Religion news 19 October 2021

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Sir David Amess lit the light of public service which must shine more brightly now

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has spoken of the exceptional character of Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death in a suspected terrorist attack at his constituency surgery. At a memorial service in St Margaret’s Westminster, attended by MPs, he spoke of Sir David’s charity of heart that sprang from his Catholic Christian faith, which won the admiration and affection of all sides, regardless of whether they agreed with him politically or not. He said politicians in a democracy have a noble calling and people should feel grateful to them for continuing to give service “despite the cynicism, abuse and cruelty that they so often endure”. He continued that the light lit by public service may flicker but it will not be extinguished. “In the face of such injustice, it must be for all of us to determine to shine that light all the more brightly”.

Call for national police guidelines over administering the last rites

The news that a priest was forbidden from giving Sir David Amess the last rites as he lay dying, has provoked an angry response. Tim Stanley, writing in the Telegraph, says he has discovered there is no national guidance over the circumstances where the last rites can be given – or forbidden – and he finds this incredible and frightening. It implies that the decision is left to the religious literacy of an individual officer, but in an era when Christianity is diminishing, this knowledge cannot be assumed. He explains that the last rites are a final chance for people to make their peace with God and “the priest, in a sense, is an emergency service and should be treated as such”.

Methodists back global faith campaign to unfurl banners for climate change

Methodist churches in London, Manchester and Glasgow unfurled banners outside their buildings as part of a global faith campaign for climate justice ahead of COP26, the UN Conference on climate change in Glasgow next month. Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, joined in to make a public declaration that “Cop26 must count”.

Edinburgh church buys canal boat to bring calm to people who are struggling

Polwarth Parish Church in Edinburgh, which sits beside a canal, has teamed up with a local charity People Know How, buy a 60 foot long bright blue and yellow canal boat. It is being used to host events and reach out into the community. With a speed of 4mph, its gentle journeys have been used to provide a calm respite for the elderly, adults with learning difficulties, the homeless and groups of refugees from Afghanistan who have settled in Edinburgh. The Rev Jack Holt said travelling along the canal through the city into the countryside should provide a sense of peace and calm and create an atmosphere to encourage people who are struggling.

URC urges government to scrap new immigration rules

The United Reformed Church has added its voice to a campaign to scrap new immigration rules which mean that someone found to be rough sleeping could be deportedThe Home Office has new powers to refuse or cancel a person’s leave to remain in the UK if a person has been rough sleeping, has refused repeated offers of suitable support and has engaged in persistent anti-social behaviour.  The Moderators of the General Assembly wrote to the Home Secretary last month to ask for the rules to be reviewed but have not received a response.

Meanwhile, a travelling street theatre project, where “Little Amal”, a giant puppet portrays a nine year old Syrian girl refugee, is due to arrive on Folkestone beaches today (Tuesday). It has been transported several thousands of miles from the Turkish-Syrian border attracting publicity to highlight the plight of refugee children. “Little Amal” will be  taken to various towns before ending the journey in Manchester on 3 November.

Grand Mosque in Mecca removes social distancing as prayers return to normal

Al Jazeera reports that the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has removed social distancing signage and returned to operating at full capacity, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.  But  authorities are insisting that visitors must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds. The relaxation measures follow a sharp drop in daily infections and increased numbers of vaccinations.

Bishop Michael Nazir Ali says he left the Church of England because it had lost its way

The former Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, said his decision to leave the Church of England was because it had lost its way. Writing for the Daily Mail, he said the Anglicans had become splintered, “a loose collection of churches” with conflicting interpretations of Christianity. He aligned himself to the Catholic Church saying it reflected the faith and values which were being eroded in the Church of England.

Priest cleared of sex abuse charges from 45 years ago

The Rev Veronica Green, a priest in Cheshire,  has been cleared of child sex offences said to have been committed 45 years ago, when she was 13.   She had denied the charges and after a week-long trial at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, she was found not guilty of all. She had been suspended from her duties since January 2020 and will remain so while a church process assesses the situation against its national safeguarding and disciplinary procedures.

Nude photoshoot to save the Dead Sea

The Jewish News reports that hundreds of people undressed and painted themselves white in a nude photoshoot campaign to preserve the Dead Sea.  The idea came from the American artist Spencer Tunick, who said the piece re-created the image of salt pillars in the Dead Sea formed when fresh water enters, or the Biblical story of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt.  He has photographed or filmed naked bodies for many years, highlighting their interaction with the environment.

Creating Connections: sign up in Manchester, Nottingham, Plymouth and Birmingham

The Religion Media Centre has launched a project this autumn to enhance religious literacy and understanding in a landscape often fraught with misconceptions and assumptions on both sides. Creating Connections, where Religion meets the Media features a series of events to improve links between religious groups and journalists in England. They are an opportunity to explore the way religion and worldviews are interwoven into community life and it is hoped that key stories on religion and belief will be brought to life and lasting contacts for the future will be made. Reserve a place using the links below. All events take place in the afternoon. The Leeds event was last week – here are the next four:

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