Saturday, 21 January 2017

Opinion - 21 January 2017

Kelvin Holdsworth marked Winnie the Pooh day with Prayer for the Day – Script 2.

Lynn Wray National Museums Liverpool LGBT artwork marks Saint Sebastian Feast day

Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury ‘It defies description’: Archbishop Justin on visiting Auschwitz

David Ison ViaMedia.News An Old Dirty Candle to Transform the Darkness…

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 11:00am GMT
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Friday, 20 January 2017

Publication of General Synod papers

In conjunction with today’s release of General Synod papers (see my article below) the Church of England has issued the press release below.

Publication of General Synod papers
20 January 2017

The Church of England needs to undergo a major “culture shift” to mobilise lay members to spread the gospel in their everyday lives, a new report being presented to members of the General Synod argues.

The report, entitled “Setting God’s People Free”, calls for Christians to be equipped to live out their faith in every sphere - from the factory or office, to the gym or shop - to help increase numbers of Christians and their influence in all areas of life.

Laity and clergy should view themselves as equal partners in the task of evangelising the nation, it insists. The paper is a key element of the lay leadership strand of Renewal and Reform, an initiative from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to help grow the Church.

The report is among papers being circulated to members of the Church of England’s General Synod which meets in Westminster next month. The first circulation of papers also includes further updates on the process of simplification of Church regulations. There is also material on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and a background paper on clergy risk assessment regulations which will be debated on Thursday February 16.

The first circulation of papers is available here.

A second circulation of papers will be published on Friday, January 27.

The synod timetable is available here.

The General Synod will meet at the Assembly Hall, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London from 3pm on Monday, February 13 to 5.15pm on Thursday, 16 February.

Further information:

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of Church Army and member of Archbishops’ Council explains why a culture change is needed in the Church.

Fr Paul Cartwright, Parish Priest, St Peter the Apostle and St John the Baptist, Barnsley and General Synod Member writes on how he encourages his congregation to live out their faith in the world.

Renewal and Reform is the Church of England’s initiative to promote growth in the church in every community in England. The paper, Setting God’s People Free (part of the Lay Leadership strand) and the Simplification of Church regulations are part of Renewal and Reform. More information is here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 20 January 2017 at 12:06pm GMT
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

February General Synod - online papers

The first batch of papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online. The remaining papers will be issued on 27 January and I will add links when these become available.

zip file of all first circulation papers

Papers in numerical order with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration
Synod meets from Monday 13 to Thursday 16 February 2017.

GS 2014B - Draft Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2014Z - Report by the Steering Committee

GS 2027A - Draft Legislative Reform Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2027Y - Report by the Steering Committee

GS 2029A - Draft Amending Canon No. 36 [Tuesday]
GS 2029AA - Draft Amending Canon No. 37
GS 2029Y - Report of the Revision Committee

GS 2030 - Draft Statute Law (Repeals) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2030X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2031A - Draft Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2031Y - Report by the Steering Committee

GS 2032A - Draft Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2032Y - Report by the Steering Committee

GS 2042 - Agenda

GS 2043 - Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 2044 - Anniversary of the Reformation [Monday]

GS 2045A & GS 2045B - Preliminaries to Marriage [Tuesday]

GS 2046 - Draft Church Representation, Ecumenical and Minister Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2046X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2047 - Draft Amending Canon No. 38 [Tuesday]
GS 2047X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2048 - The Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 [Tuesday]
GS 2048X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2049 - The Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2017 [Tuesday]
GS 2049X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2050 - The Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016 [[Tuesday]
GS 2050X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2051 - Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2016 [deemed business - Tuesday]

GS 2052 - Creation of Suffragan See for the Diocese of Leicester [Wednesday]

GS 2053 - Appointment to the Archbishops’ Council [Wednesday]

GS 2054A & GS 2054B - Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: Reduction of Maximum Stake [Wednesday]

GS 2055 - Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops [Wednesday]

GS 2056 - Setting God’s People Free: Report from the Archbishops’ Council [Thursday]

GS 2057A & GS 2057B - Mission and Administration [contingency business]

Other papers

GS Misc 1150 - Update on Renewal and Reform

GS Misc 1152 - Simplification of Ecumenical Regulations

GS Misc 1155 - Holding Office under Common Tenure

GS Misc 1156 - Statement on the Reformation Anniversary

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 20 January 2017 at 11:56am GMT
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Monday, 16 January 2017

Bishop of Lancaster to retire

The Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, the suffragan Bishop of Lancaster in the diocese of Blackburn, has announced that he will retire later this year: The Anglican Bishop of Lancaster announces his retirement.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 January 2017 at 2:10pm GMT
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Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sexuality and Anglican Identities

The University of Chester is engaged in a two-year project, Sexuality and Anglican Identities.

