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UK news in brief

15 September 2023


Raised up: Two years ago, Storm Arwen caused a pinnacle on the main tower of Worcester Cathedral to fall (News, 3 December 2021). Scaffolding has now been erected to install the new pinnacle, which is made of red sandstone and is an exact match to the original stonework. The work at height, to replace the north- and east-facing pinnacles, is expected to take about three to four months to complete

Raised up: Two years ago, Storm Arwen caused a pinnacle on the main tower of Worcester Cathedral to fall (News, 3 December 2021). Scaffolding has now been erected to install the new pinnacle, which is made of red sandstone and is an exact match to the original stonework. The work at height, to replace the north- and east-facing pinnacles, is expected to take about three to four months to complete


Grant of £80k to support clergy mental health

ST LUKE’S Healthcare for the Clergy, which provides access to advice and clinical care for clergy and their families, has received £85,800 from the Benefact Trust. This will be spread over three years to fund initiatives and workshops to help up to 400 individuals — from discernment to ordination to senior ministry — to cope with the stresses of ministry. Support includes training in resilience and mental-health first aid, as well as one-to-one psychiatric and psychological support in times of crisis. An adviser and trustee of St Luke’s, Jan Korris, said that mental ill-health affected families, friends, and community, and could “undermine the priest’s very core of faith and calling. Many describe a sense of shame and failure, but burnout is depletion, a loss of inner resources and a sickness of the spirit.” The senior grants officer of Benefact Trust, Andrew Bass, said: “St Luke’s is helping clergy to look after their own mental health first.”


Climate change could empty UK shopping baskets

THE contents of UK shopping baskets are in jeopardy owing to the detrimental effects of climate change in poorer countries in which many staple foods are produced, research from Christian Aid, published on Wednesday, has warned. Almost one quarter (22 per cent) of the fruit, vegetables, pulses, and meat products used by households in the UK originate from countries vulnerable to the climate crisis, including bananas, grapes, avocados, coffee, and tea, it says. Christian Aid is calling on wealthy countries, including the UK, to deliver on a pledge to send $100 billion in climate finance to developing countries to ensure that farmers can adapt to the changing climate and to help to prevent harvest-destroying extreme weather events (News, 25 November 2022; Comment, 26 May).


Commissioners partner with Natural England

THE Church Commissioners have signed a tenancy agreement with Natural England to improve biodiversity across two fields at Wybunbury Moss, a National Nature Reserve since 1955, near Crewe, in Cheshire, it was announced on Wednesday. The agreement is intended to protect moss in the area from nutrients and to reintroduce of livestock grazing, ancient hedgerows, and wildflower species. The Asset Manager for Farmland Portfolio at the Commissioners, Zara Gower, said: “We are excited to see the arable reversion on this land take place which will have a myriad of benefits, from restoring and extending the biodiversity from the moss, to providing local residents with improved access to nature.” The Senior Reserve Manager for West Midlands Natural England, Paul Shires, described the area as “one of the finest examples in the country of a ‘schwingmoor’ (floating bog)” which “supports an outstanding assemblage of invertebrates”.


Southwark celebrates 60 years of SSMs

ABOUT 70 self-supporting ministers (SSMs) attended a national service in Southwark Cathedral on Saturday marking the 60th anniversary of the diocese’s first ordaining priests who were working without a stipend. In a message to the National Network of SSM Officers and Advisers on the same day, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “SSMs bring their professional expertise and experience to bear from the world into the Church and . . . take the gospel message into their workplaces and other parts of their lives.” He was committed to ensuring that SSM ministry was welcomed and valued as much stipendiary clergy. The Area Bishop of Hull, the Rt Revd Eleanor Sanderson, said in her sermon that, in New Zealand, where she first became a bishop, the focus was on SSM ministry. “The making of disciples wherever we are, at work or in church, should be the key element of ministry, and self-supporting ministers with one foot in the world and the other in the Church are key to this, as well as being ideally deployable.” A similar anniversary service was held in Exeter Cathedral, in June.


