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UK news in brief

24 February 2023

James Mercer

Village lifeline: St Nicholas’s, Worth Matravers, has been awarded a grant of £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to help to rebuild the roof and develop educational resources. The church has already raised £100,000, but needs an equivalent sum to complete the repairs

Village lifeline: St Nicholas’s, Worth Matravers, has been awarded a grant of £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to help to rebuild the roof and develop educational resources. The church has already raised £100,000, but needs an equivalent sum to complete the repairs

Lent campaign calls for climate disinvestment

OPERATION NOAH, a Christian environmental charity, is calling on Roman Catholic and Church of England dioceses to jettison their holdings related to fossil fuels this Lent. The “40 Days, 40 Dioceses” campaign focuses on those that have yet to make a commitment to disinvestment. The campaign is supported by the National Justice and Peace Network, the RC Laudato Si’ Movement, and the Young Christian Climate Network. The chair of Operation Noah, the Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, said: “Last year’s analysis from Global Witness showed that 20 fossil-fuel companies — including Shell, Total, BP and ExxonMobil — planned to spend nearly $1 trillion on fossil-fuel expansion at the very time we have to stop all new oil and gas developments. . . For Churches and dioceses to profit off the misery of other people, and the destruction of our beautiful world, is not acceptable. Investing in fossil fuels is not ethical. We must divest this Lent.”

Level up to prevent child poverty, bishop urges

THE Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, speaking in a House of Lords committee debate on Monday, emphasised the importance of eradicating child poverty. She cited a recent statistic that 3.9 million children were living in poverty in the UK, one quarter of all the children in the country. “This cannot continue,” she said. “Childhood may not be permanent, but the experiences we have in our childhood shape the rest of our lives. Reducing child poverty in every local authority and across the country must be a priority now, because, without doing so, levelling up will be nothing more than a distant fantasy.”

Welby leaves a message of hope for diallers

THE Archbishop of Canterbury released a special message on the DailyHope phone line on Wednesday, acknowledging that many people had remained isolated since the ending of pandemic restrictions. The 24/7 free phone line, which offers reflections, hymns, and worship for callers, was launched at the start of the pandemic by the Church of England in collaboration with the charity Faith in Later Life, and Holy Trinity, Claygate. The “good news is that none of us are left behind by God”, the Archbishop says in his message. An average of 10,000 callers a month have have listened to more than 2.5 million minutes of messages since the service started.

Church meeting attracts far-Right activists

THE parish of Dunstable, in Bedfordshire, and the diocese of St Albans have condemned comments made during a community meeting in Dunstable Priory on Thursday of last week. The meeting was organised by the MP for South West Bedfordshire and Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous, to address concerns about the use of a hotel near by for asylum-seekers. Patriotic Alternative, a right-wing anti-immigrant group, distributed flyers beforehand, and a representative of the organisation made a speech that was widely shared on social media. The church statement on Tuesday said: “We strongly and unreservedly condemn the use of language to dehumanise people seeking asylum,” and said that the video released “does not accurately reflect the overall nature of the meeting”.

Female composers promoted in annual tribute

SUNDAY 5 March will be the third Woman Composer Sunday, organised by the Society of Women Organists. It has been designated every year since 2021, on the Sunday closest to International Women’s Day. The society has recommended repertoire: see www.societyofwomenorganists.co.uk

Charges dropped against abortion activists

CHARGES against a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Sean Gough, and a charity worker, Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, have been dropped after they were accused of violating a buffer-zone around an abortion clinic, BBC News reported last Friday. The pair had been accused of “protesting and engaging in an act that is intimidating to service-users” at a Birmingham clinic subject to a Public Spaces Protection Order. Recent legislation provides for the prosecution of those who carry out protests within a 150-metre area around clinics that offer abortions. The Labour MP Stella Creasey, who proposed the new law, said: “It does not stop free speech on abortion. It does not stop people protesting. It simply says you shouldn’t have the right to do this in the face of somebody.” Speaking after the charges had been dropped, Fr Gough said: “It’s wrong for authorities to censor parts of the street from prayer — even silent prayer — and from peacefully having conversations and sharing information that could be of great help to women who want an alternative choice to abortion.”

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