Christingles only began in the UK in the 1960’s

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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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Didsbury Church explains its move to be fully inclusive

Watch a short video about Lizzie Lowe who four years ago aged only 14-year-old took her own life because she thought she wouldn’t be accepted as a gay Christian. And how her church called St James, in Didsbury, Manchester, has become an inclusive church  which embraces everyone, no matter the gender, race, disability or sexuality. You could say it’s a shame that a tragic loss of life was needed to make this change, but at least it’s happened and the inclusivity can help others feel welcomed and loved for who they are.

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Ariane Grande trying to break the glass ceiling

We can’t ignore the new song by Ariane Grande called God is a Woman.

The video is filled to the brim with religious imagery…

  • Ariana Grande is at the center of the universe as some sort of enormous godlike figure, hula-hooping the galaxy that surrounds her.
  • Then she is naked and partially submerged in a pool of pink and purple paint
  • She dances inside the flame of a candle

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  • She is worshipped by a choir dressed in all-white robes.

praying in white

  • She sits on top of the world, touching provocatively the eye of a hurricane potentially considering natural evil
  • At the end there is the all-female recreation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam which replaces Adam with Eve and God with Ariane Grande

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  • There is also Mother Earth imagery when Grande descends a mountain and strokes her growing, animated pregnant belly
  • Ariane walks a tightrope against an all-pink backdrop where you might think she’s holding balloons but actually she’s holding a cluster of planets.
  • Then there’s a spoken-word assist from Madonna, when Grande, wearing gloves that read “POWER” mouths Madonna’s reading of Ezekiel 25:17, the verse made famous by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, replacing “brothers” with “sisters”: “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.”

However the song is obviously about sexual relationships: “You love it how I move you / You love it how I touch you / My one, when all is said and done / You’ll believe God is a woman.” Ariana doesn’t seem to mind if people ‘don’t get it’ as at one point in the video, she sits whilst small men hurl words like bitch, fake, and annoying at her. These words of criticism just bounce right off her.

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It is really controversial to refer to the Christian God in female rather than male terms. Some would even call it blasphemy and against the Decalogue (Ten Commandments). Most versions of the Bible and language about God has God as male. However there is some history to speaking about God as female. St Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109, talked of “Christ, my mother”.

Baptism or Christening

The BBC headline today read:

Prince Louis christening: George and Charlotte seen with brother for first time

Whereas in the second sentence of the article it stated: The 11-week-old was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace.

So what is the difference? To be honest there is no difference between a christening service and a baptism service. Some Christian denominations will use the word ‘baptism’ and some the word ‘christening’. The moment when a child has water poured or wiped on their head is the actual baptism and is at the heart of the service. You could say that babies are baptised during a christening service just as couples are ‘married’ during a ‘wedding’ service. In Religious Studies lessons we learn that christening refers to the naming ceremony (to “christen” means to “give a name to”) where as baptism is a sacrament in some Christian denominations.

The two hymns which were sung by the congregation in today’s Christening were hymns O Jesus, I Have Promised and Lord of All Hopefulness. Hymns and music are often used by Christians in their worship. From the first verse of O Jesus, I have Promised you can see why it was chosen at a Christening:

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end;
Be thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my Guide.

Whereas Lord of All Hopelessness has a clever pattern with each verse ending with a different part of the day: break of the day; noon of the day; eve of the day; and end of the day.

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Rail pastors as well as street pastors these days

The Rail Pastors are a group of people from Ascension Trust which is a Christian inter-denominational organisation that aims to make a positive contribution to society and to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged and vulnerable. This new initiative from an organisation that traditionally coordinated street pastors came about because the British Transport Police felt they needed to do something to reduce the number of people committing suicide on Britain train tracks.

rail pastors

The Rail Pastors are a group of trained volunteers who are based in areas which experience high numbers of suicidal incidents. They were actually set up quite a while ago in August 2014 in response to a number of suicides in the Barnet area. In their first year of operation, they conducted 30 patrols, saved three lives and, as an indirect outcome, reduced crime by 27%. Most of the people who are rail pastors were first acting as street pastors and have just changed their focus. They don’t go about preaching at every opportunity , but ‘provide a caring, listening and reassuring presence’. Their mission is to reach out to people in moments of crisis, offering compassion and understanding, taking the time to listen to concerns in order to move the person to a place of safety. It is definitely demonstrating agape and ‘love thy neighbour’.

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“Alexa, who is God?”

The Church of England has seen the number of people who go to church on a Sunday drop by 14% since 2006. So their next move might be seen as quite canny – worshippers are being offered the chance to ask the voice activated virtual assistant called Alexa (by Amazon) for prayers.

The Church of England’s new voice-activation skill (basically an app) allows a worshipper to ask their Amazon Alexa to perform more than 30 actions or questions, including:

  • Read today’s prayer
  • Find churches in or near a specified town
  • Who is God?
  • What it means to believe in God
  • Read the 10 Commandments

If you were going into a GCSE Religious Studies exam you should be able to answer the questions above as well as a virtual assistant!

66.4% to 33.6% vote in favour of overturning the abortion ban in Ireland

Watching how people debated the change in abortion law in Ireland showed the age old arguments about freedom for the woman against the right to life of an unborn child. 66.4% of voters wanted to repeal a part of the Irish constitution called the Eighth Amendment, which says an unborn child has the same right to life as a pregnant woman which effectively bans terminations.

The vote will possibly affect those north of the border too, as Northern Ireland has the strictest abortion laws in the UK. In Northern Ireland even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality these would not be grounds for a legal termination.

In England there is talk to amend the law on abortion even further so that women could take the abortion pill at home rather than having to administer it at a clinic, which is very demeaning if you have to travel on public transport straight afterwards.  Christian and Muslim arguments about abortion are interestingly varied and sometimes not what you’d expect.

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