Saturday, May 31, 2008
In Zimbabwe, during the bloody civil war on racial grounds during the 70s, that troubled country seemed as divided and traumatized as it is now. And race was the heart of the problem. And the University of Harare (or Salisbury as it then was) was as riven as the rest of the country - particularly vividly illustrated by standard operating procedure in the uni canteen. Whites on one side, blacks on the other.
Except, that is, for the Christians. They were an integrated group - and deliberately sat together on tables right in the middle of the dining hall. During the first course, the white Christians got up and fetched the food and then served it to their black brothers and sisters; then for pudding, the blacks the same, serving their white brothers and sisters. And the effect on the rest of the university, without a single word of explanation or proclamation, was scandalously but marvelously electrifying. For it was clear to all that they were ONE body, united and mutually serving.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I must confess I'm torn. I share Joel Edwards' wariness about these groups, but at the same time sometimes they are the only people campaigning on certain issues - even if their campaigns are a bit of a curates egg. Is it because the more 'extreme' voices drown out the mainstream ones, or because mainstream Christians have become scared of public campaigns for fear of being labelled fundamentalists and ending up on a Channel 4 documentary?
I've not yet watched the vid of the Mary Whitehouse drama from the other night, the reviews sound like it did a decent job of being fair to her, which comes as a surprise. As one reviewer put it: That Mary Whitehouse might have had some kind of point is difficult to deny when you find yourself knee-deep in the bilge of the modern television freak show
The consultation closes on May 30th, having been extended by 6 weeks from the original deadline. Over half the comments have come since the deadline was extended. If you want to comment, I've done a short article explaining the thing here, and a longer summary of the full Core Strategy document here, as you'll be quite pushed between now and 5pm tomorrow to read the whole thing. However, if you are going to comment on part of it, read that part in first on the consultation website. If comments don't actually relate to the questions, or don't have any clear reasoning behind them, then they're less likely to be taken on board,
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
When Ms Dorries addressed the House and urged Labour MPs to support her, Ms Harman arrived, apparently to ‘spy’ on her. She stood by the Speaker’s chair, hands on hips, watching MPs like a hawk – exactly how Labour’s Whips operate.
Moves to cut the abortion limit to 22 or 20 weeks were rejected by much bigger margins than had been expected. Ms Dorries believes that Ms Harman’s campaign was one of the main reasons for the surprise result.
‘The tactics used to defeat my proposals were disgraceful,’ said Ms Dorries. ‘Ms Harman ran a fully-fledged whipping operation in all but name. This was supposed to be a non-political debate but she has politicised it.
‘The case for reducing the time limit for abortions to 20 weeks is irrefutable both on moral and scientific grounds. We are not giving up on this. From now on, the gloves are off.’
Ms Harman last night denied she had acted improperly. ‘It is deplorable that people who lost the argument now attempt to cry foul,’ she said. ‘It was a free vote and I worked with others to ensure that as many MPs as possible voted for the status quo.
‘We won because we had the most persuasive arguments. It is totally untrue that there was any kind of whipping operation.’
"I worked with others to ensure that as many MP's as possible voted for the status quo"
"it is totally untrue that there was any kind of whipping operation."
How can both those statements be true? Whipping is working with others (the team of whips) to ensure that as many MP's as possible vote for the governments line. Which was the status quo - Gordon Brown said so a couple of days before. It was their bill, for goodness sake.
Picked up elsewhere: Nadine Dorries, Cranmer, Peter Ould, all comment on this story. (also a v interesting post on the abortion topic at Transfattyacid) The stats show that 80%+ of the Labour party were persuaded to vote one way and 80%+ of the Conservatives were persuaded to vote the other. I can also never work out why 500+ people get to vote on a debate that only 100 of them were present at - when you see the debates on this bill, the chamber is mainly empty, yet everyone gets to vote. What if we did general elections the same way: don't bother listening to the arguments, just turn up on polling day. That's democracy!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I heard somewhere recently that there are 118 million bloggers. That's far too much information.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
In a consumer, choice-driven society, the question of British identity will never be settled. Consumer choice is all about the now, but the present without the past is a place without memory, a social form of dementia as the memories which created and sustained meaning are lost.
I enjoy the freedom to choose, but choice can never fully define who we are, or be the trump card in debates about morality, science, and economics. The Christian vision of identity - people created in love in the image of God - includes free will, balanced by reason, creativity, love, community, and a sense of place within creation. (Interesting that one of the upsides to recession is that we’re told we’ll all get more creative, as we’ll no longer be able to buy a solution to everything.)
In a couple of weeks I’ll be doing my first wedding of the summer. For the happy couples, the most amazing thing is not that they have chosen, but that they have been chosen. It’s in that context that love and identity can grow to their full extent.
more at the Wardman Wire from early this afternoon.
