Religion News 6 January

Image credit: GSCGrays

Financial losses from Covid will change the religious landscape in England

Financial losses from the coronavirus pandemic will have a devastating impact on the presence and work of all faith groups in the UK, according to leaders who spoke in a Religion Media Centre zoom briefing.  The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said that church closures could accelerate, with large Victorian urban buildings mainly at risk. Losses have been variously estimated between £40m – £150m  and a review is already underway into streamlining administrative structures,  which could lead to dioceses amalgamating. The briefing also heard from Muslims and Sikhs, who report similar large drops in income, with some mosques and gurdwaras struggling to survive and resorting to crowd funding and online appeals to stay afloat.
Guardian report here
Times report here

Regents Park Mosque appeals for money to pay essential bills

London Central Mosque and The Islamic Cultural Centre, which occupies an iconic building in Regents Park, is appealing for £133,000 a year to pay for essential bills. Their appeal says: “This Centre has been operating for over seventy years. Do not let it disappear due to lack of funds. Please sponsor and help keep the Centre running by donating generously to help pay the monthly bills and utilities which include water, electricity, and gas.” The trustees include twenty diplomats from Muslim majority countries. The Mosque was built with funds from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Public worship is allowed in England – but faiths express extreme caution

All faith groups in England have urged leaders to be cautious in their decision over how and whether to keep buildings open for public worship. Imam Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, said no-one should feel pressured to attend a mosque during this pandemic as Islamic law provides dispensation for protection of life.  Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, called for tremendous care when choosing to remain open to public worship. The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullaly, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, acknowledged some may feel that it is better not to attend in person, and some parishes will offer only digital services for the time-being. Steven Wilson, Chief Executive of the United Synagogue said nobody should feel pressured to attend and he would  continue to support synagogues which have chosen to close.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Catholic Bishops say the ban on daily church services is arbitrary and unfair, as churches make an essential contribution to people’s “spiritual welfare”, a theme echoed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, who is glad a decision has been made to keep churches open south of the border.

Comment captured here

Plea to keep Christmas decorations up until 2 February

English Heritage is suggesting that Christmas decorations are kept up until Candlemas on 2 February. The current tradition is for the Christmas season to end on 6 January, marking Twelfth Night, the Epiphany, celebrated as the arrival of the wise men or, in the Orthodox tradition, the baptism of Jesus. But Dr Michael Carter, from English Heritage, says that in the Middle Ages, Christmas continued until Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary when candles were blessed in churches. In The Tablet, he suggests that after an especially tough year, keeping bright decorations for longer, will bring some cheer into the coming dark winter months.

Amen or Awoman?

Emanuel Cleaver, an American member of Congress who is also a Methodist minister, caused a stir when he ended the opening prayer of the 117th session with the words “Amen and Awoman”.  Democrats are proposing that gender neutral words should be used in the House and this was seen as an attempt at gender inclusive language. But the Religion News Service reports a fierce backlash from Republicans who said the word “Amen” has absolutely nothing to do with gender – it is Latin for “so be it.”