A brand-new Puppet Ministry Starter Set will be launched at CRE Midlands – presenting churches with a fresh and creative opportunity to communicate the Christian message.
‘In an age when children appear to be more interested in a “small glowingscreen” and what comes out of their headphones, there is something simple yet effective about a puppet,’ said Ian Jones of One Way UKCreative Ministries. ‘They connect with people of all ages – in church, mid-week clubs or school assemblies. We also visit care homes and get a good reception from people with additional needs.’
Along with samples of hundreds of puppets, One Way will showcase their resources at CRE Midlands including storytelling, gospel illusions and toddler group ideas. The Puppet Ministry Starter Set will be available at 25 per cent off the recommended retail price.
Ian has used puppets in ministry for more than 20 years.
‘We never imagined the impact our work would have,’ he said. ‘We stillhave 12 children plus a range of adults in the team and more than 50 children have passed through along the way. Even in this day and age youshould never underestimate the power of a puppet!’
• One Way are on stand P36 at CRE Midlands
A recent survey discovered that we spend three hours and 23 minutes every day looking at phone screens – the equivalent of 50 days a year.
Is there a connection between our phones and our faith – a question to be discussed by Nigel Bolitho of Oak Hill College in his seminar Connect your faith with what you watch, read and play (11am, Thu 5 Mar).
‘Phones are only one part of a changing culture,’ said Nigel. ‘There are many aspects in our day-to-day lives that can often seem unconnected to our faith in terms of our actions and attitudes – park runs to packaging, gaming to gastronomy, box sets to boxing.’
Traditionally, the church has responded to culture in a number of conflicting ways, outlined by Richard Niebuhr in his classic book Christ and Culture – such as being against or above it, or attempting to transform it.
‘But this is not just a faith issue but how we should engage with the people and culture around us,’ said Nigel, whose college is part of CRE’s Study Zone. ‘Dutch missiologist JH Bavink identified five magnetic points we can connect between our faith and culture.’
Nigel will explore the work of Niebuhr and Bavink, and the apostle Paul’s approach when visiting Athens in the book of Acts, to help us answer the question.
Oak Hill College, based in north London, trains men and women for ministry in Anglican and independent churches, for pastoral ministry, work with children and young people and cross-cultural engagement, in Britain and around the world.
• Oak Hill are on stand SZ7 in the Study Zone at CRE Midlands 2020
Celebrating ten years of music for church-based occasions, artists from Ministry of Music will entertain visitors at CRE Midlands (Wed 4 March only).
Founder Mike Maidment, 58, points people in the right direction if they are looking for musicians for a youth event, school mission, worship service, cafe church or conference. With 35 artists and groups on his books, he has provided performers for more than 600 events.
‘Being in a band myself for 10 years helped me appreciate the problems faced by musicians and I also learned a lot about various types of venue,’ he said. ‘It helps me see how to satisfy even the most unusual request.’
During the past decade he has introduced new artists to the church circuit and provided engagements for many established artists. At Midlands CRE visitors will be able to chat about their particular needs, sample the wide range of artists and music available and listen to some of the ministry’s performers in action including:
• Andrew Robinson, a singer-songwriter and worship leader based in Bedford who has been leading worship and performing for the past 20 years in churches and events in the UK and abroad
• Out of the Ashes, a pioneering couple from Gloucestershire who use music as part of their mission to stand for joy and healing, energising weary Christians and rejuvenating ailing congregations with a message of love
• Bean Baker, an experienced, versatile artist with a fantastic voice and a heart to lead people in worship. He can perform a wide repertoire of original songs and covers for all types of events including an acoustic set aimed at a café-style gig
• Nicky Whyman, a singer-songwriter with a strong soprano voice and lyrical piano-led songs bringing hope and encouragement to audiences. Her personal testimony of being miraculously healed of multiple sclerosis further fuels her commitment and drive to inspire audiences
Canon J John said: ‘I am delighted that Ministry of Music exists to resource the church with Christian bands and artists for their worship and outreach. Be sure to seize these assets for your church and community.’
For Ministry of Music’s schedule at CRE Midlands click here
• Ministry of Music are on stand E31at CRE Midlands
Poverty among clergy may not be as big a scandal it was in the 1890s but the College of St. Barnabas is still vital to people like Fr Barry Thorley.
The college was founded by former missionary Canon William Cooper who described himself as ‘a broken man’ from the physical hardships he endured during his ministry in the Australian outback and wilderness of Canada. Back in Britain, he came across other former missionaries and older clergy living in abject poverty and ill-health, most notably in the Brighton Workhouse, and he determined to do something to alleviate their suffering.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of the college and Fr Barry Thorley (pictured), a current resident, said: ‘St Barnabas has been a life-saver. I’m no good at trowelling sentiment but it’s hard to exaggerate how much this place means to me.’
