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Day of Prayer for those who have died on their way to Europe

Day of Prayer: Commemorating persons who lost their lives seeking safety

The Conference of European Churches calls on members and supporters to commemorate those who have died on their journey to find a dignified life in Europe with an annual day of prayer.

Together with the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), CEC is encouraging churches to hold services of commemoration on 21 June 2015, the Sunday closest to International Refugee Day.

Recent and ongoing war and strife in Syria, Libya, Eritrea and elsewhere have forced millions to flee their homelands. Due to strict border controls at EU external borders and with limited legal options to enter, refugees and migrants are forced to take extremely high risks or resort to using smugglers.

Between 2000 and 2014 more than 22 400 people are reported to have lost their lives on their way to Europe, often drowning at sea or suffocating in containers on trucks or ships.

Materials for prayer and worship have been prepared by CCME together with the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum and the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) – they can be found here 




time to ditch the concept of martyr?

It was recently the 70th anniversary of the death of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Amongst many of the ways of describing the German pastor and anti Nazi was that he was a martyr. In the strict sense of the word this is true, he was executed by the Nazis as he could not reconcile his faith with what was happening and became a strong opponent of Hitler, and was implicated in the plot against him. But it seems likely that Bonhoeffer himself would be conflicted about such a description. In their Easter Day sermons both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury referred to the 147 mainly Christian victims of the al-shabaab gunmen at Kenyan Garrissa University College as martyrs.  I am bothered that the term martyr changes the currency of murder. Surely in the eyes of murders the idea that their victims death is in anyway given this term can be seen as a justification for their actions, it must heighten the concept of a religious war.   Some of the rhetoric around appalling murders of Christians seems close to suggesting that these are of more significance than the deaths of others. It really is time to apply Human Rights law to such situations.  Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights covers it;”Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. Whatever our own belief we need to speak out in all situations whereby people are unable to live their lives. Sadly, it has sometimes been people of faith that have not supported human rights, but after more than 60 years of the UN declaration maybe we can finally move away from the old language and instead work towards rights for everyone.




The People have Left the Building

A few months ago I travelled back to the city i grew up in to attend the closing service for the church I had attended until I left for university aged 19. It was a big gothic pile of a place, terrible for disability access or flexible seating options but only 25 years ago it had been thriving with large numbers of people attending and community groups and childrens and youth groups using the premises. I don’t think anyone really saw its demise coming. In the 1980s we had celebrated the buildings centenary with events and a walk in costume from the original small chapel. Within just a few years the congregation had been reduced to a very few, mainly elderly people. The final straw was the building itself, designed by Victorian forebears to look impressive but not to comply with a 21st century fire certificate. Trends come and go, pepole change, the places we loved and were formative in our youth may not be around in our middle age. It serves us right if we thought that church as we knew it was any more permanent. But I wonder where it is that today’s children are discovering a sense of something beyond them, of the hope that the world can be a better place, where they can practise debate and expressing an opinion. Of asking questions? Before offer too sentimental I need to add a caveat, it wasn’t all great, the environment was sexist and certainly not LGBT friendly. It was centred in a really deprived community but struggled to reach out to many people from it. Just maintaining the fabric of the building took time and resources that could have been expended elsewhere. But the church has not  been directly replaced by anything else in the community, there is nowhere else to go. And it feels sad.




Of course Christians should engage in politics – but aren’t bishops already the establishment?

I’m sure the Church of England were expecting the inevitable furore over the publication of the pastoral letter written by their bishops ahead of the general election.  It seems entirely appropriate that Christians should be engaging in politics and using their faith to inform how they consider who to vote for. But what seemed very peculiar about the letter and the reaction towards it is the fact that a good number of the bishops of the Church of England sit unelected  in the House of Lords, so at the very least the tone of the letter is disingenuous. What does seem outrageous is that Bishops are suggesting to members of the Church of England that they should examine politicians and their manifestos when there is no process by which people can scrutinise the role that they have taken in decision making over the past 5 years. How about a letter stating how the bishops have voted during the last parliament- on matters such as equal marriage, for example – that would be very revealing?  Ordinary women and men only have the opportunity to choose who they would like to run the country at a General Election – they maybe don’t need people who are able to vote against, or veto the work of the elected government but who have no similar mandate themselves – telling them what to think.  I’m much more persuaded to listen to the voices of organisations such as Church Action on Poverty, who base their work on a commitment to those who do not readily have a voice.  You can find their vision for a good society and guidance on holding a hustings event here http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/




Are Parkruns better than Church?

On Saturday mornings you will usually find me at my local country park with nearly 500 fellow parkrunners.  We all complete the 5k course, at varying paces and styles, and later in the day our time is emailed to us.  The Parkrun phenomenon started just over 10 years ago with a small group of friends.  There are now more than half a million parkrunners worldwide.  It strikes me that parkrun has many of the advantages of church and in my view less downsides.  Parkrun is amazingly egalitarian, all ages join in, whole families come along, people running with pushchairs and even their dogs.  It Is run by volunteers who are cheery and encouraging (not always the case with churches). You can choose to chat (I don’t as it means I cant breathe and run properly).  What I do love is feeling that my body is capable of moving and experiencing the beauty of the lakes and the changing weather and seasons.  Some might call it meditation and fellowship. its even possible to have a coffee in the park cafe afterwards.  Whilst you are encouraged to volunteer from time to time there is no imperative to join a committee.  Anyone would think I was super fit  and have run for years. But that is far from the truth, I have only been running for a couple of years and I am really slow. The people who lap me and complete the run in less than half the time it takes me seem like completely different creatures. We at my-church are often bit jaded with traditional churches, I just note that what I used to get from my local church on a Sunday morning I am now finding in the park on Saturday.




