Singleness in Church?

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AT a time when the majority of householders will soon be single people, the church remains obsessed with being family friendly.

That’s one of the key findings from a major new survey on singleness in the UK church, completed by more than 3000 single Christians – the largest-ever on the subject. Starting next week (Thu 11 Apr), three talks will take place in London to present the initial findings.

After more than a decade serving single people through Christian Connection, founder Jackie Elton became increasingly concerned both by the lack of thinking in churches around singles and the difficulties her members experienced. Many have simply given up on church.

‘The world is changing, but churches aren’t learning how to reflect these changes,’ explains Jackie. ‘I was amazed at the huge response the survey received. The floodgates opened. The survey proves many churches are not meeting the needs of the growing number of single people.’

The 2011 Census revealed that, for the first time, married-couple households are in the minority at 47 per cent. Single-person households are increasing at a staggering rate of 166,000 a year. Yet many church services are often explicitly family orientated, in a way that can often marginalise single people.

‘In many churches, theology around singleness seems rooted somewhere in the 1950s,’ maintains Jackie.

The Christian Connection survey, which reflects the views of Christian singles of all ages across the denominations, discovered a major shift of attitude when a single person reaches 30 years.

‘He or she moves from being in the majority to the minority in friendship groups,’ explains Jackie. ‘This ushers in a number of vexing  questions.’

  • What if ‘God’s plan for my life’ mean being permanently single?
  • Am I as much part of the church as I used to be?
  • If so, where do I now fit?
‘We discovered single people, particularly those between 30 and 60 years, feel less accepted as they get older,’ said Jackie. ‘They would like more advice and teaching on being single and more social opportunities within church circles but in a way that affirms them and doesn’t pigeonhole them. At worst, some single women feel they are deemed a threatening presence by some married couples.’
They would also like to be affirmed in leadership roles.
‘Their “singleness” should not prevent them from being consulted and valued within church, but many believe it does,’ says Jackie.
Findings from the survey will be discussed at three events at Moot, St Mary Aldermary, Watling Street, London, led by David Pullinger who has spent the last three months analysing the responses to the survey. Until very recently, David was a single Christian who has written and spoken on the subject to Christian groups and festivals.  He also worked at a senior level for the Office of National Statistics and in strategic roles for both Church and Central Government.  He will speak about the findings of the survey around the following areas.
  • Online dating: How to make it work for Christians – April 11th
  • How to be happy as a single in Church (and outside) – April 23rd
  • Will God provide? The theologies of singleness – May 2nd
David will present stories from individuals with a varied set of perspectives and experiences and will point to answers as well as questions.
‘We hope these talks will be an inspiration, not just to singles but to all others in the Church – leaders and married couples who want to understand how single members can be welcomed and affirmed.’
PRESS RELEASE FROM CHRISTIAN CONNECTION.CO

A service of celebration to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (@wabbey)

After a year or so creating/working on The Big Bible Project, tomorrow, I will be taking up my invitation to attend:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/89/Westminster_Abbey_-_West_Door.jpg/450px-Westminster_Abbey_-_West_Door.j

16 November 2011 at NoonHer Majesty The Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will attend a service of celebration, in association with the King James Bible Trust, to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible at Westminster Abbey on 16 November at 12 noon.

The place of the King James Bible in our culture and the continuing significance of the Word will be celebrated in the service.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams will give the Address. A new composition by one of the winners of the King James Bible Trust Composition Awards, Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind by American composer, Zachary Wadsworth will be performed by the Choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O’Donnell.

Following the service the Abbey’s bells will be rung to a peal of Stedman Caters comprising 5,400 changes.

Lancelot Andrewes, Dean of Westminster 1601-1605, was Director of the first Westminster Company responsible for translating part of the Old Testament. It is believed that the translators met in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey, a room also used by subsequent translators.

The service is part of a series of Abbey events marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Taken from Westminster Abbey website and read more on the King James Bible Trust.

