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On the Money: Mission in the World

by Alison Webster

Alison Webster

The needs of a tiny village, or one street of an urban estate, to wider issues controlled by global forces are all part of the work of the Diocese of Oxford’s Mission in the World team.

Christians might intervene on many different levels and what happens locally has a global dimension. There are people from all over the world living in most communities in this diocese. A lot of issues that are perceived to be local are driven by international forces.

A concrete example is employment opportunities. The job market in any location is driven by global economic trends and situations. Local education and services will be largely dictated by national policy. There are four headings that set the agenda for what the Mission in the World team do:

We look at what is happening on a parish level. It may be engaging with those experiencing domestic abuse or those with mental health issues. As churches we respond through practical support and the more we engage practically, the clearer we see the systemic and structural causes of injustice. This in turn can lead us to work for change through advocacy and campaigning, which leads us into partnerships with other denominations, faith and secular agencies.

All this is embedded in deep theological reflection. We work for nothing less than the care and healing of God’s people and God’s world.

The Mission in the World Team:

  • Alison Webster – social responsibility adviser
  • Bethan Willis – assistant social responsibility adviser
  • The Revd Canon Glyn Evans – rural officer
  • The Revd Joanna Collicutt – Spiritual Care for Older People (SCOP) adviser
  • Maranda St John Nicolle – world development adviser
  • Victoria Slater – researcher, Living Well in the End Times project (externally funded)

Partnerships for Creation

PARTNERING with other people in care for creation can be an important part of a church’s witness and outreach, a way of practically showing the love of God and neighbour. But how can we work effectively with partners in the community? And how can we build positive relationships with local politicians?

Jo Musker-Sherwood, Neil Clark, Karl Wallendszus and Richard Foster discuss how churches can partner with politicians and others in their communities. Photo: Maranda St John Nicolle.

Recently in Oxford, Christians from different churches came together to think through these questions. In the morning Alice Hemming, coordinator of Oxfordshire’s Community Action Groups network, and John Clements, from the Parish of North Hinksey with Botley, spoke about the way in which community sustainability groups operate and how churches can start their own or get involved with them.

Inspired by examples like the Botley Community Fridge, participants brainstormed about activities their churches could undertake and community partners they might work with. In the afternoon, leading environmental charity Hope for the Future ran a session on how to build a constructive relationship with your MP. Using – for the first time – their newly published workbook, which brings together expertise gleaned from research and dozens of MP meetings, Director Jo Musker-Sherwood and Assistant Director Sarah Robinson discussed how parliament works, techniques that are effective in meetings, and how to continue a relationship beyond a single meeting.

The afternoon culminated in a role play exercise in which a group of participants planned and carried out a meeting with Jo standing in as their MP. The response to both sessions was enthusiastic.

If you’d like to find out more or want to receive a Hope for the Future workbook, contact the diocesan world development adviser maranda@ccow.org.uk.

Volunteers help clothe hundreds of Bracknell’s poorest

by Jo Duckles

A van is loaded with clothes to be given away. Photo: St Mark’s, Binfield.

THE poorest and most vulnerable people in the Bracknell area are being helped by a clothing bank run by churches and volunteers in the deanery.

The idea started in Binfield when a mum had a bag of clothes to give away but felt the local charity shop was setting prices too high for those living in poverty.
“We got our heads together and decided to give clothes away to families in need. We have four seasonal giveaways each year. We get donations from churches around the deanery. They are not just Church of England, all of the churches in the area get involved,” said Gisele Taylor, who co-ordinates the project. The scheme was inspired by Jesus’s words in Matthew 25, vs 36: “I needed clothes and you clothed me…”

Clothes are picked up by volunteers and taken to a container at St Mark’s Church in Binfield. They are sorted into ages for children and sizes for adults. For the giveaways, 70 to 80 boxes are taken to St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Bracknell.

Clients are referred from a variety of charities and agencies. These include Bracknell Women’s Aid, mental health charities, Christians Against Poverty, Social Services, Lighthouse Homeless Project and various foodbanks.