There are a couple of training days on the concept:
5 July – Cairns Road Baptist Church, Bristol
4 October – Christchurch, Welwyn Garden City
and the website is here.
It's slightly confusing having an organisation called 'cafe church', whilst several churches (including ours) do 'cafe style church' without being part of the organisation. cafechurch.net is about Christian communities based in coffee shops, rather than church services set out around tables in cafe style. Hope that clears it up, but it probably doesn't.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
There are various ways to browse this blog:
- just scroll down, and you'll see the last 10 or so posts I've put up. This gives you a bit of an idea of what I blog about, though it's dominated a bit by the embryo bill.
- if you've more time, go back through the month archives on the sidebar.
- click on the links at the bottom of any post to see posts on similar topics
- use the sidebar links to look at other sites.
This originally started as a blog on mission and leadership, but also covers Yeovil things, TV and film reviews, current events, worship, fresh expressions of church, prayer, marriage and family life, culture, social trends, and stats - latest surveys, church attendance etc. There's also a smattering of cartoons, and lots of links to sites with useful resources. I also write a weekly column for the Wardman Wire, a political blog.
Have a poke around, that's what it's for! And, if you have come here via Grapevine, all views expressed here are my own, unless clearly quoted from someone else, and don't have the explicit endorsement of the Bishop or the Church of England. Just thought I'd clarify that........
The site is hosted by Blogger, one of several blogging companies on the net. If you want to know how to set one up, just have a go, or drop a comment to me or Steve.
For a couple of Sundays a month we use two venues: a traditional service in the church, and something more informal and child-friendly in the community centre 1/2 mile up the hill at the heart of the Abbey Manor estate. There's still a pretty good sense of church unity, but if we extended this to 3 or 4 Sundays a month, as well as stretching our resources past their limits, we might end up by accident with 2 separate churches.
It was a funeral which started the whole thing off. Last year Bob, our Treasurer and a great bloke, died very suddenly and we had around 250 people packed into St. James for his funeral. Roughly half ended up in the church room, watching a video relay of the service.
We realised that this was something we could do on Sundays too, so last Sunday we relayed the reading, a drama skit, and the sermon into the room, and had a worship leader and musicians in both venues. We kept the same running order, had childrens groups in a building next door which we hired (and turned out to be very suitable), and joined together for coffee afterwards.
Normally we get 80-85 for that service. 120 turned up, boosted by a sudden and unexpected visit from the local Christian boarding school, (20-odd 6th formers). So instead of filling 1 venue to nearly maximum, we filled both! Everything seemed to work, and we've installed a permanent cable from the church into the room which just needs plugging into a projector and speaker to relay things from the church.
It seems to be a good solution for lots of reasons:
- it keeps the church in one place, which is an important statement
- it minimises duplication: only 1 sermon and order of service need preparing, and only 1 set of childrens activities.
- it increases our seating capacity by 50
- nothing is lost: the 10.30 service is just as it always was, but if you want the same thing with comfy seating and a slightly more informal, intimate atmosphere (and the chance to get to the coffee first), there's an alternative.
In the long run we'll need to buy another projector, and have a team who know how to set it up so that the practical stuff doesn't keep falling on the same shoulders. But it was a good start.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I can understand a parent doing everything to save their own child, though to know for the whole of your life that you were only conceived for the sake of your brother, not just because you were wanted for your own sake - I'm not quite sure what that does to you. Ok it was true in a way for Jesus, but he was already around before he was born.
I fail to understand why the abortion limit has to stay at 24 weeks, when babies born before this date are surviving. Why should the law lag behind science in this case, whilst in the rest of the embryology bill it's doing the opposite. Most other European countries have limits roughly 10 weeks below this.
And the cobblers about the 'right' of parents to have a child without a father , well words fail me. The law is supposed to protect the vulnerable, not sponsor social experiments which are already failing. But we've already fed our kids into the mincer in so many other ways. Hey, Labour, leave those kids alone....
Update: this mornings' news headline on 5 live was the Chelsea and Man U fans arriving in Moscow. Never mind the ethics, feel the football.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The 'prayer' page on the CofE site also has prayers for Burma, China, financial management, and various general prayers for the world. If you're stuck for some materials, and someone hasn't returned your copy of John Pritchards Intercessions Handbook, then it's a useful resource. There's a more general story about the site and how well it's been used here.
Here's one of the prayers:
Prayer suitable for use by teachers
I don't suppose that you have time for this, Lord, but I am nervous. Not for myself, but for my class. Today they have that test, Lord; the one that seems to determine their future.
They have worked hard, so have I!
They deserve to do well.
It should not be a problem, but... well, you know this lot, Lord.
They can get so silly if they are nervous or excited.
They forget things that normally they know, like their names and the date! O Lord, they are in there, and there is nothing I can do but worry.
Keep them calm, Lord.
Keep them focused.
Let them do their best.
