Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Petition against cash sales of scrap metal

Not just of interest to churches!


Please find attached a link to a Home Office petition which I would encourage you to look at.

As you will be aware, metal theft is a significant and increasing problem in the UK. Historically the scrap metal trade has been a cash in hand industry; which creates difficulties as there is no audit trail, making identification of individuals who may be trading stolen metal or who may be committing tax or benefits fraud, a difficult proposition. An amendment to the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to prohibit cash transactions would make payment by cheque or directly into a bank account mandatory and would be a significant component in reducing metal theft.

Please forward this petition to anyone who you think might be interested.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home

A Glasgow-based company has installed its first commercial "alkaline hydrolysis" unit at a Florida funeral home.

The unit by Resomation Ltd is billed as a green alternative to cremation and works by dissolving the body in heated alkaline water.

The facility has been installed at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg, and will be used for the first time in the coming weeks. It is hoped other units will follow in the US, Canada and Europe.

The makers claim the process produces a third less greenhouse gas than cremation, uses a seventh of the energy, and allows for the complete separation of dental amalgam for safe disposal. Read more

Sunday, 28 August 2011

After the Taliban: Swat women on changing life

The situation in Swat was normal until the Taliban appeared and destroyed the peace of Swat.

They started their inhuman activities, they slaughtered people in the squares of Mingora and they killed so many innocent people. Their first target was schools, especially girls schools. They blasted so many girls schools - more than 400 schools and more than 50,000 students suffered under the Taliban.

We were afraid the Taliban might throw acid on our faces or might kidnap us. They were barbarians, they could do anything. So at that time some of us would go to school in plain clothes, not in school uniform, just to pretend we are not students, and we hid our books under our shawls.

After the army operation the situation has become normal and the army is trying to rebuild good quality schools, but we want the schools to be rebuilt quickly because students are facing problems. It's very hot and they can't study in tents. Now everyone is free to come to school and the girls are now not afraid of the Taliban or anything that will ruin the peace of Swat. Read more

Tough love stops binge drinking

Poor parenting significantly increases the likelihood that children will grow up to be binge drinkers, according to the findings of a controversial study.

The thinktank Demos, which tracked the lives of 30,000 people across four decades, found that high levels of parental warmth and attachment until the age of 10, combined with strict discipline by the time they are 16, play a powerful role in reducing the likelihood that a child would go on to be a binge drinker.

The findings will chime with claims from the right that many of society's problems are attributable to inadequate parenting. But it is unusual for a left-of-centre thinktank with historically close links to the Labour party to identify dysfunctional parenting as one of modern society's most high-profile problems. Read more

Monday, 22 August 2011

Religion in Camp Bastion: 'What people are asked to do here can lead to big questions'

[...] Padre Alice of Joint Fires Group says: "People who come find their faith challenged - whatever their faith - when you test it. Witnessing inhumanity and indecency is very challenging. What people are asked to do here can lead to big questions. I'm not suggesting everyone will become an evangelical Christian but people start to ask questions and that's a start. What all of us would prefer is a thought-through faith. This is a place where people do that for the first time.

"Religion doesn't have the cool factor. It's the culture they were brought up in, their age. But people can go from nothing to believe they have found the absolute answer. There's no support for them back home on this because society does not encourage people to explore their faith in a meaningful way.

"Obviously any minister will tell you that they would love to have more people come to church. A lot of people brought up now know nothing about church other than marriages, funeral or the TV. But it would be foolish to expect our guys to come to church." Read more

Sunday, 21 August 2011

America's serious crime rate is plunging, but why?

[...] Twenty years ago, the murder rate for the whole US was 9.8 per 100,000 people. It has fallen by nearly half, although it is still twice the rate in France.

It's not just murder. Robberies were down nearly 10% last year and 8% the year before.

There are a score of explanations offered by sociologists for collapsing crime figures, from theories that it is tied to legalisation of abortion or reduction of lead in fuel to the closing of mental institutions.

One theory has it that better and swifter medical treatment has reduced the number of murders by saving the lives of assault victims who would otherwise have died. But that doesn't explain why overall violent crime is also down.

Anti-gun activists note that the cities with two of the sharpest falls in murder rates, New York and Washington, have enacted strict gun control laws by US standards. Yet Houston in Texas, where some regard it as criminal not to own a gun, has also seen a sharp drop in homicides.