“The project is in contact with a breadth of projects and schemes that help people in situations where they find themselves in need. The clothes are taken to St Joseph’s by volunteers. Some are taken in cars, one person once delivered some in a horse box. It brings the community together to help, which is wonderful,” said Gisele.

Clients who are referred to the clothing bank receive vouchers which allow them to visit St Joseph’s during a giveaway and take whatever clothes they need.
“We restrict the new clothing people can take away and some of what we receive isn’t appropriate. The majority of clients are aged between 20 and 40. Two thirds of the clothes we give away are for children and one third for adults. We don’t have a lot of need for older adult clothing or smarter clothes. We have emergency referrals too between giveaways. We recently had a family of refugees so we clothed them.” Gisele said that any clothing unlikely to be wanted by the core client group was sold on Ebay and the money used to buy new underwear and pyjamas, which can’t be given away second hand.

“We get 90 to 130 clients each time. I co-ordinate the project but it is very much a joint effort and we couldn’t do it without all of the volunteers we have on board. We have people from industry, someone from Microsoft and a number of people from Lloyds who are given a number of days per year to work within the community.”

Volunteers also deal with the administration of the project. New for 2017 is a specific school uniform giveaway. “School uniforms don’t tend to go during the regular giveaways but we wanted to do something for families at the crunch time of year, before the new school years starts,” added Gisele.

For anyone living in the Bracknell area who would like to donate clothes or get involved, contact St Mark’s Binfield on
office@binfieldcofechurches.org.uk or 01344 421079.

‘We’re dreaming of a LOAF Christmas’

AS Christmas gets closer, the Door looks at ways of making the festive season as Locally sourced, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fair Trade (LOAF) as possible. The Revd Canon Glyn Evans, the Diocesan Rural Officer, reflects on why Christians should consider how they source their food.

Kes the Copas Turkey dog looks after a flock at the Copas farm Photo: Copas Traditional Turkeys.

Kes the Copas Turkey dog looks after a flock at the Copas farm Photo: Copas Traditional Turkeys.

Last week we planned our Christmas day menu – for twelve. All the meat and vegetables will be sourced from farmers within 20 miles of where we live and bought through a local butcher, run by young entrepreneurial local farmers. The Christmas cake, the Christmas puddings and the jars of mincemeat already sitting in the larder have been made from ethically sourced ingredients, as Fair Trade as possible, and in support of the local economy of farmer friendly shops. The exercise is very strategic.

Food is a gift of God. Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread.” This is as much about physical bread as it is about spiritual bread. The theologian writing the book of Genesis makes this explicit in the narrative of God’s creation. “Behold,” God says, “I have given you every plant and every tree. You shall have them for food.”
And again in the recreation of the earth after the Flood: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything (Gen. 9:3).”

Humankind’s connection to the land is also made explicit in the second story of creation. In Genesis chapter two God is imagined as fashioning the first human being from the earth itself. The first created being is a creature of the earth (Adamah in Hebrew) from which we get the name Adam. Adam is given what is the primary task of humanity, to till and work and care for the same earth from which the creature was fashioned.

In the first accounts of the harvest festivals that connection with the land is identified as a sacred one (Deuteronomy 26) and the bringing forth of the produce encapsulated that sacredness. The gift of land becomes sacramental, a symbol of God’s love for us; the gift of food the outward expression of that sacrament. The instruction to care for the land is the responsibility endowed by that sacramental relationship: “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” When we buy food we are playing a part in shaping the food system and our connection with it. We can steward the earth by using our buying power and making choices. Buying local food creates the environment for growing food and for shaping the landscape we enjoy just as buying fairly traded products is a way of shaping the productivity and wellbeing of farmers and growers in other parts of the world.

Buying local food makes a statement about the effect that food miles have on the environment, and assist the agricultural industry towards their targets of reducing their environmental impact. Buying food which we may have seen grown in the fields near to where we live provides economic return to the farmers who till the soil on our behalf. This may help us connect to the land of which we are a part and bring the sacrament of food a closer reality.

Join the MK Food Revolution

SOURCING local ingredients will be made easy in Milton Keynes at the third MK Feast which takes place at Bradwell Abbey this month. The event follows the success of the twice-annual FEAST. At the first FEAST in February 2016, crowds of more than 3,000 people visited and far exceeded the expectations of the organiser, Franzi Florack.

