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UK news in brief

08 March 2024

Jason Bryant

Early flock: Starlings at first light near St Peter’s, Evercreech, in Somerset, on Wednesday

Early flock: Starlings at first light near St Peter’s, Evercreech, in Somerset, on Wednesday


Christians lobby insurer over Cumbrian coal mine

THE insurance company Probitas 1492 has this week confirmed that it will not insure two new large-scale fossil-fuel projects: the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) and the proposed West Cumbrian coal mine. Members of Christian Climate Action (CCA) staged a five-hour sit-in protest at Probitas’s London offices on Tuesday of last week, and held a prayer vigil outside the building, asking the company to change their policies in line with global climate goals. The chief executive of Probitas, Ash Bathia, said on Monday: “Underwriting these projects would not be in compliance with our ESG policy.” The Revd Vanessa Elston, a CCA member who took part in the vigil, said that the Church should “stand against the financial institutions that are putting that future at risk”.


Aged 77, ex-ordinand convicted of child abuse

A FORMER candidate for ordination in the diocese of Blackburn has been imprisoned for four years after being convicted on two counts of indecent assault of a girl under the age of 14, which took place 30 years ago. Thomas De Lacey, 77, now of The Hawthornes, Rufford, was sentenced at Preston Crown Court last week. A diocesan statement on Tuesday said that the victim had contacted the diocesan safeguarding team in 2021, which had led to an investigation by Lancashire Police. “When the allegations were made De Lacey held a licence with the Free Church of England. He was suspended and resigned shortly afterwards. At the time of the offence, he was in training to become a Church of England priest.” The statement commended the bravery of the survivor, and apologised for the abuse perpetrated by De Lacey.


Both Archbishops to be co-presidents of CUF

THE Archbishop York has been appointed co-president of the Church Urban Fund, and will serve alongside the current president, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Cottrell has previously supported the charity, not least through its Growing Good movement, which led more than 1660 Christians to explore discipleship and social action in their church and communities.


Former Rector charged with sexual offence

A FORMER Rector of Great Yarmouth, Canon Michael Woods, 79, has been charged with a sexual offence relating to allegations between August 1997 and August 1999. Canon Woods, who retired in 2009 and now lives in Kuching, in Malaysia, is alleged to have committed a indecent assault involving a male aged 16 or over. He has not yet indicated a plea. He is due to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on 26 March. The diocese of Norwich said that it was aware of the investigation, but could make no further comment while it was ongoing.


Dr Rouch leaves Church Army for Mission to Seafarers

THE Church Army’s chief executive, the Ven. Dr Peter Rouch, is to become secretary-general of the Mission to Seafarers, it was announced this week. Dr Rouch, a former Archdeacon of Bournemouth and General Synod member, was appointed chief executive in 2021 (News, 15 February 2021). The director of chaplaincy and vocations for the past four years, Jude Davis, who has previously served as vice-chair of the Church Army’s board of trustees, has been appointed interim chief executive from June.


Farmers advised on methods by churchgoers

MORE than half (57 per cent) of the 605 churchgoers surveyed by the organisation Green Christian between 25 January and 2 February agreed that tenant farmers on land owned by the Church of England should adopt organic or regenerative practices, and rear their livestock using “free-range” systems. The survey, published last week, polled people who had attended church at least once a month during the past year. It was undertaken as part of a study led by Dr Tim Cooper, Emeritus Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University. More than one quarter (26 per cent) thought that farmers of church-owned land should follow a set of minimum standards; and 18 per cent said that these farmers should have complete freedom to choose their preferred farming practices.


Dover man sentenced for lectern theft

A DEBT-RIDDEN father stole a valuable six-foot brass lectern from St John the Evangelist, Kingsdown, near Deal, causing thousands of pounds of damage, Canterbury Crown Court heard last week. Robert Watson, 27, of Tower Hamlets Road, Dover, and an unidentified accomplice broke into the church in May 2022, causing £1600-worth of damage to the oak doors, and further damage to the floor tiles when the lectern was dragged to a waiting van. The wooden plinth of the lectern and a hacksaw bearing traces of a brass-like substance were later found in the van, and Watson was arrested and admitted burglary. A former curate of St John’s, the Revd Carolyn Wood, said that the lectern had “a value far higher than simple monetary worth”. Kieran Brand, defending, said that Mr Watson had behaved “highly out of character”. Judge Simon James sentenced him to 12 months in prison, saying that some crimes were “just too serious” to warrant any other ruling.


Jubilate releases Holy Week and Easter music

A NEW collection of 12 hymns and songs for Holy Week and Easter, Journey to Resurrection, has been compiled by Jubilate (News, 11 February 2022), which is offering the full digital album and resources for each item for free this Lent, to selected church publications, leaders, and music co-ordinators. The collection, written, compiled, and recorded in 2023, provides “wide scope for solos, choral pieces, and congregational items”, the Project Co-ordinator, Roger Peach, said last week. Download instructions can be found at jubilate.co.uk/jtr using the code JTRCT. The publishers ask that any usage in services is reported via OneLicense or CCLI.

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