CRE News

Dave HallByDave Hall

Thank goodness for Theo! Bath Abbey opt for award-winning chair

Inflexible and uncomfortable seating was just one of the problems in Bath Abbey’s ‘statement of need’ – at a time when it was also expected to ‘strengthen links with local communities’.

The mid-19th century pews, designed by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, had to be removed – a decision that attracted nationwide media attention and was disputed by the Victorian Society.

‘Taking them out will enable us to open up the abbey’s nave and side aisles to all and make it possible for people of different physical abilities to sit where they choose,’ said Bath Abbey’s Rev Edward Mason. ‘Stackable chairs mean the nave can be used for a wide variety of traditional and contemporary worship and we can restore the abbey to the community use for which it was first designed.’

The abbey successfully won the case – but the decision to install a wooden stacking chair from UK-based company Trinity Church Furniture, an exhibitor at CRE National 2109, was not made lightly.

The chosen chair, called Theo, was designed in 2009 by British furniture designer, Simon Pengelly. It was created specifically for use in church buildings and has won the Church of England’s ‘Design a Church Chair Competition’ and been recognised by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers as ‘outstanding’. It has since gone on to earn recognition in the wider design community, picking up accolades from Design Guild Mark, Reddot Design Award and The Wood Awards.

The north side of Bath Abbey is the focus of phase two of the ‘Footprint’ project with works to the floor, heating and ledger stones predicted to take approximately one year to complete. This will be followed by the third and final phase on the south side of the abbey.

• Trinity Church Furniture are on stand S23 at CRE National 2109

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Social media: how your church can make the most of it

In a seminar during the first-ever Ladies’ Day at CRE National 2019 (Thu 17 Oct), Jo Swinney director of church communications at CPO, will consider the effect of social media on the mental health of women and girls, and the potential for women (and men) to use new technology of all kinds for good. Jo is a writer, author and regular speaker at women’s retreats and events including the Gathering of Women Leaders.

‘Although there are fewer women than men working in technology industries, they communicate more through social media,’ said Jo. ‘Churches are increasingly seeing the potential and impact of new media for their outreach.’

CRE owner and managing director Steve Goddard, said: ‘In a programme of special presentations and seminars, we’ll aim to will subvert the Ladies’ Day stereotype, highlighting the contributions of women in church and society, especially those who have been forgotten or neglected. It has been 25 years since the first woman was ordained by the Church of England – and this provides an ideal opportunity for reflection.’

Rooted in Christian tradition and biblical values, a panel of specialists, co-ordinated by Natalie Collins of Project 3:28, will consider issues like gender stereotyping and sexism, and the barriers women face in achieving their potential.

Among several artists contributing to the day will be Saltmine Theatre Co, presenting Chosen, a play about the life of Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union and a duologue and monologue from a passion play about Mary Magdalene. Musicians will include Marilyn Baker, Christine Asamoah and Daughters of Davis.

* CPO are on stand S81 at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Celebrating 20 years of Bibles, bedsheets and tea towels

It started with a small group of mostly newly-retired people in Bedford ‘performing’ Bible stories in local schools – 20 years later Open the Book involves more than 17,000 volunteers reaching some 800,000 children every year.

Finding Bob Hartman’s Lion Storyteller Bible proved a turning point – with props and costumes helping to bring the stories to life. Roll on a couple of decades and there’s now an army of no-longer-working ‘Tims’, ‘Junes’, ‘Daves’ and ‘Brendas’ sporting bedsheets and towels in school assemblies across the country – so children can hear and experience Bible stories and truths.

Open the Book, exhibitors at CRE National 2019, present a three-year rolling programme to schools, telling Bible stories in chronological order – meaning that, each year, children hear 33 Old and New Testament stories.

Julie Jefferies, head of Open the Book, says: ‘Our success is due to the simplicity of the storytelling, a high fun factor and the dedication and creativity of so many volunteers’. It’s also true that schools love it. More than 95 per cent of those questioned said they believed Open the Book had a positive impact on school life.

The project has also proved to be a strategic stepping stone with more than a quarter of the churches involved in Open the Book going on to launch a Messy Church. Now, under the supportive and enabling wing of Bible Society, the organisation is going from strength to strength, though there’s still a long way to go if they are to achieve their aim – bringing the Bible to life for every child in every primary school in England and Wales. That means reaching more than 18,000 schools with 4.5 million children.

Open the Book staff will be at CRE National at Sandown Park encouraging visitors to become volunteers.

• Open the Book are on stand S106 at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

New Oak Hill initiative aims to ‘bottle the buzz’ of engaged learners

A new series of flexible learning courses has been launched at Oak Hill – opening up the college’s expertise in theological training to many more Christians.

The initiative came about after Dan Strange, director of Oak Hill, noticed something exciting happening at a Christian conference earlier this year.

‘As a speaker, you can sense when people are engaged or not, and the buzz around the marquees was exciting!’ he said. ‘It made me think how great it would be to bottle that buzz – not just once a year at a campsite but throughout the year, and throughout our nation?’

