Religion news 3 May 2022

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Image credit: Blackburn Rovers

Thousands gather for Eid celebrations

Muslims have celebrated the end of the month long period of fasting during Ramadan, with Eid prayers. Tens of thousands across the UK celebrated the first Eid since Covid lockdowns, with families gathering for prayers and festival food. Blackburn Rovers became the first UK football club to host prayers on the pitch, with hundreds of people attending and the ground covered in prayer mats. And in Jerusalem, 200,000 Muslims attended Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the highest number for many years following months of tension between Palestinians and Israelis.

American Methodists launch breakaway group

The Global Methodist Church has declared its independence from the United Methodist Church in a rift over attitudes towards same sex marriage. It officially came into being on Sunday 1 May, meaning churches leaving the United Methodist Church can start joining the new group. The Associated Press reports that the split will be a slow process with the division of church property and finances involved. Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of the remaining United Methodists, said the launch of the new movement was a “sad and sobering reality.”  

Archbishop apologises for terrible abuse against indigenous children in Canada

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised to survivors of abuse at residential schools for indigenous children in Canada. For more than 100 years, until 1996, children were removed from their homes to be assimilated into Canadian culture in schools mainly run by Roman Catholics, but 36 were run by Anglicans. Last year, more than 1000 unmarked graves of children were found on the sites of former schools and stories emerged of children being beaten and abused, raped and starved. Justin Welby visited a school in Saskatchewan at the weekend and said he was sorry the church had allowed terrible injustices to be committed, enabling and creating hell. “I am more sorry than I could ever begin to express. I’m ashamed. I am horrified.”

The story of black nuns in America whose history “has always mattered”

An American academic is publishing a book on the 200 year history of black nuns, whose existence has been little known or reported.  Shannen Dee Williams, a history professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio, publishes “Subversive Habits” on 17 May.  The story starts pre-Civil War when some took up subservient roles in white orders and others formed orders for black nuns in Baltimore and New Orleans. Dr Williams says their story has been subject to misrepresentation, marginalization, and outright erasure but their history “has always mattered.” Associated Press report here

800-year-old church saved from at risk register

The 13th century St Stephen the Martyr church, in Launceston, Cornwall, is to receive a grant of more than quarter of a million pounds to repair the roof and remove it from the Heritage at Risk register.  In Tudor times it was one of only eight places of sanctuary, where those seeking refuge were legally protected. Now it is a hub of community activities and active worship, currently taking place in the church hall because of the repairs. The church is one of 32 historic places which have been awarded grants by the National Churches Trust, thanks to a £3.5 million investment from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. 

All women cast for Jesus Christ Superstar

An all women version of Jesus Chris Superstar has been released in the US, with the producer saying it is not so much a theological statement as a demonstration of female performers’ capabilities.  The project was driven by Morgan James, who plays Jesus and was the executive producer of the show. She told the Religion News Service that she lamented the lack of female roles in the score – the only woman part is Mary Magdalene. This latest production features women of different ages and backgrounds, as performers, engineers and producers. James said there are parallels between the theatre and church where women’s roles were often diminished, but she hoped this production would make women and girls believe they could contribute in a variety of roles. The album “Jesus Christ Superstar: Highlights From the All-Female Studio Cast Recording” was released last weekend.

Star of “The Chosen” taking part in Alpha leadership course this week

 Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in the multi million-dollar epic series “The Chosen”, is taking part in an online leadership conference run by Alpha at Holy Trinity Brompton this week. He is a committed Catholic, has had a private audience with the Pope, is making a documentary on the impact of Jesus around the world and is vice president of two media companies. Millions of people have watched The Chosen. Tens of thousands are said to have signed up for the leadership course, which is on the subject of hope and evangelism. It is a live streamed event, programmed to run at staggered times to meet different time zones and translated into 17 languages.

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