"Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone."
News from the Wider Church Community
2017 Faith Easter Egg launched
The new look Real Easter Egg 2017 range has been launched, and churches are being asked to encourage people to support this unique way of sharing the story of Easter.
This year a 24 page Easter story-activity book, illustrated by Alida Massari, is included in the Original, Egg Hunt and Dark eggs. The Special Edition has an Easter traditions booklet inside. The Sharing box, with 30 eggs, comes with 30 colour-in posters.
Out of the 80 million Easter eggs sold in this part of the world every year, The Real Easter Egg is the only one which has a copy of the Easter story in the box, is made of Fairtrade chocolate and makes a donation to charity from sales.
The Real Easter Egg was launched in 2010 but the supermarkets turned down the idea. It was left to churches and church schools to place orders to fund The Meaningful Chocolate Company so they could make The Real Easter Egg.
David Marshall, creator of the Real Easter Egg, said; “With the support of churches more than one million eggs have been sold with 750,000 of these sent through the post directly to churches and schools. The rest have been sold through independent retailers and supermarkets.
“The success of The Real Easter Egg has meant that the production of Fairtrade chocolate has moved to the UK. Over £250,000 has been raised from sales for charitable causes. Due to production restrictions, this year we have slightly few eggs available so we recommend people order as early as possible."
The whole range can be ordered online at www.realeasteregg.co.uk (with free delivery) or from Traidcraft, Eden.co.uk, TLM trading.com, Embrace the Middle East. Christian bookshops and some cathedrals also have stocks. You can also buy the blue Original egg from Tesco, Waitrose and Morrisons.
Time for the C of E to mobilise the lay people!
The Church of England needs to undergo a major “culture shift” to mobilise lay members to spread the gospel in their everyday lives. So argues a new report recently presented to members of the General Synod.
The report, entitled “Setting God’s People Free”, calls for Christians to be equipped to live out their faith in every sphere – from the factory or office, to the gym or shop - to help increase numbers of Christians and their influence in all areas of life.
Laity and clergy should view themselves as equal partners in the task of evangelising the nation, it insists. The paper is a key element of the lay leadership strand of Renewal and Reform, an initiative from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to help grow the Church.
The report was among papers given to members of the Church of England’s General Synod, which met in Westminster in February.
C of E’s law and guidance on marriage
The Church of England’s law and guidance on marriage should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without changing the Church’s doctrine of marriage itself. That is what the House of Bishops are recommending
A recent report from the House of Bishops, which was discussed by the Church’s General Synod in February, upholds the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
But it also concludes that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples – which allows clergy to provide informal prayers for those marrying or forming a civil partnership – is not clear enough and should be revisited. It also calls for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbian and gay people and those attracted to people of the same sex throughout the Church of England.
The paper recommends that bishops prepare a substantial new teaching document on marriage and relationships to replace or expand upon documents drawn up in the 1990s.
And it calls for new guidance to be prepared about the kind of questions put to candidates for ordination – irrespective of their sexual orientation - about their lifestyle.
It also speaks of the need for the Church to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirm the need to stand against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.
The report from the House of Bishops attempts to sum up the Church’s position after a two-year process of shared conversations on the subject of human sexuality, involving clergy and laity.
It acknowledges that it represents the consensus of opinion among the bishops rather than a unanimous view, and sets out a process rather than attempting a final resolution.
The General Synod discussed the paper in a “Take Note” debate in February. Such a debate was a neutral motion.
It allowed Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report, but any vote in favour of the motion did not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report.
Church renewal gains momentum with £9 million for new projects
Underlining its commitment to renewing the Church across England, over £9.1million has been awarded by the Archbishops’ Council to seven dioceses for projects from East London to Worcestershire and Sussex to Liverpool.
The grants are part of the strategic development funding stream that began in 2014 and from which 20 dioceses have now benefitted. The funding is a core element of Renewal and Reform, the Church of England’s initiative to promote growth in the church in every community in England.
The largest award of £2.5 million goes to the Diocese of Birmingham working with younger people in proclaiming the Christian faith in Birmingham's diverse multi-cultural contexts. The plan is by 2022 to plant 15 new churches, revitalise 15 existing church communities, encourage 15 new fresh expressions of Church, make over a 1000 new disciples, train up to 1000 missional leaders and increase ordained vocations by more than 50%.
Funding of £750,000 goes to the Diocese of Worcester to recruit up to ten children and young people’s mission enablers to support and train parishes.
The Diocese of Chelmsford has been awarded £2 million to support the planting of churches in vast new housing areas in its first four strategic mission priority areas, together with a new congregation in Forest Gate.