I’m a little concerned that we (Pete Phillips & I) have a meeting at 1.30pm, and it doesn’t start til 12 … we can get there from 10am. I’ll be getting the 854 I think – guess I should decide what to wear, and not forget my 2 forms of ID…

Chatting on @bbcmerseyside this morning #flashevensong

After blogging about @flashevensong on this blog the other day, and subsequent conversations on Facebook/Twitter, Wayne Clarke invited me to speak (at 7.40am!) on BBC Radio Merseyside about my experiences of being there.

  • Listen again, from around 1.32, to the stories about St Paul’s (around 1.37 for my stuff)
  • And I’ve collected a version for posterity…
If you want to read more about The Big Bible Project, just click in… and we’d love it if you join the conversation! And if you want to comment on what I said, be interested…

#MaundyThursday #EasterLive

OK, this is what #EasterLive is suggesting for Maundy Thursday: Passover Preparations. Washing disciples feet. Peter’s denial predicted. Jesus predicts his betrayal. The Last Supper. Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus betrayal and arrest. Jesus before Caiaphas. Jesus before Pilate.

Feet Washing

With so much to look at, I thought I’d take a look at what Bryony had written (she always writes thoughtful stuff!), and I don’t know why, but that triggered me off to think about foot washing…

1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13:1-16, New International Version, ©2011)

I searched for the term on YouTube, and came up with brilliant example of contemporary practice (not just symbolic): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday

Maundy Thursday

I then thought, well, I’m not really sure what Maundy Thursday is (aside from the day when the Queen gives out bags of coins, and the older she gets, the more money you get…), so thank you Wikipedia for always being a great FIRST stop!

There has been a lot of debate this year re: whether the date of The Last Supper was actually Wednesday or Thursday, with a possible solution given by Colin Humphries (read more about the debate).

The Garden of Gethsemane

Take a virtual visit to the Garden of Gethsemane “Not my will, but yours”:

The Passion

In looking for Jesus brought before Pilate… it reminded me of the Manchester Passion 2006 (I was there, in the crowd… would we have been when Jesus was brought in front of Pilate?), see the Last Supper:

Of course there’s always Mel Gibson’s film, but local Passion plays, to be held tomorrow, give a chance to be a part of something on Good Friday. The closest one to me is in Southampton 7.30pm tomorrow (see @sotonpassion)….  anyone want to come with me? I missed the one in Winchester in 2008, but there’s plenty of others round the UK.

Wednesday Holy Week #EasterLive

On Wednesday, #EasterLive encourages us to look at Judas’s betrayal (found here in the form of the Rock Musical Jesus Christ SuperStar):

Hmmm – that made me look at Lady Gaga’s Judas lyrics… wonder quite what perspective she’s coming from…

and the anointing at Bethany (found here in the form of a meditation)

I also came across a few other options, but decided that the two above offered an interesting enough contrast…

Forethought for Tuesday in Holy Week #EasterLive

Thought 1: What to talk about today?

So, it’s Tuesday, what does that mean? Not knowing the Easter timeline all that well, I was very pleased to spot this Holy Week Timeline via someone’s Twitter account, and blogged about it earlier today on BigBible.

According to the timeline above, we’re onto the withered fig tree, but EasterLive gives us a clear outline for the stories that we are looking at.

Thought 2: Tom Wright: The Parables

So, Tom Wright has talked to us about the Tenants in the Vineyard:

and in week 4, it was all about parables!

Thought 3: What has everyone else been talking about?

EasterLive have given us clickable options to what others have been talking about (I am assuming across the whole hashtag, rather than just for today):

Ah no, I just clicked, it’s not doing a tag cloud, it has given a list of pre-suggested words (so #Easterlive tweeters, get using them), as there’s a couple that are empty if you click through into them.

Thought 4: Arguments

Do arguments have to difficult, harsh, etc.? I googled ‘Postive Argument’, which may be some kind of scientific term, but I liked The Happiness Project outline of how to positively contribute to arguments..