Poverty among today’s clergy means the college is still fulfilling its original mission and no-one eligible is ever turned away for lack of means. There is, for example, no requirement that a prospective resident must be in receipt of a Church of England pension. Financially independent of the Church of England, and pre-dating Church of England Pensions Board Homes, the college has an absolute capacity of 63, of which 28 are nursing wing beds – for which there is constant demand.
‘Our independence means we have to actively raise funds to achieve our charitable aims and objectives and our 125th anniversary gives a great opportunity both to increase awareness of the college and bring in some cash,’ said Mike Herbert, head of fundraising. ‘A number of events are being planned throughout 2020 to mark this impressive milestone.’
Mike is leading by example and doing a 125km sponsored walk from Gravesend to Eastbourne at the end of March, while another member of the staff will cycle 125 miles along the Pilgrim’s Way later in the year.
‘The college does a great job helping vulnerable elderly people in need,’ he said. ‘Continuing demand means our help in needed as much now as in Cooper’s day.’
• The College of St. Barnabas is on stand D1 at CRE Midlands 2020
Around 100 people are set to spend a night out in a cardboard box – to raise funds for the work of Birmingham City Mission (BCM). The Sleepout will take place in BCM’s HQ car park in Birmingham on Fri 28 Feb.
‘We have all seen it on our streets – homelessness, addiction and loneliness,’ said BCM’s Hannah Noble. ‘Rough sleepers huddled in doorways, soggy cardboard boxes and discarded beer cans. It’s no surprise there has been a renewed focus on homelessness in our politics and media.’
On any given night there are currently up to 5,000 rough sleepers in England, according to Shelter’s latest statistics – double the number of 2010. Last year a 31-year-old homeless man, Kane Walker, died in an underpass in Birmingham’s city centre. His death put a national spotlight on the average life expectancy of homeless people in the UK – 45 years for men, 43 for women.
Since it began in 1966 Birmingham City Mission, an exhibitor at CRE Midlands, has sought to help the city’s homeless. Its care centre now provides food, activities and support to around 200 homeless and marginalised people each year, many struggling with addiction and mental health problems. For them, the centre is ‘trust, safe, support, friends, my family.’ Through building relationships, giving practical help and sharing the Christian message, the care centre offers hope and a chance for guests to move on in their lives.
‘Homelessness is real but there are solutions,’ said care centre manager Steve Bagnall. ‘Not every situation is solved, but overall there is more success than not and we value your prayers for our guests.’
A Sleepout information and registration form can be found here.
• Birmingham City Mission are on stand F21at CRE Midlands 2020
More than £100,000-worth of consultancy packages will be available to churches and other not-for-profit organisations at CRE Midlands.
Action Planning, a leading multi-disciplinary consultancy serving the not-for-profit sector, is giving away the services to mark its 30th anniversary. Under the title Pearls of Wisdom, 56 separate consultancy packages are available, with an average market value of £2,000, ranging from governance reviews to board awaydays, income generation workshops to branding reviews and HR support to executive life coaching.
The services will be provided free of charge by 39 of Action Planning’s community of expert consultants.
‘Many not-for-profits are in a position where they would benefit hugely from outside support but don’t have the budget,’ said Action Planning chair David Saint, who will speak at CRE Midlands on Raising funds for capital projects in your church (12pm, Wed 4 Mar). ‘This is an opportunity to put budgetary considerations to one side and access expertise that could transform your organisation for good.
‘After 30 years of serving the not-for-profit sector, we wanted to do something to capture the imagination and delivered genuine value. We’ve been able to do this because of the structure of Action Planning. The community of expert consultants we’ve gathered together delivers breadth and depth of expertise.’
Pearls of Wisdom packages will be delivered throughout 2020 and eligible organisations will have until 16th March to apply. The offer is aimed at not-for-profit organisations with an annual income of at least £200,000 in the last financial year, and/or at least two full-time equivalent paid staff members in post. Full eligibility criteria, along with application instructions, can be found on the Pearls of Wisdom website.
• Action Planning are on stand P66 at CRE Midlands
A song that encourages churches to build unity in post-Brexit Britain has been written and recorded by CRE contributor Andy Flannagan.
‘Reconciled highlights the need for repentance and intentional, bold relationship building with our neighbours,’ said Andy. ‘I hope it will be sung by many churches and be a useful tool as church leaders work out how to challenge their people to be prayerfully and politically involved in our nation.’
Andy, director of Christians in Politics, spoke on Brexit at CRE North in Manchester last March.
‘It is very easy to feel paralysed by both the complexity and toxicity of the issues surrounding it all,’ he said. ‘We may feel as if we are sliding towards chaos but we follow a God who since the dawn of time has brought order from chaos. It shouldn’t scare us. If you think we are in chaotic times, try living in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar!’
