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The Road to Growth Less Travelled: Spiritual Paths in a Missionary Church – David Runcorn

In the face of declining church attendance, the call to mission can become nothing more than pressure to perform. Under this pressure, we are losing a quality our age most needs and depth.

How can we avoid become a restless, rootless church in a restless, rootless world? By engaging afresh in a contemplative spirituality which moves from anxiety to love, from coercion to community, and from a pre- occupation with church to a love for God and his world.

Quotations:

Today the language of ‘exile’ is again resonating with Christian communities who are feeling ever more marginalized in this post-Christian era. Exile takes many forms. It may be geographical, political or social. It can be emotional or inward. Above all it is a place where you are not in control. So it may be defined most simply as ‘living where you don’t want to be’ (Gordon Mursell).5

But we must beware of assuming that when we talk about exile we mean the same thing as the Bible speaks of. The discussion tends to focus on cultural and social alienation and moves on to suggest strategies for re-engagement. This is important. But biblically the diagnosis does not go deep enough. Something more profound was going on in the experience of exile in the Bible. It was far more than social, military or political disaster (though it was all these). It was above all else a theological catastrophe. The Temple and Holy City were destroyed. Yahweh had apparently been defeated by foreign gods.

The deepest crisis of exile always begins and ends with God.

We have lived in an aggressive consumer culture for so long that we find it very difficult to recognize just how much we have adopted its language and live within its assumptions. It is desperately hard for us not to think of God, the gospel and the church as products and that successful marketing of them is a sign of their vitality. So mission brings the gospel into the market place and we compete for customers.

It is in this context that some of our bold declarations that ‘God wants his church to grow’ may border on presumption. It sounds very spiritual. Its intentions may be very godly and sincere. But our expectations about growth and renewal may still owe more to notions of spiritual consumer rights than to living, vulnerable faith. Our approach to God and to his promises needs sanctifying. ‘We are so preoccupied with God’s relatedness, God being for us, that we do not attend enough to God’s hiddenness. We do not know how to attend to God’s own “Godness.”’14

This was the heart of the problem during the period of Israel’s greatest cri­sis—the one leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the long exile of God’s people in the sixth century BCE. It was a time of fragmentation, disintegration and chaos. The deepest tragedy of that time lay in the inability of God’s people to relate to God in anything other than contractual terms. God was their God and therefore must guard them, bless them, be there for them, enable them to prosper. As the crisis intensified the sense of distance between God and his people grew. The relationship was breaking down and communication becoming apparently impossible.

There are disturbing parallels with the assumptions that drive Western society today. In consumer culture everything is an object. Everything is defined by its usefulness and what it can do for me. Church life is all too easily infected by this. Buildings and worship are now designed for maximum relevance and accessibility to the world around. We know what we want say to each other but are in danger of losing any sense of God’s otherness in our midst.

But a society based around such values will find God practically use-less. God can serve no purpose. He does not need a reason to exist. Being God is not a job. He does not buy or sell. No one appointed him. He is complete in himself. God himself is no-thing. He just is (see Ex 3.14, Rev 1.4, 8). So ‘it is not surprising in a technological culture like ours, which is obsessed by purpose and achievement, that God has often been reduced to a useful, predictable idol, or is experienced as absent.’15

And what did God do in the crisis facing Israel? He refused to be useful or relevant. He would not be defined in terms of his people’s need of him. As the political and

military storm clouds raged over Israel, God left. For the sake of the covenant God breaks covenant. In that most terrible vision in the Bible, Ezekiel watches as the glory of God departed from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10).

But Brueggemann insists this is precisely where hope is to be found. God’s freedom to walk out does not mean he is indifferent. To be uncommitted is a contemporary definition of freedom, and the social consequence of that is all around us. But even where covenants and promises lie broken, God’s own free nature presses him to act. So our hope that church or world might find new beginnings out of crisis and chaos depends on God not having a com­mitment to his people or to his world—in the way we understand it. He is unbound by the things that bind us. He is free to choose to bring something new to life out of the ruins of the old.

“O Christ, my Lord, again and again
I have said with Mary Magdalene,
“They have taken away my Lord
and I know not where they have laid him.”
I have been desolate and alone.
And thou hast found me again, and I know
that what has died is not thou, my Lord,
but only my idea of thee,
the image which I have made to preserve
what I have found, and to be my security.
I shall make another image, O Lord,
better than the last.
That too must go, and all successive images,
until I come to the blessed vision of thyself,
O Christ, my Lord.”