One of the most widely accepted explanations is also one of the most politically and socially sensitive – that the imposition of sharply stiffer prison sentences since the early 1980s, which has resulted in the US having the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world, has kept large numbers of criminals off the streets. Read more

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Villagers try to oust vicar from historic Essex church

To the outside world the Rev Lorna Smith, priest-in-charge of St Nicholas, Trillingham, has an idyllic existence.

Her part-time appointment is to a parish whose 12th century church stands at the centre of an historic village of just over 1,000 souls in rural Essex.

But she has found herself at the centre of a row which could be taken straight from the Vicar of Dibley, and which has divided a community where the only comparable drama was the filming of a Doctor Who episode nearby in 1972.

In one camp are the more than 300 locals who have signed a petition to have her removed over a string of grievances, from claims that she refuses to carry out house calls to an allegation she shut the church when the weather was too cold.

And on the other side are her supporters in the congregation - not to mention the local bishop, who last week turned down the petitioners flat and said Mrs Smith was staying put. Read more

Friday, 12 August 2011

The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom

[...] The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.

The tragic truth is that Mr Cameron is himself guilty of failing this test. It is scarcely six weeks since he jauntily turned up at the News International summer party, even though the media group was at the time subject to not one but two police investigations. Even more notoriously, he awarded a senior Downing Street job to the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, even though he knew at the time that Coulson had resigned after criminal acts were committed under his editorship. The Prime Minister excused his wretched judgment by proclaiming that “everybody deserves a second chance”. It was very telling yesterday that he did not talk of second chances as he pledged exemplary punishment for the rioters and looters.

These double standards from Downing Street are symptomatic of widespread double standards at the very top of our society. It should be stressed that most people (including, I know, Telegraph readers) continue to believe in honesty, decency, hard work, and putting back into society at least as much as they take out.

But there are those who do not. Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians. Read more

Thursday, 11 August 2011

London Looting: news from the 'Front Line' at St Mark's Battersea Rise

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for your message of support and concern for the looting of St.Mark’s parish from side to side and end to end.

It has been a rather surreal three days, but with much to thank God for – no harm to any of our church family or their property, despite some needing to be rescued and escorted to their homes; no damage to the church buildings, despite the fact that the whole church curtilege looked like a car-boot help-yourself (rather than sale) for several hours; only limited fire damage; no violence since Monday night; a heart-warming evening of united prayer among local Christians and church leaders who joined us on Tuesday evening; the ‘broom army’ of hundreds, including many of our own congregation, cleaning the streets; and a renewed conviction that our present vision to expand local community ministries, especially among the young, is utterly necessary and, in whatever way we can make some difference, right on track.

I witnessed grave failure in the leadership and coordination of the police effort over many hours of Monday night, but had many conversations with the most admirable, mainly young, responsible and professional police men and women – it was the apparent complete lack of leadership strategy not the dedication of officers which needs examining. Talking to many of the looters over several hours, trying to persuade them to go home, it was evident they were in carnival than belligerent mood.

The government and authorities in the coming months will be inundated with endless individuals and groups complaining and criticising, offering problems rather than solutions. There may be only muted reference now to the ‘Big Society’. But this is our kairos moment. ‘For such a time as this’ the church should be seen to be the church in action, God’s people, ‘repairing the broken walls’, and in our small way we not only know what the big society is, but are doing it. Yesterday we took steps to appoint new members of staff – a full-time youth pastor, an associate member of staff for students and another among all-age groups, and the possibility of a prison re-settlement chaplain based at St.Mark’s. We will advance the planning application to re-develop the old school building for community ministry among young people.

Meanwhile, thank you again for your prayers and messages of loving support. I have been reminded that in prospect of the sacking and looting of Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus reassured his followers: ‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, don’t be alarmed’. So for us it’s business as usual and ministry continues without hesitation. Our Night Pastors, newly trained by police members of our church, will go into the heart of the troubled Clapham Junction area on Friday and Saturday nights next month, and it has been heartening to see the ‘God loves Battersea’ T-shirts worn by our St.Peter’s church members in their recent community mission in the Winstanley Estate, where the mob gathered the other night.