Franzi expected 400 to 500 people at the first festival, where music and children’s activities entertained shoppers. So she began organising the Christmas FEAST, which will include a range of street food traders, craft stalls, and a farmers’ market. The festival has grown out of the MK Food Revolution, an initiative kickstarted by Franzi when she moved to the area from Leeds last year.   With funding from Smart MK (an initiative run by the Open University), Franzi printed 100 “independent food passports” which she sold for £5. When passport holders shopped with an independent retailer, the passport was stamped and they were able to win prizes. “The scheme was set up to encourage people to shop locally and independently,” says Franzi. The MK Food Revolution website now includes details of 47 independent producers. These include farmers who produce vegetables or meat that is sold locally, street food traders who produce their own food on site, or restaurants that source their ingredients locally.

“It’s really close to my heart to help Milton Keynes become a more environmentally friendly and sustainable community. Small traders have a rough deal as rates and rents are expensive so it’s important that we support them,” says Franzi, an academic who has just finished a PhD and now runs a micro pub and bottle shop, The MK Biergarten (www.mkbiergarten.co.uk) promotes drinks from local breweries and always has a beer from Franzi’s home country of Germany on draught.

The Christmas FEAST takes place on Sunday 11 December from 11am to 4pm.

More LOAF suppliers

THE photo above shows Kes the dog managing the flocks at Copas Traditional Turkeys in Cookham, Berkshire. The award winning farm was founded when Tom Copas Senior’s father gave the 18-year-old 153 turkeys in 1957. Now a family business producing 38,000 turkeys every year, the farm has won an array of awards and Mr Copas himself gained the Turkey Man of the Year Award at the British Turkey Awards in 2013. For more see www.copasturkeys.co.uk. For more details of where to buy organic food in Berkshire here. 

In Oxford, try buying seasonal vegetables from the organic vegetable van that tours the city, parking in different, easy-to-reach streets on different days. For more see cultivateoxford.org/. Also try the Talking Shop in Sandford-on-Thames for a coffee and the chance to buy local produce and crafts on Saturdays, 9am to noon and Fridays, 9.30am to 4.30pm. Just down the road from Oxford is Millets Farm. Enjoy a family day out as well as a place to shop for fresh produce, meat, fish, and Christmas gifts.

Follow in St Nicholas’ footsteps with Fair Trade gifts

Maranda St John Nicolle on why she’ll be giving Fairtrade gifts this Christmas.

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Fair Trade chocolate coins. Photo by Maranda St John Nicolle.

About 1,700 years ago, the story goes, a young man heard about a family so poor that the three daughters faced a very uncertain future. Concerned about their situation, Nicholas – later known as St Nicholas – put some money in a package and dropped it through the window of their house, where it fell into a stocking that was hung to dry. It was one of his many ways of showing love for neighbours – and is the basis for our tradition of Christmas stockings.

Fast forward, and today the parish of St Nicolas, Earley in Berkshire is helping its parishioners fill Christmas stockings with gifts that enable our neighbours around the world to build a better future. A Fairtrade Church, they link with local Traidcraft Fair Trader Pam Thompson to offer parishioners an easy way to buy a wide range of Fair Trade food, cards and gifts.

A Traidcraft catalogue and order forms are available in the church, and can be dropped off in the parish office. Orders are then gathered together, placed by Pam, and delivered to the church – cutting out delivery fees and saving time and money. They’re not alone: church-based Fair Traders in Milton Keynes, Deddington and many other areas are doing the same.

Buying Fair Trade doesn’t have to cost a lot – and it really can make a difference. I’m planning my shopping now. For my niece, for example, I’ll be buying a Fair Trade finger puppet from Peru. As I choose which of the brightly coloured animals to purchase, I’ll remember meeting Julia, a Peruvian Fair Trade producer who told me how Fair Trade had given her hope when, as the struggling mother of a disabled child, she’d felt completely hopeless, unable to work outside the home because of her child’s needs.

A Fair Trade cooperative provided her with a loom she could use to work at home while tending to her child. She eventually became the president of CIAP, the organisation which includes the people who made the finger puppet I’ll be buying.

