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Nothing More and Nothing Less: A Lent Course based on the film I, Daniel Blake – Virginia Moffatt

NMANLOf the many books on the market this year, this one was the one I chose for the course I am leading.

It uses the powerful, multi-award winning film I, Daniel Blake, directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty, as an opportunity for us to question why so many people in our society are suffering, what causes injustice and oppression – looking at examples from Jesus’ time as well as today – and what we can do in response.

The course is based around five weekly group sessions entitled:

  • Systems of Oppression
  • Staying Human
  • Compassion in the Darkness
  • Fighting Back or Giving In?
  • The Suffering Servant

Each session includes suggested clips from I, Daniel Blake to watch as a group (with timings for a DVD or film download), reflection points and discussion starters, a suitable Bible reading and prayers, and a short section of suggestions for ways in which course members could make a positive practical response.

She shows an ignorance of New Testament scholarship in her treatment of the Good Samaritan and she doesn’t know what the Ten Commandments are.


Pinochet’s Chile 1973-1990: In 1973, General Pinochet mounted a successful coup against the left-wing President Allende. Following the coup, opposition groups were rounded up and many were tortured and killed. During the worst years of the Pinochet regime, dissent was ruthlessly suppressed and left wing activists, church members and unionists were regularly tortured or murdered.

North Korea present day: In North Korea today, all workers are expected to prepare for the day by reading through political instructions and end it by evaluating the day including self-criticism and colleague criticism. Meanwhile, the government runs a brutal system of labour camps for 200,000 prisoners, and has a three generational punishment policy, so grandchildren can be forced to endure the punishment of their grandparents.’

Can you see any links between these examples of repression and the DWP system that affects Daniel and Katie?

Have you ever been complicit in oppression, e.g. not supporting a bullied colleague, buying goods from a repressive regime? What stopped you from speaking up? Would you do it differently next time?

What do oppressive systems have in common?

What should Christians do in the face of oppression?

The biopsychosocial model of disability sees disability and ill health as being part of a complex interaction of biological, psychological and social issues. This model suggests that the problems created by illness and disability can be overcome if people are supported to understand the roots of their illness better.

The medical model of disability was the dominant model for much of the twentieth century. This often led to sick and disabled people being at best, institutionalised, and at worst, treated dismissively by the professionals they encountered. The failure ()I medical institutions and the emerging disability fights movement in the 1970s brought this model lo the forefront, and the social model began to take prominence from the 1980s onwards. While in recent Limes, campaigns by sick people have led to the idea of he ‘expert’ patient, who knows as much or more than 1he medic treating their condition, and whose views ‘,hould be equal when discussing treatment plans.

In the last twenty years, the biopsychosocial model has grown in significance, as we have begun to understand that the causes of ill health are complex. It has been particularly promoted by insurance companies keen to avoid expensive claims for health related absence from work.

Imagine that you are living in an authoritarian regime, where small breaches of the rules result in punishment. One day you commit a minor infringement of the law for which you receive a hefty fine and a warning. There are mitigating circumstances, so you protest, your fine is doubled and now you are marked as a troublemaker. You work for a government body and they are notified. A few weeks later you are told about a new initiative to save money. When you point out the flaws in the programme you are demoted and your salary reduced, putting pressure on the family budget. You are warned that if you raise any further issues you may lose your job. You have seen this happen to people many times, so you know it is not an idle threat.

In this session we have been thinking about how we might try and maintain our humanity living under an oppressive regime. But what happens afterwards? When you are finally released from your anguish? Or when the regime is no more? How do you stay human then?

For some people, the experience is so destructive, their lives will never the same again. Paddy Hill was one of the Birmingham Six. Wrongly accused of planting the 1974 Birmingham bomb that killed 21 people and injured. 162 others, Hill was beaten up by the police, I hreatened with a gun and eventually convicted along with five other men, mainly on the basis of false confessions. They were to spend sixteen years in prison before finally being released in 1991. The men were released without being given counselling. This has been particularly hard on Hill, who still struggles with the trauma he endured, to such an extent that he dreams of killing policemen, cannot forgive his captors and finds it difficult to maintain relationships with the people he loves. He attributes his current problems to the lack of professional help he received on his release.

For others, it seems possible to find a way through the trauma. The whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who released evidence of US war crimes in Iraq, was often treated harshly in prison, being placed in solitary confinement and not receiving appropriate support when she came out as transgender. However, her statement on leaving prison in May 2017 suggests someone whose aim is to turn her suffering into something positive:

‘For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine. Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periodsof solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts. I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters.

‘I watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians and artists. My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others.’

In an earlier scene that we watched last week Daniel experiences a similar moment of compassion, when he visits the job centre and sees the member of staff who had been kind to him the previous week. She is helping him, when her boss intervenes and tells her not to. In this scene we see Daniel meeting another that they would likely be ill-treated on their return. While the majority of soldiers complied with these orders some resisted. Those that followed orders were complicit in the imprisonment, deaths and torture that followed. Those that didn’t helped the refugees escape.

Yugoslavian refugees were also subjected to the same treatment during this period. My brother-in-law’s father, Roger Williams, was in a platoon given orders to repatriate people fleeing oppression in Yugoslavia. They were painfully aware of the Nuremberg Trials, and the knowledge that ‘following orders’ was no longer a sufficient reason not to help. Recognising the Yugoslavians as fellow human beings first, they refused the order, and saved lives, despite facing possible punishment themselves. Shortly afterwards Roger met and married a German woman, Rosemarie, with whom he had a long and very happy marriage, proving in the best way possible that there is always a human being beyond the idea of the ‘enemy:

In recent years in Europe we have seen large numbers of refugees fleeing wars. We have seen borders erected and many countries choosing to turn people back. Every day border staff are faced with the same dilemma Roger Williams faced, to let people cross or turn them back. Meanwhile, many who choose to help refugees are criminalised. In 2015, three Spanish firefighters working for an NGO were arrested in Greece after they rescued refugees from the sea. Despite receiving a great deal of support for their actions, they are facing trial for human trafficking, while other activists have been fined for giving refugees lifts or cups of coffee. Were Roger and his colleagues right to ignore orders and let the Yugoslavians stay?