This seeks to engage the Academy, Chaplaincy and Church in conversation about current issues relating to sexuality within the contemporary Anglican context. A particular focus will be on how articulation of various positions on these matters, contribute to competing claims to Anglican identity. The project is funded by the Church Universities Fund.

The first of two open forums at Chester Cathedral, The Past, Present and Future of Christian Marriage, was held on Saturday 22 October, 2016. The second open forum, New Directions in Sexualities and Christianity, will be held from 1 pm to 3 pm on Saturday 11 February. The speakers will be

- Professor Adrian Thatcher, University of Exeter

- Dr Susannah Cornwall, University of Exeter

- The Rev Dr Mark Vasey-Saunders

- Dr David Hilborn, St John’s School of Mission

On Saturday 6 May there will be a day conference, for which there is a call for papers. Proposals of not more than 300 words to be with Dr Jessica Keady (j.keady@chester.ac.uk) by 28 February.

More information is on a public Facebook page here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 January 2017 at 5:58pm GMT
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion

There will be a day conference on this subject, held on Friday 24 February, at Whitelands College of the University of Roehampton.

Further details of the conference are available here, including a draft programme. Speakers include:

- Questioning Church Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion: David
Goodhew (Cranmer Hall, St Johns College, Durham University)
- Nigeria: Dr Richard Burgess (University of Roehampton)
- USA: Dr Jeremy Bonner (Durham University)

- South America (Rt Revd Maurice Sinclair)
- Congo (Dr Emma Wildwood, Cambridge University)
- South Africa (Dr Barbara Bompani, University of Edinburgh)
- Ghana (Rev Dr Daniel Eshun, University of Roehampton)

- South America (Rt Revd Maurice Sinclair, retired)
- Congo (Dr Emma Wildwood, Cambridge University)
- South Africa (Dr Barbara Bompani, University of Edinburgh)
- Ghana (Rev Dr Daniel Eshun, University of Roehampton)

- England: Professor David Voas (University College, London)
- Theology, Growth and Decline: the Rt Revd Graham Kings (Mission Theologian,
Anglican Communion)

The conference is based upon a recently published book of the same title, edited by Professor David Goodhew, details of which - including a full table of contents - are shown on the publisher’s website here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 January 2017 at 5:35pm GMT
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | statistics

Opinion - 14 January 2017

Reactions to Martyn Percy’s 95 New Theses for the 21st century, which we listed last week

Ryan Cook A Reflection: Martyn Percy’s 95 Theses, Bishops & the Transcendent
Ian Paul Psephizo Can bishops save the Church?
Sam Norton Elizaphanian What’s really wrong with the House of Bishops

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Management, Leadership, success-failure, heresy & idolatry

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Hopes and Dreams

Nick Young Londonist How London’s Churches Got Their Unusual Names

Anne Jolis The Spectator How the Church of England changed my life: Death, grief and love in a strange city

Miranda France Granta Words and the Word

Nick Tolson Church Times Beware of the siege mentality

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 January 2017 at 11:00am GMT
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Friday, 13 January 2017

Changing Attitude and LGCM announce merger

Updated to add press link

Changing Attitude and LGCM announce plans to merge their work to create ‘new missional movement for transformation and change’.

Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who have between them been working for over 60 years for LGBT inclusion across the Christian churches, have announced plans to merge.

Tracey Byrne, LGCM’s Chief Executive said, ‘We’ve been working closely with Changing Attitude for some time now and we have so much in common, and so much to gain from working together. We both bring wisdom and experience to our work, and Changing Attitude’s deep understanding of the Church of England is complemented by LGCM’s insights from across and beyond the denominations. We want to see all that energy, commitment and vision combined to bring about real and lasting change.’

LGCM marked its fortieth anniversary in 2016, and Changing Attitude celebrated 20 years of Colin Coward’s leadership on his retirement in 2015. Tracey went on to say, ‘Both LGCM and Changing Attitude have been blessed with extraordinary and prophetic founders and leaders – people like Colin, Malcolm Johnson, Jim Cotter and Richard Kirker. We shall not see their like again – but of course we’re also part of a world and a church which functions very differently to the way it did in 1976. We have a really firm foundation from which to build a new movement which draws in all people of goodwill who want to see the church welcome LGBT people on equal terms with our sisters and brothers.’