French shootings

Hopeless to help in this violence, this crisis,
here in the focus of bloodshed and fear,
common humanity binds us together,
love at the centre, not hatred’s veneer.

Muslim and Christian with those unbelieving,
those who are Jewish, we all have a place;
ours is the purpose when those filled with hatred
break down relationships, nullify grace.

Give me your hand, let God’s peace grow between us,
let us rebuild what distrust might destroy.
Now in this moment we’ll make a commitment,love is the weapon we’ll use and deploy.

Andrew Pratt




Candlemas Day. Monday 2 February 2015

The origin of Candlemas Day is in the Gospel of St Luke chapter 2 verses 22-40, when Simeon and Anna met the child Jesus in the temple at the time of his consecration. Simeon’s prophecy revealed Jesus to be  “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Candles are considered to represent the light of Christ to share with the world.

As the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox it traditionally marked the beginning of the agricultural season. A country saying remarks that on Candlemas Day, you should have half of your straw and one third of your hay (as bedding and fodder for the animals through winter months).

For the Church Candlemas Day is a time of hope and light. It celebrates Jesus as the Light of the World and reminds us that we too may have that light within us, and should project it within the world, doing good works and seeking justice and peace.




Holocaust Memorial Day 27 January

Speak up against racism and discrimination. http://www.hmd.org.uk/

Statement of commitment:

We recognise that the Holocaust shook the foundations of modern civilisation. Its unprecedented character and horror will always hold universal meaning. We believe the Holocaust must have a permanent place in our nation’s collective memory. We honour the survivors still with us, and reaffirm our shared goals of mutual understanding and justice. We must make sure that future generations understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences. We vow to remember the victims of Nazi persecution and of all genocides. We value the sacrifices of those who have risked their lives to protect or rescue victims, as a touchstone of the human capacity for good in the face of evil. We recognise that humanity is still scarred by the belief that race, religion, disability or sexuality make some people’s lives worth less than others’. Genocide, anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and discrimination still continue. We have a shared responsibility to fight these evils. We pledge to strengthen our efforts to promote education and research about the Holocaust and other genocides. We will do our utmost to make sure that the lessons of such events are fully learnt. We will continue to encourage Holocaust remembrance by holding an annual UK Holocaust Memorial Day. We condemn the evils of prejudice, discrimination and racism. We value a free, respectful, and democratic society.




The well is deep – week of prayer for Christian Unity

The week of Prayer for Christian Unity is generally marked from 18th – 25th January. Churches together in Britain and Ireland produce materials to mark the week.  This year the materials have been developed with the churches in Brazil. The focus is brought to two symbol, of a path and a well, inspired by the story when Jesus deliberately chose to cross Samaria on his way to Judea in Galilee. His route passed by the well of the Samaritan woman who came there to draw water. The questions are asked;

• Which is the path of unity, the route we should take, so that the world may drink from the source of life, Jesus Christ?
• Which is the path of unity that gives proper respect to our diversity?

It is suggested that people read the story of the woman at the well as a remembered story.  Have a go yourself – jot down what you remember of the story before looking it up in John 4: 1-42.  What are the differences, what do they tell you about yourself and what you find important? Is there anything that you didn’t remember that excites you?

God, with us and walking in our midst, grant us the grace of your light and Spirit. May we continue your mission, remaining faithful, welcoming all and listening even to those who are different from ourselves. Take and use these gifts in the service of your kingdom. Take away the violence that is in our hearts and the discriminating attitudes that exclude and devalue the dignity of others. Enable our churches to be welcoming spaces where feast and forgiveness, joy and tenderness, strength and faith, become our daily practice, our daily food, our daily movement forward in Jesus Christ.  Amen

 




nous sommes Charlie

I can’t be the only one who is looking at the horrific news from Paris and feeling the squeeze from extremes to liberal values. Appalled at the extreme murderess application of religion on the one hand and extreme right wing, anti immigration and islamaphobic politics on the other. It is a different world from the, no history, of the darkness that plunged Europe and the world to war in the middle o the last century but echoes are as uncomfortable as it feel impossible to address this new order. Religious leaders have tried to stand together but the response feels limp – and politicians are struggling to show appropriate leadership.  It is the movement of the usual silent majority that is moving and notable.  The immediate converging of thousands at the Place de la Concorde, the worldwide support via the twitter hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.  Can we hope that in the UK in this election year there may be a realisation that there needs to be kindness and solidarity – whilst the values of republican France were born from a bloody revolution and their application is sometimes a cause for question – maybe a new understanding of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, proclaimed afresh so profoundly in France could make a difference here as well.



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