Medical missions bring vital relief

,

TWO nurses from Berkshire have returned from missions bringing healthcare to people abroad.

Carol at work in Koh Kong.

Carol Moloney joined a medical mission to Cambodia with Mission Direct, while Sabita Clarke headed to a hospital in Uganda. Cambodia was ravaged under Pol Pot’s brutal 1970s regime and in four years about three million people – a quarter of the country’s population – died. Pol Pot was eventually overthrown but his legacy is apparent as nearly 40 per cent live in poverty. Carol, a community nurse working in Earley, travelled to Phnom Penh to run teaching courses on child health, pregnancy care, immunisation, breast feeding, and dealing with child abuse.

Mission Direct also ran a drop-in clinic in a remote village and saw 82 patients with diverse conditions including back pain, mumps, and cataracts. Medicines, toothbrushes, toothpaste and spectacles were dispensed. Carol said: “A US missionary doctor joined us and we set up camp in the shade of bamboo and palm trees on an island in the province of Koh Kong, with pigs rummaging a few feet away.”

Sabita, of Caversham, visited Kamuli hospital in central Uganda, which is run by nuns and serves a population of about 300,000. The hospital is more than 100 years old. Kamuli has about 100 beds, an operating theatre, an old x-ray machine, inadequate ultrasound equipment, and virtually no laboratory facilities.

In the past decade, volunteers have helped rebuild the maternity ward, a gynaecological ward, part of the staff accommodation, and a guest house for visiting doctors and volunteers.

Kamuli Friends was set up four years ago to encourage donations to the hospital and is now fundraising for projects to provide the hospital with solar power, rebuild paediatric and medical wards, and help the hospital raise its own funds for the long term. Rebuilding the medical and paediatric wards are a major priority and the fundraising target is £250,000. Sabita said: “We would like to try to open an art centre at the hospital to encourage visitors and visiting artists. This could become a profit-making venture to provide funds for the hospital.”

Dazzle festival enriches Reading

,

by Gary Collins

EAST Reading has been dazzled by an innovative 10-day Festival of community, imagination and ideas run by St John & St Stephen’s Church (StJ&StS) in Newtown.

Kate Raworth speaks on Doughnut Economics. Photo: Chris Jupp

Dazzle Festival was a collaboration with Reading’s Festival of the Dark. Through art, theatre, concerts, talks, film and meditations the community explored the complex yet affirming role of darkness when thinking about faith, environment, community, education and humanity. Kate Raworth inspired a large audience when she spoke on Doughnut Economics; a radical way to think about money, worth and the environment in a broken system.

The Revd Vincent Gardner, vicar of StJ&StS said: “This week has demonstrated that ‘mission’ is a misnomer; the Church must simply engage with the community by being human and at this time we urgently need to be “realistic” otherwise where’s the fun in it all?’’

On the final Saturday Dazzle Thinking invited an eclectic group of thinkers and activists. Highlights included Kester Brewin speaking on mutiny, risk and education, Alison Webster, the Diocese of Oxford’s social responsibility adviser, on transgression and shadows, Colin Heber-Percy on the philosophy of Dazzling Darkness Under the Skin, community gardener Dave Richards on the Digger’s Revolt and Prof Helen Bilton on Taking Education Outdoors.

New friendships and new conversations were started and will hopefully nurture energy to invigorate and inspire our local streets, schools and parks. A final Dan Flavin-inspired fluorescent meditation provided space to reflect on themes of darkness, light and disorientation.

Dazzle has begun to imagine something novel and realistic; both impolite and exciting. Through art, imagination, disorientating ideas, risk, hospitality and activism it has provided clues and signposts for a sustainable future and enriched community in East Reading.

The Revd Gary Collins, is the curate at StJ&StS.

Remembering the Hungerford ‘tragedy’ 30 years later

,

A SPECIAL church service marked the 30th anniversary of the horrific Hungerford shootings. The Revd David Salt, who was the vicar of St Lawrence’s Church in 1987, when the events known locally as the “tragedy” happened, returned to the town to preach.