Order emerges from chaos through restored relationships, believes Andy.
‘The cross sits at the centre of history because it makes possible the reconciliation between us and God and between us and those who may not feel like “us” anymore,’ he said. ‘There is currently a real danger of a cultural divide becoming a chasm. We need to build relationships across divides.’
Reconciled can be heard on YouTube and the chord sheets and lyrics can be downloaded from andyflan.com
Pic © Virginia Lattul
When CRE comes to town, Rev Hilary Howarth rounds up a posse to visit the exhibition.
Hilary, minister of the Triangle Community Methodist Church, Bolton, said: ‘It is a brilliant day out and I know it can make a lot of difference to church life. Our departmental leaders and helpers get fresh ideas. The resources on show are a real inspiration.’
A local preacher for many years, Hilary became a minister in 2002 and served in Chorley and Northwick and Winsford circuits before returning to her roots in Bolton to lead The Triangle Community – three fellowships that came together to form a new church.
‘It’s great when people like Hilary “get” the event,’ said CRE’s Steve Goddard. ‘We would encourage all church leaders to look carefully through our 130+ exhibitors and programme of seminars and presentations at Stoneleigh Park and invite key leaders and influencers to join them – from bishop to bell-ringer, vicar to verger. Already half the people who have bought advance tickets tell us they have never yet been to a CRE. They are in for a day of rich discovery.’
Entry to CRE Midlands is just £3 each for a group of three or more, if tickets are bought in advance from here (£8 each on the door).
Cartoon by Rev Taffy Davies
More angry now than shocked – that was how Justin Humphreys (pictured), CEO of independent Christian safeguarding charity thirtyone:eight, reacted to The Church’s Darkest Secret, a BBC documentary broadcast this week on serial abuser Bishop Peter Ball.
The harrowing two-part programme included testimonies from victims, police, lawyers and church officers, as well as dramatic reconstructions. Ball was sentenced in 2015 to 32 months in prison for a series of offences, including misconduct in public office and indecent assault, more than 20 years after the first allegations against him were made. He served 16 months of his sentence. Further charges were allowed to lie on file. He died last year, aged 87.
‘As a Christian, I must fight for the church and pursue what is right and just,’ said Justin. ‘As an organisation, thirtyone:eight has been working in this area for more than 40 years, and although we have seen much change, it doesn’t get any easier especially in the face of such appalling stories. At the same time, it gives us a renewed conviction that things must change. I believe that change begins with me choosing to be the change I want to see!’
The nature of the abuse included naked praying, masturbation, and flagellation for Ball’s own sexual gratification. Archive footage of Ball from an ITV programme from the 1980s on his monastic lifestyle is shown, as is his appearance on Wogan, the BBC talk show, and press images of Ball with establishment figures such as Margaret Thatcher and the Prince of Wales.
‘The church needs leaders who are prepared to speak out and remind the institution of the need for change in its safeguarding record,’ said Justin. ‘This is not just the case in the Anglican church but across all church denominations and groups. This generation of Christian leaders have a once in a lifetime opportunity to leave a legacy for future generations of a church culture that is open, transparent and a place of safety for all. I pray they may have the courage to take it.’
• thirtyone:eight are on stand E30 at CRE Midlands
When Jared and Helen Hodson came across people living in slavery they did more than pray – they took vulnerable folk into their own home.
Seeing how much could be achieved, even with three sons of their own, they set up a charity, Hope at Home, to encourage others to do the same. At CRE Midlands they will explain how widespread trafficking is in the UK and how others can help in the rescue work.
‘More than 100,000 people are in modern slavery here in Britain,’ said Jared Hodson. ‘The Bible makes it very clear – we have a duty to help unfortunate people. We need people to pray, provide finance but also to use a spare room to provide short-term accommodation to help those who are rescued, recover. Many churches have an advice centre or provide food in a soup run but we are challenging them to take that care further by offering short term accommodation to these people at risk or who have been a modern slave.’
The charity was established two years ago but the family had been welcoming people into their home for the previous four years. The experience gave them valuable expertise and helped them create important contacts. It also opened their eyes to the desperate need to provide a ‘family’ and network of support for their guests.
‘We always ask our three boys, now teenagers, before taking someone in and they have never refused anyone,’ said Jared, who worked for a large hotel chain training staff in the UK and other parts of the world, a job which provided ‘lots of hospitality.’
Since 2017 he has been working full time for Hope at Home and his previous experience has been invaluable. Helen is an experienced community development worker and freelance writer and has worked with people of all backgrounds. The couple have surrounded themselves with an experienced team including an immigration lawyer, accountant, former police officer and magistrate as well as working in partnership with agencies across the country.
‘We would love people to visit our stand, understand the enormity of the problem and take up the challenge,’ said Jared.
• Hope at Home are on stand P5 at CRE Midlands