In a world where a fifth of 16 to 24-year-olds spend more than seven hours a day online, it’s time to reflect Jesus there.
So says Ben Elliott (pictured), head of innovation at CRE exhibitor CPO, who will lead a seminar at CRE Midlands (3pm, Wed 4 Mar) exploring ways to build your local church through social media.
‘Never before have we been exposed to such a sweeping change in such a short space of time,’ admits Ben. ’It’s easy to feel as though we’re on the back foot. We need to maximise all communication streams to share Jesus. A joined-up approach is required, linking print and digital.
‘If you’re facing burning questions about social media in your church and which networks you should be using, how often to post and what kind of content works best – come along and receive! You will leave knowing how to create a simple digital strategy.’
As well as his job at CPO, Ben is founder of the Church Comms Collective, a group which facilitates greater peer-to-peer support for church communicators across the UK. He is also a digital leader at his church, The Well, in Sheffield.
• CPO are on stand E1 at CRE Midlands 2020
Fake news is bad enough but is false theology even worse?
That will be the question posed by Rev Dr David Hilborn, principal of Moorlands College at CRE Midlands (12pm, Wed 4 Mar).
History is littered with people promoting extreme views that lead to tragedy. The Jonestown Massacre in 1978 and the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas in 1993, are just two examples. Actor Taylor Kitsch (pictured) played the part of Waco leader David Koresh in a recent TV series.
Various ‘theologies’ have become popular and influential – most notably those concerning prosperity, nationalism and the end times.
‘The adage that a lie has travelled round the world before truth has got its boots on, has never been more true,’ said Steve Goddard, owner and MD of CRE. ‘We live in a world where extreme views can be propagated easily through new media channels. All of us need an informed theology, not just the preacher in the pulpit.’
The Study Zone at CRE Midlands will give visitors of all ages an opportunity to choose a theological learning opportunity suitable for their lifestyle – and David Hilborn will launch the initiative with a seminar addressing fake theologies.
He is principal of a college that equips people passionate about Jesus to impact church and world. Moorlands has been based in Christchurch, Dorset since 1970, but in the last decade has run teaching centres in Birmingham, Torquay and Gloucester, with a new centre in Belfast due to open in September. David was head of theology at the Evangelical Alliance for a decade and held various senior posts in theological education before leading Moorlands. He is the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles.
‘The Study Zone is an excellent idea, showcasing the high-quality training and education on offer at a range of UK theological colleges,’ he said. ‘I’m thrilled to be part of it.’
Colleges in the Study Zone include:
London School of Theology
Oak Hill College
It’s the colourful outreach tool that is bucking the trend towards digital media.
UK monthly newspaper Good News has sold almost one million copies every year for the past six years. Used by churches of all denominations, the colourful, breezy publication features stories about celebrities and ‘ordinary’ people – showing how the Christian faith transforms lives.
Run by a small team as a registered charity, Good News started from scratch in 2001 and now sells more than 77,000 copies every month, with the Christmas edition rising to more than 100,000.
‘We are not publicising these sales figures to crow about them but to let local congregations struggling to reach their communities know that other churches have found a way to do it,’ said editor Andrew Halloway. ‘Good News distribution is a tried and tested method.’
The team receive a regular flow of responses from readers who have made faith commitments and from churches who relate how Good News provides opportunities for meaningful conversations.
One user in Orpington, Kent, said: ‘Praise the Lord that you keep the paper interesting to non-church folk. I deliver it to a number of people who live nearby and out of 80 people I’ve asked so far, more than 70 per cent like to read it, and only 26 per cent say they don’t want it.’
Free sample copies will be available at CRE North.
• Good News are on stand P34 at CRE Midlands where free sample copies will be available
For 20 years Anne Coomes (pictured) has provided editorial and graphics for church magazines of all denominations – and she will deliver a seminar at CRE Midlands helping editors make the most of their much-loved publications.
‘Church magazines still play a critical role in community life,’ said Anne, co-founder of Parish Pump. ‘They are a pro-active way to keep in touch with both church members and the community. Websites are good, of course, but how many people wake up and say to themselves: “I really must visit my local church website today!” However, if you deliver a magazine through their door, or hand one out in church, people WILL look through it – and if it is good, or relevant to their needs, you will keep their attention.
‘We know of at least one suicide that was prevented in this way. A magazine contained a Parish Pump article about depression, and it led to the person seeking help instead of over-dosing.’
Turning out a regular publication, against deadlines, can be a daunting task. Ironically, since computer software offered us generative text and spellcheckers, typographical errors (or typos) have actually increased in number.
