Living in Love and Faith – first facilitated group conversation held
The first meeting of the ‘Living With Difference’ group – who have been invited to be part of a series of three facilitated conversations around the Prayers of Love and Faith – was held in September.
The members of the group included:
Ade Adebajo (Elected member of the London Diocesan Synod); Simon Friend (Co-Convenor of the Evangelical Forum for General Synod); Jamie Harrison (Chair of the House of Laity, General Synod); Sarah Jackson (CEO, Church Revitalisation Trust); Helen King (Vice-Chair, General Synod Gender & Sexuality Group); Tom Middleton (Director of Forward in Faith and Secretary of the Council of Bishops of The Society); Sarah Mullally (Bishop of London, Co-Chair of the LLF Implementation Steering Group); Vaughan Roberts (Rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford; Charlie Skrine (Rector, All Souls Langham Place); and David Walker (Bishop of Manchester)
The group aimed to reflect the spectrum of views held, and aimed to offer back to the Bishops an understanding of how their proposals can be taken forward, reflecting the issues raised in the conversations.
This was scheduled to feed into meetings of the College of Bishops, and then the House of Bishops in October.
Church to host all-Wales climate summit, announces Archbishop of Wales
The health of Wales’s waterways and landscape will be the focus of an all-Wales climate summit hosted by the Church in Wales next year.
The two-day event will bring together academics, activists, pressure groups and stakeholders to discuss the impact of industry, agriculture, and homes on the environment.
The summit was announced by the Archbishop of Wales, Andrew John.
Wales, he said, had “the opportunity to redesign our approach to energy, water, land use and the sustainability of food supply and at a local level,” and the Church in Wales was well placed to bring people together in “good conversation and partnership”.
Archbishop Andrew said plans were in progress for “an intelligent and honest conversation about one of the great challenges we face”. He said the event would allow key people to “find not only a common language but agree broad principles that allow policy and direction to emerge.”
It was the Church’s role, he said, to bring people together: “Church must mean much more than prayers and gathering on Sunday… our commitment to justice, to the creation, to the poor might take us into uncomfortable places…… Our ability to bring people together in good conversation and partnership should never be underestimated.”
The summit will take place in the second half of 2024. More details will be published nearer the time.
Meanwhile, the Church in Wales has made progress in its response to the climate emergency, said Archbishop Andrew. “It is now two years since we divested from fossil fuels – a major achievement and act of public witness.
“We’ve set ambitious goals and have made some early good progress. The Governing Body also voted for our net zero ambition. We have a 10-Point Plan to spur us into action and a carbon calculator, the Energy Footprint Tool, to guide our plans.”
He called on churches to use the Energy Footprint Tool, challenging them to complete it by Christmas. “This is an easy action for churches to take but a vital one as it shows us where we are and how we can get to where we want to be,” he said.
Archbishops invite choirs to join premiere of new Carol for Advent and Christmas
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have warmly invited parishes, choirs, and congregations to take part in the premiere of a special new Christmas carol in 2023.
This new carol, a fresh interpretation of the famous words ‘The First Nowell’, has been composed by the well-known composer Bob Chilcott, for use by choirs across the Church of England, and is free to download.
The mass carol premiere forms part of the Church of England’s focus for Advent and Christmas 2023 ‘Follow the Star: Join the Song.’
The carol also features in the highly anticipated Carols for Choirs 6 volume, published by the Oxford University Press, which is now available.
In recent years, The Church of England has successfully engaged millions of individuals with the Christmas message through reflections, special events, music and resources.
This year’s theme ‘Follow the Star: Join the Song’ emphasises the spiritual connection that singing can foster between individuals and God, as we journey from Advent to Epiphany, and the part that carol singing plays in many people’s Christmas traditions.
Parishes and choirs can share performances on social media using the hashtag #FollowTheStar.
In a letter, the Archbishops write: “We would love to see the carol feature in Christmas programming up and down the country, and we really hope that you will be willing to participate.
Further details about this year’s ‘Follow the Star: Join the Song’ campaign can be found at churchofengland.org/Christmas.
Prospect of winter energy bills causing anxiety for millions, says Archbishop of York
Millions are looking ahead to this winter with ‘fear and anxiety’ about the cost of heating their homes, the Archbishop of York has said as he backed the recent launch of a campaign to provide a network of warm spaces for people who struggle to pay their energy bills.