Should we criminalise people who help refugees?

Is there a limit to how open our borders can be? Is it right to follow orders to maintain them?

Is there a Christian response to the refugee crisis?

The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, ‘We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.’ Let us share some thoughts about how we might do this.

Ken Loach and Paul Laverty made the film I, Daniel Blake as a response to the harm created by the work capability assessment. Story telling is a technique many organisations and campaign groups use to raise awareness of an injustice. In 2011, Lisa Chalkley, a mental health activist, and I began the Atos Stories Collective as a way of challenging Atos Healthcare, a private company appointed by Labour to manage the work capability assessment at the time. We asked for people’s experiences to help us create a play which could be performed by anyone, anywhere to inform the public about what was happening. The result was Atos Stories, a play for performance inspired by these statements, and The Atos Monologues which used the direct text from participants. The work was freely downloadable. The play was performed by the Newham theatre group, Act Up! Newham, who performed Atos Stories in 2012. The Monologues were used by many groups and read as part of vigils, demonstrations and performances. The project culminated in 2013 with a mass read which happened both on the streets of Oxford and Lampeter and online with stories shared by livestreaming, podcast and on twitter.’

Take an issue you care about such as welfare cuts, homelessness, refugees, and find a project that has published real life experiences about this subject (some examples are given in the resources section at the end). Depending on the amount of time you have available, as a group either:

Plan a public event to read these stories, OR share these stories via your social media accounts,

OR tell other people about them.

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Fullness of Life Together, Reimagining Christian engagement in our communities – Church Urban Fund

FOLTThousands of churches around the country are working to support people in their communities, providing activities ranging from food banks and debt advice, to night shelters and job clubs.

This report reflects on the way in which churches engage with our communities. It asks questions about the dominance of service delivery models in Christian community engagement and offers alternatives drawing on Co-production and Asset-based Community development.

Using case studies from around the country, theological reflection and questions for discussion it invites Christians seeking to impact their communities to reflect on how they might do this in ways that build community and result in life in all its fullness, shared together.

Rather than being restricted by the world’s “service delivery model”, which is ultimately “needs-based”, the church “should be a place where alterative visions are allowed to flourish and grow, where hope is offered and new approaches found (or indeed, ancient ones re-found)”.

The report highlights four ways that this service delivery model is limiting:

  1. By definition, the service users come to be defined primarily by their problems or needs, encouraging dependence on the service provider to meet that need.
  2. There is a risk of dehumanising both the service provider and use, limiting them, respectively, to boxes to be ticked and problems to be solved.
  3. This, inevitably, leads to division and separation within communities, to groups being formed according to issues.
  4. This can consequently weaken community bonds, as the natural mutual support system withers due to disuse.

There are places in society where professional relationships are helpful. But, if we start seeing church as one of these professional bodies of experts going into communities to service their needs, we are treading on dangerous ground.

Are we not invited to build real friendships and reciprocal relationships with those the world deems on the margins? Doesn’t Jesus invite us all into community with one another united around him? He ate with prostitutes, tax collectors and fisherman. He treated them as whole people with things to offer and trusted that through relationship transformation would occur.

Jesus did not teach us to define others, or ourselves, by our skills or our deficits, but by the fact that we are the Father’s children.

The world’s service based model undermines this truth in three major ways, as highlighted in the report:

  1. The concept of a service user’s identity being defined by a need or problem.
  2. The position of authority given to the service provider can be unhelpful for both parties, potentially dehumanising and disempowering them.
  3. The lack of space allowed for relationships limits long-term change.

Rather than depending on systems that ensure service provider and user are kept at a safe distance, enabling the user’s need to be met yet ultimately disempowering them, might the Church pioneer the old model of reciprocal community and relationships?

Livability and CUF suggest there are viable alternatives to the world’s way that give truer expression to the gospel’s heart for community.

The first, the co-production model, seeks to empower those receiving public services by involving them in the process. This model radically reimagines the way that services are provided by seeking to engage those using the services, their families and neighbours in a reciprocal relationship with the professional.

The report found that “where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change.”

Adopting this approach demands a culture shift from those who deliver and receive services, and “crucially requires people to believe that they make a difference.”

The second approach, Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) seeks to build on the assets that are already found in the community and mobilise individuals, focusing on the skills present in a group of people rather than their needs.

The shift of focus away from the need towards the gift seeks to enable and empower community members to participate.

This church should not be a body of service providers seeking to meet the needs of the marginalised in a remote manner. We are not a professional institution with a set of skills which can meet the needs of a community while keeping that community at arm’s length. We are a body of believers seeking to serve and transform society through relationships.

As the report concludes, “We are called to stand alongside the most marginalised in our society, to work for justice and to create communities in which a new reality is seen: to offer glimpses, however faltering, of the incoming Kingdom of God. This requires us to be alert to the ways in which we might be uncritically accepting the status quo, by listening to God and to the people of our neighbourhoods, particularly those suffering marginalisation.”

If we can reimagine the church as a community, rather than a building, which extends beyond a Sunday, then this model of community engagement might begin to make more sense. It ceases to be a Sunday club with “outreach ministries” and is transformed into a prophetic community, existing in relationship with one another.

You can download it from here

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Dust That Dreams of Glory: Reflections on Lent and Holy Week by Michael Mayne

DTDOGOne of the most profound of the Lent books in offer this year.

This collects together never-before-published seasonal material for Lent and Holy Week by the much-loved Anglican priest and writer Michael Mayne.