There’s so many things we could follow around the web, but I’m off to meet with Huw, the imaginative person behind EasterLive, to celebrate his upcoming birthday…

Review: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter recently rumbled back into town, and the debates amongst the Christian community arose again. To reject the series on principle: because the entire story is set within a world of magic? Or to place it within the canon of British allegorical writers with J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis?

J.K. Rowling is a great storyteller, and I’m one of many who has been drawn in. Her stories, although set in a fictional world, chime with real-world choices and dilemmas. In 2007, with the final book published, Rowling stated that “the religious parallels have always been obvious”, but had not been made explicit, to protect future storylines. The Deathly Hallows was the most overt, so did this translate on screen?

As with the book, this film is the darkest yet. The film assumes deep knowledge of the backstory. Harry, Hermione and Ron (and friends) work together to fight the power of the horcruxes, those parts of Voldemort’s soul, which, if not destroyed, will give him ‘ultimate’ power. In the film, the ‘evil characters’ are particularly powerful. Throughout, however, it is clear that the magical world itself is deeply flawed, with an unjust power structure. Those wielding power are skilfully depicted as imperfect, false, untrustworthy, and downright dangerous.

The film convincingly illustrates the spiritual power of the undestroyed horcrux. In the fight against these dark forces, faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13) are clearly displayed amongst the friends. In the book, the clearest Biblical references are upon gravestones, including Matthew 6:21: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Excluded from the film, this would have explained more clearly Ron’s return, as Dumbledore’s gift guides him back to Hermione.

Great stories. Great conversation starters.  July 2011 still seems a long way away, when the final battles commence – onscreen and offscreen!

Written for AHRC/New Generation thinkers bid , and see the remainder of the bid.

@drbexl Featured in EA Culture Footprint

Read the full article on Culture Footprint, which “features disciples in The Arts, Media, Business, Education, Politics, Sport and other professions who bring the presence of Jesus in the culture.A colourful collection of artisans, entrepreneurs, media makers, teachers, actors, singer/songwriters, politicians, seeking the wellbeing of society - one story at the time.”

The Big Society and Public Spending Cuts – Archbishop of York expresses concerns

The Church employs more youth workers than any other organization and is involved on a daily basis trying to make the lives of young people better. What I am trying to say is that the Church understands the importance of volunteering and being active in our communities. As one of my predecessors, Archbishop William Temple said, “The Church is the only organisation that exists for the wellbeing and fraternity of its non-members”.

But what we must not forget that the state has responsibilities too.

There is a reason we pay our taxes. Whilst it is easy to pretend that much of our hard earned cash goes to fund expense fiddling MPs, disreputable casino-style banks or mad politically-correct quangoes for do-gooders – actually we should expect the state to run and fund strong public services, with our money.

How to raise that money is another question. I am not an economist, and I am not a politician, but to cut investment to vital public services, and to withdraw investment from communities, is madness.

You do not escape an economic downturn by cutting investment and by squashing aspirations.

The Government has signalled for a long time that cuts must be put in place to tackle the economic deficit. The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is the swinging axe that follows the cuddly blanket and soothing words of “The Big Society”.

I know many people today will be afraid of what the Government cuts outlined in the CSR will mean for them and their families.

I think we would all accept that this is a difficult time for our country economically. There are difficult choices to be made, and real debates to be had about what is the best way forward. Debate, discussion and compromise can all be positive when those involved are conducting themselves in the right spirit. However we need to ensure that no-one is left behind.

The promotion of social justice should be a primary moral imperative for any government, and for every publicly funded institution. For when the government puts the promotion of social justice at its heart, we can stand together as one nation, as one people in solidarity with each other, recognizing the dignity of all, and affording all fair and equal opportunities for access and services. Freedom, fraternity and informed choice must characterise our social fabric.”

Read full story.

INSPIRE: The Wood and the Trees

This week’s e-mail from The MediaNet….

