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December 2017

N E E D TO K N OW

I S T O R I E S I A R E A U P D AT E S I E V E N T S N E A R Y O U

In My View By VEN JOHN PERUMBALATH Archdeacon of Barking ADVENT is a season to meditate on and strengthen hope, and to become more vigilant as we grow in that hope. It involves questioning and examining our attitude

Welcome to our

135

toward life, history and God. For many of us, Christ comes

not seeing Jesus as he was but a

good tidings but “frightening

Jesus who suits our consumerist,

news for everyone who has a

in the candles, stars, gifts, carols,

self-oriented and insensitive

good food, processions and

lifestyle. We avoid seeing Jesus

worship in safely built churches.

of Nazareth because he does

In all our extravaganza and

not suit us and he confronts

paraphernalia of festivities, we

our conscience with

lose sight of the harsh realities

uncomfortable questions about

of the coming of Christ: a stable,

our lifestyles and attitudes. As

the cold night, the closed door

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, God’s

CONTINUED ON

of the inn and so on. We are

coming is not only a matter of

BACK PAGE

conscience.” This Jesus who has already come compels us to see our own life and things around us differently. Consider Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example.

th

and final edition

Over the last 11 years The Month has chronicled life in the Diocese of Chelmsford. In the years since The Month was launched in 2006 the media landscape has changed dramatically. The news cycle is now 24/7. Websites, emails and social media are the norm. A single post from a church on social media can reach thousands of people immediately. You can post and find stories and events from across the diocese on our website www.chelmsford.anglican.org and sign up to get news delivered to your inbox. You can share and receive news through Twitter @chelmsdio and Facebook www.facebook.com/chelmsdio. As well as this we will be providing more resources to parish magazine editors – and we are looking at other ideas for printed publications when appropriate. Meanwhile, thank you to our readers, contributors, advertisers, distributors, Elm Tree Couriers, Cornerstone Vision Ltd, and our editor Jon Longman for an amazing 11 years. John Ball, Chief Executive - Diocese of Chelmsford

Your church can get involved with the #GodWithUs festive campaign Page 3

St Andrew's debut win for Greensted in Essex's Best Kept Churchyard contest Page 5

The Class of 2017 are ordained as deacons by Bishop Stephen: Centre Pages


2

THE MONTH December 2017

THE

month: Teenagers face more corrupting material today

Bishop calls for social media regulation action

STEPHEN Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, has spoken in a House of Lords debate on 'Growing up with the internet', a report from the Communications Select Committee on which he serves. Bishop Stephen (right) said: 'There is so much in this report that is of critical importance to the sort of world that we want to live in, to the wellbeing of our nation, our public life, and of course particularly our children. 'Lord Best in his opening speech outlined disturbingly well the challenges and the dangers, and although I do want to welcome the initial responses that we’ve heard from Government, there is still much more that needs to be done to join all this up, and make sure the child – the needs of the child – are put at the centre. 'So among the many important recommendations that we offer here, I want to draw attention to just two, because they are important in themselves, but because for me, they illustrate the larger central point of our report that Government must take up the challenge to ensure that all those who work in the digital world, work together to support the needs of children in an integrated and overarching response. 'So let me tell you a couple of stories. My eldest son when he was about ­­­­­­­­­­­— I don’t know – 11 or 12 – came home from school one day, and told us that he was the only boy in his class who didn’t have a mobile phone. 'We said to him, ’don’t be so stupid of course you’re not only boy in you class who doesn’t have a mobile phone.’ We then chatted with a few parents at the school gate over the next couple of days and discovered, ‘oh, actually he is the only boy in his class who doesn’t have a mobile phone’.

The Month, incorporating NB and East Window, is the free circulation newspaper of Church of England in Essex and East London (Diocese of Chelmsford). www.chelmsford. anglican.org/themonth ● Find Chelmsford Diocese on Twitter @chelmsdio ● Find Bishop Stephen on Twitter @cottrellstephen ● Subscribe to our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/ChelmsfordDiocese ● Like us on Facebook: www. facebook.com/chelmsdio ● Like our Ask an Archdeacon Facebook www.facebook.com/ askanarchdeacon ● View our photostream on Flickr www. flickr.com/photos/chelmsford-diocese

