Ground-breaking church for young people wins award

Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries, a Fresh Expressions Church for the under 30s in the city, has won a national award for its work with young adults. We speak to Deborah Walton and Nicola Turner about the project’s success in advancing the Christian faith amongst young people, many of whom had no previous experience of the church.

How one Church is tackling deprivation in their community

Thousands of people have been helped in Shildon, County Durham, by ‘Shildon Alive’ a project set up by St John’s Church in the town. Revd David Tomlinson, priest-in-charge, talks about its work – from community gardens, to a food bank, a credit union, a ‘mini Santa’ project tackling isolation amongst the elderly and ‘guerrilla gardening’ for children.

Developing future school leaders

James Townsend, Director of the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership, explains why the development of school leaders of the future is crucial so pupils can flourish and reach their potential.
For more information on the conference James mentions in this clip: www.churchofengland.org/education/lat…ion-news.aspx
Read Andy Wolfe’s blog on teacher networks: www.tumblr.com/blog/cofecomms.

Creating a movement of school leaders – the power of networks

Andy Wolfe, former secondary school vice-principal and our new networks manager for the C of E Foundation for Educational Leadership, on why teachers grow in confidence and vision through peer networking.

England could face a severe shortage of senior teachers by 2022 if action is not taken to encourage a new generation of leaders, new research shows. So the C of E Foundation for Educational Leadership could not be launching at a more prescient time.

Our mission is to build a national movement of inspirational leaders equipped to transform education, so that it fosters wisdom, hope, community and dignity, to enable children to flourish and experience life in all its fullness, regardless of their background or starting point.

We are doing this by building networks, bringing together people from schools to support, challenge and inspire each other; rigorous leadership development programmes to equip those leaders to realise our vision, and robust research to provide an evidence base on the outcomes for children’s spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional and social development.

As a former vice-principal of a large secondary school in Nottingham, I know how important mutual support is for teachers to grow in confidence. I now lead the networks programme for the Foundation. Last week we held our first Regional Peer Support Network meetings for the South East and South West regions. These pilot groups are drawing together school leaders to work together to support one another as leaders, as they seek to ensure that their school’s ethos enhances its outcomes. The gatherings have been full of energy, life, hope and vision, and above all a commitment that we are stronger together.

Our vision is for schools to educate for wisdom, hope, community and dignity in its broadest and most inclusive sense.  This vision is for all our schools that educate 1 million children each day and for community schools that share our values. That is why we have developed the Regional Peer Support Networks, for both church and community schools, with over 50 schools already signing up to take part so far this year.

Initial networking conversations have centred around defining the school’s core purpose, communicating its ethos and values, and ensuring that this ethos does not stand apart from the pressure school leaders are under to improve performance outcomes, but rather enhances and improves their leadership approach.

The groups have examined case studies in relation to key leadership challenges (for example, removing disadvantage, improving boys’ reading and behaviour management) and have begun to learn how to support each other in applying the dynamic vision of ‘Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good’ into the lived reality of corridors and classrooms. How might a school for example embody hope with a family at parents’ evening, or how often do we forgive our students and genuinely give them a clean slate every time?

School leaders are beginning to visit each other, exchanging ideas, encouraging each other’s leadership development, and offering that crucial sense of support and challenge as they evaluate the impact of their work together. There will be online collaboration and resource sharing, teacher and leader exchanges and a growing momentum that through genuinely giving to and receiving from the network, that they can become more courageous, ambitious and authentic in their leadership.

Anil Gaind, Head at Sundridge and Brasted C of E Primary School, said that the Peer Support Network would help him to “grow leadership capacity within our school, and enable us to reflect, refresh and revitalise our leaders to empower change”

As the power of ‘the fear factor’ is replaced by the opportunity of ‘the peer factor’, school leaders can be empowered to take bold decisions, to invest significantly in that which makes their ethos authentic (for church schools, the sense of being ‘Deeply Christian’ being crucial of course). This key relationship of ethos enhancing outcomes stands at the centre of an ambitious vision for the movement we are creating.

For more information about our Peer Support Networks, please contact andy.wolfe@churchofengland.org

Listen here to the Foundation’s Director, James Townsend, on how the movement of leaders in teaching is growing and a conference in February 2017 that will help teachers to put the Church of England’s vision for education into action.

How renovating a churchyard brought a village together

St Mary’s Church in Lowdham has one of the largest rural church yards in Nottinghamshire. Janice Yelland-Sutcliffe, a member of the church, writes about a renovation and environmental project in the churchyard and adjoining field and how this has brought together people from across the community.More than 100 people have taken part in work on the renovation so far at St Mary’s, with support from the Woodland Trust, Nottingham Wildlife Trust and funding from Tesco Groundwork among others. 

“Two or three years ago, I began to realise that there was a need in our church to connect more with the community in line with what was being encouraged by the Diocese and Deanery.  In addition to this, St Mary’s churchyard being one of the largest rural churchyards in Nottinghamshire had received feedback that the top churchyard was neglected – I think in part because it is so big and difficult to manage.