As he preached, David stated how watching television we are constantly reminded of tragedies. “This week I was reminded of the division of Pakistan and India and how millions of people were displaced and hundreds brutally killed.” David also mentioned last week’s terrorist attacks in Finland and Spain.

But he preached a message of hope. “When the tragedy struck, I was overwhelmed by the help the congregation offered. Believe it or not we suddenly became alive as a church. Our purpose was made quite clear, we didn’t need decisions and resolutions from the PCC.” David said the St Lawrence’s joined forces with the other churches and organisations in the town. “We had a common vision, to help as best we could. We have seen this community spirit replicated in the tragedy at Grenfell Tower.”

At the end of the service, the Revd Mike Saunders, the current vicar, echoed David’s message. “God has brought good out of a great tragedy. It is like Good Friday. What happened was evil but a community spirit has come out of the tragedy.”

After the service civic leaders, police and those whose loved ones were killed or injured in the shootings gathered at the town’s memorial to lay wreathes.

Helping farmers care for the planet @1CorTen31

,

My faith influences my attitude to work. It has influenced my choice of sector. I enjoy the work I do and feel I’m doing something worthwhile.

Bishop Steven answers pupils Reinspired Big Questions

,

BISHOP Steven was given a place in the Mastermind chair at a recent REinspired session for primary school children at Lower Early Baptist Church in Reading.

“We have been working with the Year 6 children of Hawkedon Primary School since they were in Foundation,” says Julia Jones, Project Director of REinspired.  “All of our sessions meet the needs of the RE syllabus. But this session is different as it is the children who set the questions and we then design the session and activities accordingly.”

Some of the pupil’s asked questions about when we die. Leaders introduced the topic using the story of Water bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney which led to deeper discussions in their small groups.  The pupils were given an opportunity to respond by using art and craft.

Pupils gathered together as one group and Bishop Steven settled himself down into the big ‘Mastermind’ chair.  With two minutes on the clock, how many questions did the bishop answer?  He managed to answer 11 fully and successfully before the bell went.  Some of the questions included:

“What do you do when you wake up?”

With a smile he answered, “I get out of bed, have a coffee and I pray.”

“Will Jesus always be with you?”

The Bishop firmly said, “Yes, including in death and beyond death.”

“If God is real why is He not helping people in need?”

Thoughtfully, the Bishop answered, “I think God is helping people in need a lot.  God calls us to help these people and has given all we need to do so.”

The pupils then had the opportunity of questioning the Bishop directly.  They eagerly put their hands up.  One of the questions was:

“If you could change anything in the world what would it be?”

Bishop Steven answered, “It would be war and conflict.  It’s terrible when it happens to people but when its caused by other people I think it’s the worst.”

As always, our teachers are invited to feedback their comments on every session.  Today the Hawkedon teachers reflected, “REinspired have organised this session well with a good pace.  We were happy with the delivery, setup and safety of the session.  It covered useful aspects of PSMSC (Personal, Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural). The children were engaged and thoroughly enjoyed questioning the Bishop.”

REinspired based at St Nicolas Church, Earley, is an ecumenical group of Christians in Earley and East Reading delivering RE sessions to schools. We started 15 years ago when one of our primary schools asked a local minister for help with their RE.  The Churches Together in Earley and East Reading team embraced the opportunity and REinspired was born.  Our aim is to meet the need of the locally agreed RE syllabus and bring RE to life. Having started with one class in one school, REinspired now supports every class in all 11 primary schools as well as two secondary schools.  When we started we had dreams of meeting and working with ‘every child, every year, every school’.  15 years later that dream is a reality.

 

Why I care about this election

, ,

I am not particularly political. I joined a political party once, in my twenties, but let it lapse a year later. Like lots of people, though, I listen to the news avidly and I care deeply about people, especially the vulnerable. And, as our grandchildren grow, I care more and more about what sort of world they will inherit.

