An organisation created to get children off the streets and learn about Jesus wants to help churches get back to ministering to children in a fresh way.
Urban Saints, originally Crusaders, sees the current national situation as an ideal opportunity for churches to take a fresh look at their youth work.
‘We should be thinking about how to welcome children and young people back again,’ said Mark Arnold, director of additional needs at Urban Saints. ‘And that includes including children and young people with additional or special needs.’
Mark, father to James who is autistic and has associated learning difficulties as well as epilepsy and anxiety disorder, is also co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a vibrant and fast-growing online community. He is an enthusiastic national and international advocate for children and young people with additional (special) needs or disabilities and is passionate about enabling everyone engaging with them to be inspired, trained and well resourced.
‘About 20 per cent of children and young people in the UK have an additional need or disability of some kind – that’s roughly 2.5 million,’ he said. ‘Every church youth group is likely to include children and young people with additional needs and many will need some support.’
A Mumsnet and Scope joint study shows that many of these children and young people, and their families, feel excluded from a wide range of social and other activities. Mark believes that inclusion is something that should be offered to every child and doesn’t stop at wider doors, ramps and disabled loos.
‘We should also be about creating a culture of welcome and belonging for all, as well as looking to develop the faith of every child whatever their ability or needs.’
Urban Saints lead training seminars on a variety of subjects including working with young people outside the church, disciple-making and wellbeing.
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During advent Ministry of Music will use Facebook and YouTube to share Christmas music videos and songs by their artists, including many festive favourites.
Each song will be accompanied by a daily Advent bible verse.
‘Although many of us are currently in lockdown we have the hope and joy of Christmas to look forward to,’ said Ministry of Music’s founder Mike Maidment. ‘Please feel free to share the videos within your own church and community via social media. We can also provide artists for your live or streamed services and events – for a donation only.’
Where live church services and events are allowed (following Covid-19 guidelines), you can also book an artist or worship leader for a service or event. A booking fee applies.
To celebrate 10 years of music ministry Ministry of Music live streamed two events last month featuring 28 artists. The full videos are available on their YouTube channel.
Click here for more details of Ministry of Music’s list of artists
Photo: Ministry of Music’s Voices Beyond from Manchester
With traditional Christingle events likely to be cancelled or radically different this year, the world’s first Fairtrade chocolate orange box, with relevant symbols, is now available.
The box also doubles as a charity collection opportunity with a slot for coins. Everything is plastic free and can be recycled.
With a few simple tweaks to liturgy, order of services or events it is now possible to run a safer, socially distanced or zoom Christingle.
‘The box has been on the drawing board for the past seven years but I thought now was the time to do a pilot,’ explained David Marshall, founder of Meaningful Chocolate Co. ‘The response has been overwhelming. We have seen people buying for whole schools, Messy churches and as stocking fillers. One church leader, based in Chesterfield, wrote: “The Christingle chocs are great. Just what is needed this year.”’
In 1747 Bishop Johannes de Watteville started the Christingle tradition in Germany. The Moravian Church then spread the tradition. In the UK, since the 1960s, Christingles have been used in Advent to share the Christmas message and raise funds for charity.
Meaningful Chocolate’s sugar comes from cooperatives in Paraguay and Belize. Most of the cocoa from cooperatives in the Ivory Coast (Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union Limited Ghana). Beans are also sourced from cooperatives in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Panama and Ecuador. The chocolate is blended in Belgium.
Buying products from Fairtrade producers enables them to obtain fair prices for their crops and have decent working conditions.
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• Meaningful Chocolate Co. will be at CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)
At a time when many people feel Covid-19 will rob them of Christmas, a new seasonal giveaway book has been published that opens a door for the gospel.
Phil Heaps, co-pastor of Highbury Baptist Church, has written Who Stole Christmas? – to show how the real message of the incarnation has everything we need.
‘The real Christmas has everything we need – a sense of awe and a balance between realism and hope,’ he said. ‘It also offers real joy, whatever life throws at you. If you want those things then this book’s for you. And if you want them for your friends, then this book is for them.
‘It’s only short. They can read it in one sitting and it might just be the best Christmas present they’ve ever had.’