“At the same time I was considering what was the future for me and how I could support the church and community.  I left work in 2010 to care full time for my daughter and in 2012 finally completed a MSc in Education for Sustainability. By 2014 I needed to do something to get out of the house. Sustainability and the environment are my passion and being involved with the church and on the Parochial Church Council (PCC), I thought with my experience and expertise I could help get a grip on the churchyard.

“We had an open day and a couple of discussion forums and there was a lot of interest in the history of the church, and the feeling that if the church cared for the churchyard, then the community felt cared for. We have a ‘front of house’ churchyard, a back churchyard, a field and a beck and a little coppice. There was a big enough space to do things, so we began to think about educational opportunities as well.

“We set to on the work with the sense of really wanting to honour what God has given us and what we are stewards of. The vicar was fantastic, the PCC was behind it, the faculty officer was supportive and we started clearing.

“The back part of the top church yard has 1,000 graves, sitting cheek by jowl, and cherry tree saplings had sprung up all across it. We began taking out the best part of 1,000 cherry tree saplings. The trees had pushed graves over and we had a rabbit warren that had come up between two lots of graves. You couldn’t walk, it was highly uneven, it was difficult to get around. There were families in the village who could not get to their family graves. We were losing biodiversity because it was getting overwhelmed with brambles and nettles. It was trying to find that balance between ecological biodiversity and human access and maintenance.

before_and_after
Before and after the work was carried out

“We have been planting hedgerows and replacing hedges. We have had employees from HMP Lowdham, the local prison, come and help us. Some of the prisoners helped with making garden furniture and people taking part in the community pay back scheme came along to do work. We have had help from the scouts, people from the village and members of the congregation. People have come looking for family graves and as a result have contacted us asking us when they can come and help.

“In the field we planted an orchard of more than 40 trees and we have also planted a 100 metre length World War I Heritage Hedge within which we have planted a willow for each of the men in the village who fought or died fighting in World War I. We are creating stories, as we are planting.

“In the ‘front of house’ churchyard, we are starting to get a lot more of the wildflowers coming through and we are going to create a nature area and wildlife areas. We would like to see forest school style activities and opportunities for outdoor worship. We are just at that point, after two years of work, of being able to put in place a proper maintenance and development plan for the future. It has been hard work but it has been fun. I think I’ve learned more about my village in the last two years than in the last 20 years of living here.”

Janice Yelland-Sutcliffe
Member of St Mary’s Church, Lowdham

Listen to Janice speak about the project more below.

‘It was a privilege to be part of the Pilgrimage to Paris’

Giles Goddard, Vicar of St John’s, Waterloo, in central London, writes on the first anniversary of the Pilgrimage to Paris. 

On a drizzly Friday November 13 a year ago, a group of pilgrims set off from St Martin-in-the-Fields to walk to Paris. Sweatshirted, booted, breakfasted and waterproofed, we walked anxiously down Whitehall, across Westminster Bridge and through South London into the countryside of Surrey.  We came from across the country, the oldest of us aged over 70 and the youngest under 20 years old. We were united in our concern to make sure that the voice of faith was heard at the forthcoming COP 21 climate change talks in Paris.

Sent on our way by Bishop Nicholas Holtam, the Church of England’s lead Bishop on the environment, we were apprehensive but full of hope.

We slept the first night on the floor of a church hall in Banstead, Surrey.  The news when we awoke was sombre; terrorist attacks in Paris had killed over a hundred people. Suddenly we were walking not just as a visual and physical statement about climate change, but in solidarity with all who had been affected by or killed in terrorist attacks across the world.

There was doubt about whether we would be permitted to cross the Channel. But as we walked on through rain and wind towards the coast, after a couple of days the news came through that we would be able to board the ferry in Newhaven and carry on across the north of France to Paris.

I left the Pilgrimage in Newhaven – parish duties called – so I missed the journey through France. But I was told by those who walked the whole way how moving the pilgrimage was: how they were welcomed warmly into people’s homes, fed and watered and given huge encouragement in their journey by people who were touched and inspired by the witness of the pilgrims.

And then, in Paris, they met other pilgrims from all over Europe and beyond. Someone who had come from Canada by bicycle (and ship).  Others who had walked with the visionary Yeb Sano, who had inspired pilgrimages around the world. And others who had simply and quietly made the journey because they cared.

A Petition, signed by over 1.8 million people, was presented to the Executive Secretary of the COP 21 talks, Christiana Figueres. She was very clear that the witness of faith groups in the run-up to Paris had made a material difference to the success of the talks. “I want to thank you,” she said, “for every single step.”

The Paris Climate Agreement was made more possible because faith groups all over the world lifted their voices and said – “This matters. The talks must succeed.”  On 4th November this year, the Agreement came into force. It’s a remarkable achievement. As I write this, 193 countries have signed the treaty, of which 102 have ratified it.