That’s why, although I am not really a political animal, I care about this election; somehow, it feels like a real turning point.

Some things are already decided. We shall be leaving Europe; how we shall leave remains to be seen, and I am concerned about what our policy and behaviour will be towards the migrant and the refugee.

What is also bothering me are the things that are being said, in all sorts of quarters, about our sisters and brothers who have been through hell and are still struggling, wherever they are. Our problems are not the direct result of immigration or refugees. It is much more complicated than that.

As we prepare to vote, we each bring our own conscience, values and loyalties. But as Christians we all share a calling to love God and to love our neighbour. As Christians, we need to listen hard to what is being said, and what is not being said, and to observe how people behave. We have a common calling to listen with our hearts, as well as with our intellects, and if we can, to ignore the spin and the post-truth politics and the fake news stories; the slurs and the cheap shots, and to pause to remember that when God made the world, He saw that it was very good; and when God’s Son died for the world, He did so because He loves it so much.

Rt Revd Andrew Proud
Bishop of Reading

County Archives welcomes its 10,000th collection

,

A VILLAGE church has provided the Berkshire Record Office with its 10,000th collection for its archives.

Lucy Laird from St Andrew’s Church, Shrivenham, hands a church register to County Archivist Mark Stevens. Photo: Berkshire Records Office.

The Record Office, located in Reading, is the custodian of local archives from across the county and has been collecting records for the last 69 years. The collections span 10 centuries of Berkshire’s history. The 10,000th collection comes from St Andrew’s, Shrivenham, near Swindon – part of the historic county of Berkshire which included towns like Abingdon and Wantage. The oldest item within it was a Victorian marriage register dating from 1813.

Lucy Laird, a Shrivenham resident and church member, said: “It is very reassuring to know that our irreplaceable historic records are now stored safely at the record office.”
Parish registers like the one from Shrivenham are invaluable sources for family historians. For example, the Shrivenham registers record the marriage of Edward Cavey and Hannah Wicks on 6 April 1814 and the baptism of their three children. The burial register notes that their second child died aged only seven days, that Hannah died at 41 and Edward, who was the village butcher, died at 50.

Other recent collections include a letter from the American Red Cross in the Second World War with instructions to Reading girls for how to behave at dances and a lease for land in Bray dated 1742. The Record Office is always happy to add historic documents and photographs to its collections. Anyone with relevent material is invited to contact: Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading RG1 6AF, tel: 0118 937 5132. Email: arch@reading.gov.uk

Hat-trick of success at Beedon CE School

,

BEEDON CE Primary School in Berkshire has been praised by Nick Gibb, the Government Minister for School Standards after being placed in the top two per cent of schools in England for attainment in maths.

Mr Gibb said: “I would like to congratulate you for the very high standard that pupils in your school have achieved in the 2016 Key Stage 2 assessments. Your school results show that 100 per cent of your pupils reached or exceeded the expected school standard in mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2.

The praise follows an OFSTED report in November. Inspectors praised the school’s improving systems and processes. It also follows a SIAMS inspection in January, when an inspector stated: “As a result of the Christian character of the school the behaviour and attendance of learners is good and they achieve well and make good progress.”

Chris Prosser, the Executive Headteacher, said: “These accolades are well deserved and reflect the hard work and dedication of staff, students and parents. Athough it is a small rural school it has a unique character and a big heart.”

Ministry for the Deaf

, , , ,

The Door tells the stories of some of those involved with churches that cater specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Thames Valley.
by the Revd Ben Whitaker

Martha’s Vineyard stands out in Deaf History. Through a mutation of a recessive gene brought about by inbreeding, a form of hereditary deafness existed for 250 years in this place in Massachusetts in the United States, following the arrival of the first deaf settlers in the 1690s.

