“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit”
1 Thessalonians 1: 6
A concert of prayer
We need your thoughts. Before the pandemic struck we were planning to hold a large event for FCC church members in November of this year. That event has had to be postponed until November 2021.
It has been suggested that we might have a concert of prayer instead. It’s possible to connect with one another by Zoom across the nation. We want to know your reaction to this idea. Would this find favour with you?
If you support the idea of a concert of prayer this November would you let us know?
Text YES FOR PRAYER to the following number: 07774126394.
Faith groups and social cohesion
From a report by the British Academy and the Faith and Belief Forum
A report commissioned by the British Academy and the Faith & Belief Forum, has found that faith and non-religious belief groups’ positive contribution to social cohesion deserves greater recognition and should have more influence on cohesion policy in the United Kingdom.
‘Cohesive Societies: Faith and Belief’, by the thinktank Theos, charts social cohesion policy in the UK and examines the practical impact of the faith and belief sector on our communities and draws on practical case studies from across the UK.
The authors argue:
- Social cohesion policy in the United Kingdom has developed in the context of four main factors: demographic shifts accompanying migration, the growth of the ‘non-religious’ affiliation, significant changes to the welfare state, and crises such as the ‘race riots’ in summer 2001.
- Consequently, cohesion policy has been disproportionately dominated by concerns for national identity, security and loyalty, rather than by a desire to pursue social cohesion as an end in itself.
- Faith is too often thought of as a concerning ‘other’ and a risk to social cohesion; it has also often been subtly racialised as the preserve of ethnic minorities in a broadly secular mainstream.
- While faith and belief can be a source of division, many faith groups play a key role in social cohesion and their contributions need to be considered in the formation of cohesion policy.
Phil Champain, Director of the Faith & Belief Forum, said, “Faith and belief groups are best viewed as an asset to society and not as a problem to be solved. Many faith groups already play a central role in bettering social cohesion while also providing crucial services in their local areas. By working to build better relations between our diverse communities, we can unlock even more of this potential for positive change.”
The research found various themes in the practical impact of the faith and belief sector on our communities:
- The meanings and mechanisms of cohesion, economic and structural factors alone do not account for cohesion outcomes – we need to consider the complicating impact of so-called ‘spiritual capital’ (understood as sources of hope in our communities). Bridging occurs both horizontally (between different local faith communities) and vertically (between different levels of the same faith community or organisation).
- On the theme of cultural memory and tradition, the religious establishment is not as contentious as we might expect, though it does privilege certain sorts of storytelling in the public sphere. It has also been used to buttress nativist and exclusive understandings of national identity. At the same time, faith and belief groups can also create platforms for alternative narratives and a more inclusive public discourse.
- Concerns around identity and belonging have often been the focus of social cohesion policy. Religious identity in particular is often understood as a risk factor for crisis and division. Yet faith and belief groups also generate positive and inclusive feelings of belonging.
- The contribution of the faith and belief sector to the social economy as a whole is vast and increasing. The unique assets of faith and belief groups provide foundations for a powerful social witness, drawing on buildings, paid and unpaid staff time, networks, and geographical spread. Faith-based social action also emerges from a unique set of motivations, and the role of prayer is a distinctive aspect of faith-based action that needs to be taken into account in a fully faith-literate policy approach.
- The networks of faith and belief that stretch across local, regional, national and international spaces can be a powerful resource as we care for the future. Yet the faith sector is rapidly changing, and places of worship in particular also face significant sustainability challenges of their own; their ability to continue to lead the way in this area will stand or fall by their ability to engage the next generation.
The conclusion considers how cohesion policy could more effectively take account of the practical realities of faith and belief in the UK, and suggests:
- More strongly distinguishing between cohesion and security concerns;
- Recognising the significant opportunities for ‘bridging’ capital offered by the faith and belief sector – not only through interfaith work but also, for example, in the social contribution of faith and belief groups and the facilitation of opportunities for minority groups (that is, the voices which can otherwise be overlooked or excluded) to ‘tell the story’ of a place or community;
- Recognising the positive impact of intersectional and inclusive approaches to identity – including the ways in which the faith and belief sector provides opportunities for these approaches on the ground;
- A more rounded consideration of the complex and distinctive nature of faith and belief, rather than considering faith and belief groups generically as one manifestation of the broader community sector.
