Chichester Diocese - the spin

So Chichester Diocese, who have received a lot of (IMO deserved) flack over the past week, because of their draconian cuts to their children’s and youth work team, have put up a statement on their website. In it, they try to justify the cuts from a financial perspective. Now this is a diocese in one of the wealthiest parts of the country!

The bit that gets me is where they say, “Considerable anxiety has been expressed about the future of YES and youth work in the diocese; this will be continued within an expanded education department, a development that links and underlines our commitment to young people.”

What they are really doing is cutting a team of three to one and adding that one post to their schools education team. Hardly an expansion and a negation of children’s and youth work as mission! Two youth work specialists and a children’s work specialist encapsulated into one generic post. Come on guys, your logic is a bit thin on the ground, like your children’s and youth work ministry support will become!

Pity the Archbishops don’t have an OFSTED equivalent to go in and recommend another diocese takes over failing ones…


Chichester Diocese - The Scrooge Factor

So, Chichester Diocese decides the best way to herald in Advent and the season of goodwill is to write to their children’s and youth team (3 staff) and tell them, “Sorry…your jobs have been deleted in the new structure.”

No consultation with them prior to this decision.

Well, all I can say is that I hope their Bishop, The Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner MA PhD and his followers have a miserable and guilt-ridden Christmas, as they ponder on the poor souls and their families they have thrown into chaos.

This is an example of the CofE at its worst, especially when the C&Y Team in this diocese is one of the most effective and productive in the country.

It also shows how little regard and value this diocese has for children and young people and those who work with them.

If this is what traditionalist Anglicanism is about, then I can’t see what place they can have in the CofE.

A sad day and one that will draw further ridicule and scorn on the Anglican Church, which is a pity, as there are so many good things going on at the grass roots in parishes, etc.


The power of Twitter amazes me again

Once gain, I find myself amazed at how powerful Twitter can be. This time, it might have just saved a young man from serious risk. To understand how, you need to read this story that unfolded today at the start of LeedsFest 2013

The churches in Leeds have had a presence at LeedsFest for the past two years. A Prayer Tent, a place for young festival goers to chill out in, seek pastoral help and support, or just get a decent cheap cup of tea or coffee from, has been run by volunteers known as Festival Angels.

Such was the success of this initiative, that the festival organisers approached the Festival Angels to see if they would take on other roles at the festival. One of these was to run the Lost and Found tent, where the aim is to reunite festival goers with their lost or handed in possessions. Much planning went in to establishing this venture and today was the first day of putting it into action.

People come in to report items lost and other people brought in items found. The hope being we can match them up. Mostly it was missing tents, sleeping bags and wallets/purses. The latter often turning up minus the cash, but still with credit cards, driving licenses, etc. such is the nature, sadly, of these big festivals for young adults…

A couple of young men turned up this afternoon with a box containing several insulin pens for someone with diabetes. We logged it all carefully, according to our system. Fortunately, the box still had the chemist’s prescription sticker on it, giving us the name and address of the owner. It was a man’s name and spelt unusually.

We were fortunate to be connected to the Internet shortly before this item was handed in. One of our volunteers, Ollie, said he would do some searching on the Internet to see if he could trace the owner. He quickly discovered him on both Facebook and Twitter and decided to send him a FB message and a tweet (using my Twitter account), informing him we had his insulin in safe keeping.

That was at about 4pm. Our shift ended at 8pm. I stayed back, as shift supervisor, to write up my supervisor’s log. While I was doing this a group of young men came into the tent. “Is someone called Graham Richards here?” one of them asked. “Yes” I replied. I’m Graham Richards. “Oh, you tweeted me to say you had my insulin here. Someone opened my bag earlier and the insulin and several others things fell out of it. I just saw your tweet!”

I double checked his name and details and yes, it was the young man in question. He signed for his insulin and left thanking us for taking the trouble to track him down. He was amazed to have received a tweet telling him this news.

Without his insulin, in an environment where regular eating habits go out the window (or tent flap), he could so easily have slipped into a diabetic coma, but, thanks to the power of Twitter to reach out to him via his smart phone, we had avoided the risk of this.

I came home feeling thankful and satisfied, that a bright volunteer called Ollie had used the power of social media and Twitter in particular to track down and inform a young man we had his medicine that he had lost. Thankful too that The Leeds Fest organisers had asked us to run this service and that we were helping young people at a time of vulnerability, showing that the Church isn’t all bad news and that some of us are pretty social media savvy too!

I wonder what the next three days of shifts will hold in store…?