Scarcely a family was unaffected and one in four people were deaf. In response to this, the entire community learnt sign language and there was a free and complete communication between hearing and deaf people. Deaf people were scarcely seen as deaf. The writer Oliver Sachs gave his impressions of Martha’s Vineyard when he visited the island: “My first sight of this indeed was unforgettable. I drove up to the old general store in West Tisbury on a Sunday morning and saw half a dozen people gossiping together on the porch. They could have been any old folks talking together – until suddenly they all dropped into sign. They signed for a minute, laughed, then dropped back into speech.”

In sharp contrast to those people in Martha’s Vineyard, sign language users in this country who are deaf, are largely separate from the hearing world. There is very little of the integration which Sachs describes. British Sign Language is a language which is clear and visual so most appropriate for deaf people. Church members have been using and teaching BSL for many years, believing that everyone is a child of God and should have access to the Gospel and to the ministry of the Church. Many clergy, including myself, learnt sign from deaf people themselves.

I have been a Chaplain with deaf and hard of hearing people for 21 years. Before then I worked in two parishes in different parts of the country. What drew me to deaf chaplaincy was that it was different to other forms of ministry I had experienced. I relished the challenge of learning a new language, and getting to know deaf people, to see their slant on the world. It has been a challenging and deeply rewarding experience. At the moment I work part time for the Oxford Diocesan Council for the Deaf. This is a charity and works with deaf and hard of hearing people to meet their spiritual, social and general needs, and to help give them a voice in the Church and in society.

The work I do is not of course limited to sign language users. There are many more who experience hearing loss who lip read to a greater or lesser extent. Some lip read as an alternative to BSL. These people may be profoundly deaf and manage to integrate into the hearing world. Others experience hearing loss due to their age.

Some people use hearing aids which are a great help. However their usefulness depends on the degree of hearing loss. They do not, for instance, help the user detect the direction of a particular noise. And they not only amplify particular sounds but all sounds around the user so that in large gatherings, as with many church meetings and services, holding conversations and hearing people properly can be difficult. Another barrier to using hearing aids is the perception that they are something to be ashamed about. Some people just like to complain that “people are mumbling” and cope as best they can.

There are an estimated 2,000 people in the Oxford Diocese with a total or severe hearing loss, and up to 70 of these are currently active members of the deaf worshipping communities. One in seven members of the population are reckoned to have a significant hearing loss, and their needs and potential contribution are not generally recognised in the hearing communities.

I work within a team of lay and ordained persons. And I work across the Diocese. In the same way as parochial clergy have oversight over people in a particular geographical area, so I think of myself as having concern for deaf and hard of hearing people who live in the Oxford Diocese. I take services in BSL, and support deaf people through pastoral problems. I take funerals in BSL, as well as being with deaf people at happier occasions like baptisms and weddings.
I would very much like to encourage clergy to get involved in the Deaf Church, to come and work with us, to get involved in this unique form of ministry.

The Revd Ben Whitaker is a part-time Chaplain to the Oxford Deaf Church.

Being part of a church signing team

George Chapman from Milton Keynes describes his journey from college to work and how he enjoys volunteering as part of the BSL team at the Cross & Stable Church.

George signs at a wedding at his church.

I’m 23 and live with with my parents. I have a younger brother and younger sister. I spent 10 years in a mainstream school, learning English, Maths, History and Geography as well as taking special lessons in BSL which I passed at Level 1 and 2. I enjoyed learning new things and I made a lot of deaf friends, and some hearing friends as well. I wasn’t very happy after my move to secondary school but I concentrated on my lessons as I wanted to make progress and get ready for my future.

I was at Milton Keynes College for about four-and-a-half years. In the first two years I did English and Maths and Life Skills (like money and community and how to get a job). Then I moved on to two years doing IT. That was excellent. I really improved. I did several work experience placements while at school and college: Newport Pagnell Library and the Co-op in Newport Pagnell, and an office work placement at the college. They helped me to learn how businesses work and to decide what job I’d like to do.

