Religion news 3 December

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MPs investigate whether public worship ban breached human rights

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights is investigating whether the impact of lockdown measures on collective worship was proportionate. It is part of their inquiry into restrictive measures brought in to stop the spread of the coronavirus.  They are also asking the public to provide evidence on the impact on university students and care home residents, the use of fixed penalty notices and the right to protest. Submissions are invited by the deadline of 11 January 2021.

CofE’s Director of Safeguarding resigns

The Telegraph’s religious affairs correspondent, Gabriella Swerling, reports exclusively that the Church of England’s Director of Safeguarding Melissa Caslake, has resigned after 18 months, to take up a local authority role. She joined as the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse heard evidence on the Church of England and she has been responsible for taking steps to implement recommendations including new independent safeguarding structures. The announcement came in an internal memo leaked to the Telegraph. The paper reports Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, saying she had made a huge contribution to the church’s work and her departure will be a big loss.

British Islam annual conference 2021 is postponed

New Horizons in British Islam is postponing its February 2021 conference due to the uncertainties over Covid-19. The British Islam Conference is in its fifth year and has attracted hundreds of people from different nations. But New Horizons said in a statement: “We don’t believe we could provide the same experience through an online event. Our expectations are very high and rather than offer a sub-standard experience, we are pressing the pause button”.

Virtual memorial service for Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Prince Charles, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Justin Welby will attend a virtual memorial service for Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, reports the Jewish News.  It will mark the end of a 30-day intense mourning period following his death at the age of 72, on 7 November.  The commemoration, on Sunday 6 December, hosted by Lord Robert Winston, will include prayers and recitations and will be available to watch on www.RabbiSacks.org/Shloshim

Churches open and communion wine is restored in the CofE

Cathedrals and churches are re-opening in England after lockdown, with York Minster welcoming visitors while obeying strict health and safety rules. Church of England clergy have been advised that they can re-start offering communion wine by dipping bread, or wafers into it, and then giving it to the worshipper. During the pandemic, they had not been giving wine because of health and safety fears over sharing the cup and this has caused distress amongst some Christians for whom the communion service, the eucharist, is a key part of their spiritual life.  The new guidance comes in a letter from both Archbishops to all clergy.

Methodists’ story of hope ending a tough year

The Methodist church has partnered with various charities connected to the church, to produce a set of films and stories during Advent in a project called “God is With Us”.   They feature people of all ages explaining how life has been tough during the pandemic and how they found solace in their faith. Their stories include church members who work on the front line supporting people in debt, lonely, grieving and in crisis. The Rev Richard Teal, President of the Methodist Conference, said the aim was to spread the message of their faith that “God is with us always, no matter what we’re going through or what the future brings”.

Haribo sweets cause distress at Oxford college Diwali celebration

Christ Church college, Oxford, has apologised for serving Haribo sweets at a dinner celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali, because they contained beef which is a sacred animal in the religion. Christ Church admitted that the the list of ingredients were not properly scrutinised.