UK’s only bomb proof Sunday School

A Presbyterian Church in Dungiven, County Londonderry in Northern Ireland is proud that it has the only bomb proof Sunday Sunday in the UK. Last year it bought an old police station and though the original plan was to demolish it all and build a car park they instead decided to use the old police station for Church activities. It cost them over £200,000 to transform the station so there’s now a new kitchen, elevator, crèche facilities, gym space and meeting rooms.

Church Member Gladys Carmichael explained, “There are lots of rooms now for the Sunday School children and the older groups to meet and play games and if any of the kids misbehave we can also put them in the cell to cool off.”

It was only in 2010 that Dungiven Presbyterian Church made the local news when it celebrated 175 years in the town. At that event the offering money which came to over £1,500, was in aid of the congregation’s Missionary Support Fund. The congregation was supporting the work of Stephen and Angelina Cowan, PCI missionaries in Kenya, Alan and Dorothy Graham, CEF missionaries in Zimbabwe, and Eric and Anne Magowan, missionaries who work with the persecuted church in Vietnam. The evening’s theme was the words of Phil 1:27, where Paul urged the Philippians to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. He challenged all present to do likewise if they are to present a credible witness to the world in which they live.

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Presbyterianism is a denomination of Christianity.

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Being based upon the teachings of John Calvin (1509-64) it has a central theme of predestination — everything that happens is pre-ordained by God.

The symbols which make up the Presbyterian Church symbol help us to understand what this denomination of Christianity focuses on…

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TV and Film to watch this Christmas to help you with Religious Studies PART 1

On numerous occasions I’ve written about films and TV programmes that students can watch which will help them with their understanding of issues we study such as poverty, war, sexual relationships, climate change, abortion, the death penalty and community. Then there are the more obvious films and TV programmes which focus on religious beliefs, teachings and practises such as Noah, Bruce Almighty and the recent TV series Broken on ITV.

At Christmas time it is a great opportunity to watch Christmas films which show how the Christian festival of Christmas is celebrated:

British soap operas like Eastenders, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, and Emmerdale will also show families celebrating the festival of Christmas, whereas comedy specials and talk shows will have their studios decorated for Christmas with some themed jokes and interviews.

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Is everything linked to the commercial celebration of the festival or is there any mention of what is written in the books of Matthew and Luke in the Christian Bible?

 

Pope Francis seems less of a peacemaker as he doesn’t mention persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar/ Burma

Today Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic church, urged respect for “each ethnicity and its identity”, adding “religious differences need not be a source of division”. This was said when on a visit to Myanmar/ Burma, when lots of people were hoping he would mention the Rohingya by name, and state the fact they’d been persecuted.

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Yet Pope Francis failed and did not mention the Rohingya by name. The reason was that there were fears by the Catholic community in Myanmar/ Burma that if he criticised the government and military there would be repercussions against the small Catholic community in the country. So even the Catholic church has many strengths, including in its humanitarian work, where there are many good men and women working tirelessly to improve the living conditions of people who live in challenged situations, it has weaknesses too.  The facts is that its leader, while he might look like a world peacemaker, should first and foremost look out for his own people. I’m not sure how much Pope Francis is living by the guidance Jesus gave in his Sermon on the Mount

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Watching TV or film and learning about Christian worship

It is such a natural form of revision to be watching TV or film and suddenly spotting something you’ve learnt in class. It is so exciting to be able to explain something, understand it better, simply because you were in that classroom, listening and concentrating on that particular day.

Some students have had the challenge of comparing TV and film which show liturgical and non-liturgical worship. Well done to my Year 10 Tuesday afternoon class who did so well on this homework.

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  1. Four Weddings and a Funeral would be a good film to watch for its many scenes inside a church. For Roman Catholics and some Anglicans you’ll also get to see some sacraments.
  2. The BBC’s recent drama called Broken which I’ve previously referred to on the Blog is fantastic not only for showing liturgical worship (the eucharist is given in every episode) but also its depiction of a local church community with food banks and diversity.
  3. Songs of Praise is on television every Sunday afternoon, or you can catch a number of previous episodes on YouTube.
  4. Coronation Street has a brilliant 2 minute scene showing parts of an infant baptism from a few years ago.
  5. There is a really peculiar scene from the Kingsman: The Secret Service film, which shows a church massacre (15 rating). Watching simply that scene makes no sense unless you know more about the film.  The actor Colin Firth play a suave secret agent, Harry Hart, who recruits a kid from the streets named Eggsy (Taron Egerton) to be part of the Kingsman. But Eggsy is quickly thrown into the fire when evil tech-whiz Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) creates a technology that can cause mass terror across the globe, and only the Kingsman can stop him. On the hunt for Valentine, Hart ends up at a hate church group in Kentucky. While Hart is in the church, Valentine tests his technology, which causes the SIM cards in everyone’s phones in the church to make them become homicidal maniacs. There is then this three-and-a-half minute sequence in which we watch Hart shoot, stab, slam, and break everyone in his path as the guitar solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” plays in the background. It’s peculiar and unsettling.
  6. The Simpsons has a plethora of church scenes, including this one when Homer refuses to go to Church. Listen out for Lisa saying a snippet of the Lord’s Prayer. Another short clip is from when the Simpsons go to an evangelical church. Not to do with worship but really clever is the Protestant Heaven Vs Catholic Heaven with all its national stereotypes.
  7. Family Guy has numerous satirical moments where you can learn about Christianity. Students often forget that singing is a form of worship, New Yorker’s in Church has an opening prayer, and the Mr Booze clip shows an drinking den turn into a fake alcoholics anonymous based on a church with pews and singing.

We realised that a lot of our choices were comedies and openly mocked Christianity for laughter. It is interesting how far comedy is deemed acceptable going about some faiths but less so others. An article in the  BBC Religion and Ethics page debates how far comedy should go, and the BBC also reports on whether Islam has a sense of humour (of course it does!). Finally there New Humanist website decides that no idea should be able to escape satire and comedy.

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Food Banks struggle in school holidays

Food Banks are struggling to meet the demand for food during the school holidays.  David McAuley, chief executive of anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust, has warned that some hubs within the 420-strong network are running dangerously low on supplies.

“Rising demand in the summer holidays as families struggle to get by without free school meals” is at the root of the problem, he said.

Rev Chris Lewis who helps at a Swansea Food Bank said that last Friday,  “We got to a critically low level. The absence of free school meals during holidays contributes to a certain amount of hardship and pressure on food banks.  I wasn’t able to count exactly how many people came in on Friday because I had to go out and get a bag of large potatoes from off site to help with the demand.”

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We learn about the Trussell Trust as part of our GCSE in Religious Studies as we look at Christian Practices.

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In April 2017 Food Banks were in the news when Theresa May as part of her election campaign went onto BBC television and responded to the presenter Andrew Marr’s point that NHS nurses were having to go to Food Banks which was surely wrong.

Theresa May replied: “There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks and I want to create an economy where we have a strong economy where we pay for public services that we need but we are also creating secure jobs.”

Marr said: “The problem people have is that they haven’t got enough money to eat at the moment.”

The Prime Minister said: “Yes, and you’re only going to be able to do this if you have strength in the economy.”