editorial Editor: Jon Longman Editorial and photographs for The Month should be sent to: themonth@chelmsford.anglican.org or Jon Longman, The Month, 1 Bouchiers Place, Messing, Colchester CO5 9TY. Tel: 01621 810530. Mobile: 07860 769906 ● Digital photographs for publication: Please take pictures at largest size,

debate loses interest. 'You know just about – just about every child in our country and across the world has access to all the advantages of this technology, and all the terrible snares. And if you don’t have one, then you are seriously disadvantaged which is another whole issue in itself. But quite simply the longer this inquiry went on, the clearer it became to me that it is simply no good for Facebook and others to shrug their shoulders and say that they are just a platform upon which others stand. And they can’t take responsibility for content and the consequences of that content. 'Because if they wished or if we made them, they could be a ticket inspector of that platform, offering proper control and management of content in all the various ways that our report outlines, such as the right to be forgotten, age verification, the removal of upsetting content, time out and so on. 'The technology is there. But they will not use it unless pressed.

'So what did we do, we went out and bought him a mobile phone. It was the right thing to do; we didn’t want him to feel left out or disadvantaged in a changing world. But my eldest son is 27, this is a long time ago, and that mobile phone that we bought him could only really make calls or texts. And now, with the advent of smart phones and tablet...all those things... 'When I was boy if I wanted to find out all this stuff, I had to get on my bike and cycle to the library. But now – you know – the whole library and so much more besides, like the rest of you I carry in my pocket and refer to from time to time if the

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“When I was boy if I wanted to find out all this stuff, I had to get on my bike and cycle to the library" 'Let me tell you another story. When I was about 15, I had a Saturday job in a wood yard. The men who worked there often left their sleazy, and by today’s standards, I suppose fairly mild magazines lying around. When I was alone in the canteen, and if I thought nobody could see me, I looked at those magazines. 'I am not particularly proud to tell you that, and I publicly repent of it in the House of Lords, I am bishop after all. It won’t look very good on my Facebook page admitting this to you, but the thing is, I was a normal 15-year-old boy, and I expect most normal 15 year old boys would have done the same thing. But now, now it should be of huge moral concern to our nation that those images and so much more and so much worse besides are available today in the pocket of every 15-year-old boy. 'And there is extremely disturbing evidence from organisations like the National Council for Women telling us how the persistent and pervasive viewing of pornography can lead to the acceptance of all sorts of violence and unhealthy notions about sex and relationships, andmen having extremely warped and degrading attitudes to women, the likes of which can I say this ithis chamber this week – the likes of which affect all walks of life. I could go on. 'The digital age brings astonishing freedom and opportunity. It gives access to each other and to information, the previous ages could never have envisioned. But in order to inhabit this age well, our report calls for sustained leadership from Government at the very highest levels and an ambitious programme of digital literacy, and most important of all, a commitment to child-centred design, protecting them from danger and harm and at the same time enabling them – not just to be safe online, but to thrive online. 'Furthermore, I also learned during this enquiry about the potentially damaging

impact, not just of some of the content, but of the very fact of viewing the tablet itself. And how overuse, particularly with very small children can affect cognitive development, because the technology is so new, it is hard to know, on all levels, what the longer-term impact might be, but this an area where more research is urgently needed and further illustrates that although we are indeed growing up in the digital age, we lack maturity in the way we are governing and regulating and responding to this development, it is too fragmented. 'The digital age can be an age of cultural and intellectual, and even moral prosperity, but enlightened legislation based on sound and child centred research is needed to lift it from the mire and misery that it is also creating. And this will require from Government great determination. But perhaps the first step isto acknowledge that self-regulation does not work; commercial interest always outflanks care of thechild. This must change and Government must take a lead. It is often said of Government that its first responsibility is to protect citizens. My Lords, I think we should now ask our Government to protect our children.' The ‘Growing up with the internet’ report includes these recommendations: ● Establishment of the post of Children’s Digital Champion at the centre of the government. ● An undertaking from the government that the UK will maintain legislation incorporating the General Data Protection Regulation in respect of children, including the right to be forgotten.

