Religion news 17 December 2021

Image credit: Lambeth Palace

Places of worship open as vaccination centres

Places of worship are opening their doors again for pop up vaccination centres as the country aims for the target of one million booster vaccines a day.  Chester Cathedral ‘s centre will be open until Tuesday, allowing time to re-version the area for Christmas services. Methodist churches are also being used and London Central Mosque  has an emergency centre.

Worshipping God this Christmas “is a necessity

The Church Times quotes the Archbishop of Canterbury saying in an interview with Times Radio on Monday that people should attend church this Christmas, despite the tightening of restrictions: “ I would say it’s a necessity; the worship of God is a necessity”, he said.

Disappointed Archbishop says lockdown rules must be obeyed

In another interview yesterday, Justin Welby told the BBC’s Newscast podcast that he was disappointed to hear of Conservatives holding parties during the lockdown last Christmas and that leaders must acknowledge when things have gone wrong. The Metropolitan Police will be interviewing two people about a party with candidate Shaun Bailey at Conservative Party HQ on 14 December last year.  Bailey stepped down from a role on a police committee – the Archbishop said this was very honourable. There are reports of several “gatherings” at Number Ten last Christmas which the Met is not investigating. Justin Welby said “I don’t really do much on judging people, we must obey the rules”. He agreed there had been an absence of responsibility in public life in recent years, and it was necessary to recover the culture of kindness and forgiveness,  a “no-blame and lessons learned” culture. Asked whether he felt that a culture of honesty stems “from the top”, he said: “That is clearly essential. And isn’t it wonderful that we have such an extraordinary example at the top, of the Queen with her complete integrity in every possible way.”

All US missionaries kidnapped in Haiti are freed

Twelve members of a US missionary group who were kidnapped two months ago and held hostage in Haiti have been freed.  They were among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang, who then demanded $1 million ransom money per person. The other hostages  were released earlier. They were from Christian Aid Ministries and included members of a Brethren church and people from six US states and Canada.  

Suspended jail sentence for 79 year old vicar and climate change protester

The Rev Sue Parfitt, an Anglican vicar aged 79, has been given a two month suspended sentence for blocking traffic on the M25 in protest at climate change and in breach of an injunction. At the High Court in London, she said that if she was allowed to go free, she would continue to protest about climate change and “the plight we are all in”.

Co-founder of Gurdwara Aid dies after sudden illness

Gurdeep Singh, the co-founder of Gurdwara Aid, has died after a sudden illness. He had suffered a heart attack followed by pneumonia. Tributes have poured in on social media, expressing shock and sadness, and honouring his vision, kindness, integrity and love for the Sikh community. Gurdwara Aid provides administrative support, fund raising advice and project management help to gurdwaras and Sikh charities, to better manage their affairs.

First Muslim government minister to be appointed in Germany

Cem Özdemir is to become the first Muslim and Turkish origin minister in Germany. A member of the Green party, he will be Minister of Agriculture in a three-party coalition led by the new chancellor Olaf Scholz. Understood to be a “secular Muslim”, he comes from a family of Turkish guest workers who emigrated to Germany in the 1960s.

Jewish artefacts stolen from Greece to be returned by Russia

Russia will return archives of Jewish communities that were stolen by the Nazis from Greece in 1942. Archives, books, and religious artefacts were stolen from 30 synagogues, libraries and institutions in Thessaloniki, where Jews made up 60 per cent of the population until the war.  Greece has sought the return of the archives for decades, the prime minister’s office said.

Nativity camels on the loose in the state of Kansas

The Religion News Service reports that a camel escaped from a nativity scene in a suburb of Kansas city this week and was pursued by police in a “scene out of a cop movie”.  It was first chased on foot, then escaped onto a highway before straying onto a golf course and being pursued by police on golf carts. Eventually it was cornered, lassoed and reunited with its owners so it can go back to “doing camel things”, as Bonner Springs Police Department put it.  RNS says this isn’t the first time Kansas police officers have responded to an escaped camel over the holiday season and lists three previous incidents. In December 2019, an animal trio of a camel, a cow and a donkey went awol; In 1997, an escaped camel was killed by a car; and in 2010 a camel slipped during a nativity play rehearsal and went crashing into the congregation.

And finally – Religion news in 2021 – review of the year

Covid-19 transforming worship and communities, grass roots strengths of faith groups reaching vulnerable people on the front line, moral judgments on refugees, climate change, assisted dying and racism. These were some of the themes of news about religion in 2021 – but were they eclipsed by Boris Johnson revealing himself as the first Catholic prime minister since the reformation? In the last media briefing of the year, join the team of Religion Media Centre journalists and guests as they review the headlines.

This the last daily religion news briefing until 4 January 2022.  

The RMC team wishes you a peaceful and safe holiday and looks forward to your company next year


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