When I left college I started looking for work. It took me about a year. I did volunteering while I was looking, helping at signing classes and at the Job Centre. I did work experience at Morrisons and learned about health and safety and how a supermarket works. Then the Shaw Trust helped me get a job in Sainsbury’s café. That’s a real-life job and it’s been brilliant for me. I was nominated for a ‘Best Colleague’ award and while I didn’t win the national prize, I enjoyed the experience of the award ceremony in London in February.

I help at Cross & Stable Church, an ecumenical Church in Milton Keynes, as part of the signing team. I sign hymns and readings as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the responses. At Christmas I will be doing carols and I’ll help people feel welcome.
I first came to the church when I was young, but I got involved again about four years ago when Sue Baines (a BSL teacher) told me about the signing team and persuaded me to join. I love it.

In the past I’ve been part of a drama club. I was involved for 10 years. I’ve done sign acting as well as BSL interpreting for the Christmas panto. There were some changes at the club and since starting work I’ve needed to concentrate on that, plus saving money and hopefully getting ready for living independently.
At times I find it hard to join in the deaf community, as some deaf events happen in work time and that takes priority. These days I’m concentrating on work, and enjoying being part of the signing team at Cross & Stable.

No limitations for Elizabeth

Elizabeth Payne is deaf but refuses to be limited by other people’s ideas about what she can acheive.

Elizabet Payne

Elizabeth is a member of the Cross & Stable Church, Downs Barn in Milton Keynes, which she attends with her husband Les. She was born and grew up in Kenya, part of a big family, with three brothers and sisters and lots of half-brothers and half-sisters.

Elizabeth learned to sign at her primary school, which was a boarding school for the deaf started originally by Dutch missionaries and an hour’s journey from home. Kenyan sign language has a number of differences from BSL. The alphabet, for instance, is in a one-handed, American style. Elizabeth is multilingual in all sorts of ways, including signing.

Her secondary education was at a deaf vocational school where Elizabeth did a nursing and caring course connected to a local hospital. There she met Les, who came from England to work as a volunteer teacher at a boys’ polytechnic. One of his friends was a volunteer matron at the hospital, and Les and Elizabeth met at a birthday party.
They began their married life in Kenya, but moved to England where their children, Christopher and Joanne, were born. Chris is in the throes of university applications and hopes to do Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford. Joanne is in Year 9 and is starting her GCSEs. They are both hearing but good signers. “Joanne learned to sign very young,” says Elizabeth. “One of her first signs was ‘ice-cream’.”

Elizabeth is a determined learner. When she told her family in Kenya she wanted to be a copy typist, they said, “You can’t do that”, but she points out, “I went to a hearing teaching college and succeeded in qualifying.”

Here in England she has learned to swim and to cycle, and passed her driving test on her first attempt in 2005. Her biggest driving challenge was to track down a driving instructor willing to take a deaf pupil. Elizabeth’s priority is her home and family, but she likes to be busy and in the mornings and evenings she works as a cleaner. She enjoys opportunities to meet up with deaf friends and has a number of craft skills. She was once part of a deaf sewing group.

It was a woman at Homestart that told Elizabeth about the Cross & Stable Church and the signed services there when Chris was a toddler. Like many mums, Elizabeth has known the isolation of caring for infants at home while her partner is having to be out at work. But she still describes one of her greatest joys as family and seeing the children grow up and thrive.

Being deaf has had its frustrations, like people who tell her she can’t do things which she knows she can, or the lack of understanding by Government departments at times (DVLA included) but, says Elizabeth, there are advantages like being able to switch off sometimes.

And new technologies can be a great help in communicating with friends around the world – by text, Skype or Facebook. They’ve helped Elizabeth to keep in touch with her oldest son Kenneth, who’s doing development studies at university in Nairobi, and catch up with friends in Germany and the USA. For Elizabeth it’s ‘total communication’. She is used to living with hearing people and is a good lip-reader, but she loves the chance to be part of a signing community.