At this moment they really need your help.
which is good in that it models a more conversational style of prayer, but not so good in that, if I'm having a conversation with God in this kind of style, it seems really strange to use someone elses words. Maybe it works as a reflection to kick off our own prayers, or to put into words what someone is feeling.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Several respondents have used the opportunity to give SSDC a bit of stick for the wording of the questionnaire. Winner of the 'no surprise there' prize is Somerset County Council, who were last seen calling for SSDC to be abolished. Given that they responded 15 days late for the original deadline (30th April), you'd think they'd be a bit more polite.
There must be around 30 people who've just responded on 1 line: asking for a place of worship in sizeable new developments under the 'health and well-being' question. Nobody can say we didn't speak up! Interestingly, the Jehovas Witnesses have done the same.
One of the best responses is that of Roger Daniels, who sounds like just another ordinary guy until you realise he's the agent for Bellway Homes! (Interesting that one or two companies have answered through agents, rather than putting their own name to the responses. Is that just accepted practice or are they deliberately hiding? If so why?) Lots of sensible feedback, about the only thing I disagree with is the response to the 'health and wellbeing' question on community facilities. But if you've still not filled in your form, a great example of how to answer briefly, to the point, whilst making your case.
Every so often a letter arrives in a columnist's mailbag that throws a hand grenade right into the middle of a long-held view. That happened to me last week following my article in which I urged caution before lowering the time limit on abortion from 24 to 20 weeks.
The letter came from a Registered General Nurse who works on a gynaecological ward that regularly deals with late terminations. She apologised for the "unpleasant and upsetting aspects" of her letter but felt her points needed to be said. I agree, and felt it also warranted a wider audience.Apparently, at 20 weeks, tablets can be given to kill the foetus prior to expulsion. But at 24 weeks it is sufficiently strong to survive the treatment and many are born with signs of life. "It is all too easy for people to picture a clump of cells or mush. People don't want to picture perfectly-formed miniature babies and I don't blame them, I was once the same," says Kay. "But having cut the umbilical cord on one who survived, then had to watch him gasp for breath for ten minutes on the side of a sink before he died, that sight will haunt me for ever."
The reason given for that particular termination was that the mother's current boyfriend had a toddler son who might get jealous of a new baby. It took them 21 weeks to come to that conclusion. Kay adds: "I know of two nurses who went off work with stress as a result of their experience with late terminations. I suffered horrendous nightmares and guilt for months. The guilt comes from the fact that you as a nurse cut the umbilical cord and, as dramatic as it sounds, we felt like murderers."
Kay doesn't believe in hounding or criminalising women who have to make this extremely tough decision owing to severe disability. Her misgivings are reserved solely for those who use termination as a form of contraception. Women who, up until last week, I hoped were few and far between. But, according to Kay, these terminations far outstrip those carried out because of fetal abnormality or genuine emotional distress. She says: "There are girls who come back five or six times demanding terminations and they get them. How can someone coming for their fifth termination be allowed to keep saying it is due to emotional distress? I should imagine in ten years' time the emotional distress of being allowed to have five terminations is going to take its toll. What is going on?"
On the Bill, there are 4 short videos exploring the 4 main ethical issues, posted online by CCFON, with Evan Harris putting 1 side of the debate and Dr. Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship responding.
Animal-human hybrids (3m59s) - http://www.ccfon.org/mediacentre.php?avid=81&avap=1
Abortion 24 week limit (3m44s) - http://www.ccfon.org/mediacentre.php?avid=82&avap=1
Saviour Siblings (2m05s) - http://www.ccfon.org/mediacentre.php?avid=83&avap=1
Role of the Father in IVF (1m50s) - http://www.ccfon.org/mediacentre.php?avid=84&avap=1
Saturday, May 17, 2008
whilst the plain old church still costs less than £400, there’s a hotel somewhere which will cost you 20 times that, and do individually wrapped gifts for all the guests (huh? I thought we gave them presents?). When the average wedding costs £25,000, more than double the figure 10 years ago, there’s clearly a few leeches which need to be pulled off those bright-eyed engaged couples. How we laughed when the desperate Apprentices failed to sell any wedding cakes to win Alan Sugars approval. But where they fail there is a queue of photographers, wedding organisers, stag venues, dressmakers, hire firms, and ‘wedding accessory’ marketers waiting to latch on and suck blood.
for the rest, go here.
Various resources on the ccfon website for reflection on these issues. Something to ask people to pray for tomorrow. Whilst we've already crossed the Rubicon on abortion, the other 3 issues all cross significant ethical lines, and redefine what we mean by humanity, and the nature of key relationships within human community.