This beautiful prayer, based on the encounter between Mary Magdalene and the risen Jesus on the first Easter day, places the experience of loss at the centre of Christian discipleship. Jesus often taught this (Matt 16.25, Luke 9.24)…… The Bible never expects faith to be a smooth process. Even in moments of deepest need and crisis God can be bafflingly elusive. It has been said that lament is what happens when faith and experience collide. Again and again in the Psalms it is lament and protest that leads to rekindled hope. Psalms that start with raw bellows of pain and questioning often end with praise. Something happens. The relationship moves on. Lament and protest are marks of real faith—not the absence of it. In the words of a Sudanese priest reflecting on the appalling losses of his own people, ‘Lament is what keeps the church in Sudan alive.’

the image of darkness expresses different truths in the life of the Spirit. ‘Darkness,’ like ‘loss,’ is too easily assumed to be negative; darkness is a place we should not be. It is, in fact, a normal and important part of the life of faith.

There is the darkness of human brokenness and pain. Christian faith is the costly vocation to enter and abide in those places. It will be a place of holding loving vigil, waiting in the dark. This is both a missionary and intercessory calling. This is not to be underestimated. Mother Mary Clare, one of the great spiritual guides of the last century, described our age as living in a ‘communal dark night.’

Darkness may accompany an experience of something significantly new and uncertain. To be ‘in the dark’ is to be somewhere beyond our familiar understanding. We read that as Abraham set out on his journey ‘a deep and terrifying darkness came upon him’ (Gen 15.12). We should not be surprised if this is part of the experience of a church journeying into very new and unfamiliar expressions of life. The most sensible response when you cannot see anything is not to rush around or fight it, but to be still. We must learn to listen and feel our way in ways that may be new to us. It will be slower, more hesitant, but no less faithful or purposeful.

There is a darkness that is not the opposite of light but an excess of it. It is the inevitable consequence of encountering the radiance of God. Rather like the blindness that comes from staring at the sun, some mystics speak of ‘dazzling darkness.’ This is the darkness of presence, not absence.

‘It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey’ (Wendell Berry).

Waiting humbles us. It reminds us that we are dependent people. It exposes to us the illusions of ‘control’ in our lives. We discover we are not the centre of the story. It is supremely the experience of the poor—those who have to rely on the actions of others for their most basic needs. We do not come to this truth easily. It requires us to learn and value a different set of priorities.

Instead we find in the gospels a disproportionate delight and compassion for the smallest and least significant. This is a God who notices when the tiniest sparrow falls to earth, whose delight is in a good seed that falls into the ground and whose joy is the one sinner who repents. In his world a whole flock will be abandoned on the hillside to search for one lost sheep. Jesus tells us we meet him when we minister to the ‘least of these,’ not the greatest (Matt 25.31-46). To describe the witness of his disciples in the world his metaphors are not grand and expansive—he speaks of salt, a little yeast, or a single light. He is the God of small things. Among the seven churches in Revelation it is the church most evidently seeing growth and life (Sardis) that is strongly judged, while the one clearly near the end of hope and resources (Philadelphia) is ministered too with utmost patience and compassion with the promise of an open door to glory (Rev 3).

Yaconelli offers practical examples of how contemplative approach can shape church business meetings. In approaching discussion and decision making for he suggests a step by step ‘liturgy of discernment.’ It starts with a simple ‘gathering ritual’—a consecration of the meeting and time to God. There fol­lows a time of relating where each person is offered two minutes to respond to the question, ‘How are you?’ After this listening to each other there follows a time of silence in which the centre is now God and his presence. The meeting is now ready to share its business and comes to the task in a new spirit. The significant insistence is that the community needs time to be present to each other and to God if they are to discern the ways forward. Instead of meetings where ‘opening in prayer’ is a Christian reflex that makes little impact on the meeting that follows, here is a method of meeting in prayer. A minister friend tells how Yaconelli’s simple suggestions transformed the atmosphere and effectiveness of her church council meetings.

He left spaces and was constantly surprised by the wisdom and depth of thinking he encountered—often from young people written off as trouble­some and disruptive. He learned to trust the presence of the Spirit out there already at work—and teaching him too. This also seems to have been the experience of Jesus (Matt 8.6-13).