Mark Roberts, managing director of publishers Day One, said: ‘Many people are fooled by a Christmas that leaves an empty feeling. This book will help churches bring the gospel to their neighbours.’
Ian Hamilton, professor of historical theology at Westminster Presbyterian Seminary, Newcastle, said: ‘Phil Heaps could not have done a better job in explaining simply what the Bible tells us about the true meaning of Christmas.’
Click here for more information
• Day One are exhibiting at CRE South West (17/18 Mar 2021, Westpoint, Exeter) and CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)
Veteran comedian Bobby Ball, who died last month in a Blackpool hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, opened CRE Midlands 2015 with fellow entertainer Don Maclean (pictured right). It was one of the funniest openings in our 35-year history as the two of them cracked good-humoured jokes at each other’s expense. Don reflects on the life of the comedian who became a Christian at the height of his fame in the 1980s.
‘In 1975 I was in a summer show at Bournemouth Pavilion. We’d been on a week when The Rolf Harris Show opened at the Winter Gardens. My wife was invited to their opening night and she came home saying: “I’ve just seen the funniest little man ever!” When you consider she’d seen Charlie Chaplin, Jimmy Clitheroe and Norman Wisdom, that was some claim.
‘Bobby was naturally funny – with his face, body and legs. He was also funny with his voice – not what he said but how he said it. As a double act, Cannon and Ball were original. In a double, there’s usually a feed and a comic, each of whom has equal status. Not so with Cannon and Ball where one was dominant, the other subservient. Tommy played the part of Bobby’s idol, the object of his hero worship, the perfection to which Bobby aspired. When Tommy spurned Bobby’s adoration, the pathos kicked in and an entire audience wanted to give Bobby a big collective hug. It was a great concept.
‘Off stage, Bobby was a very different personality. He was a wind-up merchant, full of mischief. He’d love a situation where he could antagonise you but always did it with a smirk on his face. If you saw the recent TV programme where several veteran variety performers were taken to LasVegas, you will realise what I mean.
‘It was important for Cannon and Ball to be in charge of all the comedy in any stage show. They made sure there was no act on the bill that might get more laughs than them. They protected their territory! In recent times Bobby showed himself to be a fine comedy actor, particularly in TV’s ‘Not Going Out’ with Lee Mack, currently the sharpest comedy mind in the UK. As Lee’s roguish dad, he came into his own, a picture of innocence with a twinkle in the eye and a smirk on the lips.
‘He was also a true Christian with a faith that was sincere and uncompromising. He truly loved the Lord. He wasn’t a cradle Christian like me. He was enthusiastic about being ‘born again’.
‘Although we only worked together occasionally, we were always pleased to see one another when the opportunity arose. The last time was at CRE Midlands in 2015. Bobby was a great comic and I’m truly grateful that the good Lord chose to put him on the earth at the same time as me.
‘Rock on, Bobby. May you rest in peace and rise in glory and may perpetual light shine on you for evermore.’
Photo: Laurence Cremetti
A 25-year-old woman with Down’s syndrome has landed the first blow in her battle to challenge the abortion law.
Heidi Carter (pictured left above) and Máire Lea-Wilson, whose 16-month-old son, Aidan, also has the condition, both believe the law is ‘deeply offensive’ and have joined forces for the legal battle. Heidi was at CRE Midlands in February where she met TV presenter Timmy Mallett (pictured right above) whose late brother, Martin, also had Down’s syndrome.
Heidi and Máire heard that their application to the High Court, to challenge the law which allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted up to birth, had been granted.
Their lawyer, Paul Conrathe, said: ‘This is a hugely significant moment as the court has recognised it is arguable that the state is acting unlawfully towards babies with Down’s syndrome by allowing them to be aborted up to birth. The Government now has to prepare its detailed evidence opposing the case. We will have an opportunity to reply to that evidence. The case will then go to trial, probably next year.’
Filing the case cost £50,000 – all found by generous donations – and now the couple must raise another £50,000 to fund the actual trial. They are appealing for donations but also hope that people will talk about the case, to keep it in people’s minds and share pages on their website and social media.
Heidi (nee Crowter) married James Carter, 26, in July – with more than 10,000 people watching the socially-distanced ceremony via a live stream.