Michael Mayne was one of Anglicanism’s most compelling and attractive voices, a gifted preacher and writer whose works have remained popular.

This collection offers material from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, including a sequence of seven meditations on the words of Christ from the cross.

These unpublished writings are offered as both a preaching and devotional resource at a time of the year when many seek fresh ways of opening up familiar texts.

Lent, he finds is not a bleak, forbidding time, but a positive and optimistic opportunity for remembering who and what we truly are: ‘Dust, yes, but dust that dreams of glory. Dust that has a deep, aching sense both of its mortality, and of its reaching after the God glimpsed in Jesus whom one day we shall see face to face. Lent is a time for remembering where our true home lies, and for setting our face once again in that direction.’ Dust that dreams of Glory also includes sequences of reflections for Good Friday and on the seven last words of Christ, which will be welcomed as a profoundly rich and inspiring resource for worship and personal devotion during Holy Week.




Of course I am tempted ­as you are — to put God to the test, to look for special protection especially when sickness or danger threatens. And it’s all because I doubt that I really am a child of God. That’s the real tempta­tion: my reluctance to become what I truly am — my failure to grasp and to live by the life-changing truth that I am baptized, that I am a child of God: in St Paul’s words, an ‘heir of God and a joint heir with Christ’. If it is true that we are sons and daugh­ters of God, then we must act as if we believe it.

We Christians are not exempt from the lightning flash or the cancer cell, from accident or sud­den death. If we leap off pinnacles of temples we shall be killed. What it does mean is that we become those who say with Job, `Though he slay me, yet will I trust him’, or with the dying Jesus: `Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’

Yet Lent is not a bleak, forbidding time, but a very positive and optimistic remembering of who and what we truly are. ‘Dust’, yes, but dust that dreams of glory. Dust that has been claimed by God. Dust that has a deep, aching sense both of its mortality and of its reaching after the God glimpsed in Jesus whom one day we shall see face to face. Lent is a time for remembering where our true home lies, and for setting our face once again in that direction.

The Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer hit upon this delightful metaphor for our place in God’s universe: It is as if you were to ask a bookworm crawling inside a copy of War and Peace whether it is a good novel or a bad one. He is sitting on one little letter trying to get some nourishment. How can he be a critic of Tolstoy?

There is a fine book by an English theologian, W. H. Vanstone, called The Stature of Waiting, in which he relates the active and passive aspects of Jesus’ life to the pattern of our own. As we grow older, or if we are disabled, we become those for whom things are done or to whom they are done, and there is a great art in learning how to receive, how to endure patiently and cre­atively, how to rise to the stature of waiting. For God himself, incarnate in Jesus, has become one who discloses himself to us as a passive receiver and has placed himself wholly in our hands.

And God is to be seen in us both in our active, creative lives and in our passivity when that is forced on us, and he will be seen in the spirit in which we accept what others do for us, in how we respond to those on whom we now depend. Those forced to be inactive or to suffer by sickness, handicap or old age must not feel, and must not be made to feel, that they are any less valuable as human beings, or that they do not have a real contribution to make.

There’s a medieval poem that goes like this:

A poor lad once and a lad so trim,

Gave his heart to her who loved not him;

And said she ‘Bring me tonight, you rogue,

Your mother’s heart to feed my dog.’


To his mother’s house went the young man,

Killed her, cut out her heart, and ran.

But as he was running, look you, he fell,

And the heart rolled out on the ground as well.


And the lad, as the heart was a-rolling, heard

The heart was speaking and this was the word

­The heart was a-weeping, and crying so small:

`Are you hurt, my child? Are you hurt at all?’

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St Michael and All Angels Windmill Hill Bedminster A Parish History 125 Years by John Tooze

SMAAAWHBOHWindmill Hill prides itself as standing apart from the rest of Bedminster and its church resisted becoming part of the large team ministry in the area.

Like most histories of this kind, there are many names of vicars though not a lot more information about them. Famous clergy include the physicist John Polkinghorne.

In 1926 it caught  fire – newspapers maintained that it was somebody’s protest against recent moves to make St Michael’s more ‘Anglo-Catholic’, principally the introduction of vestments, an idea strongly refuted by Rev Salmon

The new church was designed by the Diocesan Architect, Mr Hartland Thomas, who also designed St Cuthbert’s, Brislington, St. Oswald’s, Bedminster Down and Shirehampton Parish Church.

The first event was a service held on 9 January to mark the 60th anniversary of the fire that nearly destroyed the church building. Hymns sung during this service included ‘Light up the Fire’ and ‘Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning!’

You can download it from here

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Generous Ecclesiology Church, World and the Kingdom of God ed. by Julie Gittoes et al

GEIan Mobsby claims: Nothing is more exciting and envisioning than when bishops take informed and prayerful risks, and share prophetic wisdom.

Methinks he needs to get out more. However, he is on the money when he says: our secular society has given birth to a sense of the sacred, and yet our sacred traditions are failing to recognize the spiritual potential.

Mission-Shaped Church talks about the sort of good people the church would like but ignores the outsiders. One hospital chaplain really understands this – and the church fails to understand sector ministry.  Meanwhile, the proponents of the parish system and everyone to fit in with their idea of ‘church’.

I know most of the contributors to this book but I don’t feel that they know much about me and my life. They write of some ideal, far detached from reality – like the church generally.

Ten diverse writers grapple with issues raised by Mission-Shaped Church and

For the Parish, drawing on their experience in parishes, diocesan leadership, Fresh Expressions and chaplaincies.

Mission-Shaped Church (2004) is the Church of England report that called for fresh expressions of church to respond to a changing cultural context and networked society. It urged championing an innovative range of different ways of doing church in a “mixed economy” alongside existing parishes, training a new breed of pioneering leaders, and making church accessible to unchurched people.