Some sweet-toothed friends will get baked goods where local products will be joined with dried fruit from the Eksteenskuil Cooperative in South Africa. Eksteenskuil is a remarkable success story of formerly disenfranchised people turning unwanted land into fruitful and productive vineyards that are a beacon of hope not just within their community but for miles around. Their fruit is sweet in both taste and impact.
And for another person (I’d best not say who, as this comes out before Christmas) there’s a beautiful laptop bag from Creative Handicrafts, which helps disadvantaged communities in Mumbai, allowing them to avoid the exploitation that is often present in the garment industry.

While my purchases alone are small, I know that when a lot of people buy small Fair Trade items, they can make a big difference to the people behind the products. That gives real pleasure – and I’m so grateful to be able to celebrate the coming of Christ by ensuring that the presents I’m giving in His honour are helping others to live with dignity.

Maranda St John Nicolle is the World Development Advisor for the Oxford Diocese. For more places to buy Fairtrade click here. 

Embrace an alternative way of giving

It’s Christmas morning. As you open your presents, you find an attractive card with a magnet attached. It’s a present that shows love for you – but you’re not the only one who benefits. The card represents a donation that was made in your honour – and because of that donation, a refugee family in the Middle East has received a much-needed food parcel.

Photo: Embrace the Middle East

Photo: Embrace the Middle East

The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities offer them, large and small, those assisting people internationally and those assisting people in the UK.

The past decade has seen huge growth in the giving of “alternative gifts”. The idea is simple and effective: you donate to a charity as a gift to someone here; the charity uses your donation to assist the people and communities it serves; and you are able to give the recipient here a card or other token explaining the gift and the good that it has enabled. Many charities offer them, large and small, those assisting people internationally and those assisting people in the UK.

Embrace the Middle East’s alternative gift range includes not only food parcels, but care for pregnant refugee mothers, classroom supplies, access to clean water, and literacy classes. Jeremy Moodey, the CEO of Embrace, said: “With the Middle East constantly in the news, alternative gifts are a great way for people to respond to the enormous needs in the region.

“The gifts bring joy to friends and family, especially at Christmas when people reflect on the nativity story, but they also bring comfort to those suffering from poverty or war in one of the most volatile regions in the world. Alternative gifts are a beautiful way to connect the generosity of our supporters with those who desperately need hope in the Middle East today.”

For more call Embrace on 01494 897950. Click here for more alternative gift suggestions.

 

Need some inspiration?

We surveyed some local Fair Traders to find out what’s popular at Christmas.

Foods:
Christmas biscuits
Chocolate coins (above)
Zaytoun dates – support the Middle East by buying these beautifully packaged dates from Traidcraft.

Other gifts:
Socks topped the lists of more than two of our Fair Traders.
Also popular are:
glittery boxes
friendship bracelets
finger puppets (below)

Fairtrade hampers are a popular seller at the Mustard Seed in Faringdon.

 

Join the mass climate lobby

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by Maranda St John NicolleThe Palace Of Westminster

CHRISTIANS in the Oxford Diocese are invited to join a mass lobby of Parliament on the issue of climate change. Thousands of people are expected to line the Thames on 17 June, to speak to their newly elected MPs, share with them a vision of a cleaner and greener planet, and urge them to make tackling climate change a priority. The lobby is organised by The Climate Coalition, which includes A Rocha, Christian Aid, and Tearfund among more than 100 members. An ecumenical service just before the event is being organised by the Christian agencies and denominations involved.

Why lobby now?
This year is a crucial one for anyone who cares about how creation will be affected by climate change. In December the world’s governments will meet in Paris to hammer out a deal on reducing carbon emissions and responding to the impact of climate change. It is hoped that this agreement will be the first to incorporate all UN member states, including both historically industrialised nations such as the UK and US and emerging economies such as China, India and South Africa. For this to work, all countries – including the UK – need to show leadership.