Jeremy Timm of Changing Attitude said, ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for us to further LGCM and Changing Attitude’s work, to make ourselves a resource and a force for change in the churches as they continue in their journey of understanding in relation to sexuality and gender. We firmly believe we can do this better together, and as both boards of trustees have been talking and listening to one another over the past six months, we’ve become really excited and energised about what the future holds.’

LGCM’s Chair of Trustees, Jeremy Pemberton added, ‘If we’re going to reach out to a new generation with the message that the gospel is good news for everyone, then we’ll all need to commit ourselves to making that a credible and authentic claim for LGBT people too. That will involve humble listening and prophetic action at every level of the churches, from our leaders and from the many people we know are longing for change. The new movement will be uniquely placed to resource that kind of transformation.’

Notes for editors:

1. LGCM is a charity which is committed to the full inclusion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the life of the Christian churches.

2. Changing Attitude campaigns for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Church of England.

3. Further enquiries to Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive on 07497 203635

4. Further information about the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement can be found at www.lgcm.org.uk

5. Further information about Changing Attitude can be found at www.changingattitude.org.uk

Update

Carey Lodge Christian Today ‘We Want Real Change’: Gay Lobby Groups Join Forces To Fight For LGBT Inclusion In The Church

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 January 2017 at 10:00am GMT
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Opinion - 7 January 2017

Martyn Percy Archbishop Cranmer The Reformation 500 years on: do we need 95 New Theses for the 21st century?

Andrew Lightbown Only Connect! Thoughts on episcopacy and R&R

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Church: Ice Dancing or Musical Statues?

Giles Fraser The Guardian A man recently broke into my church. Good on him, I say

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this sermon during Evensong at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, South Africa, on Friday 30th December 2016.

Jonathan Jones The Guardian Crucifixion is horribly violent – we must confront its reality head on

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 11:00am GMT
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Peterborough Cathedral: Bishop issues Visitation Charge

Updated Monday 9 January and Wednesday 11 January

Peterborough Cathedral has issued a press statement: Bishop of Peterborough issues Visitation Charge to the Cathedral. The full text of the statement is copied below the fold.

The full text of the Visitation Charge is available here. It is only three pages long, and is worth reading in full.

A statement from the Church Commissioners is also published over here.

Update
The retired Dean of Durham, Michael Sadgrove, has published Peterborough Cathedral: thoughts on the visitation report and in particular he discusses the last six paragraphs of the report in which the Bishop of Peterborough argues that the current legal framework for cathedrals is inadequate.

Update
The Peterborough Telegraph reports that there have been 12 redundancies and some property sales: “About half of the redundancies have been achieved by not recruiting to jobs as people have left for other career moves or retirement. The cuts have been made in several areas including administration, hospitality, vergers and welcomers.”

Continue reading "Peterborough Cathedral: Bishop issues Visitation Charge"
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 10:38am GMT
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Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Manifestation of Christ 

or Good news for non-believers

Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas, and tonight at evening prayer the Church begins the celebration of the Epiphany. The Christmas story in Matthew tells how the Magi, wise men, came from the east to visit the infant Jesus, and this has long been interpreted as showing the Christ-child to the wider world of non-Jews near the start of his human life, as well as a recognition by them of his birth. During the next few weeks of the Church’s year there is a continuing focus on the story of how Jesus first came to public attention and how he began to teach his message or good news.

Many of us, perhaps all of us, can look around at our lives, at our relationships, at the state of the world, and wish it were better — whether for ourselves or for others. We can all dream of living in a place where it is good to live. A place where everyone has security and shelter and enough to eat, where everyone has value and is treated fairly, where no one holds grudges against other individuals or groups. In short, a society that is not “broken” and that lives at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Jesus’s message is that this place can exist, and that we have it within ourselves to choose to live there, at least in part. Each one of us can make the choice to live in that place of reconciliation and trust, peace and social justice. If we choose to live our lives in that way then we will be citizens of that place.

In Jesus’s language this place is the “kingdom of God”, because it is the place where God’s will is done, and that will ultimately is “love”. Jesus’s good news is that this kingdom, this “living in love”, is already at hand, here and now — it has already begun. All that we have to do is open our eyes and see the simplicity of it.

Opting in is entirely voluntary, and even those who have opted in will get it wrong, perhaps more often than not. So it won’t be perfect, because it is a place inhabited by fallible human beings in a world where not everyone has opted in and where mistakes and natural disasters also happen. Living this way is vulnerable. Jesus’s followers have long said that the kingdom will come at the end of time — and this is a recognition of the fact that the whole world isn’t going to accept the message for a very long while, if ever. So though the kingdom in all its fullness is not yet here, that makes it all the more important to choose to live in it now, and to share the good news and to encourage others to join in. We can still live partly in the kingdom, glimpsing the possibilities of its fullness.