Pat Chandler’s story

I am in my 60s and live in Slough.  I am now retired, but worked for more than 25 years with disabled people, helping them on work placements, teaching them how to use the bus, how to shop, how to find work and other ‘ordinary’ life skills. Now retired, I am doing voluntary work in Slough, and volunteer at Oxfam.  My hobbies are doing cross-words, computer games, and learning about different religions from documentaries. I also like to travel.

I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church and I regularly worship at the monthly Cox Green Deaf Church Service run by ODCD.  My local Catholic Church has a link with the Church of England. The reason I come to the Deaf Church, is because it is easier, because it is in the sign language I understand.  The Catholic Church only gives services in spoken English, with no interpreter, but I have very little hearing, and so I do not know what they are saying, especially in the sermon. I just recite the rosary to avoid daydreaming. I did have a friend who interpreted a little bit, but she died some years ago, and no one else is available.  I have asked but my local church only provide signing during the mass. There is no sign language when the mass is over. That is why I like to come to the Deaf Church. All of the service and the preaching is signed in BSL, and I can get a full picture of what the priest or lay preacher is signing in the sermon.

My Christian faith means a lot.  When I go to church, I feel an inner peace within me.  I understand God better every time that I come to Deaf Church, because I can understand better: it helps me to improve and gives me strength and confidence.  I feel much better when I come to Deaf Church: it is really good.

I would like a chaplain who could sign BSL, and make me feel comfortable without worrying about being a Catholic, but would accept me as I am, so I could come and take communion.

I would like to say to other Christians, “Respect each other, respect that we’re all one church.  Whether we’re Jewish, Hindu, Catholic, Church of England, we are all equal.  The church should welcome anybody.  If they believe in God, that’s fine, we’re all equal.  It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe in God, as they are all welcome to God.”

Ken Dyson’s story:

I retired six years ago, and now volunteer for church visiting, and I am a Licensed Lay Minister with the Oxford Deaf Church. I am also a member of the executive committee of the Reading Deaf Centre, and its secretary.

 My main hobbies are sailing and cycling. I have two adult children with three grandchildren between them.  They live between North Oxfordshire and Essex, so living in Reading, I have to do a lot of driving backwards and forwards, visiting. Within the deaf community, I enjoy all the talking we do in our own sign language: sign language is good for telling stories, and they can be very funny. The difficulties of being deaf are those of communication.  For example, when driving to north Oxfordshire, I stopped off for food, and was asked what I wanted, but because of the background noise, people could not hear me, and I could not speak above the noise.

As a Christian, I believe that my life comes from God. I owe God everything, and I have to give something back: it saved me from depression when I was young, so it is important to me. I would like the hearing church to take more interest in the deaf church. Before, we tried to go to a hearing church, but we stopped, because we could not understand what was being said.

 I would like to see more chaplains to the deaf, especially chaplains who are deaf themselves. We need a chaplain who would welcome young deaf people and bring them in to church.

I also believe that a lot of people don’t understand what Jesus said. They need more education and the to read about him for themselves. I recently heard some deaf people arguing over whether or not Jesus was a Jew. Religious education, both in deaf and hearing schools is declining and this is a problem deaf churches and deaf schools need to address.

What can your church do?

Essential for all churches
• A high quality sound system of microphones and loudspeakers to be provided throughout the worship area; ideally bring in a sound engineer to advise you.
• A hearing loop available throughout the church worship area and meeting rooms. (ODCD and other charities can often provide contributions towards the cost.)
• A clear view of the worship leader and preacher.
• Good lighting, falling on the worship leader and preacher.
• A written service with clear responses, produced either clearly on paper, or visible onscreen.

Good to have
• Intercessions: written or on screen.
• Sermon: written and full text or summary points on screen.
• The provision of monitors in church “blind spots” such as behind pillars or in overflow rooms or chapel areas so that the worship leaders or preacher may be seen.
• A high quality sound system of microphones and loudspeakers to be provided in all meeting rooms.
• Avoid speaking over music.

Ideal, in addition to the above
• To provide a BSL interpreter within sight of the worship leader/preacher during services, and at meetings, especially public meetings.
• When available, provision of speech to text software projected onto a visible screen.

