Christingles only began in the UK in the 1960’s

christingle-service-ideas-young-people

2018 is the fifty year anniversary of the first Christingle service in a Church of England church in the UK.

So what is a Christingle? Each element of a Christingle has a special meaning and helps to tell the Christian story:

  • The orange represents the world
  • The red ribbon (or tape) symbolises the love and blood of Christ
  • The sweets and dried fruit represent all of God’s creations
  • The lit candle represents Jesus’s light in the world, bringing hope to people living in darkness.

The Christingle was specifically created with children in mind which means the celebrations are the perfect event for children and families and can be enjoyed by people of all ages – especially if they don’t regularly attend church.

What is the history behind the Christingle? The first Christingle service for The Children’s Society was held in the UK at Lincoln Cathedral on 7 December 1968. But Christingles themselves actually go back much further, and began in the Moravian Church in Germany. At a children’s service in Marienborn in 1747, Bishop Johannes de Watteville looked for a simple way to explain the happiness that had come to people through Jesus. He decided to give the children a symbol to do this. In 1968, John Pensom of The Children’s Society adapted Christingle and introduced it to the Church of England. This involved children decorating an orange with a red ribbon, dried fruits, sweets and a candle to create a new visual representation of Christ, the light of the world, celebrated by the lighting of the Christingle candles.

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Einstein’s God Letter

The auction house Christie’s described it:

On 4 December, Christie’s will bring to auction one of the most famous letters by one of the 20th century’s most famous thinkers. Albert Einstein’s celebrated “God letter,” addressed to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, fuses Einstein’s thoughts on religion, his Jewish identity and his own search for meaning in life and remains as a definitive statement in the on-going debate between religion and science.

letter 1

Well in the end the letter sold for $2.9m (£2.3m) even though it had been expected to sell for $1.5 (£1.2). Why do people think it’s so important? Well in the letter, written in his native German, Einstein takes issue with the belief in God.

einstein

“The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses,” he writes. “The Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends.” It continues: “No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can [for me] change anything about this.”

The famous physicist also talks about his Jewish identity, writing that it is “like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition. The Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples.”

The full letter transcribed from German to English can be found here.

Hannukah

I was really grateful for one of my students requesting a special mention to the Jewish festival Hannukah in our lesson this week.

We began in our first lesson with a 5 minute clip by actress and comedian Mayim Bialik which describes in a really light-way why and how the festival is celebrated. Then the next day we watched the slightly cringe music video called Bohemian Chanukah which surprised the students by reminding them of facts from the previous day in a humorous fashion. You can also read the lowdown on this festival from the BBC Schools website.

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Now you might be ready to take the CBBC challenge of a Hannukah quiz!

The Miraculous Journey

‘The Miraculous Journey’ (2005 – 2013) consists of fourteen large-scale bronze sculptures that chart the gestation of a foetus from conception to birth. This impressive art work is by controversial British artist Damien Hirst. It can be found outside the new Sidra Medical and Research Centre in Doha, Qatar.

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‘The Miraculous Journey‘ begins with the fertilization of an egg and ends with a fully formed baby. The huge bronze figures range from 5 to 11 metres in height and the whole structure weighs 216 metric tonnes. They were individually cast in over 500 panels at Pangolin Foundry in the UK before being transported to Qatar.

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Hirst explains that the work came from, “a desire to create something monumental, whilst essentially human.” He states: “Ultimately, the journey a baby goes through before birth is bigger than anything it will experience in its human life. I hope the sculpture will instill in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder at this extraordinary human process, which will soon be occurring in the Sidra Medical Center, as well as every second all across the globe.”

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Sheikha al Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority who commissioned the work, made the point to the New York Times: “To have something like this is less daring than having a lot of nudity. There is a verse in the Qur’an about the miracle of birth. It is not against our culture or our religion.” In the Qur’an it says, [We] then formed the drop into a clot and formed the clot into a lump and formed the lump into bones and clothed the bones in flesh; and then brought him into being as another creature. Blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators! (Qur’an, 23:14).

This really interesting artwork which teaches people about the incredible nature of human development from conception, embryo, foetus and birth  links to what we learn in PSHCE about pregnancy and also what we study in RS classes about  Islam and abortion.  The main fact to remember is that it is rarely permitted after 120 daysMuslims regard abortion as wrong and haram (forbidden), but many accept that it may be permitted in certain cases.

As with most moral debates, a religion like Islam will have a variety of viewpoints. All schools of Muslim law accept that abortion is permitted if continuing the pregnancy would put the mother’s life in real danger. This is the only reason accepted for abortion after 120 days of the pregnancy.  Different schools of Muslim law hold different views on whether any other reasons for abortion are permitted, and at what stage of pregnancy if so. Some schools of Muslim law permit abortion in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, while others only permit it in the first 7 weeks. However, even those scholars who would permit early abortion in certain cases still regard abortion as wrong, but do not regard it as a punishable wrong.

The Qur’an does not explicitly refer to abortion but offers guidance on related matters.

Living Off Grid

The definition of offgrid is to be not connected to or served by publicly or privately managed utilities (such as electricity, gas, or water). Photographer Ed Gold lived alongside a small community who live on a Scottish peninsula which is either a 5 mile walk or a boat ride to reach. The photo story is reported on the BBC and is a really interesting view of how people choose to live off-grid.  BBCiWonder also explore this topic and wonder what you need and what costs are involved.

peninsula

British MP asked Justice Minister to reintroduce the Death Penalty

The MP John Hayes asked the justice secretary in a written request in Parliament to “make an assessment of the potential merits of bringing forward legislative proposals to reintroduce the death penalty to tackle violent crime”. The response from the justice minister Edward Argar was that the government “opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and has no plans to reintroduce it”. Mr Argar also explained  that the UK is campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty globally, he said: “There is no evidence that capital punishment acts as a deterrent to violent crime. Furthermore, the reintroduction of the death penalty would bring with it the very real risk that some innocent people would die.”

Capital punishment ended in the UK in 1965. The last people to be hanged were Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans, who were executed for the murder of John West in Seaton, Cumberland.

This 10 minute video from BBC Teach is just for GCSE students as the content is for older teenagers, and shows you the arguments for and against the death penalty. Or you can read about it on BBC Bitesize. Below are some slides which give the basic arguments for and against having the death penalty (capital punishment) as a method of punishment:

non religious

christian against

muslim against

christian images

muslims for

Stolpersteine

I remember seeing these little bronze plaques in the pavements when I lived in Germany.  Stolpersteine are small plaques, with Stolpersteine  translating into stumbling stones or stumbling blocks in English, that have been installed in pavements in Germany and other countries to preserve the memory of the Nazis’ victims. Each stone is engraved with the name, date of birth and fate of an individual, and placed in front of their last voluntary place of residence. To practise your German you can watch a documentary by ARD about Stolpersteine, or in English a group of young people have made a short documentary about the stones in Lubeck.

stolpersteine

In the week when it was reported by the BBC that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they’re said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes; when eleven Jewish people were murdered in a hate crime in Pittsburgh, USA; when you start to see Poppies being worn by people in the UK ready for Remembrance Sunday to remember all those that died in war; reading about Stolpersteine and their incredible memorial to those torn away from everyday existences in the Holocaust, just seems to show a never ending desire by humanity to hurt others because they are different and feared.