“The technology is there. But they will not use it unless pressed." ● Minimum standards requiring that the

strictest privacy settings should be ‘on’ by default, geolocation should be switched off until activated, and privacy and geolocation settings must not change during either manual or automatic system upgrades. ● Digital literacy should be the fourth pillar of a child’s education alongside reading, writing and mathematics, and be resourced and taught accordingly. ● The government should make PSHE a statutory subject, inspected by Ofsted. The Committee further recommends that PSHE be mandatory in all schools whatever their status. ● The government should commission research based on in-depth consultation with children and such research should include: ● The relationship between age and vulnerability, taking account of the differences of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. ● The impact of screen time on social and cognitive development. ● The effect of watching online pornography upon children’s attitudes and sexual development. The report can be accessed online at: http://ow.ly/2rQt30grABY


3

THE MONTH December 2017

month — Christmas campaign wins gold

By ADRIAN HARRIS, Head of Digital Communications at the Church of England WITH #JoyToTheWorld, last year’s national Christmas campaign, winning gold at Communicate Magazine’s Digital Impact Awards, we’re excited to be updating churches and congregations across the country with this year’s #GodWithUs campaign. As Archbishop Justin Welby says in his introduction to the reflective guide we’ve produced called #GodWithUs – Your Christmas Journey: “The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situations you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you – you need only turn to him and ask to know his presence�. This year’s campaign has three key elements: Three videos that tell the story of the joy of going to your local church at Christmas, which will be released throughout December on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The new A Church Near You – our national church finder – which will point people to a Christmas service or event taking place in one of the 16,500 Church of England churches. This will launch in November 2017. Your Christmas Journey, a series of short reflections throughout December and into early January 2018, introduced by Archbishop Justin Welby. The reflections have been written by soul[food] for people who

Your church can get involved in the #GodWithUs festive campaign

are new to faith and to help us all grow in our love of God. People can receive the messages as texts, emails, on social media and Church House Publishing have produced a booklet which would be ideal for churches to give to those attending Advent and Christmas services. We’ll be running a targeted social media campaign to drive attendance and engagement with the above. How can you and your church get involved? We had such fantastic involvement and engagement from churches and dioceses last year, which

made the campaign a success and helped us reach 1.5 million people. The aim is to repeat that this year, so here are five simple ways you can help out: Access church Christmas resources (including posters) by going to www.churchofengland.org/ christmas. Share the content we post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Order copies of the Your Christmas Journey reflections from Church House Publishing to give out to those attending an event or service at your church during Advent and

###

Help shape our diocese Can you help to strengthen the groups that guide our diocesan work? We are particularly looking for experience in the following areas:        

& "    &! %! &!  &    %" &   % ! % eg: Marketing/General Management &!eg: senior experience in Social Care, Health,       & & ! %

The commitment is typically 4 - 6 meetings a year. Roles are voluntary but reasonable expenses will be met. We aspire to see all diocesan bodies   

        ! % !%!$   ! ! ! For an information pack or an informal discussion, please contact: John Ball, Chief Executive & Diocesan Secretary, jball@chelmsford.anglican.org or 01245 294409. A safer recruitment process will be followed for all roles.

Christmas. We’ve already sent more than 18,000 copies of the booklet to clergy in their mailing for churches to see an example. Sign up and get your friends and family to join the Your Christmas Journey reflections by texting GodWithUs to 88802. And if you are an editor on A Church Near You, our national church finder that receives 13 million page views per year, please go in and update your Christmas service information. We’re hoping to see a record number of people visit a Church of England church this Christmas, and our prayer is that the #GodWithUs campaign will help play its part in achieving this.

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VENTING his fury at a potential rival, Herod plays a percentages game: he spreads the net of his anger widely; kills every boy under two in order to ensure he kills just one. He fails. Fury and anger usually do - though that is scant consolation to the mourning families of the innocent who suffer. Meanwhile Jesus, the Saviour who is saved, is visited by unlikely people: in this case, shepherds and foreign rulers. The shepherds, virtual outcasts in their own society and looked upon with grave suspicion, hear a song of peace. It is deeply attractive, and it sends them to Bethlehem. The wise men have followed a hunch in the form of a star. They are about to learn that all their maps are wrong. They will return by a different route. Tyrants like Herod still strut about the world today, their vanity and hubris still causing havoc and misery. But the door of the stable at Bethlehem still stands open for those who long for peace and those prepared to have their lives redirected. Might you be one of them? Have an interesting Christmas! Bishop Stephen

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THE MONTH December 2017

THE

month — Bishop Stephen visits Tolleshunt D'Arcy CoE Primary School

He's got the whole wide world . . .

...IN HIS

HANDS:The children of Tolleshunt D’Arcy Church of England Primary School, stretching out their arms, were thrilled by Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, explaining the size of God's Kingdom when he visited the school in November. Picture by PAUL DALTRY.

