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A fantastic idea

Halima Mwitu

The other day I came across a great little article counting down the top 20 “smartest orgs online“. Fascinating it was too to see how not for profit organisations are making use of the web. Top of the shop was Kiva – who let you connect with and loan money to small businesses in the developing world and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence.

You can lend to someone in the developing world who needs a loan for their business – like raising goats, selling vegetables at market or making bricks. Each loan has a picture of the entrepreneur, a description of their business and how they plan to use the loan so you know exactly how your money is being spent – and you get updates letting you know how the business is going.

The best part is, when the entrepreneur pays back their loan you get your money back which you can re-pump back into another business. Kiva’s loans are managed by microfinance institutions on the ground who have a lot of experience doing this, so you can trust that your money is being handled responsibly.

I just made a loan to an entrepreneur named Halima Mwitu in Tanzania. Halima still needs another $425 to complete her loan request of $550.00 so that she can add charcoal cookers to the charcoal that she already sells in order to pay for her children’s education… and with the loans required relatively low for us in the West and also the strength of the pound against the dollar at present, my few quid can go a very long way.

I don’t normally make much mention of where I give. I’d much rather that part of my faith stayed very quiet. However, I think people need to know about services like Kiva which is why I am writing this article now. I’m helping them build a sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back. It’s web 2.0 at its best – I’d encourage you to get involved.

The CofE need your help

This week I have been mostly helping the Church of England with its Love Life, Live Lent project and specifically the SMS service. Following a previous post that touched on the subject, staff at their communications office have been in touch and we’ve been trying hard to get it working with a number of emails going back and forth.

I am posting again now because I genuinely want to see this project succeed. I think it’s a great idea and a great use of technology for a suitable piece of content. However, it seems that while some people are able to sign up, others of us are having trouble.

Both my wife and I have mobiles on the Orange network and neither are able to get signed up. Dave Walker over at the Cartoon Church blog can’t sign up either (also on Orange) and a further friend of mine (also on Orange) can’t sign up either. So it appears that this SMS service has a bit of an issue with Orange.

How can I help, Dave? I hear you asking… Well, the CofE haven’t asked for this help – but I can guarantee that it will be useful information for them in their search to get this fixed to work out if all the people having problems are all on Orange.

So, please use the comments below to say whether you’ve been able to sign up or not and what phone network you use. I guess it might also be useful to know whether you’re on pay-as-you-go or a contract and what your handset is (if you are prepared to share that information).

Let’s see if we can work out what the pattern is!

Can the Anglican Communion legislate for conscience?

Archbishops of York and Canterbury

International readers may not be aware of it, but a political situation is beginning to seriously rumble in the UK concerning the proposed Equality Act that is already law in Northern Ireland and is due to come into effect in the rest of the UK in April. I won’t pretend that I know what’s going on with these new laws or try to rehearse all the details of the legislation. However, as part of this Act, there are Sexual Orientation Regulations (S.O.R) that make it impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexuality.

There have been a series of protests from Christian groups who are worried that they could be prosecuted or sued if (for example) a Christian hotel owner refuses a room to a gay couple, or a Christian adoption agency refuses to allow a gay couple to adopt a child or even a church refuses a gay couple the ability to book the church hall for a party.

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Oi, Williams…. NOOOO!

Oi no!

I missed this piece of news last Sunday but, according to the Sunday Telegraph, it appears that Lambeth Palace have plans to broadcast the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermons via YouTube.

Where do I begin with this one?

I certainly don’t disagree with the motivations to try and reach young people and/or the Internet generation. Indeed, I would agree that using YouTube to do so is a very good idea and, done well, could generate a great deal of good.

However, that is the key – “done well”. I’m sorry to say that even if Rowan gives us his very best on YouTube (and I like his sermons and his thinking as much as anyone), there isn’t the slightest hope that it will come across well. It simply does not fit the medium.

As Gill describes it, posting the Archbishop’s sermons on YouTube is the cultural equivalent of:

“like building a large Victorian church in an Indian fishing village”

I can understand why Lambeth think it’s a good idea. The CofE never has much (any?) money to put into such projects and it looks like a gift – a free website, to which you can contribute easily, that people are using and is a current cultural phenomenon, and with a gifted leader ready on tap – you just need to put a digital camera in front of him and bob’s your uncle.

But it doesn’t work like that. Read more

I’m a published author!! Ridley publish their Lent book

Ridley Hall Lent Book 2007

I have finally arrived. No longer am I simply a publishing professional, happy to take the words and thinking of others and turn them into something smart. I have switched sides (albeit briefly) and I am now a published author. I even have a free author’s copy to prove it!

Okay, so it’s only one page of the Ridley Hall Lent Book 2007 His journey, our journey and yes, my page doesn’t mention my name or any of the other ordinands and staff who contributed to the book (we’re lumped in a bit at the back). In fact, the eagle eyed among visitors to this blog will be able to spot my page quickly because I did previously publish my draft reflection here on this website some time ago.