Best Church Website
Best Christian Organisation Blog or Website
Best Christian Social Action Website
Best Christian Newcomer
Most Inspiring Leadership Blog
Best Young Christian Blog (under 25)
Best Christian News and Reviews Website
Most Green (Environmental) Christian Website
Best Provision for Youth Blog or Website
Best Christian Music Blog or Website
Most Creative Christian Blog or Website
The People's Choice Award: Favourite Christian Website
It's disappointing not to see a mission category here, given that there are so many good ones, and other niches get their own award, but I guess they can't give out too many prizes. If I can work out how to do it, I'll be nominating Bishop Alan for leadership blog, Start the Week for best organisation, ASBO Jesus for best creative website, and Madpriest for best News and Reviews site (just to be naughty).
Friday, May 16, 2008
the Telegraphs George Pitcher, commenting on a Parliamentary committees recommendation that under-16's should be able to opt out of RE if they disagree with its content. The news story is here, HT Politics Home. Bet teachers are thrilled at the idea too: they'd obviously rather be supervising uppity teenagers than having a well earned coffee.
Two bits of unfinished business from the last, before leaving stats well alone for a bit. Again, all the usual caveats apply.
1. Midweek attendance: the CofE stats 2001-6 show the following (figures for adults)
Sunday attendance 2001: 868,000; 2006: 828000 (-4.8%)
Midweek attendance 2001: 108,000; 2006: 109,000 (+0.9%)
So midweek attendance is holding up better than Sunday attendance, and becoming a more important part of the picture because of this. However we don't know how much double counting there is in this figure - how many of the midweekers are also Sunday regulars.
2. Change in adult Sunday attendance. This is one of two measures available for 2001-6 comparisons using CofE official stats. I published the weekly attendance table last Saturday, here is the Sunday-only table:
Bath & Wells -1.9%
St Albans -4.1%
Ripon & Leeds -4.1%
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich -5.7%
Sodor & Man -9.5%
Church of England -4.9%
1. London still leads by a big margin, though it's interesting to see that Englands top 3 urban sprawls take the top 3 spots. Other urban sprawls take the bottom three, so there probably aren't deep and meaningful conclusions to be drawn.
2. There's a bit of shuffling up and down, but nothing major apart from Norwich, who drop alarmingly.
3. It's still decline, however you measure it, but still at a much slower rate than the 1990s, when all but 8 dioceses saw a double-digit fall in adult Sunday attendance. However these figures are only for 5 years, not 10, and there are still some major implosions going on. The picture is not as bleak as the Christian Research conclusions, but it's also not as rosy as the CofE media briefings sometimes paint it either.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
What happened at Second Reading
The records of how MPs voted can be viewed by the following links:
Vote for the Bill at Second Reading: 340 in favour, 78 against:
The vote for the restricted timetable to hear the Bill was also carried in favour of the Government. This will mean that only 3 hours of parliamentary time is given to each of the key issues listed above, including the amendments of both sides on the issue of abortion. In total, including Report Stage, there will be a total of less than 3 days for this controversial Bill to be both debated and voted on:
265 in favour, 149 against:
Index to different parts of debate:
BBC Parliament 'The Record' summary of the debate in the chamber: http://www.ccfon.org/mediacentre.php?avid=76&avap=1.
There were, however, encouraging signs of God at work:
The All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group press statement quotes Ann Widdecombe’s encouraging words: “Clearly there is all to play for, with the large number of MPs abstaining indicating that many have still to make up their minds. We ensured the pro-life amendments—on the upper time limit for the gestation period for abortions—went down first, and if usual procedures are followed, they should be debated first. It was also encouraging how many Labour MPs spoke against the Bill—whereas once it would have been particularly difficult to get, for example, women Labour MPs to do so.”
The group also reports that there was clarity in the laying of the amendments, despite the physical scrum to get amendments amendments on abortion were laid in the following order: 12 weeks, 14 weeks, 16 weeks, 18 weeks, 20 weeks.
A letter to the Telegraph from over 50 scientists highlights the loophole in the Bill, which together with the planned repeal of the Cloning Act 2001, would allow cloned babies to be born. The letter calls for the ban in the 2001 Act to be kept . http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/05/13/nosplit/dt1301.xml#head8 (scroll down to ‘Embryo Bill Dangers’).
The Daily Mail today reports the growing unease amongst rebel Labour MPs at not being allowed free vote either at Second Reading or at Third Reading and the double standards that seem to be creeping in:
Please pray for the MPs who have laid amendments on abortion and also for Iain Duncan Smith, who was able to lay an amendment on fatherhood; Edward Leigh and David Burrowes who tabled amendments prohibiting animal-human hybrids and saviour siblings respectively, and Claire Curtis Thomas, who tabled amendments on informed consent for women contemplating abortion (which could be the most influential in the long-term future of abortion in this country) and banning abortion up to birth for disabled babies.
