Religion news 19 February 2024

Image credit: Pxhere CC0 public domain

Silent discos selling out at fourteen British cathedrals

No fewer then 14 cathedrals are queuing up to hold silent discos this  year, despite objections that they are sacrilegious. The company behind them “Silent Discos in Incredible Places” has just staged a disco at Canterbury Cathedral, which ran into protests and gave rise to a petition. The other cathedrals on the list are Hereford, Guildford, Chelmsford, Exeter, Leeds Minster, St Albans, Ely, Coventry, Sheffield, St Edmundsbury, Llandaff, and Manchester. The petition, which has attracted 2,400 signatures so far,  urges Deans to stop the discos going ahead, saying: “We the undersigned oppose all desecration of our historic holy places, and especially their use as nightclubs. Dear Anglican Deans, please stop the discos and make the Cathedrals houses of prayer once more”. The Dean of St Albans, Joanne Kelly-Moore, (silent disco 4 April) told Radio 4 Sunday’s programme said cathedrals were open to all, lovers of medieval as well as 90’s music.

Bishop says Israel’s siege of Gaza cannot be morally justified

The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, has called for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and repeated the view of Church of England bishops that the way the war is being conducted is immoral. Speaking on the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4, he said “an unacceptable number” of people have been killed and to bombard the 1.4 million innocent civilians taking shelter in Rafah would be immoral and unacceptable: “We do not believe that the devastating loss of civilian life and humanitarian catastrophe resulting from Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza can be morally justified”.  He is also calling for the release of the remaining hostages and for all parties to work together for a lasting settlement.

Tributes paid to the Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson “a beacon of light”

The death has been announced of the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, who was known for his advocacy and pastoral support to victims of abuse, the LGBTQIA+ community and the people of his diocese where he served as bishop for 20 years. The Bishop of Oxford Steven Croft, expressed his shock: “Alan had recently begun a well-earned sabbatical and was planning to use the time to plan and prepare for retirement in the next year. I will miss him as a friend and colleague. The Church has lost a wise, pastoral and prophetic bishop.” Many personal tributes were paid on social media to his advocacy for justice and inclusivity, describing him as “a beacon of light in a culture marked by silence and injustice”.

Rabbi says impossible to remain silent over Rafah

The Guardian has run an interview with Rabbi Jonathan Wittenburg, from north London, whose comment that both sides of the conflict in the middle east are suffering, has been lauded or criticised around the world. He is Rabbi of New North London Synagogue and Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism, for whom he writes a comment each week. In his statement on Rafah, he speaks of the calculated barbarity and strategic cruelty of Hamas, and how it is impossible not to be moved by the grief and unbearable suffering of Palestinian civilians. “These words are written out of deep concern over Israel’s potential actions in Rafah, making it impossible to remain silent.” The comment brought “tough feedback” from Jews outside the UK but he told the Guardian he hadn’t realised he was saying something he considered outspoken or courageous.  He said Jews and Muslims were united by fear and anguish and “standing together is supremely important”.  His next article was a comment on the CST report, which showed a record rise in antisemitism, and spoke of Jews feeling isolated and lonely, students intimidated and children feeling unsafe and said: “this is outrageous, and a threat to the whole of society.”

Muslim prayers banned in Italian town

The far-right mayor of Monfalcone in north east Italy, has banned prayers in Islamic centres not registered as mosques.  Anna-Maria Cisint, was elected on an anti-immigration ticket in a region with 6,600 Muslims, mainly from Bangladesh, working in the shipyard. A Guardian report says she has attempted to limit the number of foreign children in schools, banned cricket from the sports festival and banned women from wearing burkinis on the beach. She has been supported by the party of the Italian PM, which has called for a nationwide shutdown of Muslim prayer spaces that are not in mosques. The Muslim community in Monfalcone is appealing against the prayer ban through the regional administrative court.

Ukrainian church “overwhelmed” helping broken families

Independent Catholic News reports on a conference of Aid to the Church in Need, where the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said it is overwhelmed with trying to support families tormented and broken by the conflict. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said relatives of front line soldiers didn’t know if they were alive or dead, mothers were grieving while bringing up children alone and the church was left with the pastoral challenge of helping broken families. The church is appealing to the world not to forget Ukraine, two years after the conflict began.

Mass evangelical conversions in the Amazon turned a village against itself

The Washington Post publishes a “deep read” about a Catholic priest in the Amazon, Father Moisés Oliveira, whose congregation diminished and the village became divided after mass conversions from the ministry of a charismatic evangelical pastor. It’s a story that illustrates the decline of Catholicism across Latin America, especially in Brazil, as the church has been challenged by new evangelicalism. It also reveals how a religious shift turned into a complex power struggle within the community. Story, pics and film here.

Gay Christian charity worker starts her own church after multiple rejections

A 21-year-old Christian charity worker from Conwy county in north Wales, the daughter of a pastor, gay and engaged to her partner, has given up trying to find a church where she feels welcome, so she is starting her own. Betty Harper has told the BBC that she was told she couldn’t sing or perform on stage at one church because she might influence younger people, and her partner was given conditions to teach in the Sunday school. She has been told that being gay is sinful and she is going to hell, she has been ostracised by relatives and urged to pray to change her orientation, but she remains committed to the faith. So she’s started a Facebook page looking for affirming Christians and a pastor. Story is here

BBC’s “Pilgrimage” returns along the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way

The BBC’s “Pilgrimage” is back in March with a sixth series where seven people of different faiths and beliefs, follow the North Wales Pilgrim’s Way, from Flint Castle on the Dee estuary to Bardsey Island, via Yr Wydffa / Snowdon and the Llyn peninsula. The pilgrims include wildlife presenter Michaela Strachan, Amanda Lovett from the Traitors, and Spencer Matthews, a former reality TV star. The route is linked to ancient churches going back to the sixth century, with paths well worn by Christian monks.

Catholic book of prayers to ward off evil

The Catholic Truth Society has published a new booklet of prayers to protect the faithful from the powers of darkness. “Deliver Us From Evil” is designed to be used by Catholics in times of fear, distress or temptation. Father Robert Taylerson, a member of the spirituality committee for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, says evil can be understood as the denial of good. It is distressing and causes sorrow, but must be viewed with hope so it is not overwhelming.


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