of love – will continue to grow far beyond Christmas Day.’

Garden Twinning is fast becoming one of Ripple Effect’s popular charity gifts. Visitors to CRE Midlands will be invited to twin their church gardens with Ripple Effect this Christmas and the donation of £60 could help a family living in rural Migori, Kenya, with three years’ training in sustainable organic farming. Starting with small kitchen gardens, families can grow enough to eat, set up small businesses, send their children to school and pursue their dreams.

‘Thanks to Ripple Effect, there is a big difference to my family situation,’ said Amaracholdi – pictured above with his wife Milkiyas – from Wolayita in Ethiopia. ‘With new farming techniques, we’ve grown different vegetables such as carrots, cabbage and Swiss chard. Before that we didn’t eat any vegetables at all and only ate once or twice each day. Eating culture has improved greatly and now we even have milk and dairy straight from our home. We have diversified our income so we can eat three times per day.’

ByDave Hall

Try the ‘me and eucharist’ seven-piece sampler at CRE Midlands

Birmingham pastor Bayo Oniye and his wife Bakang, who started their own company creating easy-to-use communion containers, will give away a free sample pack (seven pieces) at next week’s CRE Midlands (8/9 Nov, Cranmore Park, Solihull).

Holding a Masters’ degree in medical engineering, Bayo sold hip and knee replacements to orthopaedic surgeons before becoming co-pastor with his wife Bakang, a pharmacist, at Five Grace Church in Birmingham. 

Bayo and Bakang Oniye

‘I was at a conference where the visiting speaker used a similar, all-in-one-system and realised how useful it was,’ he explained. ‘When I contacted the company I heard nothing, so I decided to create my own, much-improved product.’

Together they started mmeyou – ‘a combination of two words — Me and You – from the words of our Lord Jesus: “This is My body (Me) which is broken for you (you).”’ The prefilled (all-in-one or separate) communion cups of red grape juice have a choice of packaged communion cracker or wafer.

‘Our vision is to serve the local church with a great tasting and hygienically-packaged product, especially important after Covid-19,’ said Bayo. ‘These are Holy Communion elements made from 100 per cent natural ingredients – ideal for individuals, families, small groups, churches and people taking part in services online. No matter how small or great your needs, we are here for you.’

Bayo believes mmeyou products are particularly useful for pastors taking communion in people’s homes.

‘While our containers have a large tag for opening purposes there is also a special pack for people who find it difficult to open the containers with the wafer in a small pouch,’ he explained.

Bakang, who looks after quality control, ensures there are no chemical preservatives in the drinks. There is also up to 100 per cent more drink (7ml of red grape juice per cup) than similar products, with a long shelf-life – eight months from manufacture. The cups can also be recycled.

• mmeyou are on stand DS5 at CRE Midlands 2023

Book your ticket for CRE Midlands 2023 here from as little as £3

Organisations looking to book a stand should contact James Batterbee 0161 250 2306 (E: or Carol Malpass 0161 250 2467 (E:

Click to view the latest floorplan and price list for available stands

ByDave Hall

Giving online? Keep an eye on those transaction rates!

More than half (56 per cent) of people donating to churches using online options choose to cover the transaction fee, according to research from CRE exhibitor iKnow Church.

By covering the transaction fee, the donor chooses to pay a little extra, meaning the charity will get 100 per cent of the donation – and it will cost the church nothing to process it. 

‘During the pandemic, with offering baskets confined to the cupboards, many churches instigated online giving – often for the first time,’ explained iKnow Church’s Kyle Cottington. ‘People could now donate via the church website at any time, day or night. The money usually appeared in the church bank account within a few days. However, with online donations, there is the added consideration of the processing and platform fees involved with transaction rates. Some providers charge up to five per cent per donation.’

The transaction rate from iKnow Church is already one of the lowest, but by covering donation fees the average transaction rate from May to July 2022 was just 0.97 per cent per donation – with an average donation of £105. 

‘Based on 56 per cent covering donation fees, a church which received 500 donations totalling £50,000 over the course of the year could save over £600, if the fee is two per cent,’ said Kyle. ‘Compared to a 3.6 per cent fee the saving is more than £1,300 per year – enough to buy a decent keyboard, noticeboard or a good supply of coffee for the congregation and community!’

ByDave Hall

Sock it to that got-it-all relative

The trunks go topsy-turvey on the new ark and rainbow slipper offerings from Holy Socks – available at next week’s CRE Midlands.

Designed as the perfect Christmas gift for that got-it-all-already relative or reverend, they’re the latest creation from foot-friendly exhibitor Margaret Wylie.

‘The elephants on the ark look upside down but only until they’re on someone’s feet, then they look the right way up,’ explains Margaret, who will bring her current collection of faithful footwear to Solihull from Newton Stewart in Scotland. ‘I write an original story – inspired by a biblical verse, character or subject – for all our sock designs. One of the stories on this leaflet is a conversation between two elephants. They compare being turned the right way up to becoming a Christian. They also discuss contemplation and asking God questions. 

‘We’ve teamed them with a pair of ark and rainbow socks a favourite design for a few years now.  The socks do look the right way up to anyone who sees them!’ 

The design comes in all sizes from baby size to adult 7 to11. Margaret will also bring lots of children’s designs including her Christmas donkey, Jonah and the whale and found sheep – all ideal stocking fillers, particularly for children’s church presents.