For the Parish (2010) is a critical response that defends the parish church as a basis for mission and upholds the importance of inherited worship patterns. The debate can be polarizing and adversarial, often along evangelical-catholic lines. This volume calls for a more generous approach in appreciating the need for ecclesiology and missiology, inheritance and innovation, redemptive and incarnational theology, and engagement with liturgy and the world.

Stephen Conway advocates a refocusing of the bishop’s apostolic-prophetic role in mission for the sake of those in the diocese outside church circles, and not being preoccupied with administrative and maintenance matters. We need this reframing not just for Anglican bishops but for leaders of other denominations and networks.

Jeremy Morris traces the origins of Anglican social witness in the mid-nineteenth century and its interest in incarnational engagement with society and politics. Anglo-Catholic tradition stressed that the church’s relationship with the most vulnerable in society was reflected in the quality of worship. Bishop of Zanzibar Frank Weston said famously to the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress: “You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle if you do not pity Jesus in the slum”

Incarnational witness and radical experimentation in mission are not new, nor the prerogative of a particular church stream. There is much to learn from our traditions and history. The challenge of inculturation is to be innovative for the missional context while being faithful to Scripture and tradition. James Heard discusses what this means for Anglican churches wanting to be faithful to their heritage while also communicating their faith afresh to a new generation.

Mission-Shaped Church might stress the need for innovation and For the Parish stresses fidelity to tradition, but in a generous ecclesiology they are better together.

Brutus Green advocates a more positive view of contemporary culture and technology (in contrast to the defensive critical view of For the Parish), without compromising to its values (as some suggest Mission-Shaped Church does). Generous ecclesiology needs to be generous not just within the streams of the church, but generously engaging with where God is active in local and global cultures.

Julie Gittoes explores Daniel Hardy’s metaphor of church as “careful walking” that is both formed by worship and embodied by expressing its witness through its wandering and spread-out-ness in the world. The church becomes and lives up to being the church as it imitates and embodies Jesus and his mission “on the road”.

The Wesleyan doctrine of assurance, suggests Tom Greggs, has implications for defining church as intrinsically overflowing in love for others in compassionate service.

As a hospital chaplain, Robert Thompson argues that Mission-Shaped Church and For the Parish both need more sensitivity to people of all faiths—or none —who still deserve our compassion and care. He suggests an image of the Church as “Christ’s Holy/Sick Body” and our need for repentance and healing. Thompson appeals particularly for attention to issues of prayer, gender/sexuality and money, arguing if we do not address these issues we will find it increasingly difficult to be heard on other matters that reflect the generosity of God’s reign.

God expressed boundless love for the world on the cross, and Jonathan Clark urges the church to reflect that with radical inclusion as a community as well as being exclusively committed to Christ. He admits this is a process. Ideally the church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” but in reality it is also “plural, fallen, squabbling and inward-looking”. The closer we get to Jesus’ world-embracing perspective from the cross, the more inclusive and generous we will become.


The Eucharist lies at the heart of Christian life. It is the act of worship (including the ministry of the Word) in which the central core of the biblical gospel is retold and re-enacted.

For just as the Church is ‘not just another human interest group, so the Eucharist is not just a ritual activity com­peting for time and space with other religious acts that human beings perform’.” The Church, its worship and its mission, are grounded in the social life of the Trinity. It is from the being of God that the Church receives its identity, life and purpose. It is a place of invitation, encounter and commissioning. The Eucharist is where the Church is called into being,  its calling is refreshed. It is a place of a where the community is transformed. The fulfillment of the kingdom is anticipated in worship

The bishop has a prophetic calling too. Many of the prophets among the Hebrews had nothing to do with the Temple and the religious establishment. Priests and the cult in general were their targets. First Isaiah was obviously close to the royal court, however, as was Nathan under David. Jeremiah was not from Jerusalem, but came to live close to the heart of the cult in Jerusalem. Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet. Bishops have to live with the tension of being both at the heart of ‘the Temple’ and yet not bound to it.

mission do not stand still guarding the treasures, but lead the people out, expecting God’s treasures yet to be revealed

Marx himself had written in the Communist Manifesto that ‘Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat’.

Maurice’s idea of the Church as a constitution for humanity functioned as just one aspect of a threefold idea of human association, albeit the highest one, for alongside the Church, Maurice also conceived of the nation and the family as intrinsic aspects of God’s providential and creative care.” I cannot deal with the family here, but the concept of nation for Maurice effectively expressed the notion of the local church: the one catholic Church was encountered in and through na­tional churches. Nationality was divinely intended.”

Gore – the incarnation as the central principle by which the evolution of history could be understood Christianly

The primary location for innovation, in practice and also in theory, was almost al­ways the parish, for that is where the ministry of the Church was located and where the people of God could meet to offer prayer and praise. Thus the revival and renewal of eucharistic worship was definitely part of a ‘social programme’ for Anglo­Catholics. But they were also instrumental in developing parish missions, active in encouraging social and welfare organiza­tions for the local community, prepared if necessary to engage socially and politically to promote the well-being of the local community, and willing in themselves (hence the mythology of the ‘slum-priests’) to demonstrate that `incarnational living’

not much more than a talking shop, after all. Christian Socialist groups were notoriously small and fissipa­rous in the early twentieth century,

would leave the Church stranded, wrapped up in its own affairs. They sought the transformation of the Church, not through a centralized campaign, but by its reinvigoration at local level.

[W]orship divorced from so social righteousness is an abomination to God.'”

Jaroslav Pelikan’s well-known phrase is a helpful reminder: ‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Trad­ition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.’