Whilst most of the news coverage was supportive of the Bill and tended to feature the pro-embryo research rally, the following clips were more balanced and Sky News screened their interview with Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship:
Sky News 5.30 pm report:
BBC News 24, 4.30 pm report:
This isn't normally a 'campaigning' blog, but the kind of things our Parliament is looking at fundamentally change our view of what it is to be human, and what kind of value we give to human life. We are moving from seeing life as intrinsically valuable, to seeing lives only as means to and end. In some ways this is the same attitude that is pushing thousands of children through the SATS mincer this week, not because the exams do them any good, but so that schools can be ranked in league tables. It is the commodification of children: not created and raised in love, but created as a means to some other end, and raised as educational units or consumer pawns (as Child of Our Time disturbingly showed last week).
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Alongside a brilliant joke about the child support agency there's
- a creation story ('in the beginning God breathed life into creation, and then she sighed...'),
- an army convinced it has God on its side, but which has forgotten the reason it started fighting in the first place - in fact, fighting is their only reason for living. Wonder why they gave the general an Irish accent?
- medical ethics: does a person born created by a machine, using human tissue samples, rather than by natural parents qualify as fully human? (very topical with the embryo research debate currently happening in parliament).
- and 2 people divided with a peacemaker 'doctor' each side of the dividing wall of hostility, one of whom (Dr. Jones), through healing one of the people (fixing a disclocated soldier), becomes accepted and gets the chance to make peace.
Will someone have to die a sacrificial death to sort this all out? Brilliant scripts, and enough issues in 10 minutes to do a homegroup series.
I'm constantly amazed at how this series keeps coming back to religious themes, though in this episode there's a lot of religious scepticism too: the creation story is dismissed as a 'myth', and the Doctor contrasts his intellect with the armies confidence in God and force. Here is the secularist case, as put by Terry Sanderson of the NSS on Simon Mayo's show yesterday (go to 31 minutes in). Religions cause wars, we're better off without them, human reason has all the answers we need. Incidentally, it was good to hear a thoughtful rebuff to the NSS case by the other guests on the show, and one has the sneaking suspicion that the NSS would prefer to have religious voices silenced rather than debate with them.
Later: well well well, we even get a death and resurrection, the episode ends with the 'breath of God' (according to the doctor, just a cocktail of gases which can rejuvenate barren planets) bringing back to life the Doctors daughter, unnaturally born at the start of the episode but killed. Hmm, who does that remind you of? And it finishes in a paradise garden. Etc. etc. I wonder if they just chop up Bibles at random, stir them into a pot, pull bits out at random and build the script around it.
And there's even a gospel: "it can lift you out of these dark dark tunnels, into the light. No more fighting, no more killing. I'm the Doctor, and I declare this war over, " at which point the Doctor releases the forces (the gas cocktail) which will create a new world.
Monday, May 12, 2008
- to look in detail at what we mean by 'wellbeing' and quality of life, and provide an explicitly Christian response and content to the debate.
- to demonstrate that Christians can say positive things in the public square, to counteract our public image of just being opposed to stuff.
Report in the Times, and comment by Ruth Gledhill. Here's an excerpt from the blurb on the report:
Despite unprecedented levels of legislation, welfare and material wealth in the UK, this country faces significant challenges about human well-being that politicians alone cannot solve. This report sets out some of these challenges and concludes that the absence of certain key values is the primary cause of so much discontent.
Our solutions do not involve more law or higher taxes but rather a call to re-examine the decisions taken in every sector of society in the light of crucial life-challenging principles.
These principles are set out as five defining questions:
- Does my action encourage people to develop positive relationships in their families and
- Is my action socially and globally responsible?
- Does my action promote a climate of trust and hope?
- Does my action promote self-esteem and respect for others?
- Does my action encourage people to fulfil their God given potential?
This report sets the challenge of applying these questions before any new action is taken. This document does not form a call to arms, a summons to muster around some new set of top-down policies. Rather it is a call to hope, an invitation for all stakeholders in our nation’s future to something new, something fresh, a positive, hopeful working towards a brighter future.
It's a realistic and refreshingly positive bit of work, as well as an extended theological reflection on 'love your neighbour as yourself'. A healthy society is more than one that is either prosperous or physically well, just as there is more to a healthy church than one which is outwardly 'succesful'. In fact both the report, and the recent literature on growing healthy churches (also here), work from the same premise: if you focus on health, the other results you're looking for (whether a better and happier society or a growing church) happen as byproducts.
The link between happiness and faith has been noted by, among others, Richard Layard, and the Royal Economic Society.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
- Resident friendly vicar, to answer questions (armed with map, parish boundaries and diocesan handbook so that people can work out their parish church)
- 'Ready for Marriage?' booklet (only £1 each, to give away)
- 'Your Marriage in the Church of England' glossy leaflet (£15 for pack of 20 from Church House Publishing) free to give away
- details of Marriage Preparation course in early 2009, which we may offer to non-church people as well, it'll be interesting to see if many are interested.