Gift Aid breakthrough for funeral collections

After personally trying for many years to find a way to allow charities to capture Gift Aid on donations at funerals, it looks like the National Association of Funeral Directors have finally come up with a scheme that involves making your donations online, rather than at the funeral itself.

When I worked at St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds some years back, we were frustrated that we missed out on thousands of pounds each year, because donations to the Hospice made at funerals missed out on the Gift Aid option.

The problem was simple: funeral collections are taken during the short 15-20 minute service. Money is usually dropped into a plate passed round or by the exit door. The use of Gift Aid envelopes might be used in normal church services, but they are impractical at funerals, whether they be in a church or crematorium.

Firstly, if you asked the funeral director to hand them out, they can’t, because they only arrive at the service after everyone’s already seated inside. To hand out envelopes would be highly disruptive. Then they’d have to be collected in afterwards, which, when you’re on a tight turnaround schedule, is just not practical. They need to clear the building for the next service.

Secondly, the immediate family of the deceased also arrive after everyone else, so they too could not pass them round or collect them afterwards. Also, when people are rightly upset, is it right to expect the to do this?

Thirdly, someone has to then collect the Gift Aid envelopes and return them to the charity. Another practical problem, fraught with risk for things to go astray.

I came up with a scheme for our Hospice that worked for some families. I produced some donation cards that the family could personalise and hand out to family and friends prior to the funeral. They explained the family wanted donations to go to the Hospice and gave both a postal and online address where this could be done. The card included a Gift Aid declaration and the online donation facility did as well.

So the announcement today http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/bulletin/third_sector_daily_bulletin/article/1207672/national-association-funeral-directors-launches-gift-aid-campaign/?DCMP=EMC-CONThirdSectorDaily that the NAFD have joined with JustGiving to offer a similar scheme is a welcome for many charities that were frustrated that funeral collections were missing out on what is a 25% boost to a donation’s value.

Will there be any losers? Well, ironically, it will be local churches who could lose out on this. Many (not all) would take 50% of a funeral collection to go towards their own upkeep. This was frustrating for both families and charities, where the deceased wanted the collection to support a specific charity, such as the Hospice. They will still be able to keep part of the money given at the service, but if more and more people make their donation online to the charity specified, then the churches will miss out.

So, once again the Internet is providing a modern solution to an old problem. Social media is proving to be an increasingly flexible and efficient way to achieve lots of things, not only in life, but after it too!

This is what a small Baptist church in NE England are intending their sanctuary to look like when the renovations are completed. They are building their church community around children and play.

Seems to me they’ve got their priorities right!

Look and learn….

This is what a small Baptist church in NE England are intending their sanctuary to look like when the renovations are completed. They are building their church community around children and play.

Seems to me they’ve got their priorities right!

Look and learn….


Yekaterina Samutsevich’s closing statement in the criminal case against the feminist punk group Pussy Riot:

I came across this post via Stephen Fry. It shows that these women, now facing 2 years severe imprisonment, are not naiive blashemers, but prophets, in the true Biblical sense, of the evil corruption that is creeping through the Russian leadership and the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church, from the very top. The Patriarch is an ex KGB buddy of Putin. He wears a £30,000 watch and watches the back of Putin, in the guise of the ordained Church.

"During the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent or express regret for her deeds, or to enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to express my views about the causes of what has happened with us.

"The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

"Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

"How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

"It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.

"Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national TV channels for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where in fact the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would be pronounced, helping the faithful make the right political choice during the election campaign, a difficult time for Putin. Moreover, all shooting has to take place continuously; the necessary images must sink into the memory and be constantly updated, to create the impression of something natural, constant and compulsory.

"Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of this media image, generated and maintained by the authorities for so long, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia.

"Perhaps such an unpleasant large-scale effect from our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. First they tried to present our performance as the prank of heartless militant atheists. But they made a huge blunder, since by this time we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out their media raids on the country’s major political symbols.

"In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

"I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we now expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. Now the whole world sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, Russia looks different in the eyes of the world from the way Putin tries to present it at daily international meetings. All the steps toward a state governed by the rule of law that he promised have obviously not been made. And his statement that the court in our case will be objective and make a fair decision is another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you."

EDIT: This was taken from Chtodelat News (https://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/yekaterina-samutsevich-closing-statement/), whom yesterday I forgot to put acknowledgment too, apologies! I just noticed it wasn’t on Tumblr as well so wanted to make it able for reblogs and such. All credit goes to them

(Source: olenskae)

Love is…letting go

Love is…letting go


Alienation from nature & the detrimental affect it has on young people’s spirituality

Here’s a very interesting article from Oxford Diocese about research into how the reduction of time spent exploring and playing in the natural environment is having a negative effect on how young people develop spiritually.