For several years, Ridley has published a Lent Book and they graduated to the big leagues of UK Lent Book publishing a year or two ago when they signed a publishing deal with SCM-Canterbury Press. Last year’s title sold 10,000 copies which, believe me, is A LOT for UK book publishing.

This year’s book focuses on the gospel of Luke and follows Jesus’ journey from when he starts out towards Jerusalem and climaxes with the events of his death and resurrection. You might expect me to say this as a Ridley student, but as a publishing industry man I genuinely think that the Ridley Books have been a really exciting new development in the increasingly crowded UK Lent Book market in the last couple of years and it is definitely well worth a look.

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Applying a 2×4 to the side of the head

Mock gravestone

Well, term has begun for Ridley although lectures for the new term don’t start until later this week. In the meantime, we have been doing “intensives” – three day short courses which focus on a particular area. The end of last week was spent doing a course on bereavement. Very, very good it was too – but extremely hard. At times, it felt like someone had taken a huge great plank of wood and smacked me across the head with it. In a good way!

One of the things that was always a concern for me pre-ordination training was this whole business of death, funerals, grieving etc and it hasn’t much changed since. Not that I have been to many funerals but I always seem to end up in floods of tears – even if I don’t know the person very well. It does get quite embarrassing.

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Books for the loo

Dave Walker Guide to the Church jacket

Amongst the very many serious tomes that I got for Christmas, I was very pleased to see that my family and friends had taken mercy on me and also provided me with a little light relief.

Needless to say, I read through those two books pretty much instantly while some of the weightier matters were left for another day.

The Dave Walker Guide to the Church is a masterful piece of work. For some time, I have followed Dave’s daily musings on his Cartoon Church blog and this book continues in the same vein with a mixture of clever lateral thinking, humour and the occasional bit of downright silliness.

Without wishing to get into detail, I am one of those blokes who likes to take his time on the loo. When I get into a Curate’s house and following that, the Vicarage, I can think of no higher praise than to say that Dave’s book will very definitely be on the shelf for any parishioners who pass by!

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The Future of the Parish System

Future of the Parish System

My stocking from Father Christmas this year positively bulged with new reading material. From time to time over the next few weeks, I hope to read some of them and do my little reviews!

The first one was actually a pre-Christmas buy for myself and is the recent The Future of the Parish System published by Church House Publishing.

I was at a conference recently in which I heard the account of an amazing success story from a particular church which was on its knees before being turned around and is now a big church of approximately 500. I am not going to say who the vicar is, what the church is or which diocese it’s in for reasons I will come to shortly.

I think the growth of that church is fantastic and the way in which the vicar has gone about his work has been admirable and it has challenged me deeply since I heard him speak. However, I do wonder about what the churches around about make of his efforts. I would hope that they are all pleased for him but from what he said about his relationships, I think partly because of the way in which he has gone about his task, he has made a few enemies of fellow deanery members and most notably his bishop. It’s particularly a shame, I think, because it needn’t have been that way. The vicar concerned has acted swiftly in many areas (which wouldn’t sit well with many CofE structures) and has also been no respecter of parish boundaries (again which doesn’t sit well) so I am sure he probably felt he had no other option. Nevertheless, as I will come to, other options are beginning to present themselves.

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Covenant continued

Covenant cartoon

So Christmas is over, New Year is over, I’ve finished my essays (*grin*) and in the rest of the Church of England, the discussion of “That Covenant” is back on the agenda after a brief football in no-man’s land-like break in hostilities over the Christmas period. Except, it’s not been all that quiet.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about how he felt about it (unsurprisingly against) while the Bishop of Willesden Pete Broadbent, and apparently one of those in the House of Bishops who had been consulted on the document, called it an own goal.

From the pro-covenant camp, Chris Sugden took things to a new low by not answering any of Tom Wright’s very valid questions but instead decided to pick holes in the Bishop’s arguments. Yes indeed, on the covenant side, we have entered tit for tat-ville and obscuring the presenting issues by calling each other names… “prefects… at an English public school”? purleease.

However, I don’t want to focus there. I just want to follow-up my previous post by looking further at the situation as it affects New Wine, with whom I now have something of a vested interest.

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… and a happy new year

New Year 2007 in London

Back in the day when I was a brand new Christian, my home church was an Anglican-Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership. In the bigger scheme of things, I wasn’t a member of that church for long – 18 months or so – but in that time I attended two New Year’s Day services in which we used the Methodist’s covenant liturgy as is usual for the Methodist church on that day of the year.

It’s a chance to renew a covenant with God… to renew our sense of commitment to Him at the start of a new year. It’s a liturgy that has left a deep impression on me – so much so that I fully intend to make use of it on New Year’s Day when I get into a parish. Unfortunately, I can’t find it anywhere online (can anyone help?) but, trust me when I say that it is a deeply challenging liturgy and I think it’s really apt for the turn of the year. Consider just these few ‘fragments’…

“Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will…

Put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you…

Let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing…

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal…”

Whether you will look back on 2006 positively or negatively, I wish you a very happy 2007 and I hope you will join me in taking some time to renew your focus on the Lord. As The Western Seminarian so aptly put it this morning – “a blessed new year to you. Do something new with it. Make it a blessing for others too.”