‘Every editor can recall that awful moment when they realise their mistake and there’s nothing they can do about it,’ said Anne. ‘I once ran a headline that should have read: “Make flowers that look like satin.” But instead it said: “Make flowers that look like satan.” Not one of my more glorious moments!’
• Parish Pump are on stand P26 at CRE Midlands 2020
Running alongside CRE Midlands (4/5 Mar 2020) will be the first-ever Mission Resources Exhibition (Wed 4 Mar 2020).
Hosted by Mike Frith of OSCAR (pictured right), the one-day exhibition celebrates the organisation’s 20th birthday. It will feature more than 25 specialist organisations and up to 500 individuals from mission agencies and mission-minded churches, providing a unique networking opportunity.
‘This could be the largest gathering of the UK mission community in the past 20 years,’ said Mike. ‘OSCAR is the online hub that brings together mission stakeholders from across the Christian community – which means we’re uniquely placed to host the event. While the internet helps us achieve a great deal, rarely do we get an opportunity to share resources and build relationships. Face-to-face meetings are as important as ever, maybe even more so as opportunities to meet are fewer. Who knows, this may be the start of something more regular on the calendar.’
MRE will be located in a building next to CRE Midlands 2020 at Stoneleigh Park. Entrance will be free for all attendees. Those who book online for MRE will also be able to book for free admission to CRE Midlands.
Featured exhibitors include:
Register for MRE (Wed 4 Mar 2020 only) free of charge
A choir comprising people facing physical and mental challenges will open CRE Midlands 2020 (4/5 Mar 2020).
Created by well-known singer Sandra Godley, Gospability sang at Windsor before Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle last year. Sandra was inspired by Prince Harry’s Heads Together campaign which is supported by the Royal Foundation and is a partnership of charities providing frontline mental health support.
More than half the choir come from the Midlands and is made up of depression survivors, ex-Army wounded, breast cancer battlers as well as singers with bi-polar and clinical anxiety. Choir member Julie Hill, 45, works in customer service and has suffered an illness causing chronic back, neck and jaw pain since her 20s.
’It is a privilege to sing with such brave and inspirational people,’ she said. ‘I have been singing all my life. Music keeps me sane. My confidence has grown and the fresh perspective makes me feel like a new person. My pains are still a challenge but now I have more energy and zest to deal with it better – and new friends to help me.’
Another member who has been given a new lease of life is 35-year-old Coventry factory worker Tyrone, who suffers from anxiety.
‘Gospability has given me a sense of meaning, a sense of hope and loving care,’ he said. ‘I’m so happy I went along and I’m so happy I didn’t give up on life. I’ve been given this energy to do things out my comfort zone and to help others. I was able to share my story with complete strangers who I now consider to be brothers and sisters.’
More than 20 years after he became Britain’s first clergyman on the catwalk, Rev Andrew Roberts (pictured centre) will reprise the role at CRE Midlands 2020 – this time as the event’s presenter.
Based in Kingswinford in the West Midlands, Andrew, a Methodist minister, is author of the bestselling book Holy Habits (BRF).
‘I’m delighted that the superb suit made for me by Juliet Hemingray (pictured right) in the 1990s, which I use when officiating at special events like weddings, still fits!’ said Andrew. Formerly national director of training with Fresh Expressions, an agency that encourages new ways of ‘doing church’, Andrew has a wide-ranging speaking and teaching ministry. In 2018 he was a special guest of the Bishop of New York and next year will head down under to speak in Australia.
Held in an inflatable theatre on the first day of CRE Midlands (11am, Wed 4 Mar 2020, NAEC Stoneleigh Park), accompanied by lights and music, Clergy on the Catwalk will feature colourful, contemporary vestments and round-the-parish leisurewear from leading ecclesiastical designers like Hayes and Finch and Collared Clergywear.
‘The church has modernised in the past 30 years and what clergy wear reflects those changes,’ explained CRE event director Brett Pitchfork. ‘Gone are the usual three shades of grey. In has come a spectrum of colour and design which can be seen in everything from a royal wedding to the humblest Christening.’
Photo: CLERICAL COLLECTION: (left to right) Rev Cindy Kent MBE, Rev Andrew Roberts, Juliet Hemingray
The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth (pictured above), has welcomed the return of CRE to the Midlands for the first time in five years (NAEC, Stoneleigh Park, nr Coventry, 4/5 Mar 2020).
‘I’m delighted that more than 100 specialist organisations will once again bring their skills, services, ideas and resources to Stoneleigh Park,’ said Bishop Christopher. ‘I encourage people from all church traditions to enjoy a day of rich discovery.’