Babel is not undone by Pentecost, however; just as Christian­ity does not define its eschatology as a return to Eden. The utopian pure language of Zephaniah remains just out of reach in the saeculum and the welcoming of plurality — including that of a ‘mixed-economy church’ — is less `ecclesial apartheid’ and more the reception of the gifts of the Spirit. The proper preface for Whitsunday in the Book of Common Prayer celebrates ‘the gift of divers languages’, as the gift of the Spirit by which the apostles are to preach the gospel to all nations. Timothy Rosen-dale reminds us that, `[t]he Prayerbook had its debut on this auspicious day [Pentecost] in 1549, and this service announces a self-authorizing new enhancement through the vernacular of both the English nation and the English individual’. The `divers languages’ of Pentecost are taken as the authoritative justification of the foundation of Protestant churches, including the Church of England. Even if we await an eschatological pure speech, it will be a new language tongued with fire; Christians do not look back to the garden of their past but await the new

city of God’s future.

The Scriptures we read embody the complexity of human life lived before God, and the struggles of holiness; the Eucharist we participate in embodies brokenness and betrayal as well as forgiveness and abundance. These practices shape us: ‘As it re­fers all social meaning to the truth of God, the Church is much more conditional than is recognized by those who suppose it is somehow complete and perfect. Whatever grasp it has of the truth of God, it still needs the deepest formation

Wesley – ‘outward fruits’ — ‘the doing good to all men, the doing no evil to any’.34 This is far from a self-occupied concern with personal salvation: personal salvation is known through a reorientation of one’s life away from self-occupied concerns about one’s salvation and towards the other.

My suspicion is that it is absent because the implicit theology of religions that arises from its dualistic construction of the Church and the world would, if explicitly stated, be extremely unpalatable for far too many both within and outside the Church. If God is not in the world, God is therefore not to be found in any other form of religious expression apart from the Christian Church. MSC offers an implicit form of religious exclusivism and sect­arianism that is extremely problematic for the engendering of good relationships in civil society between people of all faith and none.

In relation to the first of these points, MSC in its main document has really nothing to say about pastoral care at all. It does not really fit into its focus with church growth in numerical terms and the propagation of new forms of ‘being Church’. On the second point, MSC, as FTP rightly critiques, does not really have a doctrine of creation at all. That’s really quite frightening. It’s frightening because to omit a doctrine of creation is  to construct a religious sectarianism that is unable to see the activity of God outside of our own communities and unable to encounter the face of God in any face that is uch different from our own.

The censing of altars points us towards the holiness of God that is revealed in Jesus’ offering of his entire life to God and to others, and which culminates in his death, resurrection and ascension. God’s holiness is revealed in God’s brokenness in Christ’s body, which — to return to Matthew 25 — is a broken­ness that is encountered in others. The thurible should be seen as Christ’s call for us to care for sick bodies.

the `secular’ public institution is perceived by many of us who are LGBTi as embodying values more consonant with the heart of Jesus’ teaching about, and his embodiment of, the Reign of God. Or to put it another way, for many LGBTi priests in sec­tor ministry there is always a very clear — and indeed difficult — tension between Christology, ecclesiology and eschatology. MSC does not really address any of these classical categories of Christian theology at all. FTP rightly points out how devoid of any real theological reflection that volume tends to be. However, FTP offers us a collapse of these categories into one f another and so relieves us of all tension. In FTP Jesus is the Church and the Church is the kingdom. If that were the case, many of us, and indeed many who may be attracted to a more realistic and honest self-understanding of the Church, would simply, on moral grounds, not choose to be Christian at all.

Although von Balthasar does not go on to spell this out, the suffering to which we are called in the Church may be exactly that unbearably painful stretching out of cru­cifixion, to embrace those who (we feel) deserve no embrace.

If faith is the Church’s, then we can proclaim it with con­fidence, without making every individual feel that they need to sign up to every word before they cross the threshold. In fact, quite the opposite: the Church can with confidence welcome the seeker, the unbeliever, the casual wanderer in, and let them if they wish become an integral part of the body, because the faith is the whole Church’s, not the sum total of the individual belief of the people who happen to be present.

It is the language of drawing a line that deceives us here, in my view. The Church doesn’t need a boundary rope — it needs a heart. It is the central identity of the Church that preserves its uniqueness: the identity that is expressed through the exclu­sive commitment to Christ which allows no other.

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It’s just everywhere”: A study on sexism in schools – and how we tackle it – National Education Union and UK Feminista, 2017

IJEThe title of this report – “It’s just everywhere” – are the words of a girl who was asked about her experiences of sexism at school as part of this study

Sexism and sexual harassment in schools has been normalised and is rarely reported by students.

Reporting and responding to sexism in schools

The main findings include:

  • Over a third (37%) of girls at mixed-sex schools have been sexually harassed while at school.
  • 66% of female students and 37% of male students in mixed-sex sixth forms have experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in schools.
  • Over a third (34%) of primary school teachers say they witness gender stereotyping in their schools on at least a weekly basis.
  • 64% of teachers in mixed-sex secondary schools hear sexist language in schools on at least a weekly basis.

A total of 1,508 students and 1,634 teachers were questioned about their experiences and views on sexism in schools.

The report calls on the Government to take urgent steps to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in schools. This includes issuing national guidance to schools on how to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment and sexual violence, and ensuring teachers receive the necessary training, resources and support to develop a whole school strategy for tackling sexism – from the early years in primary schools through to secondary schools.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary at the National Education Union, said:

“This study finds sexism is an issue affecting every school and college. Our study reveals that we must address the gender stereotypes and the ideas about men and women that lead to such prevalent levels of sexual harassment. As we come to the end of 2017, we’ve lived through a year in which sexual harassment of women and girls has been at the forefront of the public eye. This study shows us how normalised and pervasive it is for young people also. Sexual harassment and regular sexist remarks are patterns that most girls and young women come to view as ‘normal’. This sets up expectations about peer relationships and gender which can lead to real harm for girls’ and boys’ self-confidence and aspirations about life.