What then is the role of religion in this, and what is the role of the Church? These are good questions. They highlight the problem with institutional religion.

Jesus, in the gospel stories, doesn’t have a lot of time for organized religion, and those who considered themselves holy and religious. He criticised the Pharisees and the Sadducees, whom we might see as typical of local religious leaders and the religious establishment, types that existed then and still exist today. Many in both groups understood Jesus’s concept of God’s rule, God’s kingdom, but (like many others down the ages, and still today) they were caught up in their own concepts of spirituality and nationality and their own priorities, and either failed to grasp what Jesus was saying, or failed to act on it.

Where does this leave the Church? As people used to ask, do you have to go to church to be a good Christian? Certainly the Church has a lot to answer for. Over many hundreds of years it has helped to suppress and control individuals and populations, and allowed itself to be used by states to achieve their aims, or indeed has corrupted states to achieve institutional goals. It has allowed itself to be limited to a “spiritual” life, teaching a personal piety and obedience, and the promise that things will get better, sometime. It has sacrificed individuals and groups to its own ends. And it’s easy for its members to get caught up in its institutional life, serving on its boards and commissions and councils, even carving out a career in church politics. It’s easy too to get caught up in its “religiosity”: in personal piety, personal devotion and personal belief as ends in themselves.

The Church, however, has also preserved the teaching of Jesus, and other great figures, and never lost sight of the centrality of his message, even when it has largely failed to understand or implement it. Individual Christians have led some of the great reform movements, such as the abolition of slavery, moves to racial equality and sexual equality, mass education and healthcare, humane working conditions, prison reform and so on.

The Church, for all its many and profound failings, is the group of people who follow Jesus, and stand in line with him: the community of his followers down the ages, even if a divided community.

The Church is also the primary place where those who commit to trying to live in the kingdom can interact with each other. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where social justice and compassion are preached and practised. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where the hungry are fed, both literally and figuratively, and the homeless and destitute cared for. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where people forgive each other for the wrongs they have done to each other, and are reconciled. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where Jesus’s good news is proclaimed and human beings welcomed to participate in it.

Where does that leave the believer and the unbeliever? No mention has yet been made of belief in God, belief in heaven, belief in the infallibility of this or that, or the special nature of someone or something. The story of the arrival of the Magi shows that Jesus is for Jew and Gentile alike: in today’s language, Jesus and his message are for the believer and also for the non-believer. The gospels do not record that Jesus required belief in any dogma or religious doctrine — only trust in what he was teaching, trust to begin to do it. There is no test of belief to be a citizen of this kingdom. There is no religious creed, no statement of religious belief.

Rather, what is required is to start again: to be willing to recognize (without unnecessarily beating ourselves up about it) that we don’t always get things right; to be willing to both give and receive forgiveness; to act to bring about reconciliation and social justice to all our neighbours, where Jesus’s definition of “neighbour” is “someone who needs our help”; to join with those who are trying to do the same; and to share this good news with others. The kingdom of God is built one person at a time — it is here, it is now, it is indeed at hand; and one day it will exist in its fullness.

What about God? Everyone must come to their own conclusions on that, and about the literal existence of God, because God’s kingdom — the place where the rules are love and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation and social justice for all — is a concept that exists whether you believe in God or not. Just as the arrival of the Magi in the Christmas story indicates that this baby is significant to Jews and non-Jews, so too he, and the kingdom he announced, are significant to believers and non-believers.

God’s kingdom is for all. And it’s there, in part, right here and now. Just open the door, and let the kingdom in.

Simon Kershaw is a founder and editor of Thinking Anglicans.


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 7:30am GMT
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Saturday, 31 December 2016

Opinion - New Year's Eve 2016

Madeleine Davies Christian Today Women In Leadership: Is 2017 The Year HTB Will Practise What It Preaches?

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Should We Work On Christmas Day? After All, Vicars Have To

David Walker ViaMedia.News Bursting the Bubble

Geoff Bayliss Church Times Speaking more of the language of the people
and in response
Doug Chaplin Liturgy: words for speaking, not for reading
Gary Waddington Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi
Justice, Peace, Joy If necessary, use liturgy
[Note: There was a subbing error in the Church Times article, now corrected online. A heading “Complex words that it could be difficult to avoid using” was originally “Complex words that might be avoided”.]