- Laptop with rolling DVD from the Marriage Preparation course (we use the Nicky & Sila Lee one, rather than the latest CofE version) so people can see what's involved.
- A couple of posters and things like that.
I'd be keener to see people drawn to marriage prep than to a church wedding, but we'll see how it goes. (We're already looking at whether we can offer a single church-run marriage preparation course covering the whole town.) If the experiment is succesful, we'll try to get into the round of local wedding fairs. I'm aware of churches that host wedding fairs, but haven't come across anyone yet who does the rounds of fairs hosted in secular venues.
Don't know if we've time to get hold of some of the stuff on eco weddings, the carbon footprint of the average wedding is 14.5 tonnes, which is higher than the average yearly adult carbon footprint.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
1. These figures come from the Church of England published stats available through their (our!) official website. The ** by Salisbury was on the published stats, but I couldn't find out what it meant!!
2. The figures show the difference in Average Adult Weekly Attendance, so it covers midweek services as well as Sundays, and doesn't include children. The Usual Sunday Attendance figure wasn't reported in 2006, so the only alternative for comparing 2001-6 would be Average Sunday Attendance. (see below the chart for more on this)
3. The published stats are 'provisional' for 2006.
Here are the dioceses, ranked in order, with the % change in AAWA 2001-6.
Ripon & Leeds -3%
Bath & Wells -3%
St Albans -4%
Total C of E -4%
Sodor & Man -4%
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich -6%
a) These figures look better than Bob Jacksons on church decline in the 90's, but they only cover half a decade, and use a different measurement.
b) Another stat we need is what proportion of average weekly attendance is outside Sundays. This would show whether midweek attendance is becoming relatively more important compared to Sunday services, and therefore how big a pinch of salt to take with any projections based on Sunday attendance alone.
The next and hopefully final bit in what's become a series will deal with b and provide a Sunday figure. Then the CofE will probably publish final stats which are nothing like the provisional ones, and I'll have to start all over again. Ho hum!
Friday, May 09, 2008
Quadrant reports some of the data from the new Religious Trends survey, and predicts 1,898,000 churchgoers in England in 2050, and 3m in the UK. The England figure alone is 1m higher than the 899,000 figure quoted by Ruth Gledhill for 'Britain' in the Times report. Christian Research's own publication contradicts the figures which were being quoted yesterday. So where did those figures come from? Did someone spill coffee over that '1' in the millions column?
The Quadrant article also notes that decline is slowing, an increasing proportion of churches are reporting growth, and that they are revising their projections upwards for church membership in the immediate future.
But: no complacency, the picture is still one of decline, and there's no reason for folk to pat themselves on the back and reassure themselves with the knowledge that the Titanic isn't sinking as fast as we thought.
Update, Friday Teatime: Dave Walker has managed to contact Benita Hewitt, who runs Christian Research, and records her comments on his Church Times blog.
The report itself is available through the Bible Society. Bet it sells well now!!!!
Ruth Gledhill has defended her interpretations of the report on her blog. I'm still struggling to see how the figures in Quadrant and the figures quoted from Religious Trends add up.
And later Ruth has put the relevant tables from Religious Trends in a blog post, and they tally completely with her reporting on Thursday. Sorry for doubting you Ruth. Fantastic tags on her post too: 'disaster, decline, plummeting church attendance'. So it's bad then.
Two questions still remain
1. What's the basis for these projections, as they seem over-pessimistic? As I said on Thursday, you can project London Diocese alone to have higher attendance in 2050 than the CR projections for the entire Church of England
2. Why is the Quadrant figure different? It has church membership standing at 5,734,000 in 2006, and 3,040,000 in 2050. This is membership rather than attendance, which is what the Times headlines were based on, and the membership figure for 2006 is about 60% higher than the attendance in the charts Ruth Gledhill has posted. If this were projected to 2050, I'd expect a church membership figure of 1,500,000 or so, to correspond to 890,000 attendance. But the projection is twice this. Will the average church member in 2050 only be going to church once every 3-4 weeks? Still not sure how this all adds up and I fear I may have to part with £30 if I want to find out!!!
normal blogging will resume at the weekend, after this weeks stats splurge, though I'll post next week with the percentage change figures for adult attendance in Dioceses 2001-6, in between stuff on cricket, church stalls at wedding fairs and the like.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
The Christian Research website doesn't yet have any of this, but it's not April 1st, so I assume the papers know something we don't.
It's a good headline, but it's wrong.
1. As the CofE spokeswoman points out , the Christian Research findings don't even compare like with like, using census figures for Muslims and electoral rolls for Anglican churches.
2. As I posted only yesterday (and honestly I didn't know this story was coming), the trends are changing. Since 2001, 60% of dioceses have slowed or reversed the decline of the 90s'. The current trend of a 1% per year drop in Anglican attendances. By any stretch of maths, that doesn't equate to a 90% drop in 40 years.