When Thomas Merton entered an enclosed contemplative monastery in America it felt like the completion of his conversion to Christ. He had now found the love he had been searching for all his life and a community where he could live in contemplation of it (he described the community as ‘the centre of the world’). He longed for nothing else than to pour his life into the love of Christ and, as he put it, ‘to disappear into God.’ But his journey was not complete. Like all fervent converts he was despising and pessimistic about the world he had left. Some years later he had to go back into that world for a hospital appointment in a nearby town. While he was there, on the corner of a very ordinary street, something happened—the third conversion, ‘I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people,that they were mine and I was theirs…It was like waking from a dream of separateness…to take your place as a member of the human race in which God himself became incarnate. If only everybody could realize this. But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people they are all walking round shining like the sun.’

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The Third Windsor Conference: The final chapter – AMAR

Amar(AMAR started in response to Saddam Hussein’s systematic persecution and extermination of the Marsh Arabs, and it has now grown to become one of the leading charities in the Middle East.)

ZIDISM should be recognised as a world religion by other faith groups to stop future persecution, this report said.

Chairman, Baroness Nicholson explained: “The entire world has been shocked and disgusted by the barbaric cruelty waged against the Yazidis, but what we sought to do in Windsor was to find the underlying causes of such behaviour and to propose ways forward for when the conflicts are diminished and eventually over, as assuredly they will be.”

She added: “The aim was nothing less than to produce a new kind of Marshall Plan, for the Yazidis in particular and the Middle East region generally. I am not aware of any other conference in Europe that has done this to the same extent.”

“The presence of the Prince of the Yazidis, the spiritual head of the 800,000-strong world community, strengthened my resolve and ensured that everyone there was well informed about his people.”

Faith leaders from around the world, including the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, contributed to it. It is supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and the educational charity Cumberland Lodge.

It builds on the recommendations that followed from the second conference: that the United Nations and the international community must prioritise the mental health and well-being of refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons), especially the Yazidi community, and recognise the rehabilitating part played by faith and music.

The report says: “The third and final Windsor Conference aims to deliver a short report and methodology that can be used by persecuted communities to develop their own agency and leverage the support of the United Nations and international community in a timely and effective manner.”

Using case studies of persecuted and marginalised groups, such as the LDS, Native Americans, Ahmadis, and Huguenots, the report suggests ways that persecuted groups can be helped in the future.

The methodology is based on elements such as: “Active participation with communities affected by persecution, conflict, and displacement”; drawing upon the support of formerly persecuted communities; convening ‘intense and insightful’ meetings; benefiting from the support of the C of E and Lambeth Palace, and of the founder and chair of AMAR, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne; and using the leaders of the communities for the discussion.

Lady Nicholson said that something needed to be done to tackle “the horrors” of religious persecution: “AMAR’s all-Iraqi teams of medical professionals have witnessed the terrible consequences of religious persecution against the poor Yazidi women and girls, who were kidnapped, tortured, and held as slaves by the monsters of Daesh (IS). Thousands of Yazidi men were murdered, and their women raped, beaten, and humiliated.

“We have been providing medical care and psychiatric and psychological support for many thousands of these poor, peaceful people, but we are also absolutely determined to prevent this genocidal behaviour ever happening again.

“The Yazidis have been subjected to 74 genocides over the centuries, purely because of the mistaken belief that they are devil worshippers. Utter nonsense of course, but it was used as a justification to try and wipe them out.”

Quotations:

The Yazidis of northern Iraq have been under attack in a ‘forced conversion campaign’ by ISIL since 2014. It is estimated that at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians have been killed, 5-7,000 women and children have been abducted (with women taken as sex slaves), and around 500,000 displaced and now living in refugee camps. These atrocities have been recognized by the United Nations as genocide.

The Yazidis are a distinct religious people deeply connected to their ancestral homeland, and are in urgent need of protection. As a religious people, Yazidis share the same basic human right as people of other faiths as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Yazidism is unlike any other religion. This makes Yazidism difficult to describe or compare, and it can only be properly understood on its own terms and not from the perspective of any other faith. Three of its most important features are:

To be a Yazidi one must be born a Yazidi, as marriage is only permitted between Yazidis. Yazidism is therefore a closed religion, and Yazidis have no interest in attracting converts to the faith.