A previous opener of CRE National, actress and comedian Sally Phillips, whose son Olly has Down’s syndrome, said: ‘Interdependence is what we are after. Independence is not all it is cracked up to be. The church has got to be the place where everyone is equal.’
With almost no tourists in Bethlehem our baubles have become even more important.
So says Suzan Sahori, a stalwart of the local Christian community, who has created a thriving business with talented Palestinian artisans, helping them earn a much-needed income.
‘Times are especially tough, so Bethlehem Baubles have become a bit of a lifeline,’ explains Suzan, who was born in the town and has lived through many changes. ‘We especially rely on the UK to support us.’
In 2009 Ros Pollock, founder of the company, was living in Jerusalem with her family – and she and Suzan become firm friends. Ros wanted to help the Bethlehem community by diverting the Hebron glassblowers towards making unique and beautiful Christmas decorations, instead of their usual tourist glassware. Suzan helped her make that a reality.
The baubles are blown in the ancient glass factories of Hebron using mostly recycled glass and open furnace techniques. It’s hot and sometimes dangerous work but the glass blowers are very experienced – mostly Muslim families who have been working in glass for many, many generations.
Once ready, the baubles are moved to Bethlehem – about 15 miles away – to be hand painted by Christian women in their homes while they’re looking after their children. Jasmine, one of her team says: ‘It’s so hard for mothers to get jobs in Bethlehem so this project really matters to us. We all love the idea of the baubles travelling to so many countries. There are about 40 of us in total involved in this project. It makes us all feel good that we are making something that is really appreciated.’
Every year the Bethlehem Baubles design changes. The 2020 bauble is more significant than ever ‘after the ghastly year we’ve just had,’ says Roz. Each bauble has a 2020 ribbon and is a positive memento of keeping going.
‘We have lots of supporters who have built up a big collection of designs and love giving them as Christmas gifts,’ says Roz. ‘They are now sent all over the world but the UK is especially good to us. Our glass blowers and painters are kept busy for about four months of the year but we’d love to be making more so that they’re busy all the year round.’
One of the great things about this project is that it brings three faiths together in a part of the world that isn’t famous for unity. The baubles are made by the Muslim community, Christian ladies paint them and the Israelis ship them off around the world – ‘bringing us all a little bit closer,’ says Roz.
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It would be hard to imagine another technological upgrade to a church that has the immediate impact of LED lighting.
Once a humble on-off indicator replacing a tungsten or neon lamp on a car or electrical device, the Light Emitting Diode now provides an uplifting, energy saving, maintenance-free enhancement to thousands of houses of worship.
‘The vast array of modern light fittings, providing opportunities for multi-beam angle – spotlights, floodlights and everything between – and variations of colour temperature (warm, cool white, daylight) can be used alongside a digital control that’s not as scary as it sounds,’ explains Stuart Graham of CRE exhibitor Clarity in Sound Light and Vision Ltd.
Adding to the character and versatility of traditional spaces and providing the current power infrastructure that meets regulations, LED fixtures can be direct replacements for existing fittings, without any additional control cabling.
‘This reduces cost and makes the whole upgrade process more palatable to diocese, faculty and congregation,’ says Stuart.
On the Great Somerford Church page on Facebook, Revd Steve Wilkinson shows the improvements to his church after an upgrade to LED lighting. He comments: ‘The lights and the controls are fully flexible allowing us to focus attention on different areas of the building according to need. We are really pleased with the back-lit internal stained-glass window which was previously ineffectively lit. It is now a real feature and draws the eye.’
Wireless digital control can be used to establish ‘scenes’ – setting pre-programmed lighting scenarios around the space for a range of activities or to highlight an architectural feature within the building.
St Mary’s Church in Standon, Hertfordshire is a Grade 1 listed building whose original structure dates back to Saxon times. The growing use of the space for a wide variety of functions meant that the existing lighting provision was inadequate and the church turned to Clarity to determine the best way forward.
‘As well as the practical aspects of re-lighting the church, there were many important aesthetic considerations to take into account,’ explains Stuart. ‘There was a strong wish to highlight the beauty of a number of the church’s historical internal features, as enhancements to creating a warm, welcoming and beautiful space.’