The fine-tuning of the Universe
From a video by Reasonable Faith
A source of wonder..
There are fundamental constants and quantities that determine the structure of the Universe, for example, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, etc.
Scientists have come to the realisation that each of these numbers have been carefully dialled to an astonishingly precise value – a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. If any one of these numbers were altered by even a hair’s breadth, no physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere. There’d be no stars, no life, no planets, no chemistry.
Consider gravity, for example. The force of gravity is determined by the gravitational constant. If this constant varied by just one in 1060 parts (that’s 1 followed by 60 zeroes), none of us would exist. To understand how exceedingly narrow this life-permitting range is, consider that the number of cells in your body is 1014. If the gravitational constant had been out of tune by just one of these infinitesimally small increments, the universe would either have expanded and thinned out so rapidly that no stars could form and life couldn’t exist, or it would have collapsed back on itself with the same result: no stars, no planets, no life.
If the mass and energy of the early universe were not evenly distributed to an incomprehensible precision – a number has so many digits that it literally can’t be written down, the universe would be hostile to life of any kind.
The fact is our universe permits physical, interactive life only because these, and many other numbers, have been independently and exquisitely balanced on a razor’s edge.
“The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Stephen Hawking.
What is the best explanation for this astounding phenomenon? There are three live options. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design. Which of these options is the most plausible?
FORGE MIDLANDS ONLINE 2020 launches 25-26 September 2020. In response to our changing social landscape brought on by Covid19, we are taking this new cohort entirely online. This involves a significant but improved change to the schedule which previously utilised weekend intensives.
The new format will feature the following
- 3x Core Theme Weekends (Friday evening and Saturday morning) which will introduce the theme with relevant topics, missional practitioner interviews, peer group conversations, and next steps.
- Monthly sessions (2 hours) with a new topic related to that theme along with contextual stories by missional leaders and peer group discussion
- Ongoing coaching of Forge Midlands participants from start to finish between September 2021 and July 2020
You already know that Forge trains ordinary people to be missional where ever one lives, works, or plays. We help people and teams pioneer new things in an existing church or new church, and in a local community, professional, or relational network. Our training provides support for missional living.
You will find attached three documents, which you can also download with other resources by clicking on this link (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/9lnanju9siazmdn/AAAmWlpNpSx1yOUgp-q4XKTXa?dl=0):
- A new promotional leaflet that reflects the new online format and describes Forge England & Wales training, coaching, cost, and benefits to participants, teams, and churches
- A schedule that shows dates with Core Theme Weekends, topics, interviews, contextual stories, peer learning, and key learning outcomes (coaching dates are scheduled separately with one’s coach)
- An application with payment instructions for the £25 non-refundable deposit which will reserve your place, and payment options
We are entering our fourth year of leading this missional training and have seen the direct benefit in participants and in us! We have a solid team of diverse practitioners who deliver content and provide coaching. We’ve had multiple ethnicities, contexts, and church traditions represented, and this has added a vibrancy to the training, conversations, and coaching. I’m so glad to lead this missional training! We are expecting this year’s group to be the best yet and don’t want you to miss taking part.
If you need more information or have any questions, please contact us at Timothy.C.Aho@gmail.com or 07939 680879. We hope you will both consider taking part and pass on this information to those who may benefit.
You can also read more about Forge England & Wales at https://www.facebook.com/forgeenglandandwales/ or #forgingthefuture and #forgeenglandandwales.
Tim and Tammy Aho
Introducing Agnes Rupango
Continuing our series on introducing members of the National Council, this week we feature Agnes Rupango.
Agnes says, “I am a Pastor in Disciples Fellowship. I serve in various departments, but I am mostly involved with international Missions. I also lead the ministry’s Events Organising team. In the secular world, I work for a local Hospice in Leicester.”
Disciples Fellowship is a local FCC church based in the centre of Leicester.
Till next week, Martin Robinson…