Religion news 7 September 2021

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Image credit: Church in Wales

Church in Wales allows blessings for same-sex marriage

Same-sex couples will be able to have their civil partnership or marriage blessed in Church in Wales churches, after a bill to authorise the change was passed by the church’s governing body. Couples will still be unable to marry in church — this change just approves a blessing, and it will be up to individual clergy to decide whether or not they wish to lead it. The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, who introduced the bill, said the church had done the right thing and within five years, it may reach a consensus enabling same-sex marriage. The BBC’s Harry Farley points out that the Church of England is the only Anglican church in Great Britain to neither marry nor bless same sex couples

Privatisation of Channel 4 would diminish religious and ethical content

Media executives taking part in a Sandford St Martin Trust discussion on the proposed privatisation of Channel 4 have raised concerns that this would further diminish public service content, including the quantity and quality of religious and ethical programmes. The trust has issued a statement strongly disagreeing with privatisation. It is also critical of Channel 4’s current track record of the way it deals with religion, saying the channel hasn’t had a dedicated commissioner for religion in more than a decade “and there’s a hesitancy among some execs when the subject of faith comes up. Religion, one suggested, is the last acceptable prejudice.” Aaqil Ahmed, formerly head of religion at the BBC and Channel 4 and soon to be a Sandford trustee, said Channel 4 was not “walking the walk” in diversity and religion as it once did.

Services return for the celebration of the Jewish new year

Services in person are returning for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, but elders are advising that caution is still required. Last year, Reform synagogues streamed all festival services online and the United Synagogue had services with mask-wearing and social distancing, with staggered start times and no communal singing. This year, services are being held but worshippers are being advised to be cautious by taking a lateral flow test before attending. Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said: “For many of our communities, this may be the first large synagogue services held in many months … there is no room for complacency and we encourage all members of the community to ensure that new year this year is Covid-safe”. Rosh Hashanah is under way with traditional festival sweet food and honey, bringing in the year 5782. Another major Jewish festival, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows on 15-16 September.

Leading Shia cleric in Iraq dies aged 85

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammed Saeed al-Hakeem, one of Iraq’s most revered Shia leaders, has died aged 85 in the southern holy city of Najaf. Al-Hakee. There are reports that he died in hospital after a heart attack. The US embassy in Baghdad tweeted condolences, saying he was a symbol of peace, love, and harmony across the region.

New Hare Krishna outreach space in central London

The Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON in London, has created a new outreach space in Margaret Street, London W1, hosting events for young people. This will include Wisdom Wednesdays, Mantra Fridays and Soulful Sundays. At each event, newcomers are introduced to chanting, meditation, talks and vegan food. The London movement is based in Soho Square and has been established for more than 50 years.

A field of sunflower hope in Scotland

A farmer in Fife has cut out the word HOPE in a field of hundreds of thousands of sunflowers, to recognise the community spirit coming out of lockdown and to help raise funds for charities that have suffered in the pandemic. Claire Pollock, of Ardross Farm in Fife, created the display after a discussion with her Church of Scotland minister, Douglas Creighton, who said it was a “spectacular” celebration of community and by charging people to see it up close, much-needed funds would be raised for local organisations helping people in need.

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