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THE MONTH December 2017

month — World's oldest wooden church is winner

St Andrew’s Greensted wins best kept 'yard THE

SUZANNE HARRIS, Business Development and Partnerships Manager at the Rural Community Council of Essex, explains the judges' verdicts for this year's RCCE Essex Best Kept Churchyard competition

THIS year’s winner of the Rural Community Council of Essex Best Kept Churchyard competition is St Andrew’s Greensted which is also the oldest wooden church in the world and this is the first year that they have entered this competition. The judges noted that the churchyard was tidy and felt welcoming, and was well-managed with a management plan on display. It was pretty, peaceful and wildlife was encouraged. There had also been much work done on the older graves including gravel and small colourful plants. A really interesting point at this church was that the oldest grave in the churchyard is of a 12th century crusader. Second place went to the Church of St Stephen at Cold Norton. The judges were impressed with the watering facilities, with water butts and cans available. There were plenty of seats and the ashes area was planted with colourful roses. Wildlife was encouraged, with homes for hedgehogs and grass snakes provided. St Lawrence Newland Church came third. This was again a new entry to the competition and the judges noticed evidence of work to engage with local children including a quiz sheet regarding building a bug hotel. There was a hedgehog house and pond and a wild area. The signage was felt to be very good and a defibrillator was also located at the church. The Highly Commended churches were:

RUNNER UP: St Stephen's Cold Norton

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St Mary the Virgin, Bulphan. St Nicholas, Kelvedon Hatch. St Lawrence, Ridgewell. St Mary’s, Rivenhall. St Andrew’s, Sandon. This competition aims to recognise the enormous hard work of volunteers and to encourage those who give their time to make their local churchyard a nice place to visit, and to highlight and share good practice. It’s certainly not just about keeping the grass cut and free from litter. It’s about consideration – respect for those laid to rest, providing a calm and contemplative environment for those who visit, and providing a haven for wildlife. It’s about being well-planned and managed, having regard to the diocesan rules and regulations but also being a place welcoming to all. ● ● ● ● ●

We would encourage churches to have an up to date management plan, however simple that may be, to ensure there is clear guidance for the care of the churchyard and a strategy for communication to the congregation and visitors. It was pleasing to see several new entries, alongside regulars this year – please encourage your local church to enter next year. What do we expect to see in a winning churchyard? ● Management plan, telling us and (parishioners and visitors) what is done where, when and why. ● Tidy – free from litter, any compost heaps, spoil heaps and fire areas restricted. ● Attractive – plants, flowers and colour. ● Facilities for visitors – seats, taps, cans, ideally water butt for sustainability. ● Encourage wildlife – bird boxes, bat boxes, log piles, lichens. ● Informative – interpretation and education. ● Volunteers – care and commitment. Some of the trends that were noticed by the judges this year were stone piles and new interpretation boards and there were also far more dog bowls this year! There were some incredibly strong contenders and the judges really did have a very difficult job on their hands. ● The RCCE Best Kept Churchyard competition is sponsored by Lodge & Sons (Builders) Limited and Essex Wildlife Trust. ● The RCCE are always happy to welcome new judges, so if you’d like the opportunity to get involved (mileage is paid), please contact Suzanne Harris email suzanne. harris@essexrcc.org.uk tel 01376 574330. ● Pictures by SUZANNE HARRIS.

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THE MONTH December 2017

THE .

month — One for the album as the class of 2017 celebrate being ordained a

New deacons celebr .

DIOCESE of Chelmsford Ordinands pose for photographs in Chelmsford, on Saturday, September 30, the day of their ordination as deacons by Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. Left:: New deacons 2017

Right: Revd Vanessa Conant and new deacon Adam Childs from St Mary's Walthamstow

Left: New deacon Malcolm Green and Revd Lynn Hurry from St Mary's at Latton Harlow