Here’s a tip.  If you’re travelling by train and you fancy a bit of peace and quiet, take a Burger King bag along with you. Put it on the table, and you can pretty much guarantee that no-one will sit next to you!  If you haven’t got a Burger King bag I find that a Bible has the same effect. The chances are you’ll have the whole table, and possibly most of the carriage to yourself. After all, not many people want to run the risk of being evangelised on the East Coast Mainline.

Of course it can go wrong.  I was on the Manchester to London train, Bible in front of me, when a woman sat next to me. She’d noticed the Bible and struck up a conversation.

“Are you a believer?” she said.  “Yes I am,” I said.  “So am I.”

There was a pause. “Do you pray to God?” she asked.  “Well I try to,” I answered, as politely as I could.  “Me too,” she said.  A minute or two passed.  She was sizing me up.

“Do you go to church?” she asked.  “Yes I do,” I said.  She thought for a moment.  “Saturday or Sunday?” she asked.

“Is that important?” I asked her.  She shook her head with a solemn look.  “Oh yes,” she sighed.  “It’s the most important.”

And that made me very sad.  We had so much in common – but from her point of view, not quite enough.  Whether its religion or politics or sport, it’s all too easy to allow ourselves to be defined and divided by what we’re against, instead of what we’re for.  I once knew two brothers bound together by shared genes and family history, who fell out and didn’t speak for years because of an argument over who was going to inherit their mum’s grandfather clock.  They would have been better to throw the clock in a skip and get on with enjoying their friendship.

The early days of the internet were virtually paralysed by a “Holy War” about whether it was best to send computer code from right to left or from left to right.  The truth is that either would have done – but neither group of scientists wanted to let the other have their way.

Families, churches and neighbours – all too often I find it’s not the big disagreements that cause the problems but the very small ones. This week we’ve watched two brothers trying to work out whether they could serve together in the Shadow Cabinet.  So much of their beliefs and values are in common.  But it’s the other things that meant that Ed is now Prime Minister-in-waiting, while David is left wondering what his future holds.

Of course we could argue for hours about which are the small issues for Christians and which are central. And whilst we conduct that argument we are not only distracted from the task of introducing people to Jesus – we’re actually making it more difficult.

Think of Christian truth as a tree.  Some things are in the trunk of the tree – they are completely central to what we believe.  Other issues are side branches or even twigs, on which we can afford to differ. theMediaNet is committed to serving and respecting the whole Christian tree.  The evangelist David Watson used to say that there were only two issues that were make-or-break for Christians…the belief that Jesus Christ is God, and the belief that he rose from the dead.  All the other issues are branches or twigs.

The Dogma Delusion @timeshighered

Some extracts from the great article in Times Higher Education this week, unsurprisingly written in the same week as a major new series starts on the BBC “The End of God? A Horizon Guide to Science and Religion”

The notion of a ‘war’ between science and religion is a media-friendly but profoundly inaccurate model for scholars’ many-hued and nuanced views of God, faith and doubt. Matthew Reisz reports

“Arik” is a physicist at a US university. Although he is easy-going on most issues, he regards religion as a form of “intellectual terrorism”, a “virus” to which he has now become “immune”, and he is proud that his children have been “thoroughly and successfully indoctrinated that belief in God is a form of mental weakness”.

Far from being worthy of even grudging respect, religion is to “Arik” simply “garbage – the detritus left over from the age of enlightenment and the scientific revolution”. Its fierce and inevitable struggle with science counts as “the only realization of the battle between good and evil that I know of”. …

Science and religion also seem to have rubbed along well during one of the golden ages of scientific discovery. Peter Harrison is Andreas Idreos professor of science and religion at the University of Oxford. Much of his research has focused on the 17th century, when, he says, “virtually all the key natural philosophers (early scientists) were religious believers. Some were clearly motivated by religious considerations – notably Johannes Kepler and Robert Boyle – although different individuals had different motivations. Most, however, thought that religious beliefs were consistent with their scientific findings, and indeed that religious beliefs and science were mutually reinforcing.” …

“Reading the work of the ‘celebrity scientists’, one never has the sense that they know, at a close personal level, a significant number of religious people who are not terrorists, not opposed to gay marriage, not trying to get evolution out of public schools – although there are plenty of us out there.”