With love as ever, Paul

Paul Perkin


Oak Hill's Principal on the Looting

[...] A Christian explanation could begin with one of the more sensible secular comments. These are "consumer society riots", says Dr Paul Bagguley, who is a sociologist at Leeds. This is very perceptive. It points clearly to the consumerist, acquisitive nature of the looting, and it hints that these are the kind of riots that a consumer society (and let's not forget, that's all of us) has. It hints that this is the kind of riot you expect from members of a consumer society, not from those who refuse to be part of it. That does not allow me to say the looters are totally alien or other, or even "enemies of society" in a straightforward way. The looters are committed to the consumer society. They're "us", not simply "them".

After all, the unspoken but powerful message of a consumer society is "the one with the most toys wins", and possessing stuff is what someone is measured on rather than the way they acquire it. Further, the public face of acquiring wealth doesn't stress that wealth should be acquired in socially responsible ways: think of the bonuses and pay-offs for bankers. They don't look as though they're sharing the pain of recession. As for honouring positions of trust, think of the MPs' expenses scandal. The smartphones and trainers that a looter snatches aren't in the same league financially as some of the MPs.

A Christian response to that needs to touch on four themes.Read more

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

UK riots: 'Being liberal is fine, but we need to be given the right to parent'

"Parents are fearful about how they chastise their children," Clasford Stirling, a veteran youth worker, who runs the football club at Broadwater Farm community centre in Tottenham, said. "There's been an erosion of authority for a long time. Parents move very gingerly not to upset their own kids – that's the reality."

Broadwater Farm estate is again at the centre of the unrest in London. Mark Duggan, whose death last week sparked London's riots, was brought up here, and sent one of his sons to Stirling's football classes. On Wednesday, Stirling was making arrangements for his wake.

Struggling to make sense of the violence that has turned buildings on Tottenham High Road into smouldering piles of rubble, Stirling wondered whether weakened parental authority might have something to do with it. Read more

No shame, no limits: Has the behaviour of the mob destroyed the idea of British civility for ever?

[...] This combination of a peaceful national character and an accepted moral outlook on how we ought to behave produced (especially after the Second World War, when people had got used to being told what to do) a society of social cohesion and stability: the low point for crime in British history was 1953. This is the society into which, as a baby boomer, I was born. And it was one of the many dazzling advantages we enjoyed, along with plenty to eat, free health, free education, freedom of speech and ever-rising expectations.

As the Fifties became the Sixties, society became liberated and far less docile and there were rumbles, there was industrial unrest: Mods and Rockers fought on the beach at Brighton; students demonstrated against the Vietnam war. But somehow, although it provoked indignation from retired colonels, none of this really stepped outside the bounds of the culture.

I can remember when I first saw the cultural norms transgressed; it was on a Sunday evening in August 1976, at the end of the Notting Hill Carnival, which I had been covering as a young reporter for the Daily Mirror. The event ended in rioting. I had covered riots before, in Northern Ireland, but that evening I saw something new. It wasn't just people throwing rocks at the police. There were groups of young men on the street, openly brandishing knives and openly looking to rob. It was chilling. It took me some time to work out why it was different, but eventually I realised that it was the openness of their behaviour which was so startling. To anyone of my generation, it was unthinkable that you would behave so shamelessly, that you might strut about in the street with a knife. And it was clear that those people rioting had been socialised in a different way, so that the informal constraints on behaviour which had been such a key part of our culture had no effect on them whatsoever. Read more

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

'Christian terrorist'? Norway case strikes debate

When the "enemy" is different, an outsider, it's easier to draw quick conclusions, to develop stereotypes. It's simply human nature: There is "us," and there is "them." But what happens when the enemy looks like us — from the same tradition and belief system?

That is the conundrum in the case of Norway and Anders Behring Brevik, who is being called a "Christian extremist" or "Christian terrorist."

As westerners wrestle with such characterizations of the Oslo mass murder suspect, the question arises: Nearly a decade after 9/11 created a widespread suspicion of Muslims based on the actions of a fanatical few, is this what it's like to walk a mile in the shoes of stereotype?

"Absolutely," said Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. "It clearly puts us in a position where we can't simply say that extreme and violent behavior associated with a religious belief is somehow restricted to Muslim extremists."

"It speaks to cultural assumptions, how we are able to understand something when it (comes from) us," Tyler said. "When one of us does something terrible, we know that's not how we all think, yet we can't see that with other people." Read more