Yazidism is an oral religion. For much of its history its sacred ‘texts’ or ‘scriptures’ have been held in the memory of its priestly castes and passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. This means that the religion has not been studied or taught in the same way as many others with written scriptures.

In Yazidism, emphasis is placed on religious observance and practice rather than learning about the tenets of the faith. Most Yazidis outside the priestly castes know little about the theology of their religion, which makes it difficult for them to explain or discuss their religion with others.

Yazidism is based on the belief that there is only one God, the ‘supreme being’ who is the origin of all that exists – both good and evil. For this reason, Yazidism does not have the concept of the devil – an independent evil and malevolent being who is opposed to a God who is purely good, and who seeks to turn people away from God – such as Satan in Islam and Christianity.

In Yazidism, God is remote from what he has created. Unlike Christianity, for example, Yazidis believe that God does not interact directly with humans. In Yazidism God is ‘transcendent’ – above and beyond the created order – and instead interacts with humans through angels who have a God-given role to act as our guides and helpers.

The most important angel in Yazidism is Ta’us-es Malak (or Malak Ta’us), the Peacock Angel. Ta’us-es Malak is believed by Yazidis to have been given by God particular responsibility for caring for the Earth. As well as being a spiritual being, Ta’us-es Malak is also believed to have been manifested in human form on several occasions, most notably as Shaykh ’Adi (who, within Islam, is regarded as a Sufi saint).

Shaykh ’Adi’s tomb is in the Yazidi temple in Lalish, north-east of Mosul in Iraq, which is a focal point for Yazidi religious observance and an important place of annual pilgrimage (in a similar way that Mecca is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims). Because of the current situation most Yazidis no longer have access to the temple.

Given the prominence of angels, who are greatly revered in Yazidism, the religion is sometimes mistakenly described as polytheistic (based on a belief in many gods) rather than monotheistic (based on the belief in one God). Angels have similarly prominent roles linking earth and heaven in other religions, including Judaism, Islam and Christianity. To Yazidis, Ta’us-es Malak is God’s agent and not a god. The reverence shown to Ta’us-es Malak bears similarities to the reverence shown to the archangel St Michael in Christianity, for example, or to the human Blessed Virgin Mary in Roman Catholicism.

In Yazidism, Ta’us-es Malak is made chief of the angels by God after refusing to obey God’s instruction for him to worship Adam – the first human. According to this tradition, Ta’us-es Malak tells God that he is prepared only to worship him, and for this act of devotion God immediately forgives him for his act of disobedience and makes him the chief of angels.

This story bears a close resemblance to a story in the Qur’an in which a spiritual being or jinn, Iblis, disobeys God by refusing to worship Adam. In this story God punishes Iblis, who becomes a malevolent spiritual being – Satan – who seeks to divert humans away from God. In the Christian tradition Satan is associated with a ‘fallen angel’, Lucifer, who similarly disobeys God.

Because of the similarity between these traditions, Yezidis are often accused of being ‘devil worshippers.’ This accusation is false, however, and based on a theological misunderstanding of trying to understand Yazidism from the perspective of another faith. Yazidis do not share the scriptural or theological traditions of other faiths that identify the disobedient angel as Satan, and so the story in the Qur’an is not directly comparable with the story in the Yazidi tradition. As already explained, Yazidism does not have the concept of a devil – a malevolent being who seeks to turn humans away from God. Instead, Yazidi theology asserts that God is the ultimate source of all – both good and evil – and it is therefore the responsibility of each person (human or angelic) to choose between the two. The story of Ta’us-es Malak is a story of absolute devotion to God and not about rebellion against God, as in the case of Iblis or Lucifer.

“Recognition of Yazidism as a world faith will be critical to not only preventing the persecution of the Yazidi community, but also helping transform attitudes amongst the world’s other great religions towards communities persecuted because of faith.”

The Conference learned from its speakers how music can play a critical role in helping both individuals and communities work towards overcoming trauma. The Conference recognised the importance of faith in helping traumatised communities envision a different future, based upon a renewed sense of identity and a wider appreciation of the perspectives of others.