But many say that it does not go far enough. The commitment of countries to reducing their carbon emissions may be insufficient. That’s why the next set of talks – COP 22, in Marrakech, which started on Monday 7th November, is so crucial.  The challenge to all the countries is how to put flesh on the bones of the Paris Agreement. Or is it too little, too late?

The voice of faith leaders will be there again. A statement signed by over 170 eminent faith leaders, including the Dalai Llama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Bishop of Salisbury, will be presented to the President during the talks.

There is hope. Not only because the technology for a carbon-free future is advancing in leaps and bounds. But also because, globally, things are changing. The Church of England is one of many organisations which have begun to divest from the most polluting fossil fuels, and is engaging and challenging the major oil extraction companies. To much surprise Shell predicted on Friday 4th November – the same day the Paris Agreement came into force – that demand for oil might peak within five years.

Above all because, all round the world, people and congregations are saying that they want to help make a better world for them and for their children.

It was a privilege to be part of the Pilgrimage to Paris. Perhaps the best moment was late on the first day, when the rain cleared and suddenly a rainbow shone over Croydon. In a world full of fear, we were given a sign of hope.

Giles Goddard
Member of the Church of England’s Environment Working Group

A Prayer for Remembrance

Ever-living God,
We remember those whom you have
gathered from the storm of war
into the peace of your presence;
may that same peace calm our fears,
bring justice to all peoples
and establish harmony among the nations,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

For more prayers at Remembrance, please visit our website.

Remembrance at Cathedrals

Cathedrals have been busy putting grants for repairs to good use as the nation marks the centenary of the First World War. Becky Clark, Senior Cathedrals Officer and Deputy Secretary of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, has seen at first-hand how new life has been breathed into these jewels in the nation’s crown.  

“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” So wrote the late, great Terry Pratchett in Going Postal. At the time of Remembrance Day the Church of England plays many roles in commemorating the sacrifices of war. But perhaps one of its most important functions is to ensure that what was lost is nevertheless not forgotten; that the dead, though gone, are remembered still.

This year all of England’s cathedrals have been particularly reflecting on the centenary of the First World War and finding ways to bring what seems now a largely historical event into the modern consciousness. The government’s First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund is helping to pay for crucial repairs to over 50 Anglican and Catholic cathedrals. The fund was set up to make sure that cathedrals could be centres of commemoration and remembrance throughout the 1914-18 centenary.

Take Lincoln Cathedral – stunning, highly decorated, made of porous Lincolnshire limestone and sitting proudly at the top of a hill exposed to the elements. Having undergone a three year roof restoration project the cathedral has been collecting names of the departed who visitors wish to be remembered and at a special service on 13th November, poppies will float from the roof of the nave.

At Derby Cathedral, now beautifully lit, decorated and warm thanks to a new heating system there will be an evening of music and readings for Armistice Day on 11th November.

Gloucester Cathedral displaying poppies
Gloucester Cathedral displaying poppies

Gloucester Cathedral has partnered with GCHQ and the Royal British Legion to launch this year’s poppy appeal. As well as commemorating the past, the initiative, which includes many thousands of handcrafted woollen and knitted poppies displayed in and around buildings across the county, encourages us to think about the modern day realities of war. The cathedral tower is lit red in support of the appeal. Project Pilgrim, a conservation programme, supported by the World War I Fund, is underway to restore a number of areas including the stunning Lady Chapel.

At Liverpool Cathedral where grants have enabled vital work to the Lady Chapel and Nave roofs, the Merchant Navy Service of Remembrance will take place on Sunday 13th November at 3pm.

Worcester Cathedral will hold acts of worship to commemorate Remembrance on Sunday and two exhibitions on the stories of local soldiers as well as the role of horses in war are helping to bring to life for a new generation the unsung heroes of conflict.

A new carving of a poppy has been completed at Exeter Cathedral in time for Remembrance Sunday. The decorated “corbel” stone will eventually be added high up on the eastern end of the Cathedral as part of a major programme of works in that area of the building that was funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund. It was carved from a block of Salcombe stone by Gary Morley who has been a member of the Cathedral’s team of masons for over 25 years.

The reason for this remembrance is not to glorify or validate war, or inspire or provoke conflict. Nor is it a nationalistic trumpet call commemorating only those of our own particular country or background. Instead the Church recognises the common humanity of all who have served and died, were injured or traumatised by war. This Remembrance Day church services across the country will think of current world conflicts – Syria, Iraq, many others – and offer prayers for those serving, those fleeing, those caught up in wars they did not start. Remembrance Day commemorations are an act of unity in the face of conflict.

In a world still consumed by conflict, where it is easy to see suffering yet so hard to know how to make a difference, remembering what has gone before is an act of rebellion against apathy. Churches and cathedrals are places where people can gather to speak of loved ones, to pray for reconciliation, to remember and learn about what has passed before. As Czesław Miłosz writes in The Issa Valley “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

Becky Clark
Senior Cathedrals Officer and Deputy Secretary of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England