THE MONTH December 2017

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THE MONTH December 2017

Unlocking people... releasing potential

You can’t change your past, but you can change your future

After a lifetime of drug use, crime and violence, two days spent alone in the woods his Dad’s family breaking down the door and dragging him out of his first meeting. “I was the turning point for Jonathan. This is his story… embarrassed them with my addiction.” Jonathan is 33 years old. His Mum and Dad were separated when he was young. They Jonathan was awarded funding for rehab. “The interview panel said it was a miracle,” he says. both loved him, but living between them created a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ existence He found Gilead online with his drugs worker, and was accepted onto the course. for him from an early age. “I already knew why I did drugs, to block out the demons of my past and Jonathan “Dad lived a hard, Irish-traveller’s life with crime and violence. Mum was my lifestyle. Gilead showed me they could help me defeat those, so more conventional, softer, and she ingrained in me some morals and I didn’t need to defend myself anymore. They let me build trust in a desire to help people,” says Jonathan. them before they even began to deal with those issues. I love Aged 12, he was violently beaten and seriously sexually assaulted. doing the farm work, I’m a hard worker; and I was attracted to “I told no-one what had really happened,” says Jonathan, “I was the Christian aspect of Gilead from the start. I believed in God, afraid my Dad would kill them and get put away in prison.” but did not want to ask His forgiveness while I was still doing Jonathan vowed that ‘no-one will ever be able to do that to the things I did. I destroyed other people’s lives, as well as me again’, and he chose to become violent himself, keeping my own.” people away, and using drugs to mask the inner trauma of That was back in February 2017. Now, Jonathan is clean, what had happened and the lifestyle he was now leading. and his life has been greatly healed and restored. It’s an “I was two different people,” he says, “with Mum I was ongoing process, and it has not been easy: “I’d say to softer, more ‘normal’; with Dad’s family I was a nasty anyone thinking of rehab, here or anywhere, you have to criminal. I preferred the nasty me, because no-one could be 100% committed and want to change. If not, forget hurt me.” it. I’d recommend Gilead. What they have works, but you At 16 he began working as a welder. He was good at it, have to give it time.” and travelled the world on major jobs, becoming a project Jonathan has decided he wants to train to help others who manager. All the time, he was hiding a heroin and crack have experienced similar problems, at Gilead, so he plans cocaine addiction. During the next 10 years he had more than to stay on after he finishes the course this year. “I was asked one brush with death; a gun put into his mouth backfired, once if I would change my past life. Well, I wouldn’t wish it on and then he was made to dig his own grave at gunpoint. anyone, but I wouldn’t change it – I wouldn’t be me, and now I “In the end, they let me live, saying it was out of respect for can help other people out of the same things.” my (by then dead) Dad. When they left me, in the woods, I sat by Jonathan’s story may sound extreme, but there are many more a tree for two days thinking about my life. I thought about what people struggling just like him. He now has the potential to become made me happy, and it was whenever I was helping people. I didn’t a valuable part of the Gilead team, helping others find freedom – you want to be the nasty version of me anymore.” can help, too, by becoming one of our Twelve12 Partners, or asking your A day later, he quit his job, gave up everything and went to his local drugs church to become one of our Twentyfour12 Partners – please consider it, team for help. He got onto a 12 step programme and made progress, despite and thankyou for reading Jonathan’s story.

Please consider standing with Gilead while we help many more people like Jonathan YES! I WANT TO BE A TWELVE12 PARTNER! Title:

First Name:

Surname:

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Address:

Twelve pounds, for 12 months, to change a life for good...

Postcode: Organisation/Company (if applicable):

By donating £12 a month for 12 months, you can support someone just like Jonathan, as they make their difficult 12 month transition into a restored life, at Gilead.

Telephone: Email:

We would also value your prayers for everyone at Gilead, so as a Twelve12 partner we can email you monthly prayer updates too.

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To join in our Twelve12 campaign and help restore someone’s life for good, please fill out the partner form and send it to us via the address below. We’ll send you a ‘loyalty card’ with the name of the person you will be supporting at the start, and you can mark off the 12 months as you go (a handy reminder if you become a prayer partner!)

Postcode: Account No: Sort Code: Instruction to your bank: Please deduct £12 or £ (amount of your choice) from my account on (dd/mm/yy): / / Then monthly until [dd/mm/yy] / / (12 months) Pay this sum to Gilead Foundations Account No: 05651441 Sort Code: 54-21-14 Nat West Bank, 40 Fore Street, Okehampton, EX20 1EY Signed

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THE MONTH December 2017

THE

month — Lively debate over school uniforms

Uniformity is a new challenge

REVD ANNE-MARIE RENSHAW, Rector of Tiptree, joins the debate over school unforms which is a major topic of conversation at Church of England schools as well as state schools.