And now…
If your church already provides some or all of these facilities, let ODCD know so they can be added to the list of ‘deaf friendly churches’ on the website. Email: odcdpastoralsecretary@outlook.com.

Late night first aid at Reading Minster

,

A SERVICE that provides first aid and advice to revellers in Reading on Friday and Saturday nights is now permanently based at the Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin.
The church had already launched Sanctuary in partnership with Reading Street Pastors, offering a space to chill-out for those who may need refuge during a night out in the hectic town centre.

Now the First Stop, which used to operate from a bus in Broad Street, has moved to the Minster. Since it was launched in 2013 First Stop has helped over 1,200 people with physical injuries or in emotional distress, with 91 per cent of these requiring some form of medical assessment or treatment. Eighty three per cent of the people treated at First Stop would have otherwise needed an ambulance call out or trip to Accident and Emergency. It is estimated the service has saved the NHS £164,000.

It is run by Reading Borough Council in partnership with Thames Valley Police, the NHS, Street Pastors, Reading Buses and Reading Voluntary Action. It is staffed by trained first aiders and medics from the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

The launch night of First Stop at Reading Minster in February 2017.

The Revd Stephen Pullin, the Vicar of Reading Minster, said: “We are keen to make the best use of the Minster to serve and support people in the town and we’re looking forward to joining forces with the First Stop team. Our current weekend Sanctuary project, run by volunteers, has proved extremely successful.”

Fight poverty with soup this Lent

, , , ,

PEOPLE across the Diocese are being urged to support Christian Aid by eating soup this Lent.

For example, in the Hambleden Valley, there will be a series of Lent Lunches to raise money for Christian Aid’s work.

Organiser Penny Mcleish said, “Over the years we’ve raised thousands of pounds to help people in

Michael with his grandson

need.” The money raised is used to help people like Michael, who lives in South Sudan, where 6.1 million people urgently need humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict that erupted in December 2013. Ongoing fighting has displaced 2.4 million people, and up to 5.3 million people are at risk of severe food shortages.

Michael, who is in his 70s and has gradually lost his sight during the past five years, fled alongside his family when government forces came to his village. Soldiers killed people and stole cattle, forcing Michael to flee to the swamp where he resided with his family for two months. When they returned, most of their belongings were gone, and they were left with next to nothing. With the help of fishing hooks and nets from Christian Aid, Michael is now able to take the younger generation to the swamp to teach them how to fish so they can continue to feed their community.

Phil Evans, of Christian Aid’s Oxford office, said: “We are asking you to reflect each day on the blessings in your life through Count Your Blessings, inspired by daily opportunities to give, act and pray for communities like Michael’s, helping them to find a safe place to call home.”
Christian Aid is working with people displaced within South Sudan, who are living in some of the hardest to reach places, to provide much-needed food, safe water and sanitation facilities and essential household items, including sheeting for temporary shelters, as well as fish hooks and nets so they can start to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient.

Just £15 could provide fishing gear for a family like Michael’s; £8.50 could provide two cooking pots so they can eat a hot meal; and £3 could pay for two plastic jerry cans so they can store safe drinking water.

Hambleden Valley Churches are holding three Lent Lunches on Saturdays 18, 25 March and 1 April in the Hambleden Parish Hall and at St John the Evangelist Frieth on Saturday 8 April noon to 2pm. For details contact Penny on 01491 571288 or penny_mcleish@hotmail.com.

Generous donation for St George’s organ

,

A £207,000 donation from a visitor to St George’s Wash Common has paid for the refurbishment of the organ.

The Revd Paul Cowan, the former Vicar of St George’s with Clive Grant, the organist.

The church has been featured in the Door several times during a seven-year project to become one of the first carbon neutral churches in the UK. Last February the project came to completion. An organ enthusiast, who was visiting, spotted the need for the organ to be refurbished and donated the money. The project was recently completed by JW Walker and Sons, the company that originally built the organ.