Often dubbed ‘the ideal church show’, everything from computers to communion wine, puppets to pulpits, will be on display. A series of seminars, given by both regional and national experts, will cover issues of vital concern to local church leaders and members of all kinds – from parish magazine editors to treasurers, youth workers to worship leaders.
The Gospability Choir, created by Coventry singer Sandra Godley and made up of more than 20 people who have overcome mental or physical health problems, will help open the exhibition (10am, Wed 4 Mar). Gospability sang at Windsor for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle before the couple’s wedding last year.
Clergy on the Catwalk will follow – a presentation of the latest in clerical clothing, from formal vestments to round-the-parish leisurewear, modelled by ordained ministers. Several theological colleges will form a Study Zone, for people of all ages interested in lifelong learning – from short courses to doctorates, summer schools to evening classes.
On the exhibition’s second day (Thu 5 Mar) long-established composer Chris Bowater leads a day-long conference on corporate worship.
‘Battles over musical styles, levels of volume, kinds of instruments and old versus new – they’ve gone on for decades,’ said Chris, a father of the modern worship movement. ‘Ironically, in heaven worship unites us! So what is it we fight over – and why?’ Attempting to answer these and other allied questions forms the basis of CRE Midland’s Worship Thursday. Chris will be joined by several leading songwriters and worship leaders representing different traditions and styles.
‘Local churches face a multitude of questions and the exhibitions will offer some vital lightbulb moments,’ said CRE event director Brett Pitchfork. ‘Experts will fill every aisle, guiding visitors through the complexities of local ministry. Located in the heart of England, Stoneleigh Park offers thousands of free parking places in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.’
Up to 2500 local church leaders and members, representing all major denominations, are expected to visit the two-day event.
Hand-blown by Muslims, hand-painted by Christians and shipped by Israelis, Bethlehem Baubles are seeking to renew the authentic Christmas spirit.
Each product arrives on a bed of straw in its own presentation box along with a certificate of origin with no plastic used.
Founded by Ros Pollock (pictured above) while she was posted to Jerusalem with the UN, Bethlehem Baubles aims to provide a grass roots, fair living wage to a struggling community.
‘Christmas should be about connecting with the things that really matter,’ said Ros. ‘In an age of mass production and commercialisation, we are offering you the chance to return to these simple origins and renew the authentic spirit of Christmas. Together we can make a difference for some skilled artisans, by offering an original and thoughtful gift that represents a deep sense of connection and community.’
With a unique design for the collection each year, Ros believes her baubles have the potential to become an abiding part of the Christmas experience – perfect for stocking fillers and ‘that tricky relative who you never know what to get.’
‘We’ve paired up with Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans (BFTA) who work closely with Muslim and Christian communities at an individual level,’ she explained.
BFTA is a non-profit NGO established in 2009. It works to spread the fair trade message in Palestine and links Palestinian producers to global fair trade markets. In 2015, BFTA became the first guaranteed member of World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower the most vulnerable producers in Palestine, support them to become active agents in their own livelihoods and develop their social rights and communities.
Order now for Christmas.
In today’s litigious world, churches face risks far beyond property damage.
‘They should regularly consider the situation and be comfortable that they have sufficient insurance and risk management arrangements in place,’ says Russell Hickman, church specialist at Access Insurance.
Access serve over 2,500 churches in the UK, providing advice on getting the right cover in place, as well as helping in the event that a claim needs to be made. From the last 1,000 claims Access have helped church clients to make, several stand out as warnings to other churches.
‘In one case a woman fell down a flight of stairs after the lights were turned out, in an apparent attempt to encourage people to leave the premises. The compensation she received for her injuries was over £70,000,’ recalls Russell. ‘Thankfully the church had adequate insurance.’
In another, cameras were damaged as volunteers packed them away. The £5,500 claimed was paid out quickly and the projection, recording and broadcasting was able to continue. Often claims happen due to outside sources totally beyond the control of the church. In one instance, Access assisted a client after a hit-and-run driver caused severe damage to their building. Repairs costing over £13,000 (22 per cent of the church’s income) were paid for.
‘It’s best to consult and take advice from an expert when arranging church insurance,’ says Russell. ‘The feedback we get is that we understand the context in which churches operate and pay attention to detail. Probably the fact that I’m a church secretary helps me immensely!’
The faith of Access’ leaders informs the way that business is conducted. By 2025 Access aim to give £500,000 to charity each year. They are also in the process of setting up a fund churches can apply to for small grants for community, outreach and evangelism projects.
• Access Insurance are on stand F15 at CRE Midlands 2020