Then there are her Glory Golf Balls and a wide selection of Holy Socks for adults.

‘One of the original ideas of Holy Socks was that they were a gentle introduction to the Christian faith,’ she explains, ‘and Christmas is the ideal time to give someone a wee gift which can have a big impact.’

ByDave Hall

Star Trek fan announces bold voyages for Faith Experiment

Two healthcare scientists are determined to help those who believe their discipline rules out God.

They have created The Faith Experiment, a series of interactive, family-friendly sessions for young people and adults of any ability. It will be promoted on their stand at next week’s CRE Midlands (8/9 Nov).

‘We look at perceived conflicts between established science and the Christian faith and discuss how we might reconcile the two,’ said Matt Gardner. A huge Star Trek fan as a child, Matt achieved registration as a clinical scientist in 2014. Two years later he became a Christian, after spending years pondering the purpose of life.

He met Davinder, also a healthcare scientist, at an event celebrating the International Day of Medical Physics. They married in 2019 and are both now directors of Faith in Science of which The Faith Experiment is part. They began the experiment during their engagement and presented the first pilot course in 2018.

‘We also aim to help those who struggle to reconcile the Christian faith with current scientific thinking – probing vital questions,’ said Matt. ‘Can science and God co-exist? Does it matter that the Bible largely lacks scientific detail? Can science answer all the questions which matter to us?’

The couple will be available to chat to visitors at CRE about the courses they run and how they can help youngsters who are puzzled by problems posed by science. They are also running an online taster event on January 15 2024 and want to explore the possibility of sharing other workshops in local churches.

• Faith in Science are on stand P55 at CRE Midlands 23

Book your ticket for CRE Midlands 2023 here from as little as £3

Organisations looking to book a stand should contact James Batterbee 0161 250 2306 (E: or Carol Malpass 0161 250 2467 (E:

Click to view the latest floorplan and price list for available stands

ByDave Hall

Sourcing beautiful products that carry a story

They have practical value but also carry a story of people using special skills to earn a living.

That’s how Dan O’Callaghan describes the ceramics, glassware and baskets sourced by Embrace the Middle East and available on the charity’s stand at next week’s CRE Midlands (8/9 Nov).

Ceramicist – Ceramicist working for the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans

‘We really love taking every opportunity to showcase products from the Middle East with the region at the heart of everything we do,’ said Dan. ‘Hand-carved olive wood products and olive-related produce are key items but we’ve also found some amazing local artisans producing beautiful handcrafted and hand-painted ceramics and glassware.’

Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans (BFTA) offer members the opportunity to showcase their handicrafts for fair wages. The BFTA Craft Village is based in the heart of Beit Sahour, a suburb of east Jerusalem. It’s vibrant, lively and brimming with a sense of community.

Olive wood carver for the Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans

‘Launched around 2009, the BFTA supports 53 family-owned olive wood carving workshops, ceramics and glass workshops, and around 50 women’s co-operatives working in embroidery, basket weaving and jewellery making,’ explained Dan. ‘There are also several groups of artisans with disabilities who create felt and wool products and handmade cards. We’re so excited to be able to stock these beautiful items, many crafted by families who have passed their skills through the generations. Some of them will make wonderful Christmas presents.’

ByDave Hall

Time to welcome in the singled out

Single Christians overwhelmingly feel isolated and misunderstood, to the point of leaving the church to which they belong.

That’s a key finding of a survey of more than 3,000 single Christians commissioned by dating website Christian Connection.

‘We realised that something needed to be done and Single Friendly Church Network (SFCN) was born,’ said Beth Collingridge, communication director for the new charity. ‘We want to see all churches become places where single people feel welcomed, valued and included.

‘Our work started more than five years ago with the mission to inspire a movement that welcomes and values single people in all our churches. We also want to see single people empowered to participate fully in the life and ministry of the church. Singleness is on the rise in every age group in the UK, with 40 per cent of UK adults currently single. Churches need to recognise and reflect this change.’

SFCN equip church leaders through a guided audit, training and providing further resources, to make positive changes in their churches to ensure all single people are welcomed, valued and included. Having just launched as a charity, they hope to build a network of single friendly churches across the UK which have completed the audit and committed to making positive changes. 

Churches taking part in the audit are encouraged to find out who is single in their local area; review their language to ensure it is inclusive of single people; check that those arriving alone for services are welcomed and included in social opportunities; check that sermon messages and illustrations are relevant to single people as well as couples; and whether single people are encouraged to take on leadership positions.

Members of the group will be at CRE Midlands to introduce the organisation and chat to visitors about how they can help their church. They are also cutting a cake on their stand at 3pm on Wed 8 Nov, to celebrate becoming a charity.

‘This is a vital area in church ministry and we want to do all we can to ensure the welcome churches give to single people is real and enhances their experience and involvement in the work and mission of the church,’ added Beth.

• Single Friendly Church are on stand D7 at CRE Midlands 23

Book your ticket for CRE Midlands 2023 here from as little as £3

Organisations looking to book a stand should contact James Batterbee 0161 250 2306 (E: or Carol Malpass 0161 250 2467 (E:

Click to view the latest floorplan and price list for available stands