New trade union faith network launches

DIGNITY, trade-union rights, and in-work poverty are to be at the fore of dialogue between unions, faith organisations, and community groups in a new trade union faith and belief network which was launched at the TUC annual meeting in Liverpool, on Monday. The TUC president, Maria Exall, told 48 union representatives: “Unions want to work more closely with faith organisations and local groups to find long-term solutions to the social and political challenges our communities are facing. This new coalition will bring together community activists and trade unions to support real terms pay rises, an end to food poverty, a reduction in energy bills, decent homes for all, and an increase in taxation on those at the top end of society.”


Symposium on Irish interchurch relations held

CHURCH leaders from Ireland met for a symposium at Dublin City University on Monday, as part of a series of events being held this year to mark the centenary of the formation of the Irish Council of Churches, and 50 years since the Ballymascanlon talks, which led to the formation of the Irish Inter-Church Meeting. Called to be One, an updated history of these by Canon Ian Ellis, a former editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette, was also launched. The Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, the Rt Revd Andrew Forster, who is president of the council and co chairs the Irish Inter-Church Meeting, said: “Participants were given space to share about what being churches together means for them in practical terms. We were addressed by leading academics on how we are called to work together to effectively bring Christian values to bear in the public square. There is still work to be done, but today was an impactful day in our journey together.”


Home Secretary: Silent prayer ‘not unlawful’

THE Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has written to every police force in the country to say that silent prayer near abortion facilities is not a crime, media report. In the letter, she writes that “silent prayer, within itself, is not unlawful”, and that “holding lawful opinions, even if those opinions may offend others, is not a criminal offence”. Jeremiah Igunnubole, the legal counsel for ADF UK, which is currently representing three Christians who were recently arrested near abortion clinics, told the Catholic Herald this week that the clarification was “long overdue”. He wrote: “Politicised policing seriously threatens democracy, which relies on the right to freedom of speech and free and frank exchange of viewpoints to be effectively realised.”


Name change for BRF Ministries

THE Christian charity BRF — home of Anna Chaplaincy, Living Faith, Messy Church, and Parenting for Faith — has changed its name to BRF Ministries to reflect its work more accurately. The chief executive, Richard Fisher, said on Monday: “Today we have a new name and a new strapline: ‘BRF Ministries: Inspiring people of all ages to grow in Christian faith’. But, although it’s a new form of words, it captures the essence of what BRF has been about from the very beginning, and that will continue to be the vision going forward into our next hundred years.”


Community mourns toddler

THE Vicar of All Saints’, Kingsley, in Hampshire, the Revd Matt Boyes, has said that the whole community will be affected by the death of a two-year-old girl who died on Monday night after being found in a village pond — next to the church — the previous day. On Tuesday, police confirmed that a woman in her 40s was arrested on suspicion of murder but later released and detained under the Mental Health Act. The child had been reported missing from her home in the village at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Mr Boyes told The Times: “As a parish we are praying for the family and all those involved in this situation. It’s every parent’s nightmare for this to be happening and the impact on the wider community will be very huge as well.”


Storms are coming, Ecclesiastical warns

ADVICE on preventing damage to property during the coming storm season has been issued by Ecclesiastical Insurance. Recommendations include removing loose roof materials, repairing damaged guttering, and clearing blocked rainwater gullies. The claims director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, Jeremy Trott, said: “Unpredictable and extreme weather is becoming more prevalent in the UK, from heatwaves to flooding; so it’s important that we are ready to support customers.” The Association of British Insurers reports that, last year, storms bringing winds and severe flooding led to more than 170,000 claims, worth an estimated £500 million, for property damage. ecclesiastical.com


Scottish Episcopalians revise Net Zero toolkit

AN UPDATED Net Zero Toolkit has been released by the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Provincial Environment Group. The online resource has been redesigned to complement the ten core objectives identified in the Church’s Net Zero Action Plan, approved by its General Synod in June (News, 16 June). It includes a list of grants to apply for. toolkit.secnetzero.org

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