The sensitivity of the interior fabric of the church meant Clarity had to be painstaking in their approach to the installation. The delicate ancient floor could not support heavy machinery, so ceiling access was obtained by the careful use of scaffolding. Every part of the job demanded careful attention to detail.
Different feature areas of the church were lit with appropriate fittings from across the ETC ArcSystem range. In the chancel, two important tombs were lit with ETC MR16 fixtures, with the same units being chosen as uplighters for the ceiling.
‘The resulting installation looks stunning,’ says Stuart, ‘and highlights the rich architecture of the building whilst offering a warm, bright, practical lighting solution for the staging of worship and events.’
Lighting accounts for 20 per cent of the energy used in the UK which means it also accounts for a significant chunk of our energy bills. LED lamps use less than 15 per cent of the energy of their tungsten counterparts which impacts directly on CO2 emissions.
‘Let’s not forget the benefits of a product that boasts a lamp life of 55,000 hours when it comes to scaling the dizzying heights of the existing light fittings at 8, 10, or 12 meters, usually with annoyingly limited access!’ concludes Stuart.
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• Clarity in Sound, Light and Vision Ltd are exhibiting at CRE National 2021 (12-14 Oct, Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey)
A wedding gift given to Virginia Moffatt 23 years ago proved such a life-changer that she brandishes it before viewers at the start of her CRE At Home 2020 seminar.
Pope Francis described the New Jerusalem Bible as ‘God’s love letter to us’ and Virginia, an author from Oxford, used it as the title of her seminar in which she outlines her passion for a new edition – the Revised New Jerusalem Bible Study Edition published by Darton, Longman and Todd (DLT).
In her seminar she provides a short history of the Jerusalem Bible which followed a call from Pope Pius XII in 1943 for a translation directly from the original Hebrew and Greek text into people’s everyday language. French scholars produced the Bible in 1956 and the French translation proved so successful that in 1966 DLT produced an English version. That was followed in 1985 by the New Jerusalem Bible with Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB, a monk from Ampleforth Abbey, as the editor.
‘So I was very interested,’ she explains, ‘when I learnt that DLT were going to produce a new version and I was invited to meet Dom Henry, who was again the editor. It was to be a version doing away with patriarchal language, be easy to read and more accessible. The study notes would enable it to be a Bible for study and proclamation.’
She travelled to Ampleforth two years ago to interview Dom Henry about his work and clips from her interview are part of the seminar. Virginia also tells of her pleasure at being invited to oversee the study guides which go alongside the new Bible. Although four have been written, only two were published before the pandemic– Forgiveness, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, and Approaching the End of Life, by Virginia herself. Two others – Illness, Disability and Caring, and Welcoming the Stranger, will be published later with possibly more to follow.
‘I hope the guides will enable people to use the Bible in their personal journey, look at familiar texts from a different angle and see that the Bible stories still resonate today because they speak of ordinary human experience,’ she concludes.
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• Darton, Longman and Todd are exhibiting at CRE National 2021 (Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey, 12-14 Oct)
Searchlight Theatre Company, together with international speaker and author Jeff Lucas, have combined to produce some helpful online resources for Remembrance Sunday and Advent.
‘All our tours are on hold for the foreseeable future,’ explains Searchlight’s David Robinson, ‘so we decided to join the great online migration of 2020 and professionally film some new resources for churches to use over Advent.’
The material for November includes extracts from Searchlight’s award-winning production of Woodbine Willie: Poet and Padre, as well as insights and devotions from Jeff Lucas. Woodbine Willie (real name Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy), was an inspirational WWI padre on the front line who gave out cigarettes and New Testaments in equal measure.
‘The lads loved him for staying with them in the trenches,’ explains David. ‘He believed he could only pray for them if he was there with them and the soldiers never forgot him.’
Five scenes from his life have been dramatised and filmed by Searchlight and these, together with reflections from Lucas, make an ideal Remembrance Day online package for churches.
In December he will give four seasonal short chats based around Searchlight’s light-hearted festive sketches. These are ideal for services and small groups alike. An added bonus is a 25-minute sermon from Jeff entitled The Hope We All Wish For.
The two online packages are available for all churches for the price of one: £49
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