SCHOOL uniform has been in the news lately. In the summer term, a group of boys turned up to their school in skirts in protest at not being allowed to exchange their long trousers for shorts in the summer. Some readers of The Month, of course, may be able to remember being obliged to wear shorts all year round, whatever the weather and may have longed to be allowed to wear trousers. A head teacher in Lewes has recently made the headlines by banning skirts from school. The rationale was that it would prevent girls from wearing unsuitably short skirts in defiance of the school’s previous rule that skirts must be below the knee, and that a trousers-only uniform policy would make life easier for childrenwho are confused about their gender. There are apparently around 120 state schools in the UK with gender-neutral uniform polices where both boys and girls are free to choose whether to wear trousers or a skirt. At the comprehensive school I went to in the 1980s, girls were only allowed to wear trousers in the sixth form. For younger girls it was skirts only, in bottle green or grey, although we often got away with black, arguing with our teachers that it was merely very dark grey. From time to time, a group of girls would lobby the head teacher for permission to wear trousers, but this wasn’t because of confusion about our gender, it was because trousers are warmer in the winter than knee-length skirts with socks, they are also more practical when cycling to school or out in the playground, and for most of us, trousers were the fashion item of choice outside school. Permission was never granted. We were particularly envious of the boys in their tracksuit trousers while we were running around the hockey pitch in January in our short bottle-green games skirts – definitely well above the knee. Are we becoming confused about who we are? Not unrelated is the news story from earlier this month about the decision of a couple on the Isle of Wight to remove their six-year-old son from his primary school in a row over a classmate who had decided to dress as a girl rather than a boy. The couple said they felt the school should have consulted all parents about the impact of this child’s choice. They also questioned whether a six-year-old could really make the decision to change their gender. The school argued that the law required them to respect diversity of all kinds and to accept the child’s choice of gender. So are we, at any age, free to choose whether we are male or female? To many readers of this newspaper, the question may not make a lot of sense, for many of us have always supposed one’s gender to be a given. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allowed people in the UK to change their legal gender. Prior to this time, a significant number of people had in effect changed their gender with the support of medical

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practitioners and the aid of drugs and surgery, and were living as a different gender to that stated on their birth certificate. The 2004 Act made it possible for their change of gender to be recognised in law and for them to marry in their chosen gender. Gender has become widely acknowledged as a far more complex issue than previous generations have perhaps understood it to be.

“We were particularly envious of the boys in their tracksuit trousers while we were running around the hockey pitch in January in our short bottle-green games skirts” Boxes on forms now often offer a variety of options other than just male or female. Public toilets have become another battleground as various institutions have had to justify their decision as to who is allowed to use which toilet. One might ask why it is that so many more people seem to be confused about their gender than ever before. Is it simply because one can talk about these things and do something about them in a way that would have been impossible in the past? Or is this a symptom of our broader sense of uncertainty about who we are? We live in a rapidly changing world where social media gives us the opportunity to select the image that we present to the outside world and where we can find ourselves confronted with a bewildering

array of identity markers from which to choose. Young people have often struggled to understand who they are and have, for generations, sought to rebel against their parents in their quest to establish their own independent identity. Past generations perhaps found it easier to define themselves in terms of social standing, marital status and occupation. All three of these are now more fluid than they used to be: class is much more a self-designation than it once was, marriage for life is no longer the only socially acceptable option and jobs for life are mostly a thing of the past. Women and men are free to pursue whatever occupation they choose, although we have not yet shaken free of questions of gender inequality in relation to pay and promotion prospects. Community and family ties are also weaker. Most of us no longer spend our lives living in the same place and we are less likely to be identified via our parents. The weakening of religious affiliation too leaves more room for doubt about what our place is in the fluid and complex world in which we find ourselves. St Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians that in Christ there is no male or female. He was not foreseeing today’s possibilities of gender choice, rather arguing for an understanding – radical in his day – of the equality of every person in the sight of God. Believing people are equal does not of course necessarily mean believing they are all the same. All people are deserving of respect and compassion, wherever they may be on the modern spectrum of gender. But perhaps the row over skirts in school is a part of our greater sense of unease over who we think we are.