This leads to a more important point. Passing remarks such as Weinberg’s claim that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless” are widely quoted and, claims Giberson, “lead the religious to believe that scientists are all atheists, which increases their uneasiness about science.

WTF (Church – wrong or right?)

This picture has been doing the rounds as a sign of a church not being aware of ‘culture’ – however, looking at their Facebook page, I think they are only too aware of what WTF means: “A Wake advertisement hangs outside the north side of the SUB on Thursday. The First Family Church sponsors Wake, which is for college-aged Christians.” An interesting take on getting publicity – not sure what I think of that – always thought FCUK was in rather poor taste…

Bex’s Bio for @bigbible

In my third day working for CODEC, I ensured that my bio was available on the CODEC site, so here’s my new role for St John’s College, University of Durham:

  • Bex Lewis  – Email ; Twitter ; Blog
  • Blended Learning Project Manager, ‘The Big Read 2011’

Bex has a background in history, completing her PhD in ‘British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War’in 2004 at the University of Winchester, where she’d done her first degree in History with Education Studies. Bex built her first website in 1997, has built many more, and has undertaken accessibility and usability projects. She, however, is more interested in people/ communication/ popular culture than programming, and therefore was delighted when social media took off, and she is the Director of ‘Digital Fingerprint’, a social media consultancy.

As well as a ‘digital resident’, Bex is a polymath – she is the social media consultant for ‘Super Fun Days Out’, and has promoted interdisciplinary research, undertaken the LICC Toolbox course, and written for Damaris Culturewatch. After 7 months travelling around the world (Asia, Australasia, South America), she worked a summer season as a Tour Leader with Oak Hall Expeditions in 2008. She continues to work at the University of Winchester, as a ‘Blended Learning Fellow’ (finding tools for teaching using an appropriate mix of technology and face-to-face) with Associate Lectureships in Media Studies (particularly digital literacy) and History, alongside funded projects in student-skills and change management.

Bex is working for CODEC for 50% of her time throughout the 2010/11 academic year to develop ‘The Big Read’ on from its successful launch in the North-East over Lent 2010. The project will look to use the best mix of tools from the online and the offline worlds to encourage more engagement with the Bible, and draws upon Tom Wright’s forthcoming book ‘Matthew for Lent’. The project is supported by The Methodist Church, Premier Radio and SPCK, and Bex can generally be found at the Premier Radio offices in Pimlico Tuesday/Wednesday.

Join the project on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bigbible.

Christians & Candidates 2010

The ‘Christians and Candidates 2010’ initiative is hosting a special event THIS MONDAY (26th April) at Westminster at which a panel including senior representatives of the bigger political parties will answer questions from Christians like you about issues of concern.

During the evening members of the panel will be asked whether they and the parties that they represent will take the pledge to ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’ as described on the Westminster 2010 declaration website.

It would be a wonderful testimony to the fact that Christians care deeply about our society and its future, if the auditorium (which seats 1000 people) were packed out – even at this short notice.

So, please support this important event, if you possibly can – and encourage other Christians to do the same.

THIS MONDAY – 26th April – 7pm (doors open 6.15pm)
Emmanuel Centre, 9 – 23 Marsham Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3DW

Advance registration is recommended but not required.

Questions need to be submitted in advance.

For more information, to register, to submit a question and to download a poster to display at church this Sunday, please visit: www.christiansandcandidates.org

Details of local events and resources for engaging with the election are also available at the website.

Facebook: To join the ‘Christians and Candidates’ group and see details of this event and others, please visit: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=114599335232247

Christians and Candidates 2010
A national debate hosted by local churches