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UK news in brief

05 May 2023


May the force: a stormtrooper costume from Star Wars, one of 121 exhibits that will be part of Peterborough Cathedral’s summer exhibition, “Unofficial Galaxies”, which is one of the largest Star Wars collections in private hands. The exhibition will run from mid-July to late August

May the force: a stormtrooper costume from Star Wars, one of 121 exhibits that will be part of Peterborough Cathedral’s summer exhibition, “Unofficial...


Gambling White Paper may fall short, Smith warns

THE Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has expressed fears that the Gambling White Paper, published on Thursday of last week, will not “go far enough”. In a blog preceding its publication, the Bishop expressed concerns, raising the possibility that gambling advertising might still be permitted on the side of stadiums or on footballers’ clothing. The statutory levy on gambling profits to fund research and support for those negatively affected by gambling must be higher than the current annual figure of £25 million, his blog says; and, when it comes to affordability checks, there must be “independent oversight of individuals to ensure they are only betting what they can afford”. He recalls that there are an estimated 409 suicides every year from gambling-related harm (News, 26 November 2021).


NCT grants awarded to 21 churches

GRANTS to the value of £351,500 were announced by the National Churches Trust this month. The charity said that 21 more churches would be “saved for the future”. These include a grant for St Agatha’s, Sparkbrook, in Birmingham, a Grade I listed Arts and Crafts-style church serving a deprived area; and funding for St Leonard’s, Old Warden, in Bedfordshire, which dates from the 12th century and includes a set of 22 carved oak panels depicting the personal emblems of Anne of Cleves. The funding includes £66,500 provided by Wolfson Fabric Repair Grants.


New Sheriffs sworn in for Sussex

THE new High Sheriffs of West and East Sussex made their Oath of Declaration at Lewes Crown Court last month. Richard Bickersteth, who will serve in East Sussex, chairs the East Sussex Prayer Breakfast, is patron of the Penhurst Retreat Centre, and is a “Bishop’s Champion”, raising the profile of the charity Family Support Work. Andrew Bliss, representing West Sussex, a former Chief Constable, is a specialist adviser to Historic England on preventing crime against historic places.


Parish charity offers support after miscarriage

A GROUP that supports couples who have lost a child through miscarriage has been launched at Avonway Community Centre, in Fordingbridge. It is an initiative of Avon Valley Community Matters, a charity set up by churchpeople in the Avon Valley group of churches in the diocese of Winchester, which already offers bereavement support, a friendship group, two playgroups, and outreach projects for children and families during the school holidays. A trustee and assistant priest in the parish, the Revd Kate Wilson, said: “Women and men, parents and grandparents alike, should all feel able to share their experiences in order to help them find answers, reassurance, and process the many different and difficult emotions felt by any who suffer such a loss.” www.avcmatters.org


Durham Cathedral launches junior church

NEW “junior church” was launched at Durham Cathedral last Sunday for children of primary-school age, who are “invited to take part in storytelling and craft activities relating to the Christian gospel” while their parents or carers attend the Sunday sung eucharist, which will now begin at ten instead of 11.15 a.m. The initiative is led by Erica Soulsby, who taught at Westminster Abbey School until her retirement to Durham. The Acting Dean of Durham, Canon Michael Hampel, said: “We’re keen to make better provision for existing worshippers and encourage old faces to return and new faces to join the cathedral family.”


Kirk puts dozens of buildings on the market

THE Church of Scotland has put 82 buildings up for sale, with the expectation of raising £18 million,The Times reported on Monday. The properties include churches, grand manses, and church halls, as well as plots of land. Money raised from sales will revert to individual congregations via the Consolidated Fabric Fund. In total, between 300 and 400 churches, manses, and church halls are reportedly earmarked for closure. Volunteers are being recruited to help record thousands of historic items. The most recent annual report, for 2021, refers to a 2019 agreement by the General Assembly in favour of a “radical overhaul of every part of the Church of Scotland”, which was “facing some of the most challenging times in its history”, including “dwindling numbers in congregations and of recruitment of candidates for ministry not keeping pace with the numbers of full-time ministers taking retirement”.

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