Recent Blogs

And Jesus wept: a good idea, by Joan Chittister

And Jesus wept: a good idea, by Joan Chittister

Reflecting on the USA Joan says "From where I stand, it seems to me that we have to reboot the nature of the country that we are."

There is a very poignant moment in Scripture that gets little exegesis, it seems, but it touches the deepest nerve of a people in mourning for the loss of the character of their nation. Like our own.

It is the picture in Luke 19 of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem — the city on the hill that was the heart and soul of the nation.

"Jerusalem," Jesus cries, "you killers of the prophets." And then he speaks to the troubled city, "If only you had known the path to peace."

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Christ for a reality-TV generation

Christ for a reality-TV generation

Adrian Alker reflects on the power of story to change livesTODAY, across all platforms, the life stories of the famous and the infamous are as popular as ever.

Thousands follow their favourite singer or sports star on Twitter or Instagram. Every week, Hello magazine reaches more than two million adults, keen to see and read about the world’s celebrities. Autobiographies, such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming, often top the booksellers’ charts. Recent cinema releases have told the “true-life” stories of stars such as Judy Garland and Elton John.

The docudrama genre is increasingly seen on television. Recently, the BBC told the personal stories of those caught up in the Salisbury poisonings affair; it has also screened the harrowing story of the racist killing of the black teenager Anthony Walker, murdered in Liverpool in 2005. Such reality-based stories hit us hard, and help to shape our attitudes and responses.

We human beings are made of stories. Our life in this world is our story to tell: a unique story, whether we be famous, infamous, or unknown. Five short films, commissioned by the Progressive Christianity Network (PCN), tell the stories of ordinary people grappling with important contemporary issues. Since a report in this newspaper (News, 4 September), we have had many enquiries from people wanting to show these films, from dioceses to prison chaplaincies.

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Martin Luther King Jr. on the Beloved Community: Matthew Fox

Martin Luther King Jr. on the Beloved Community: Matthew Fox

"our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation."

September 28, 2020

The idea of the "Beloved Community" was central to the thinking of MLK jr. It appears from his earliest speeches and writings to his last ones. In an early article he wrote that the purpose of the Montgomery bus boycotts "is reconciliation…redemption, the creation of the beloved community." In 1957 he wrote that the "ultimate aim of SCLS is to foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality."

In his final book he states that "our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation." Thus, we need to expand our sense of community. He warned that desegregation by itself would only produce "a society where men are physically desegregated and spiritually segregated, where elbows are together and hearts apart."

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England will miss our Church when it’s gone - Mary  Harrington - UnHerd

England will miss our Church when it’s gone - Mary Harrington - UnHerd

Without the steadying influence of Anglicanism, our politics could descend again into extremism

The Church of England is on its knees, and not in a good way. Before the pandemic, physical congregations were already sparse, and getting sparser: in 2019, estimates put the average Sunday service attendance at just 27 people. When Covid-19 reached these shores, the Anglican leadership responded by closing churches even for private prayer, and they’ve issued barely a squeak for months on end. No one knows whether physical congregations will ever recover.

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Order, Disorder, Reorder - Reorder: The Promised Land by Richard Rohr

Order, Disorder, Reorder - Reorder: The Promised Land by Richard Rohr

Liberals, however, must surrender their scepticism of leadership, eldering, or authority, and find what is good, healthy, and deeply true about a foundational order.

There seems to be a universal pattern of spiritual transformation that takes us from Order, through Disorder, to Reorder. Order, by itself, normally wants to eliminate any disorder or diversity, creating a narrow and cognitive rigidity in both people and systems. Disorder, by itself, closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems. Our focus of this week is Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, which happens when both are seen to work together.

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If I were a butterfly…….thoughts on life after death: Adrian Alker

If I were a butterfly…….thoughts on life after death: Adrian Alker

‘The God that I have met in Jesus calls me to live fully, to love wastefully, and to be all that I can be’.

I have great respect for Bishop James Jones, the former bishop of Liverpool, who did so much to support the many grieving Liverpool families seeking justice after the 1989 soccer tragedy. Jones was adviser to the then Home Secretary on the Hillsborough enquiry. Ninety-six people lost lives then and today we face the reality of over 46,000 deaths, and rising, in the UK from Covid 19. No surprise then that bishop Jones chose to speak of death and new life as his ‘Thought for the Day’ on radio 4 on August 3rd. I confess that I usually switch off the radio for 5 minutes at this point since I tire of bland religious outpourings amongst the news items at breakfast. But on this day I thought I would listen and learn.