The Yazidis have a long history of persecution and speak of having suffered seventy-four genocides. A key reason for this sustained hostility is religious: for centuries the Yazidis have been portrayed as ‘devil worshippers’.[1] This accusation is false; yet it persists and is highly destructive. Recognition that Yazidism is a world faith would help mitigate against further systematic persecution and genocide pursuant to the Westminster Declaration[2] and the Muslim Declaration. The Second Windsor Conference, therefore, called upon the world religions to recognise Yazidism as a world faith.

To that end, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, represents the Church of England’s resources to enable empathetic dialogue and the forming of relationships, which enable recognition and mutual respect. Such recognition of Yazidism as a world faith will be critical to not only preventing the persecution of the Yazidi community, but also helping transform attitudes am

Toleration is not enough, because it can easily become indifference. People want to be understood and appreciated, and to feel that they are contributing something valuable to society.

Disagreement has increased over the centuries, and is likely to increase in the future, .., as people become more educated and therefore more critical, each with an independent opinion based on the different knowledge and memory that guide each individual. We can expect more disagreement within and between religions; the number of denominations and independent churches increases relentlessly.

One answer is to make disagreement fruitful, so that people from different points of view put their heads together and find new horizons of equal importance to them. This means learning how to disagree.

Another answer is to focus not on dogma, but on behaviour. It is easier to agree about what is desirable and undesirable conduct, and what ambitions are worthy. The early Christian Church was far less dogmatic than it became when bishops combined to stamp out heresy (a word that originally meant only ‘opinion’); and 18th century England revived this attitude.

Both answers seem to me to be worth exploring further.

Article 2 states: Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation:

No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.

Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandi Sabaeans.

Furthermore, Article 10 states: The holy shrines and religious places in Iraq are religious and cultural entities. The State is committed to confirming and safeguarding their sanctity, and guaranteeing the free practice of rituals in them.

And Article 14 states: Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, origin, colour, religion, creed, belief or opinion, or economic and social status.

It is clear that the Iraqi constitution affords full religious rights to all individuals and, therefore, provides a clear platform from which all communities, including the Yazidis, are protected by law and should live free from persecution.

Too much time and energy were spent on arguing whether ISIS actions against communities, such as the Yazidis, constituted genocide, rather than shaping a response, namely, because the recognition of genocide would trigger immediate actions from United Nations members states, in accordance with Chapter 7. Moreover, the international political system of states is geared towards saving secular nationalism, rather than shaping interventions to save religious communities or communities under threat of religious persecution.

Download from AMAR Conference Report – From Mormon Newsroom

And here

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The Scandalous Love of Oscar Wilde

It is the 6th of April 1895 and Oscar Wilde waits alone at the Cadogan Hotel. He is awaiting a knock on the door that will bring an arrest warrant with charges of Gross Indecency against him.

This play by Calum Grant sees Oscar talking openly about his affair with a young boy of 15 who’s life will never be the same again as well as the ruination he has brought down on the head of his wife Constance and their two boys, and of course the one true love of his life, the destructive but beautiful Lord Alfred Douglas

The audience enters to find Oscar Wilde seated, reading. We have stumbled on a moment in his life.
What a moment. The play is set on the night of 6 April 1895 as he awaits arrest at the

Wilde has withdrawn his own libel prosecution against the Marquis of Queensbury. However, sufficient evidence had emerged during the trial for Wilde to be prosecuted by the Crown. His crime? Gross indecency, a law by introduced in 1885 to criminalise homosexuality.
As Oscar Wilde awaits arrest, he explains the events which led to this scandal (or as he puts it “gossip made tedious by morality”). The beauty of Oscar Wilde is that he does not pretend. He is honest. He tells us everything. An artist, he seeks out the truth and the play is an exercise in self-examination. Did he consider the ruinous effects his libel trial would have on his wife Constance and their two boys when he decided to sue the Marquis of Queensbury? No, Wilde admits. Instead he thought only of getting revenge for the bullied son of the Marquis, Bosie, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Wilde’s lover.
​The playwright Calum Grant has grounded the play in facts. The programme acknowledges the author’s ‘debts of gratitude’ to two main texts: De Profundis the 50,000-word letter Oscar Wilde wrote in Reading Gaol to Bosie, and Oscar Wilde’s Scandalous Summer: The 1894 Worthing Holiday and the Aftermath by Anthony Gillman. This 2015 biography features hitherto unpublished material including the Queensbury libel trial, Constance’s letter to another man and details of Oscar Wilde’s relationship with the 16-year-old Alphonso, all of which inform the play’s narrative arc.
​The relationship of an older (and more powerful) man and an adolescent boy treads delicate moral ground. In the play, Oscar Wilde makes his case: he would never press for sex if there was reluctance – as was the case with Bosie, where sex petered out after a few months though the passionate enmeshment continued. Wilde references the ancient Greeks, and quotes Bosie’s poem with the famous line, ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’
​The evidence of young male sex workers eventually condemns Wilde but he does not blame them. He blames only himself. Not for being gay or loving youth, but for ruining his family as a result of his toxic dependency on the damaged, self-centred Bosie.
​Luke Stuart gives an extraordinary performance. He both looks like Oscar Wilde, and also seems to embody his romantic, artistic nature.