The initiative – which includes 26 courses in all – makes it possible for Christian believers to pursue study in areas such as apologetics, preaching, biblical theology, cross-cultural ministry, New Testament Greek, missiology, and other subject areas. Those who enrol for individual courses will enjoy the experience of learning alongside Oak Hill’s full-time and part-time students, as they participate in lectures and seminars on the Oak Hill campus. More information will be available at Oak Hill’s stand in the Study Zone at CRE National 2019.

Participants on the courses are able to choose the level of study which suits them best, either by simply attending the courses or by taking them for credits which are nationally recognised and transferable.

Each course is taught by a member of Oak Hill’s world-class faculty and teaching staff. All the courses are now open for enrolment, and can be found on the Oak Hill website.

Says Dan Strange: ‘Our hope and prayer is that flexible learning at Oak Hill will make theological education more widely available, enabling believers to be effective and engaged wherever they are serving God – in the home and the house group, at church and at work. We want to see Christians grow in faith, serve the church, and reach the world.’

• Oak Hill College is on stand SZ2 (in the Study Zone) at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Goodbye gremlins, hello problem-free acoustics

The end of the one-man, church sound system operation is nigh – along with those pesky gremlins.

An annual MOT of your system, along with emergency repairs and training for several volunteer operators at once, is part of a new Beat the Gremlins scheme launched in March at CRE North by Novum AV. It has already been taken up by many churches.

‘We have instituted silver, gold and platinum packages for sound and vision systems in any church with the option of a thorough check on one, three or five-year contracts. We make sure the system works and that any hiccups are dealt with quickly on an emergency phone call system,’ said David Sharpe, installations manager of Novum AV, a Midlands-based company with a history of installing new systems and sorting out problems in established ones throughout the UK.

‘Churches are now able to trust their system to be problem-free. If something does go wrong we will provide expert help to put things right. We can also offer training facilities in churches where we use a particular system, providing extra helpers when the expert is on holiday or ill.’

One of the constant complaints from volunteers is ‘gremlins in the system’.

‘There has been quite a remarkable uptake by churches to our Beat the Gremlins scheme,’ continued Dave. ‘Some installations even allow us to remotely monitor the health of the system so we can let you know about certain problems and repair them before they are even noticed. We understand the pitfalls of working in historic churches, listed buildings or new builds – especially when that means making the screen and speakers “disappear” into the fabric of the building to protect the building’s aesthetic charm.’

Novum are committed to retaining the visibility of stained-glass windows, or elegant carvings, and at the same time enhancing the experience of worship and the communication of the gospel message.

‘Our dedicated team specialises in managing projects and carrying out sound and video installations on a daily basis,’ said David. ‘They have a passion for delivering systems with minimal impact and maximum efficiency and clarity. Our new maintenance packages give churches the support they need by forming on-going relationships, not just installing a system and letting people fend for themselves.’

• Novum AV are stand S55 at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Former church warden scoops prestigious energy award

A CRE exhibitor has won the Industry Expert Award in the 2019 Energy Live News consultancy awards – the first time it has been given to an independent operator.

‘I was thrilled and delighted,’ said Andrew Silley (pictured above, centre), who started his company, Independent Utility Specialists, eight years ago in his dining room in Amersham. ‘The award usually goes to someone within a large company so it was a real surprise.’

The news will also delight many churches and companies whose utility bills Andrew has helped to reduce. A former churchwarden, he knows the problems faced by treasurers given confusing offers by competing companies.

‘Only yesterday I was in touch with a church who wanted to switch energy supplier but were told they were under contract for a further year,’ he said. ‘I knew it couldn’t be the case and now they are saving money by moving to another provider.’

Andrew, a popular exhibitor at CRE, has built up a wealth of knowledge about the various energy companies and how to switch from one to another.

‘Householders can change quite easily now,’ he pointed out, ‘but it is more complicated for churches and companies. Church volunteers often have other jobs and do not have enough time to understand the problems of switching accounts and take the easy way out, leaving things as they are. But with my experience I can make the switch easier, look after the complicated paperwork, and save them money in the process. It also leaves them more time to attend to Kingdom matters.’

The name might be Silley but Andrew’s business is certainly not. A visit to his stand at CRE National 2019 might result in your church saving a lot of money.

• Andrew Silley is on stand S45 at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Chris Bowater to lead Worship Wednesday at CRE National 2019

Worship tops the list of resources sought by visitors to CRE but what are they looking for – and why?