3. Detail is important too. If, for example, you took the Anglican stats 1 diocese at a time, and projected them forwards, then yes you'd get some places with next to nobody, but you'd also get London with over 100,000 Anglicans on it's own. It all depends which trend you choose to project forwards.
As Rowan Williams has pointed out, the media has two main narratives for the church, decline or split, and Christian Research is, sadly, playing straight into these.
Tangled Web, meanwhile, thinks it's a good thing, as the established churches 'deserve to die'.
Update: Peter Kirk has a good analysis on his Gentle Wisdom blog.
Update 2: Christian Research have described the Times report as 'very misleading', according to Evangelism UK. I still can't find any reference on the web to the actual report. The most recent Christian Research publication in any online Christian bookshop, or Amazon, is the UK Christian Handbook 2007-8, published in September 2006. I'm starting to wonder what the Times report was based on, and whether all the rest of us citing Christian Research are actually just citing the Times, and an article written 2 years ago based on 'Pulling Out of the Nose Dive'. It's all very odd. I've commented on Ruth Gledhills blog to ask what her source is, and why nobody else seems to be able to find it.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I don't know if it's a headline in search of a story: to report that 22% think neighbourhoods have become less friendly still means that over 3/4 of us think they're just as friendly (or unfriendly!) as they were, or better.
How many neighbours have you talked to this week? How many have been inside your house, or you in theirs? How many neighbours are your friends, compared with people from work, sport, social events, school gate etc.?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
1. London +12
2. Coventry -2
actually, lets stop there. When you're 2nd best Diocese is shrinking, you know you're in for a painful time. Skip to the bottom 5:
39. York -21
40. Bath & Wells -22
41. Carlisle -23
42. Lincoln -23
43. Durham -28
The figures for children were even worse. Moving from Durham to Bath and Wells Diocese (as I did in 2006) seemed like a leap from one leaky boat to another.
Since 1999 a lot of water has gone under the bridge, and indeed over it if you live near the Severn. The CofE now has attendance stats from 2001 to 2006. I've moaned elsewhere on this blog about why we're 2 years behind with basic data, and won't do again. (ooops, just did!). What follows is based on this data, with 2 caveats:
- The stats are 'adult weekly attendance', the 'usual sunday attendance' figure isn't recorded in the national stats for the full 2001-6 period.
- The 2006 stats are 'provisional', and so may be wrong.
1. London +12%
2. Hereford +3%
3. York +1%
4. Gloucester +1%
5. Newcastle +1%
and the bottom 5
39. Chester -10%
40. Blackburn -12%
41. Bradford -12%
42. Liverpool -14%
43. Sheffield -15%
The good news is that there are more dioceses growing. The bad news is that there are only 6 of them. And only London (still) is growing at a significant rate. Also, if you were thinking that decline has slowed in the bottom dioceses, remember that this only covers 5 years. Double those percentages and it doesn't look very different from the last decade.
However, being an Anglican statistician, I've found a way to put a positive spin on the figures.
My question is this: are things getting worse or better? To put it another way, is the rate of decline slowing, or increasing, in the Dioceses? As a large tanker, rather than a speedboat, the Church of England isn't going to change course overnight; a change in direction will happen slowly, but the first sign of that change will be a slowing of decline, hopefully as a precursor to growth.
So I've done a new sum.
Take York for example. York shrank by 21% in the 90's, but grew by 1% in 2001-6. As 2001-6 is only 5 years, to compare 2 x 10 year periods, I've multiplied the noughties figure by 2 to compensate. York's change from -21 to +2, gives a net change of 23%. It is turning around. A positive net change figure means that a diocese is either growing faster, declining slower, or has turned decline into growth. A negative figure means decline is getting worse.
You might just think, logically, that why don't we just work out what London has done well and copy it? Well, Bob Jackson has already done that, so here's my contribution....
This is the full 'net change' league table. The figure in brackets is where that Diocese was in the 1989-99 attendance league table, the 2nd figure is the net change in percent growth/decline from 1989-99 to 2001-6, with the adjustment mentioned above.
1. (39) York 23
2. (30) Hereford 23
3. (36) Manchester 22
4. (33) Newcastle 20
5. (41) Carlisle 19
6. (24) Gloucester 17
7. (40) Bath & Wells 15
8. (42) Lincoln 15
9. (22) Wakefield 14
10. (43) Durham 13
11. (30) Birmingham 13
12. (27) Norwich 12
13. (18) Chelmsford 12
14. (1) London 11
15. (13) Winchester 11
16. (27) Exeter 10
17. (24) Ripon & Leeds 9
18. (30) Rochester 9
19. (9) Southwark 8
20. (27) Southwell 7
21. (36) Bristol 7
22. (18) St. Albans 5
23. (13) Leicester 5
24. (18) Chichester 5
25. (13) Ely 3
26. (11) Sodor & Man 3
27. (33) Worcester 2
28. (13) St Eds & Ipswich -1
29. (36) Blackburn -2
30. (6) Peterborough -2
31. (13) Truro -3
32. (24) Portmouth -4
33. (3) Canterbury -4
34. (5) Oxford -5
35. (18) Lichfield -5
36. (4) Derby -5
37. (6) Guildford -5
38. (11) Salisbury -6
39. (33) Liverpool -10
40. (9) Chester -11
41. (2) Coventry -12
42. (22) Sheffield -16
43. (6) Bradford -17
A few thoughts
- A majority of dioceses are doing better than in the 1990's. Ok so that's not hard. 16 are doing worse, but for 10 of these the figure is 5% or less, it's not dramatic.