“Schools and colleges have an important role to play in breaking down stereotypes but education policy is making it harder and not easier. We are not giving schools and teachers the tools, time and teaching environments they need. The Government, alongside the profession, needs to develop teacher training about the best ways to reduce sexism in the classroom and to use the formal and informal curriculum to make a difference for girls and boys. In this study, only one in five teachers say the national curriculum gives them adequate scope and flexibility to enable schools to prevent sexism. Teachers tell us that barriers to tackling sexism include an overly heavy focus on academic subjects and teacher workload being too high.”

Sophie Bennett, spokesperson for UK Feminista, said: 

“The results of our study are clear: schools, Ofsted and the Government must act urgently to tackle sexism in schools. Sexual harassment, sexist language and gender stereotyping are rife in school settings, yet all too often it goes unreported and unaddressed.

“To combat sexism in the classroom, the Government should issue national guidance to schools; Ofsted should recognise schools and teacher training providers that take effective action to tackle sexism; and schools should adopt a ‘whole school approach’ to tackling sexism – which includes zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

“The solutions are clear; what has been lacking is the political will to act. All those with the power to make schools safe for girls must now step up – from Downing Street to the staff room.

“We need to stop schools being places where girls and boys learn that sexual harassment and sexism are routine, normal, accepted. It would transform school life – and society as a whole.”

The reporting of incidents of sexism and sexual harassment is crucial to providing support to those who experience it, establishing the scale of the problem, and preventing it from occurring in the future. To enable this, students need to know how and who to report incidents to, and be confident that they will be taken seriously and the report acted upon. While there are some schools doing excellent work to identify and respond to sexism, our research findings indicate that the majority of schools are not.

The main reason students give for not reporting incidents of sexism and sexual harassment is how common it is:

it is seen as an everyday part of students’ lives.

There is a vicious cycle of under-reporting of sexism in schools.

Even when an incident occurs that students clearly recognise as harmful and unwanted, students are currently unlikely to report it. They do not believe the teacher

would take reports of sexism and sexual harassment seriously, and anticipate that they would be viewed as being difficult and oversensitive.

IJE 2Government

The Department for Education (DfE) must urgently make  tackling sexism and sexual harassment in schools a policy priority. To realise this policy priority, the DfE should:

Issue guidance to all schools on how to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence. The guidance should be developed in consultation with sexual violence specialists, education professionals and education unions.

Create a fund to support specialist sector organisations to provide capacity-building support to schools on tackling sexism and sexual harassment.

Ensure the curriculum for relationships and sex education (RSE), across

all key stages, is designed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment among children and young people and that RSE teachers have access to high quality professional development.


All Ofsted inspectors should receive comprehensive training on  how schools can address and prevent sexism.

Ofsted should recognise schools that take effective action to tackle sexism.

Inspections of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers should include an assessment of whether the training course adequately equips trainees with the skills they need to tackle sexism in the classroom.

Initial Teacher Training Providers

Training on how to tackle sexism should be a core and compulsory component of all ITT courses.

It’s online here

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Dethroning Mammon: Making money serve grace – Justin Welby

DMMAMMON is a real and personal force, the Archbishop of Canterbury says. It infects global economics and individual relationships; nor is the Church immune.

Archbishop Welby makes his case in Dethroning Mammon, a book written for Lent. In it he makes it clear that he is not “anti-money” but anti people’s attitudes to money.

“The more interconnected the world becomes, the more power is held over individuals and nations by economics, by money and flows of finance. Mammon [is] a name given by Jesus to this force.. .

“The more we let ourselves be gov­erned by Mammon, the more power he has, and the more the vulnerable suffer.”

Speaking about the book, Arch­bishop Welby said: “The power of Mammon is absolutely colossal: it grips us entirely. Very few people escape it, and those we call saints.”

This is the first book that the Arch­bishop has written, the fruit of 30 years’ observation of the markets’ influence. He wanted to give a sense that “what you are and what you’re worth is more than your bank balance,” a Lambeth source said.

The chapter headings spell out Archbishop Welby’s thesis:

“What we see we value”: in which he questions the values of the banks and the stock exchange: “Markets are very persuasive influences: they claim sovereignty over perception. Thus the ‘right’ price of something traded in the market is what the market says, even if that price bears no reasonable relation to the value of the effort put in, the imagination involved, or the underlying costs and lives of the producers.”

“What we measure controls us”, which is a key part of the Arch­bishop’s thesis: that Mammon per­suades people that the only worth to be noted is financial. The Church is both a victim of this and a perpet­rator: a victim, in that the countless hours of voluntary work are dis­missed when assessing the Church’s health; and a perpetrator when it judges the success of a church by the growth of its finance or members.

“What we have we hold”: in an economy where financial institu­tions are retaining greater liquidity than ever before, Archbishop Welby writes that here, is little evidence to support the trickle-down theory of wealth, “not least because tridde­down does not account for human nature”. The Archbishop is known to be critical of the conditions that people in the Church are increas­ingly attaching to their donations, holding on to their wealth to control the actions of others.

“What we receive we treat as ours”, in which the Archbishop argues that, through the act of washing his disciples’ feet, Christ redefined power and separated it from wealth. He also raises uncomfortable ques­tions about the influence of Prot­estant Christianity on the develop­ment of world markets, through its acceptance of interest.

“What we give we gain”: “Money”, the Archbishop writes, “is one part of the God-given economy of abundance which enables us to show solidarity and to build rela­tionships. It brings us closer to people far away.”

What we master brings us joy”: de­throning Mammon requires people to listen (“The deceptions of Mam­mon are endless”); repent (asking “What do we want wealth for?”); and enthrone Christ in Mammon’s place.

Archbishop Welby argues that the Church should not be afraid to be prophetic. “We give Mammon au­thority as though it were divine, when it is a fraudulent misrepresentation of inevitability. . . I am not pretending that the rules of normal economics do not apply, or that there is a Christian way of ignoring them.

Supply and demand, risk and reward, the gift of the free market to locate goods well, the need for balance in the flows of money within the economy, all continue to be relevant. But they are not God.”