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Eckhart on Contemplation or “Loving God Mindlessly” – Matthew Fox , August 12, 2020

Eckhart on Contemplation or “Loving God Mindlessly” – Matthew Fox , August 12, 2020

“quit flapping your gums about God.” Rather, learn to speak from “the inner wealth of silence…

Eckhart admonishes us to “quit flapping your gums about God.” Rather, learn to speak from “the inner wealth of silence….Be silent and let God work and let God speak.” The Word or true Christ is born in us through silence. “There is no question that the proper way to hear the word is in a stillness and a silence.”

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Sheffield Cathedral- choirs and controversies

Sheffield Cathedral- choirs and controversies

So where do cathedrals more generally sit from a progressive Christianity viewpoint?

As a former honorary canon of Sheffield cathedral and living just twenty minutes from the city centre, I might have been expected to have had my ears more attuned to what was happening at the cathedral but the news of the disbanding of the cathedral choir and the anticipated changes came as a complete surprise. The ensuing protests by parents of choristers, former musicians and others managed to make headline news in the mainstream media and no doubt caused many a sleepless night for the Dean, Peter Bradley. So where do cathedrals more generally sit from a progressive Christianity viewpoint?

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PCN Newsletter 31st July 2020

PCN Newsletter 31st July 2020

When replanting our garden we put herbs near the kitchen door and one of the delights has been how well visited the marjoram is by bees and butterflies. - Sarah

Made of Stories – Let us have your views! All PCN members have been able to see our five commissioned films on the new website, where we have also housed a number of discussion questions and resources. If and when you have watched the films, it would be great to hear from you! If you are in a PCN group and have watched one of the films together on Zoom or discussed them in some other way, how did that go? You may have sent the website link to other people, possibly family or friends. I wonder what their reaction has been? If you attend a church you might have asked them to put the link to the films on the church’s website. If so what has been the reaction?

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PCN Newsletter 17th July 2020

PCN Newsletter 17th July 2020

This is the back cover of Issue 30 of Progressive Voices, it made me smile when I first saw it and it still does. I hope that it also strikes a chord with you.

Hopes for a post Covid 19 world As this regular newsletter ceases at the end of July and a monthly PCN bulletin begins in September, here are the top-10 hopes for a post Covid 19 world, which members have been sending in. 1. Urgently attend to the climate change crisis and learn from what less road and air traffic and hence less pollution and carbon emissions has taught us. 2. Remember all those ‘key workers’ who care for us in so many ways – nurses, care home staff, refuse collectors, supermarket staff and so many more and ensure they are all paid a fair wage. 3. Urgently work to eliminate poverty and consider a universal basic income

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Chasing our tales – Richard Holloway review by  Piers Plowright in The Tablet

Chasing our tales – Richard Holloway review by Piers Plowright in The Tablet

“Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe” - Holloway resigned his bishopric in 2000, declaring himself an “after religious”

Stories We Tell Ourselves RICHARD HOLLOWAY Reading this wise, witty and provocative book, I was haunted by a poem: seventeenth-century Welsh poet and doctor Henry Vaughan’s “Vanity of Spirit”. It begins with a hermit/philosopher, “quite spent with thoughts”, deciding to leave his cell for a bit of fresh air and lie down beside a small spring of water. Here he examines the natural world to see if he can get any of the great answers. He can’t, but “having pass’d / Through all the creatures came at last / To search myself, where I did find / Traces and sounds of a strange kind”. Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, is on the same journey in his latest book. Its subtitle is “Making Meaning in a Meaningless Universe”. And his path is shaped by examining the stories humans have told and tell themselves to find that meaning. Religious, mystical, scientific, psychological.