I have been to the Alma Tavern frequently during the past forty years but this is only the second time that I have been upstairs in the theatre – this was the first time since I became disabled.

Though booking tickets was cumbersome since their website was down, the staff were very helpful as I had to negotiate a long and narrow staircase.

Quotations:

To have been brought down by one so uneducated, I feel there is a certain sense of irony there.

They justify their own existence by the great Darwinian principle of survival of the vulgarist.

I say this only because I doubt very much if I will still be on my pedestal by the end of the evening, but I wonder how many of you will still find me interesting?

People thought it dreadful of me to have entertained at dinner the evil things of life, and to have found pleasure in their company. But then, from the point of view through which I as an artist in life approach them, they were delightfully suggestive and

stimulating.     It was like feasting with panthers. They were to me like the brightest
of gilded snakes, their poison was part of their perfection. The danger was half the excitement. They also had the advantage of youth. I have always delighted in the society of people much younger than myself. I recognise no social distinction at all and to me youth, the mere fact of youth is so delightful that I would sooner talk to a younger man for half an hour than spend time on many of the activities seen as more respectable for a man like myself. Young men have a natu ral wit and charm that often shrivels up with age. And, for one suc h as myself, it is always so much easier to impress youth with the dazzling of wit than it is to impress those gentlemen of more senior years. One did not just use them for pleasure. I spent time with them, I dined with them, I gave them gifts, but my interest never lasted. I have always enjoyed the chase more than the conquest.

When I kissed Alphonso, he did not protest therefore I pushed on putting my hand inside his trousers. I pleasured him until he was spent. I know this seems like I planned the whole thing but I assure you I did not. I must add that I did not ask for anything in return. I’m sure that, in your eyes, this means very little, but I had no intention to ruin the boy or to force him into anything that he was unsure of or unhappy about.

Alphonso was sixteen years of age. I have to say that I had no idea of this, I believed him to be somewhere between eighteen and twenty, a man already. Would I have proceeded if I had known the truth of his young years? Honestly, I would have certainly still have been attracted to his youth, attractiveness and naive charm, but I hope- No! I know, I would have shown more restraint if I had known just how innocent that youth was.

I have been told I have a gift with my mouth. Usually this is in the reference to my wit and conversation, but I applied that skill in another way.

being married to a self-absorbed genius is never easy and it became even worse as I realised just how ill matched we were.

He is also the son of a Marquess, and in spite of my essays on socialism, I have to admit I am more of a snob than I am a socialist.

Our love was never pure!

 

Encounters with faith: Visits and visitors as part of Religious Education and collective worship in Surrey schools – Surrey SACRE

the purpose of all visits is educational, not to evangelise or proselytise;

members of belief communities should recognise that they are speaking as an individual, and that their views may be part of a spectrum of diversity within that community;

pupils will not be taking part in worship, but may be observing it;

Particular care should be taken over certain elements such as ‘dressing up’ or ‘acting out’, and teachers should be aware that for some people (pupils and/or their parents),

this may cross the line (in worship terms) between observing and participating. It may be safer to ask for a volunteer to demonstrate e.g. wearing clothing, prayer positions, rather than suggesting that ‘everyone does it’, or at the very least, making it clear that such actions are voluntary.

Its online here.

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Followers

When an elderly woman sees a vision of Jesus on the swimming trunks of a young African man at her class, she befriends him as she believes God has sent her a sign for him to free her of her loneliness.