"The spirituality of nature and children"


Storytelling & Fundraising in a Digital Age

One of the basic fundamentals of good fundraising is the ability to share a story that’s full of human interest. It is often the personal stories of people that motivates a donor to give. This is particularly true if the story is told by a real person, the person it is about and not second hand via a fundraiser or copywriter.

OK, now take the art of storytelling and couple it with the technology of the digital age. What do you get? A whole new way to reach out and share these stories with a wider audience, locally and globally.

This is the basis of some exciting projects currently taking place in the UK, thanks to an organisation called “Tales of things and electronic memory” (TOTeM). TOTeM is a collaboration between University College London, University of Dundee, University of Edinburgh, University of Salford and is funded by the UK Research Council’s Digital Economy Program.

The basis of TOTeM’s work is to create “spimes”, objects that can be tracked through space and time throughout their lifetime. For example, I have a casement clock that belonged to my maternal grandparents. It’s a very ordinary clock with a nice chime, probably not worth very much, but to me and my family it is a part of our history. During the second world war it hung under the stairs in my grandparents home, until the night of the air raid. A bomb fell in the street outside their house. My mother, aunt and grandparents were, thankfully, unhurt, having taken refuge in their sunken air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden. My mother, now 80 years old, remembers as a child scrambling over the debris of what had been their house and as she did, the clock, which was hanging on the one remaining wall, struck 6am!

Over the years the clock has hung in various homes until it succumbed to a weapon far more lethal than a Nazi bomb - teenagers! A game of “let’s be silly and throw a tennis ball indoors” led to one of the glass panels breaking and the pendulum being damaged. (It is now awaiting a clock repairer to fix it) If you saw the clock hanging there, it would just be a nice casement clock, a bit old fashioned, but pleasant to adorn a wall in many a home. Imagine being able to know the story behind it, the history of the clock, what it survived, who owned it, etc.

One of TOTeM’s first projects was to record and tell the stories of items in a Scottish museum. Not only to tell their stories, but to develop them too, but inviting the public to share their own experiences of these objects, by adding to it. People can share how they used similar items in their home, work, etc, or interesting stories about the item, etc.

"So what’s this got to do with fundraising?"You may be asking? Well, TOTeM has started to work in partnership with Oxfam. In a pilot scheme currently running in Manchester, Oxfam are asking donors of goods to about 15 shops to download a free iPhone app, “ShelfLife”, to record the stories behind items that people are going to donate. The items are then displayed in their shops with a unique QR Code attached to the label of each item. Shoppers can then use their smart phone to scan the QR code and see what the story is behind the article.

So far, they are reporting large rises in the sale of the ShelfLife labeled items, compared to those that are not labeled. It would appear that the art of fundraising by sharing human interest stories applies just as much to inanimate objects as it does to people! Also, the ShelfLife items are realising higher resale prices than non-labeled goods. So a provenance can be good for business, even in the charity shop world!

OK, Oxfam is huge, has lots of highly skilled staff and budgets to experiment with. But what about the local hospices and other small charities? Can they get onboard with this?

My resounding response is “Yes!” there may be a small outlay, but I’m talking £100-£150 and a bit of time and training. What would you need to get started?

  • A cheap digital camera (or a smart phone)
  • An inkjet printer A free blog or website (e.g. Tumblr, Wordpress, etc)
  • A free QR Code creator app
  • A staff member, or better still a few volunteers, to run the process

A donor comes in with an interesting item and is asked if they would like to share a bit about it. The item is photographed and the story recorded (it doesn’t have to be typed, it could be an audio recording using the Audioboo app, or even videoed using a phone or the camera). These are then uploaded to the blog or website. A QR Code is then made of the blog page and then printed off onto a sticker or tie on label and affixed to the item in the shop. Voila!

Virtually no techie knowledge is needed, more just the confidence to use the Internet and a computer, as well as a digital camera and/or smart phone. Maybe a national umbrella body like Help the Hospices could get someone to develop an app like ShelfLife that hospices throughout the land could use, or a commercial developer create one for independent charity shops?

If you wish to discuss how I could help you set up a scheme like this, or maybe you’re a museum, historic property or cathedral and want to see how you could develop something to share more about your exhibits and artefacts, please get in touch with me.

Here’s a wonderful blog comment from Iain Macdonald, the Diocesan Youth Adviser for Oxford Diocese with regards to the proposed cuts I’ve covered in my blog piece below.

Here’s a wonderful blog comment from Iain Macdonald, the Diocesan Youth Adviser for Oxford Diocese with regards to the proposed cuts I’ve covered in my blog piece below.