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PCN Newsletter 2nd July 2020

PCN Newsletter 2nd July 2020

Launch of our PCN films I am delighted to let all PCN members know that the five short films commissioned by PCN are now available for you to see! You can access the films by using this website address : https://madeofstories.uk

Alongside the films you will find questions for discussion which groups might want to use, alongside resources such as relevant websites and further reading to encourage you to explore the issues raised by the films in more depth. Thanks to the generosity of PCN members, you are the first to see these films which will be promoted more widely in the coming weeks. Please feel free to let others know of the website link. We do want the films to be viewed by a wide audience! We will shortly have a page on our own PCN website where you can discuss online the films and we would value hearing from you about further resources which you think can be added. The films will also be linked to our Facebook page for those of you who use that particular social media platform for discussion and comment. Made of Stories marks the beginning of our adventures into the film media and we hope that further films might follow. We shall also be working alongside the Student Christian Movement (SCM) in promoting the films to a young audience. We hope the films might be shown and their content discussed by our many PCN groups. Convenors can request a discussion booklet about the stories if the group intends to use the films in its meetings on Zoom or in any other way. Contact me to request a booklet. Finally, we are indebted to the people who volunteered to tell their story and to Shortform, the media company in Manchester, who have produced such professionally executed short films. Adrian Alker

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A Blessing for a Meeting on Zoom

A Blessing for a Meeting on Zoom

The waving hand, our ecstatic benediction

In the place where eye contact is impossible The silent lexicon of non-verbal cues extinct May this not be the crowd without the wisdom Despite our isolation, our social distance May we give thanks for this awkward digital blessing May we be admitted, May we not be muted May our distorted sound and scrambled words Finally align, May they catch up with our pixelated vision May travelling this unfamiliar landscape Neither lose us, nor completely exhaust us And may our bandwidth always find room For patience, gentleness and the peace that bypasses misunderstanding May every meeting open and close with a poem, A joke or a steadying moment of silence Some brief transfiguration in time, to remind us Of who we were, before all this, And who we may be again May our agenda always be kindness, The waving hand, our ecstatic benediction And may there never be any other business, For ever and ever. Amen Martin Wroe Sent in by Paul Haines, Come-to-Good Local Meeting (from An Krenner Kernewek - The Cornish Friend)
Religious, but not Spiritual

Religious, but not Spiritual

The link between Autism and progressive Christianity

If I had to encapsulate my religious outlook in one sentence, I would invert the oft-cited phrase ‘spiritual, but not religious’ and instead say I am ‘religious, but not spiritual’. I have always had a deep-seated interest in religion, and I love the traditions, community and way of life which Christianity provides. Yet I have always struggled with the supernatural aspects of the faith; I could never grasp the concept of communicating with a God ‘up there’ while humans were ‘down here’. I bounced from church to church, all over the theological spectrum, hoping to finally achieve the ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ everyone else seemed to enjoy.

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The World Post Covid – Climate Change - Adrian Alker, PCN Chair

The World Post Covid – Climate Change - Adrian Alker, PCN Chair

Environmentalists around the world are warning that we cannot afford a carbon rebound

PCN members have been sharing their hopes for our world and our society after we have come through this current pandemic. I have already highlighted two issues which have been raised – the attraction of a universal basic income and the need to value much more the key workers in our country, be it in hospitals and care homes, our supermarket staff, office cleaners, refuse collectors and many others.

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PCN Newsletter 18th June 2020

PCN Newsletter 18th June 2020

The World Post Covid PCN members have been sharing their hopes for our world and our society after we have come through this current pandemic. I have already highlighted two issues which have been raised – the attraction of a universal basic income and the need to value much more the key workers in our country, be it in hospitals and care homes, our supermarket staff, office cleaners, refuse collectors and many others.

But there was another very common hope for the future and that is to treat climate change with the same urgency as tackling the coronavirus. Members have emailed about the need for sustained action, for businesses and organisations to be more environmentally focussed in their work. Working from home has reduced travel and hence car emissions. Our skies are clearer, pollution reduced. Will we, can we, learn lessons from this lockdown? Christine and I live on one of the busiest arterial roads into Sheffield, a major bus route with polluting diesel transport emitting fumes as children go along the road to their schools. For the past three months the road has been quieter and when I go into the back garden I hear the birdsong clearer than ever before. Of course life will inevitably return to normal but hopefully this experience will have built up the pressing case for hybrid/electric vehicles, for more people getting on those bikes or even walking to work. What can we do at PCN about the huge challenge of climate change? We can always plan our meetings at venues which can be accessed by public transport; we can work with other organisations in lobbying government, we can disseminate information about events and resources. Members of churches can be proactive at encouraging places of worship to be eco- churches. And we have produced a film, Holly’s Story about her passion for climate action, one of the five PCN films to be released in July. There are other issues which members have raised as we seek to build a better world and in future newsletters I hope to refer to them. But do keep sending us your thoughts and hopes for a better world for us and our children and grandchildren. Adrian Alker

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