The Archbishop is believed to be concerned about how Britain behaves post-Brexit. The trade deals that Britain makes to replace those in the EU are very important, “probably the most important thing we can do”, a Lambeth source said. To approach them without attempting to exert economic power over other nations would require “a huge amount of self‑discipline”.

It asks us to reconsider our entrapment by materialism.

Although it’s in 5 sections and has biblical passages and discussion questions, a group could do this at any lime of the year, not just during Lent. However, the questions are odd and won’t inspire much discussion and the overall style of the book is too verbose.

It ends, predictably, with credit unions, drop the debt ands the welfare state.


In some interpretations of the parable, the merchant represents the believer, who, after much seeking and finding of good things, finds that uniquely great thing, the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew’s Gospel the phrase is used to convey the idea of the area of God’s rule. We enter it only by surrender­ing to the King, Jesus himself. The merchant recognises that everything else he has held on to is worth nothing compared to this treasure, and that nothing is worth keeping if it stops him getting hold of the pearl of great value.

But the parable can be understood in another way; the merchant is God, who demonstrates that he will hold noth­ing back in order to claim that which is most precious. The pearl of great value represents you — and me — for whom God gives up his only Son in order that we may know ourselves as loved, claimed, belonging, ‘held’ close to God’s heart as his most valued treasure.

In the shadow of the cross (as the cover painting so vividly depicts), we are urged to see ourselves as the pearl in God’s hand; but also, at the same time, as merchants.

Lazarus was the perfect choice for this experience of the most dramatic of Jesus’ miracles. In his commentary on John’s Gospel, Jean Vanier (of whom, more later) suggests that the reason Lazarus, as an unmarried man, was living with his two unmarried sisters was that he had some kind of disability, or learning difficulty. It is noticeable that at no point does Lazarus speak, whereas his sisters both “seem extremely competent. Vanier does not claim any great insight on this but leaves it as a suggestion, and from my own experience I can see what sense it makes. Most families that I know where someone has a learning difficulty or disability find in that person a treasure, and Mary and Martha’s profound grief and their turning to Jesus indicates the depth of their relationship with Lazarus. Even if Lazarus did not have a disability, but was simply ill, he still represents someone who, in the world’s eyes, is of little to no value. He does not seem to be a contrib­uting member of society in any measurable economic sense.

But, whatever the reason for Lazarus living as an unmarried man in the care of two of his sisters, Jesus sees in him something extraordinarily special, his humanity, his being made in the image of God. In Lazarus, Jesus sees someone for whom it is worth risking his own life.

John’s Gospel describes it being worth 300denarii. We know that an average labourer one denarius for one day’s work. So this is the thick end a year’s pay for an average male’s work. In the UK today would be the equivalent of over £25,000.

Judas represents an economy of scarcity. His fundamental assumption is that there is not enough to go around, which is to say that Judas’ disposition is one of fear, and fear produces an anxiety to control. In this passage, Judas tries to exercise control on multiple fronts. Not only does he attempt to control how the disciples use their money, but he also tries to govern the manner in which Mary relates to Jesus. Judas believes power is predicated on regulation and management.

Mary, on the other hand, is decidedly out of control in this story. She is not concerned with anything but Jesus. She is not concerned with efficiency, or thrift, or measurement, or appearances. Mary embarrasses herself. She goes completely overboard. But she does so because she lives within an econ­omy of abundance — where God’s provision of manna in the wilderness far exceeds the Israelites’ hunger and their capac­ity to harvest it (see Exodus 16: I -3c). Spending money on Jesus and helping the poor are not mutually exclusive, because in the world that God has created there is always enough to go around. The value of things is determined not by their monetary value, but by their relationship to Jesus. In short, everything — including all the nard in the world — exists for Jesus. Mary assumes that there is enough nard in the world for God to accomplish everything God wants to accomplish

All our ambitions, for career, for family, for children and grandchildren, are to have Christ at the centre and Mammon dethroned; to recognise God’s abundant manna and to share it in the conviction that there is plenty for everyone.

We used to have an annual slogan in my parish give us some priorities for the year. It was a struggle to think of new ones until we found one that kept us going year after year: ‘more parties, less meetings’ . It sounded frivolous, but at its heart it said that we are a community not a corporation; we are a family, not an organisation.

In Revelation 3:14-22, the writer of Revelation (called John, and often thought to be the Apostle John himself, or one of his disciples) is relaying the words of the glorified Christ, revealed to him in a vision while on the Isle of Patmos. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation consist of letters, each following a simi­lar form, addressed to seven churches across what is now southwest Turkey. Seven is a significant number, indicating completeness, so these are letters to the whole Church, pick­ing up faults and strengths that apply in one way or another to all churches at some point in every part of the world. Yet, at the same time, they address the contemporary situation of each of the seven.

There is much discussion about the nature of the meaning of some of the words in the book of Revelation.¢ Each letter is addressed to the angel of the church in that place. This is taken to mean either a guardian angel for that church, or the local bishop. Each letter begins with a reference back to John’s vision in Revelation 1, and to the speaker, the glorified Christ. The letter in Revelation 3:14-22 is to the church in Laodicea, and begins by saying that it comes from ‘the Amen, the faith­ful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation’ (3 : 14). John Everything is connected, although the forcefulness of the imagery and the vividness of the colour used often lead us to assume that it is some kind of random series of images and visions, rather than a carefully collated and thoughtfully presented whole. John reminds the Laodiceans that the words of the letter come from the ‘Amen’ (the final word), the faith­ful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation. This is to tell them that what they are about to hear is definitive, is true, and speaks to the reality of everything. It is not a letter for a passing moment, but something that addresses what it is to be human, and what it is to live in God’s creation.