Chris Bowater, a long-established composer and a father of the modern worship movement, will attempt to answer these questions – and many more – during Worship Wednesday (Wed 16 Oct) at CRE National 2019. Among those joining Chris will be:

• Roger Jones – composer, teacher, leader of CMM (Christian Music Ministries), receiver of 2019 Thomas Cranmer award from the Archbishop of Canterbury

• Lou Fellingham – songwriter, worship leader

• Roy Francis – former producer of BBC TV’s Songs of Praise, record producer and author

Beginning at 11am, there will be four sessions:

What on earth is worship? – Establishing an agreed definition and understanding

Who on earth is worship for? – Discussing our relationship with God and each other

How on earth should we worship? – Validating differing styles and genres of worship

Worship: heaven help us! – ‘Angels help us to adore him!’ Worship in spirit and truth requires the help and leading of the Holy Spirit

‘Entertainment has become the dominant discourse of our age,’ said Chris. ‘While the church must recognize this fact, it shouldn’t capitulate to it. Our services don’t have to feel like a concert or TV show, even if those modes of discourse define the manner in which postmodern people experience the flow of ideas. Rather, we have the opportunity in our services to model a different type of discourse, one that begins with the self-revelation of God.

‘Our worship – whether contemporary or traditional, high church or low – should eschew man-focused experientialism and embrace the transcendent God. We’ll be attempting to show you how to do that in your church during Worship Wednesday.’

• Worship Wednesday runs from 11am on Wed 16 Oct at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Worship made easy for Sunday morning

The ultimate legal source of song words and sheet music for worship – that’s how CCLI describes its popular SongSelect.

Featuring the authorised lyrics, chord, lead and multi-part vocal sheets for thousands of worship songs and hymns, SongSelect is available to any church which holds a Church Copyright Licence (CCL) for the projection/reproduction of song words. Subscriptions start from just £98 a year, but it’s possible to set up a free user account and try it out before you buy. All subscriptions are church-based and allow unlimited access for everyone within the church’s music and projection/multimedia teams.

‘More than 100,000 churches worldwide now rely on SongSelect so we’re always looking to bring more value to our users,’ said CCLI’s Rich Burrough. ‘In the last few months alone we’ve added the Nashville Number System (NNS) to our Chord Sheets as well as enabling ChordPro Downloads for our Premium level subscribers. We believe SongSelect is one of the best ways to discover and learn new songs, with videos, thematic search and top song lists that allow you to see what other churches around the world are singing.’

SongSelect is fully responsive and integrates with many leading song planning and projection apps, including Worship Extreme, OnSong, MediaShout and ProPresenter.

‘All this is designed to make song planning and delivery much easier, whether you’re preparing in advance or responding in the moment,’ added Rich. ‘You can find out more on the CCLI stand at CRE National 2019.’

* CCLI are on stand S75 at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Three score years – and then? Afterworknet plan major series of seminars at CRE

Everything we hear about old age is negative – but God deliberately created it.

So says Louise Morse of Pilgrim Friends’ Society, exhibitors at CRE National 2019.

‘Old age is wrongly seen as something to be feared and fought against,’ explains Louise on Afterworknet’s website. ‘So I’m never surprised, when speaking to a large group of Christians, to find some are not convinced. However the majority, when they see the truth in Scripture, are delighted. When God created the universe, he set in motion times and seasons and the ageing process. When you realise the purpose God has in mind, you see how wonderful growing older is meant to be. It’s a reward and a blessing.’

The peak of the culture of Scriptural times was wisdom, and because it’s acquired with experience and age, older people were respected. By contrast, in our culture, the peak of attainment is youth.

‘There is no “use-before” date in 2 Ephesians 10, where God makes clear he has equipped us for the good works that he has already planned for us,’ continues Louise. ‘God spends our whole lives honing us to develop the character that will bless others – being reflective, less impulsive, able to take the long view, with emotional balance and empathy, compassion and listening skills. So much more could be done to see older people released into God’s purposes if this same message was espoused in our churches.’

Afterworknet will run a series of seminars and presentations throughout all three days of CRE National 2019.

• Afterworknet are on stand S155 at CRE National 2019
• Pilgrim Friends’ Society are on stand S53 at CRE National 2019

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Dave HallByDave Hall

Embracing martyrdom: London lecture will be informative and challenging

The age of martyrs is not over.

So said Bishop Thomas of Qussia – and it provides the theme of Embrace the Middle East’s Annual Lecture (6.30pm, Thu 4 July, St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, London).


Timothy Radcliffe, OP and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, OBE, both Embrace patrons, will share their personal insights on the theme before opening the floor to questions.

‘The evening promises to be informative and challenging,’ said Embrace’s Kerensa McCollough, ‘inviting us to think about what laying down our own lives for the sake of the gospel might mean today.’


Timothy Radcliffe is a Roman Catholic priest and Dominican friar of the English Province, and former Master of the Order of Preachers from 1992 to 2001. He is the only member of the English Province of the Dominicans to have held the office since the order’s foundation in 1216.

The day after hundreds of Christians were killed in a series of terror attacks on churches in Sri Lanka – and just weeks after the mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand – Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, issued a powerful appeal urging all faiths to stand together.

Tickets for Embrace the Middle East’s Annual Lecture (£5) must be booked in advance.

• Embrace the Middle East are on stand S151 at CRE National 2019

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Photo of St Margaret’s, Westminster, on the CRE homepage: Urban Biker Marc

Save the date for CRE National 2019!
Join us at Sandown Park
15-17 October 2019