#JoyToTheWorld in all our communities

Throughout December 2016 we ran our #JoyToTheWorld Christmas campaign, encouraging people to experience a church service in their local community.

Parishes added more than 34,000 services to www.AChristmasNearYou.org, a site that allowed people to enter their postcode and find Christmas events happening near them. More than 133,000 people visited the site, with 25,000 accessing on Christmas Eve. 83% of traffic came from a smartphone or tablet, showing the huge importance of designing for these devices.

Overall, we reached one and a half million people across Facebook, Twitter and Google. This was achieved by using small amounts of targeted advertising (particularly focusing on those who don’t normally go to church) and asking our existing followers to share the short films and website.

The four videos we released featured people explaining their moment of Christmas #JoyToTheWorld: Gogglebox vicar Revd Kate Bottley, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Becoming Reverend author Revd Matt Woodcock and comedian Paul Kerensa. These were seen over 738,000 times on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

We also wanted to use our national social media accounts to highlight how the good news of Christmas was being shared by parishes across the country – here’s just a few of the many positive tweets from clergy and congregations.

We used Twitter Moments to share tweets like the above and these were seen by tens of thousands and featured on Twitter’s national Moments page on Christmas Day.

We’re thrilled with the number of people who engaged with #JoyToTheWorld over the Christmas period, which showed the importance of our continuing Christian presence in every community. The digital and social media campaign allowed us to showcase and highlight the huge amount of work that parishes across the country put into Advent and Christmas and encourage attendance.

Thanks to a big communications push in dioceses and parishes across the country we ensured churches added services and got behind #JoyToTheWorld locally.

The learnings from #JoyToTheWorld’s social media and search advertising will be applied to our future campaigns and the new life stages and story-led Church of England website, launching in the late summer of 2017.

Adrian Harris
Deputy Director of Communications (Digital) at the Church of England.

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