An elderly woman gets infatuated to a young African man who’s been paired with her by their aqua gym instructor during a class. She claims to have seen Jesus on the man’s swimming trunk and interprets it as a sign from God. The lonely, religious lady invites the man to sing with her in the church choir but when he figures out her real intentions, things are headed on an awkward path which includes the old lady stalking the man all the way to a cruising spot in the woods. It feels like something is missing here and that maybe, thematically, the filmmaker bites more than he can chew in such a limited format, yet the film is entertaining and the lead actress is funny and endearing enough you can’t help but empathize.

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The Church’s Impact on Health and Care 2017-8 – the Cinnamon Network

THE financial strain on the NHS could be alleviated by church-led projects that recognised the connections between physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, this report endorsed by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, says.

Ten case studies are explored in the report and it concludes that they are “cost-effective solutions that can help to address the nation’s major health needs”, and identifies benefits including the tackling of isolation.

“Without the restrictions that many health services are bound by, church-led initiatives can align both health and social care and, in the process, serve the needs of the whole person,” it says. “For example, by alleviating an emotional need, the chronic pain an individual is experiencing may be relieved. . . There are inherent links between the physical, social, spiritual, and emotional well-being of an individual that church-led initiatives are able to make.”

The projects include Mega Fitness, which helps churches to run community fitness programmes; Lyrics and Lunch, which runs groups for those living with dementia, and their carers; and ED Pastors, chaplaincy volunteers who work in A&E departments.

While acknowledging that it remains “a challenge to quantify the financial benefits” of such projects, the report emphasises that they tend to be inexpensive. The Cinnamon Network estimates that the average cost of setting up a project that it recognises is £650, with average yearly running costs of £280. This is largely owing to their reliance on volunteers.

Bishop Mullally welcomed the report as an “important contribution”: “If we are able to improve our health and the health of the community, we can contribute to the better use of . . . limited resources.”

The research was funded by the Allchurches Trust.

Giving a lecture at a celebration of Christian Healing Mission, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, described the NHS “as one of the great triumphs of post-war British life”, but said that its creation had raised questions about the part played by the Church.

He praised a recent book, For Good: The Church and the future of welfare, by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Canon Sam Wells, and Russell Rook and David Barclay, partners at the Good Faith Partnership.

It “takes the Church beyond nostalgia for the days when the Church was the main provider for things such as health care and charity,” Dr Tomlin said, “and points to a complementary and positive future relationship between the Church and the NHS”.

up to 50% of disabled people will be lonely on any given day;

 

6 million people aged 65 and over agree that the television is their main form of company Street Pastors and Street Angels also have a vital role to play, and one which is  gaining increasing significance within many towns and rural areas. Bushfield

(2016) argued that Street Pastors could have saved the NHS £13 million in  avoided emergency admissions, as they frequently dealt with front-line emergencies on the street.

 

People are quite isolated in the rural community. The care packages on discharge from hospital are very few and far between. And a lot of care agencies don’t cover some of these areas. So it is quite difficult to get people out of hospital with the appropriate amount of care.

The report is online here.

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Good News Bible: The Youth Edition

GNBYEYouth for Christ says: Young people helped us put this Bible together. We listened to their ideas and heard what really matters to them: information to help them learn and dig deeper into the Bible’s message, challenges to make them think about what they read and tools to help them act on it – as well as time to reflect and space to create through journalling, drawing and adding colour.

Key features:

  • links to a dedicated YouTube playlist with 30 videos unpacking and offering support on key themes and issues found in the Bible
  • hundreds of interactive elements throughout the Bible to encourage a deeper engagement with the text
  • space for writing, doodling and drawing
  • a full-page introduction to each book of the Bible, showing what it’s all about and how it fits into a bigger story
  • 32 colour pages of key things to know about the Bible, help with tough topics, and journaling space

Yes, young people need guidance on how to read the bible but I don’t think they should be told how to interpret it or what to believe.

I think the text of the GNB is too difficult and dense for many young people and I can see the appeal if the NIV in this respect.

Kids used to love colouring in the line drawings and ths edition has made that ‘official’.

They can’t resist compromising the integrity of the text with their own, evangelical, interpretation – so the near-sacrifice of Isaac gets overlaid with stuff about the crucifixion of Jesus.

They rush to be topics by talking of climate-change issues after the Genesis creation stories.

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