Each letter then continues with the phrase, ‘I know your works’, which is a way of communicating that each of these churches is truly and utterly exposed before God. There is no hiding. God knows who they truly are — their strengths and weaknesses, their triumphs and their faults. The prob­lem for Laodicea is that they have deceived themselves about the nature of their wealth and piality of life. In other words, Mammon is on the throne and they think it is Christ.

Are there parts of your life where you have mistaken Mammon for Jesus? What effect did it have?

Let me explain more fully. Laodicea was near Colossae, and also near Hierapolis. It was on a crossroads for two major trade routes, and in consequence was a great centre for exchange of goods, which were ‘transhipped’ rather than simply sold into Laodicea itself. Today’s equivalent would be a port like Rotterdam, where well over half the containers go in on one ship and out on another, or on another form of transport.

As a result, like many trading cities (London or Liverpool would be two other great examples), it developed a strong commercial life. There was a significant banking sector (Fin’s ancestors felt very at home in Laodicea), and it also had some of its own products, especially a very luxuriant black wool, and a very well-known form of eye-salve.When I was growing up, when we got sore eyes in the summer from sand blowing on the beach, we were always given Optrex. I am sure it was meant to be very effective, but it never seemed to do the childish me much good! By contrast, I imagine that those who put on some Laodicean eye-salve (Laodex?) felt much better. Theirs was then a prosperous city, with some useful products, much finance and certain needs.

One -unusual feature of Laodicean life was that it had no water supply of its own. Nearby, Hierapolis had hot springs, which were known for their healing quality. Colossae had cold springs, well known as refreshing. But the waters merged, and by the time they got to Laodicea, they had become salty and tepid.

This explains the frequently misunderstood verse from Revelation 3:16: ‘Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.’ This verse is often explained as suggesting that Jesus would prefer people to have no spiritual life at all rather than a tepid one (although obviously he would prefer a hot spiritual life). Such an explanation is patently absurd. He wants the Church to be either healing or refreshing — and preferably both — but not a nauseous mixture that is neither one thing nor the other.

No church ever escapes being infected by the spirit of the age. This was certainly true of Laodicea. Jesus says to the Laodiceans, ‘For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered and I need nothing.” You do not realise that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.’ These words are fero­cious. They profoundly challenge the Laodicean Christians’ view of themselves. Their wealth is an illusion. The word for ‘poor’ could be translated as destitute. Their spiritual poverty is not likened to the poverty of being a little short of the readies, but to the deeper poverty of rough sleeping, of not having any clothes, of sickness and total despair. This complacent church is actually rolling around in the gutter with nothing on. In consequence, it is in great danger of death.

The glorified Christ then gives advice (which echoes Isaiah 3-5) to these resourceless and deceived people, that they should ‘buy’ from him ‘gold refined by fire so that you may be rich’ (v. i 8) and all the other things they need to be clothed, and to have their eyes healed so that they may see properly. It is, of course, a ridiculous piece of advice. How can someone who is destitute buy gold? The answer is that we buy from Christ with the means that Christ gives us, his grace and his love, and the handing over of our lives.

In the ancient world, those who had absolutely no resources at all had but one means left of ensuring that they could survive, to sell themselves into slavery. Christ is saying to the Laodiceans that they should become his slaves and he will heal them, sort out their destitution, and set them up in a healthy and fit way. At that time, in places where there were kings, their subjects were often their slaves. Thus, for many people the choice, if they had one, was of whom to serve, rather than whether to serve.

The 1776 Declaration of Independence by the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America was revo­lutionary, not merely in throwing off the authority of King George III, but also because it talked of the right of every human being (or at least, at the time, of every white male human being) to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ . That breathtaking sentence, which has echoed around the world ever since, promotes the idea of autonomy, of being in charge of ourselves.Yet personal autonomy is an impossibility that conceals the enthroning of Mammon. In personal terms, autonomy assumes its own slavery — slavery to Mammon. The slavery may not be political, but it is moral and ethical as well as personal. In this passage in Revelation, Christ calls on the Laodiceans to see their real slavery, and to trade it for slavery to the one who brings true freedom.

The passage goes on to be increasingly positive. Jesus says that he disciplines those he loves, and therefore they should repent. He says that he stands at the door and knocks, and if they let him in, they will find that he sits and eats with them. Once again the words ‘Eat with’ do not do justice to the strength of the word used by John. The sense is of a leisurely, enjoyable time of fellowship, a feast of good company, a strengthening not only of body but also of mind, spirit and soul. This is the Christ who draws near to us and transforms our lives so completely that we become unrecognisable from the person we were before.

The passage ends with the promise that those who conquer will share the throne with Christ, in the same way  as he himself conquered and sits down with his Father on his throne. When we dethrone Mammon and enthrone Christ, we do not find ourselves serving another tyrant but are ourselves invited to sit with Christ and to share his throne. The seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral is very wide, enough for more than one person. In the stained glass of the cathedral, which is late medieval, the thrones of kings are always portrayed as very large, with the kings lounging across them. I never understood this, wondering if my predecessors in Augustine’s Seat were much bigger than I am, until someone explained that, as a mark of honour, kings would invite people to sit with them on their throne. Dethroning Mammon is not a grim commitment to austerity and grey asceticism, but leads to joy, to mastery and to celebration.

These verses in Revelation 3 link into another extraordi­nary passage in Revelation 18. Much later in the book, this approaches the culmination of the whole biblical story as the New Jerusalem, the City of God, descends from heaven. The New Jerusalem is a depiction of heaven, in which God’s just and gentle rule is established in every corner of creation. It is a picture of the ultimate urban regeneration, in which the city that is full of sin is replaced by the city that is full of God.

Revelation i 8 marks the end of the city of sin. In this chap­ter, the city of sin is called Babylon. It is described as a place full of the wealthy, of merchants. It is the place to which every trader on earth goes, and where all those who have enthroned Mammon seek to belong. It is the commercial hub of the world.

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