This September will also see the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals which, if creation care is included correctly, will go a long way to protecting the people most vulnerable to climate impact.
Christians have the potential to play a crucial role in advocating for agreements that protect the planet and help poorer communities to adapt – and have been asked to do so. At a recent meeting in Cape Town, Anglican bishops from around the Communion stated: “We call all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion to join us in prayer and in pastoral, priestly and prophetic action.”
Individuals and church groups are participating in the “Pray and Fast for the Climate” taking place every first day of the month, installing renewable energy and protecting species in churchyards, exploring food sustainability through the “Food Matters” project, and advocating for sustainability at local and national levels.

Disinvestment
The Oxford Diocese has also taken the lead in calling on the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels. Diocesan Synod passed a motion to this effect last November, and the Revd Hugh Lee will move it at General Synod in July.

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group has itself recently advocated disinvestment from the dirtiest fossil fuels, a move which the Revd Darrell Hannah, co-sponsor of the original Oxford motion, hailed: “The EIAG’s decision to disinvest from coal and tar sands is a good first step and a move in the right direction.  Of course, I hope and pray the General Synod goes further and approves Oxford’s motion calling for disinvestment from oil within three years and natural gas within five.

“If they do not the Church of England risks being stuck with worthless and unsaleable assets as it is becoming increasingly clear that fossil fuels are not the safe investment they used to be.”
For details and to sign up to the lobby contact your local Christian Aid office in Oxford for more information at 01865 246818.

Saying no to xenophobic attacks in K&K

Schoolchildren at St Cyprian’s Cathedral school (pictured) held a march as part of the Kimberley and Kuruman churches’ response to recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Kimberley and Kuruman Diocese is linked to the Oxford Diocese and The cathedral and the church of St James, Galeshewe, which is linked to Marlow, also held two services, at which the bishop, the dean, and Father Thomas Mhuriro, a Zimbabwean priest serving in the diocese, preached. SONY DSC

The liturgies at the Cathedral and St James placed the questions surrounding xenophobia in a theological context. The readings were Jonah 4: 1 -11, Acts 10: 9 – 35, and John 17: 11-23, each focusing on a different aspect of God’s love for people considered as “outsiders.” Prayers drawn from different parts of Africa were a reminder that those from different countries are children of the same Lord. The Bishop’s sermon emphasised Peter’s discovery that “God shows no partiality,” challenged people to examine their own deep-seated assumptions about other groups, and called them to allow God to do transforming work in their hearts as he did with Jonah and Peter.

Diocesan World Development Adviser, Maranda St John Nicolle, who was visiting and attended the services, said: “It was inspiring to see the church take a leadership role in fighting hostility to people from different backgrounds and emphasising our obligation welcome the stranger.”

Go bananas for Fairtrade Fortnight

Maranda St John Nicolle on the importance of making the banana trade fair as the yellow fruit becomes the theme of the 2014 Fairtrade Fortnight.

Bananas growing in St Lucia. Photo by Simon Rawles.

Bananas growing in St Lucia. Photo by Simon Rawles.

When I visited Dominica in 2010, banana farmer Cato Ferreira commented: “Forty years ago bananas used to be sold in England on the bunch … Someone else would hand it (split up the bunches), treat them, box them, put them into the supermarket. 40 years later we end up doing everything, yet the price does not compensate us for our work.”

Other food prices, he noted, have gone up, but the cost of bananas has gone down and down. “Every housewife is looking to receive cheaper food. But I sometimes think…: ‘Don’t you have a conscience to [wonder] why 40 years ago [you] used to pay much more for a banana in the supermarket?”

It was a good point. For years, most supermarkets have competed with each other in cutting the price of bananas, hoping to attract customers to their stores. But they’ve passed the cuts in prices on to banana farmers around the world, leaving them unable to cover the costs of sustainable production. That’s not right.

This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight campaign aims to change the way things work. It’s called “Stick with Foncho to Make Bananas Fair,” Foncho being a Colombian banana farmer who is the figurehead for the campaign. You can find out more about Foncho, the campaign, and what you can do to help, at foncho.fairtrade.org.uk

One way to help is to buy Fairtrade bananas. And you can do two good things at once by holding a Big Brew tea party in support of Traidcraft, and using Fairtrade bananas as part of your refreshments. Find Big Brew resources at www.traidcraft.co.uk.