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THE MONTH December 2017


THE MONTH December 2017

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THE MONTH December 2017

THE

month — Bible Conference attracts 200 delegates

Bishop Rod reminds leaders to examine their private lives

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1 (ESV) Photo: www.sxc.hu

BY REVD STEPHEN BAZLINTON BISHOP Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone, took 200 delegates at the Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference through the challenging ‘race of faith’ as outlined in Paul’s pastoral epistles to Timothy and Titus. These letters encouraged these young men to finish the race and take the churches with them. Rod (right) reminded us that the Gospel is not simply about abundant life and hell avoidance at the end, but about God our Saviour now. Timothy is reminded (2 Tim 1 v10) that Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. This he suggested, is what everybody wants, life and immortality! We examined why there were a lack of takers. The first need was for the Gospel to be clearly and soundly taught in spite of the naysayers that abound. It must indeed be believed and then it must be lived. Our behaviour will give credibility to the truth the Gospel claims. With this in the bag, Paul then goes on to address the areas of life where this is so paramount, the relationships between men and women in the home and Church and in the all pervasive use of money. Moving on to his second letter we saw that the Apostle’s charge to Timothy could be summed up in the words, ‘how can we honour Christ when everything is against us’. It is easy to give in to the pressure of the

spirit of the age. Paul encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight with four imperatives; guard the Gospel, suffer for the Gospel, continue in the Gospel and finally preach the Gospel. Here, Rod impressed upon us that the time frame is limited, Jesus is going to return. Through the letter to Titus, Rod showed us the challenge of Gospel integrity. How can we show to a sceptical and uncaring world what God is like? He is to be reflected as we live in the truth of who he

is. Those who lead in the Church must be morally above reproach in their private lives; the reality of healthy doctrine will be mirrored in heathy living according to the Word of God. Because of God our Saviour’s kindness we have been changed from the inside out, our relationship with Jesus will be seen in our relationships with others. This can speak louder than words. A fourth session, led by Revd Canon David Banting, using the history of the Reformation, showed how the

recovery of these truths so vibrantly shown in these epistles, cemented the Scriptures into the doctrines of the Church of England, thereby providing firm foundation from which the Church can contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. l All these sessions are available for download from the CABC website, www.cabc. org.uk or in recorded copies free of charge from St Peter’s, Gubbins Lane, Harold Wood RM3 0QA.

'Advent season strengthens our hope' FROM FRONT PAGE

In her ancient conservative Jewish context, an unplanned pregnancy before marriage would have naturally put her to shame. But Joseph and Mary were able to see things differently. When we encounter Jesus, we shall be able to see ourselves in a new light. It is this new perspective that helps us to be vigilant, staying awake, not stagnating in some Christian experience we think we have gained once and for all. We would rather remain open to new possibilities and challenges. Our whole life, then, is spent in eager expectation. Christian waiting is based on the conviction that something is happening where we are and we feel at home being there. It demands patience. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna and Mary are examples of patient waiting. Advent tells us, “Never give up.” Such patient waiting is open-ended. In our culture that seeks instant and concrete results, open-ended waiting looks foolish. Our way of waiting is controlled by our aspirations, dreams

IN MY VIEW and wishes. We are set in our ways and we want to be certain about what we are waiting for; we want a blueprint for the future. And when the future does not shape in the way we want, we slip into despair. For that very reason we do not like waiting or we are afraid of waiting. Open-ended waiting is letting God mould us in his love and grace, sometimes over against our wishes and dreams. Open-ended and patient waiting is not an easy task; it is a struggle. That is why we need to be supported in this experience. We are not expected to wait in isolation. Neither did Mary or Elizabeth wait in isolation. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth suggests to us the support they gave to each other as they waited. We would find our strength in a community of support. We need to establish supporting relationships and create supportive communities, if we are

to persevere with our open-ended waiting. This patient and open-ended waiting is not wasting time. This waiting does not stop our watches or make us idle. If expectation amounts to being alert, what we have in Advent is a charge to act. It is not passive waiting but active participation in God’s plan. According to most of the Old Testament readings for Advent, this vigilance before the Lord’s coming presupposes the practice of “justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer 33: 15). As we wait for the Lord’s future for the world, we work towards it. The call is not to experience a sort of ‘personal joy’ but to seek “joy to the world” in a world of conflicts, oppression and utter selfishness. This time of waiting should be one of new life and of new living, a season of hope and potential, and of fresh beginnings. In fact adventus (Latin) is also the root word for adventure. Advent hope is adventurous.

VEN JOHN PERUMBALATH ARCHDEACON OF BARKING

The Month - December 2017  

See how your Church can get involved with #Godwithus campaign, The Class of 2017 are ordained as deacons by Bishop Stephen and St Andrew's w...