- 7 of these dioceses managed to turn decline in the 90's into growth (or parity) in the noughties.
- Every member of the bottom 5 in the 90's is in the top 10 for improvement. Does this mean that those dioceses with their backs to the wall took questions of decline/growth more seriously than the others?
- Only 2 of the best 10 dioceses in the 90's improved after 2000, the rest saw accelerated decline. Is there a 'glass ceiling' effect, similar to churches, which means that dioceses can only sustain a certain level of energy and change for so long, before falling back? Or do we just do better when we're up against it?
- London, again, has managed steady growth. The other growing/stable Dioceses are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 in this table. York and Manchester demonstrate that it's possible to turn a Diocese around from hefty decline. The next few years will show whether putting the brakes on decline can turn into pressing the accelerator for growth.
If anyone shows any interest, I'll post the full Diocesan league table for attendance change 2001-6, and the equivalent table for childrens attendance. I just don't want to take up too much of this blog with stats if people don't like them......
*Anselmics Place has also done some analysis on trends since 1968, and he's even more pessimistic. I must confess to being a bit torn. The worse things look, the more we might be motivated to pray and change.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
Hoggy is back among the wickets, and should come in for Anderson, who's had more 2nd chances than Graham Hick and Mark Ramprakash put together, and still doesn't manage to perform for 2 tests in a row. Ambrose is a better batsman than Flintoff on current form, and Key is hungry right now, making the runs, and should get a chance.
2 big issues still remain:
- Vaughan, if he wasn't captain, wouldn't be guaranteed a place in the side. How many runs is his captaincy worth?
- Can England bowl a side out with 4 bowlers? On their day all 4 in the above 11 are proven wicket takers, but only Sidebottom has done that consistently, and without injury, during his time in the side in the last 2 years. We don't know yet whether Hoggard and Flintoff are on the wane, or whether (like Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock etc.) they still have 3-4 good years left in them. Ambrose isn't yet a Test no.6, but Flintoff isn't batting at that standard either, so an England with 5 bowlers would have a long tail.
One of my local team asked yesterday if I could pray for good weather to dry out our pitch ready for tomorrows first game. I replied that I was in sales, not management (someone elses line, sadly), but the Management has done a great job today, it's been lovely sunshine. We'll find out tomorrow whether He was teasing.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Links to most things can be found on the Abbey Manor Park website, including our local cafe, Chinese takeaway, pub (The Arrow), and community centre. There's also a charity shop, Tesco corner shop, laundry, chemist, dialysis centre (every community should have one) doctors surgery and vets. These are all in 'The Forum', further down the estate is a small industrial estate, home to Rugrats soft play area, a couple of car servicing businesses, and the notorious Abbey Manor Cars (featured on Rogue Traders in 2007). Oak Tree Park at the top of the estate has a good playground, hard court games area, and skatepark, which I've not dared try yet.
The local school is Preston Primary, local teenagers go to Preston or Westfield Comprehensive (or 'community schools' as they're now called).
The only church meeting on the estate is St. James (Anglican), but there are local Christians from most of the other churches in town. Yeovil Vineyard has a good collection of links to these.
There is a very active local parish council.
Mapping wise, Multimap still hasn't caught up with the housebuilding at the northern end of the estate, their aerial picture is at least 5 years out of date. If you use Google Maps and search for Abbey Manor Yeovil, the satellite pic is about 18-24 months old. All the housebuilding is now completed.
The estate is bounded by a small stream to the E (beyond which is more housing, built in the last 30-35 years), green fields to the N (soon to become a new housing estate), Western Avenue to the W, beyond which is Yeovil FC ground and a trading estate selling mainly cars and building products, and by Preston Road to the S, one of the 2 main routes in to Yeovil from the West.
The area is pretty middle class, some of the local roads are among the most expensive in the town. There is very little social housing, and just about all of the estate has been built since 1980. There are roughly 2500 houses on the estate. With a big primary school, 2 local soft play areas (the other is just past the football ground) and 3 bits of local preschool provision it's a popular area for young families. The population is relatively mobile and mixed: we know local folk from Norway, Iran, India and Korea.
This has been a public service announcement.