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 31 December 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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Saturday, 24 December 2016

A selection of bishops' Christmas Messages

Updated 28 December

You are not expected to read/view/listen to these at one sitting!

Most Revd Philip Richardson, Co-archbishop, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Most Revd Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of the Church of Australia

Most Revd Francisco de Assis da Silva, Primate of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil)

Most Revd Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Most Revd John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle
Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford
Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, and Rt Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow
Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester
Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool [subtitled version]
Rt Revd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
Rt Revd Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle
Rt Revd Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford
Rt Revd Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro
Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester

Most Revd Paul Kwong, Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui and chair of the Anglican Consultative Council

Most Revd Ian Ernest, Primate of the Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean, and Cardinal Maurice E Piat, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Port-Louis
[in French with a link to a computerised translation into English]

Archbishops of Armagh, The Most Revd Richard Clarke & The Most Revd Eamon Martin
Rt Revd John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, and Mgr Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of Clogher
Rt Revd Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe

Patriarchs and Heads of local churches in Jerusalem (including the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Most Revd Suheil Dawani)

Most Revd Samuel Azariah, Primate of the united Church of Pakistan

Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
Rt Revd Gregor Duncan, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway

Most Revd Moon Hing, Primate of South East Asia

Most Revd Stanley Ntagali, Primate of Uganda

Most Revd Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States

Most Revd Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph
Rt Revd John Davies, Bishop of Swansea and Brecon

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 24 December 2016 at 3:00pm GMT
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Opinion - Christmas Eve 2016

Linda Woodhead Journal of the British Academy The rise of ‘no religion’ in Britain: The emergence of a new cultural majority
[the text of a lecture delivered in January 2016]

Brian Zahnd Missio Alliance My Problem With the Bible

Alex Taylor, Children’s Ministry Trainer for the Diocese of London The worst Christmas song

Andrew Lightbown Mary & Elizabeth: Renewal & Reform

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Christmas highlights pressures on C of E’s stretched rural clergy

Andrew Dunning British Library Medieval manuscripts blog The Medieval Origins of the Christmas Carol

Ian Paul Psephizo Should clergy have Christmas day off?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 24 December 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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The Coming of the Light

We have come to the end of Advent: the time of waiting is over. Tomorrow is Christmas. The night Jesus was born, the world seemed like an unsafe place for a baby, especially a baby born to a couple far away from the security of their own home and unable to find suitable lodging, vulnerable to the elements and to the rough characters living on the margins of society.

Today, with images of Aleppo and refugees dancing in our heads, how can we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace? At the end of a year of so much tragedy, evil and violence, further shaken by the uncertainty of Brexit and of a President Trump, who can feel safe, who can feel joyful? Even on a more intimate level, many people I know have been bereaved or have been battling illness or, at the very least, dealing with upset and disappointment. Is it worth celebrating Christmas at all?

It all depends on what we believe about God and our world, and about ourselves and other people. If our God is impotent or distant or disdainful or angry, then we are in trouble. But if our God is as present with us as a new-born baby gasping for air, as compassionate as a mother cradling a terrified child or as faithful as a rescue worker, digging resolutely through piles of rubble, then there is hope.

In the opening passage of the Gospel of John comes the pronouncement, “In him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Further on in the same Gospel, Jesus tells his followers, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

The baby who became the man who took on all that life could throw at him — all the evil, sin, hurt, hopelessness, grief and fear of the world — tells his friends not to be frightened, that even though he will soon be leaving them, not to be troubled. He tells them to be at peace, that in him they have peace, that his peace is present in the midst of all the challenges of life.

Do we believe the light is still shining in the darkness? Do we believe there is no darkness that can ever extinguish the light of Christ? Do we believe we have a peace that has been given to us as part of the gift of the Holy Spirit? Do we believe in the ultimate triumph of the Prince of Peace?

If we believe these things, then we can wake up tomorrow and dare to open ourselves to the joy of Christmas. For some, even though they believe, this year joy may elude them, but for those of us who can embrace the day, we must celebrate, not forgetting those who are suffering, but standing in solidarity with them by proclaiming the truth and reality and presence of Christ. Whether taking a service, serving a meal or visiting those in prison, in hospital or out on the streets — or simply safely curled up in a cosy room with our loved ones — we must let our hearts shout out — Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

Christina Rees CBE was a member of General Synod for 25 years, and a founder member of Archbishops’ Council. She is a writer, broadcaster, communications consultant, and advocate for gender justice.


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

Posted by Christina Rees on Saturday, 24 December 2016 at 8:00am GMT
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