Archbishop Stephen Cottrell is encouraging churches to consider getting involved in the Warm Welcome campaign, a network of venues from community centres to churches providing warm spaces over the winter for people struggling to heat their homes.
Archbishop Stephen said: “Sadly, what began as a cost-of-living crisis has simply become the new normal for many.
“Millions of people will look ahead to this winter with fear and anxiety, wondering how they are going to cope with high living costs. That is why I am proud to endorse the Warm Welcome campaign this winter.
“But a warm welcome isn’t only about the temperature. It is about kindness and community, giving people the chance to be seen and known, to belong and to be part of something. It is about celebrating the God-given value and dignity of every single person, finding hope and community together. But of course, none of that will happen if people are cold.”
The Warm Welcome campaign is led by a coalition of over 50 charitable organisations who joined together in response to the cost of living crisis to provide emergency support to communities struggling to pay for rising food costs and to heat their homes.
Church of England launches initiative to help schools reach Net Zero
The Church of England has launched an ambitious initiative to help its network of schools reach net zero, as part of the first phase of its multi-million-pound Net Zero Carbon Programme.
The initiative involves the establishment of a National Framework to help schools reduce carbon emissions, save money by improving their energy efficiency, and switch to cheaper, more reliable, renewable energy sources. Funding will initially focus on analysing the option of replacing inefficient, polluting fossil-fuel heating systems.
“Church schools produce almost half of the Church’s carbon emissions and are therefore a fundamental part of the Church’s ambition to reach net zero carbon across the whole estate,” said Nigel Genders, Chief Executive of the National Society.
Synod meeting to focus on implementation of Prayers of Love and Faith
The General Synod of the Church of England met last month (November) to discuss the steps being taken to implement texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith, which ask for God’s blessing for same-sex couples.
In February of this year, Synod agreed a motion welcoming the texts and calling on The House of Bishops to further refine and commend them for use in the Church of England, together with new pastoral guidance and proposals for pastoral reassurance.
Earlier this autumn, the House of Bishops agreed in principle that they Prayers of Love and Faith should be commended for use. They also concluded that special services for same-sex couples, based on the Prayers, should go forward for consideration to be formally authorised under canon law. Synod also voted for no change to the doctrine of the Church of England around marriage and sexual intimacy.
In November, Synod members was presented with the work that the House of Bishops has carried out on the Prayers of Love and Faith since February. They the draft pastoral guidance, specifically supporting the Prayers, which has been shared for the first time.
The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who has co-chaired the Living in Love and Faith steering group, said: “This twin-track approach means that prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples will be available for use in church very soon, as Synod has asked. A means of offering special, standalone services for same-sex couples will go forward to be considered for formal authorisation at a later stage.
“While we do not all agree about questions of marriage and sexual intimacy, a long period of discernment has shown that a majority of people would like to see a change in the Church of England’s approach to same-sex relationships. Based on what the Church has told us, no change is not an option.
“There are those who would like to see us go much further, and those who believe we are going too far. Yet we have expressed our heartfelt wish to remain together as one Church. The pastoral provision must protect and value both those who struggle so much with this that they need reassurance, and those who wish to place same-sex relationships before God in prayer.
“In other words, it will be ‘both and’, not ‘either or’. We are implementing what Synod asked us to, prayerfully and with the hope of God’s Grace.”
Safeguarding standards published
The Church of England has published a set of National Safeguarding Standards.
They will serve as an ‘essential benchmark,’ enabling Church bodies to identify both their strengths and areas for development, which will in turn inform their strategic planning in respect of safeguarding.
The five Standards have been developed after three years of consultation, and they build on existing policies and procedures including the previous Promoting a Safer Church statement.
The Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, Joanne Grenfell, said: “All organisations, including the Church, must be able to demonstrate how well they are fulfilling their safeguarding responsibilities.
“The standards are part of a vital quality assurance framework aimed at making the Church a safer place for all. I know they will be welcomed by all those involved in their local church.”
Visit the C of E online page
There is now a range of digital resources for to you connect with God at this difficult time. These include:
Time to Pray app (https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray) which is free and has an accompanying daily audio offering on SoundCloud and iTunes.
Mental health reflections (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health)
Finally, there are the Church’s smart speaker apps, which provide a range of Christian resources. https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/our-smart-speaker-apps In March alone, the number of people using the Alexa app rose by more than 70 per cent.
More details at: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online