Other dioceses that have received awards include: Bristol (£950,000 to develop three existing parish churches to become the ‘resource churches’ for specific Mission Areas); Chichester (£825, 000 to continue the diocese’s on-going programme of church planting); Leicester (£1million funding for developing leadership and vocations amongst Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic Christians in order to grow new and existing congregations amongst people from those backgrounds); and Liverpool (£1m to develop a low-cost model to multiply congregations to complement conventional church planting).
Samaritan’s Purse opens emergency field hospital in Iraq
Samaritan’s Purse has airlifted into Iraq a brand new state-of-the-art trauma facility, which has been treating many people injured as Iraqi and coalition forces fight ISIS militants.
Lise Grande, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, welcomed the new field hospital. “Because Samaritan’s Purse is now here, thousands - tens of thousands - of people will survive.”
The emergency field hospital was airlifted to the country late last year, and will be open for a minimum of six months before being handed over to the Iraqi Ministry of Health. Dozens of Samaritan’s Purse medical professionals are serving at the hospital, offering urgently needed trauma care. The hospital includes two operating theatres, an intensive care unit and 54 in-patient beds.
In partnership with the Iraqi Ministry of Health, the hospital will provide immediate medical care for people injured by gunfire, mines and other explosives. The nearest permanent hospital is many miles away.
Christians in northern Nigeria at risk of being ‘wiped out’
Christian leaders and human rights campaigners in Nigeria have issued joint warnings of systematic attacks aimed at wiping out the Christian presence in northern Nigeria.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) accuses security forces of ‘turning a blind eye’ to attacks by heavily armed groups of Muslim Fulani. Release International says thousands of Christians are dying, and calls for effective security.
Armed Fulani herdsmen have been carrying out widespread attacks against Christian villages in the north. Their tactic has been to fire shots in the air at night, then kill villagers as they try to run from their homes.
CAN believes the attacks are orchestrated by Islamic jihadis to cleanse Christian tribes from the north, where Muslims are in a majority and sharia (Islamic law) has been imposed. Catholic bishops have described the herdsmen as Boko Haram by another name.
The Anglican Archbishop of Jos, the Rt Rev Benjamin Kwashi, warns that northern Nigeria could be heading for famine and could splinter into rival armed militia groups. ‘Killer herdsmen have driven people from their farms, they cannot harvest. Nobody seems to care at all. The current system of governance in Nigeria does not give Christians any hope in Nigeria, beyond their trust in God.’
Archbishop Kwashi calls on the Nigerian government to maintain justice for all its citizens, Muslim and Christian alike, and to urgently step up security to stop the violence in the north.
Release has launched an appeal to support Christians in Nigeria. Details at: http://www.releaseinternational.org/donate-to-release/nigeria-appeal-oct...
Project Joseph helps to feed starving Zimbabweans
A million meals a month, or 70 tonnes of maize meal: this is what Barnabas Fund is providing starving Zimbabweans through the Project Joseph feeding programme.
Last year’s crop failure is still debilitating: it takes more than a season to recover from the ravages of drought. Although the rains arrived on cue in November last year to plant this season’s crops, many farmers had either been forced to eat their seed, or had no harvest from the previous year to eat. Their livestock herds were decimated, and the lack of jobs meant families also had no money to purchase their farming inputs, let alone food.
Barnabas Fund provided seed, fertiliser and training so that farmers could plant on time. But the outcome of the harvest will be critical. And how can they survive until the April/May harvest? As Violet, a farmer and mother of five, puts it: “We were panicking, in Zimbabwe it is so hard, we have got nowhere to look.”
Barnabas Fund is working closely with local churches to ensure that the farmers are not forgotten or left hungry during this crucial period.
Christian Aid appeals for good ‘neighbours’….
As Christians around the world mark Lent, Christian Aid is asking the British public to support people seeking a safe place to call home.
Based on the hymn ‘When I Needed A Neighbour, Were You There’, Christian Aid is asking its supporters to follow Christian Aid’s Lent calendar, and reflect each day on the good things in their lives, thinking about daily opportunities to give, act and pray for communities around the world, and helping them to find a safe place to call home.
This Lent, Christian Aid is working with local partners in South Sudan, to provide much-needed food, safe water to drink and sanitation facilities to desperate communities. The charity says that £15 can provide fishing gear for a family; £8.50 could provide two cooking pots so they can eat a hot meal; and £3 could pay for two plastic jerry cans so they can store safe drinking water.
Photo used under licence from Fotolia