Christmas Reflection by Stephen Mugglin

 Photo credit:  Freely Christian Photos

I came across the following when seeking out some words of wisdom for a carol service. Stephen Mugglin has captured the essence of ‘peace on earth’ and how there are times when we need to go and find that peace amid the busyness that is a constant presence in our place of work – the healthcare system, and times when we need to create that peace for those in our care.

Debbie Hodge

Christmas Reflection by Stephen Mugglin

High in the woods of Pengrove Pass, where the water and the sky seem to sing the same song, there stands in a clearing beside the lake a little log cabin built by a friend. It stands empty most of the year now, for the children who once played and laughed there have long since moved on. Still there isn’t any sadness, for each morning the dawn catches its own reflection in the stillness of the lake, and peace covers all.

 Photo by  Charl van Rooy  on  Unsplash

I was scheduled to spend Christmas in Pengrove Mills, a town further down the river, but an unexpectedly busy autumn and fall had made me long again for the solitude of the mountains, at least for a little while, and so December found me in the cabin by the lake.

Mountains seem to have a wisdom all their own, and trees growing along the slopes in the pure air whisper their thoughts together in the silence. It’s a world of enchantment far and near, for the same snow that paints the distant hills also spreads a blanket over the cabin. Here earth and sky seem so close, mountain peaks just a snow-breath away, and time a cousin of eternity.

 Photo by  Ngoc Lan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ngoc Lan on Unsplash

This was the year I celebrated Christmas twice - once in the cold loneliness of the hills, and later in the warmth of the town - once by myself in the calm of the night, and again with the sound of friends all around - once with the stars shining deep in the lake, and then with bright lights in every window. But much as I enjoyed the time in town, it was the silence around the cabin that reminded me most of the Song of the ages and the Light of the world. Alone on the hillside, I knew the peace that had come to earth.

New report published - On children and young people's mental health

On 22nd November, the NHS published a report concerning the mental health of children and young people across England. You can read the full report HERE.

We will know of children and young people in our churches and communities who have struggled with mental health issues; we may be a young person reading this who is encountering difficulties; we may have youngsters in our own congregations and families who have mental health conditions. This is a concern for us all and so it is important to be aware of the report’s findings and understand some of the issues that our children and young people are facing. There are links below which could help and can be shared with others in need.

Some of the key findings from the report are:

  • One in eight (12.8%) 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed in 2017

  • Rates of mental disorders increased with age.

  • Emotional disorders have become more common in five to 15 year-olds 

A recent article in the Premier Christian Media Trust calls for churches to be open to teenagers facing issues. You can read about it HERE and find out where schemes to support young people are currently operating.

The Free Churches Group are committed to supporting member churches and groups engage with issues of the day and find ways in which our free churches can engage more fully in the community, in issues such as education and mental health support. We will be developing these further over the next couple of years so keep an eye out in our FCG newsletters for further information.

There are various networks you can register your support with or join their newsletter circulation list:

  1. Action for Children

  2. “Beating the Blues” Programme

  3. Pray for Schools

  4. Anti-Bullying Alliance

  5. Mind and Soul Foundation

  6. Childline

  7. Festive - the Christian Further Education charity

A blessing Prayer

May the Lord God Bless you each step of Life’s way.

May you learn each day to open yourself to love and the blessings of love. May you find a stick to lean on when the road is hard- and not use the stick to beat yourself. May you be blessed with life's abundance and blessed in poor days too, learning again what really matters, what lasts.

May you never give in to despair or the lie that nothing can change. May you find ways of life and walk them with courage, knowing that every step is within the heart of Christ who holds all our days in love. Amen

© Revd Dr Christopher Jenkins

Every school, a prayed-for school... pray with us today, with Psalm 100

Join with us today in an international day of prayer for schools

Pray Day is the third Tuesday of November every year when schools across Europe and around the world are the focus of prayer.

If you haven’t heard about it before, this is a day set aside every year for people across Europe to focus on praying for their schools, with events taking place in many countries including the UK. The day is for:

  • all types of school from nursery to sixth form

  • pupils, school staff, governors, parents, church leaders, youth workers and anyone else concerned about young people

  • anyone who believes that God hears our prayers

Resources for PrayDay 2018 based on Psalm 100 - a psalm for giving thanks to God

You can download the Prayer Sheet and other ideas for getting involved HERE.

“Shout to the LORD with joy, everyone on earth. Worship the LORD with gladness. Come to him with songs of joy.”

Social Cohesion Project (Update 13-11-18)

During the last meeting we finalised our 10 case study locations. Since then, the project has been progressing at pace. We are in the process of lining up various interviews with local church leaders and community stakeholders for our first case study, Bolton, which will be completed in the last week of November. We have also now finalised our questionnaires for interviewees, and will take the opportunity to refine them further on the completion of our Bolton study.

Our current timeline is as follows:

  • Bolton (late November)

  • Haringey (December)

  • Middlesbrough (late January)

  • Thanet (early February)

We have been supplementing our work with an ongoing review of the literature and current academic landscape on social cohesion. As part of this, our lead researcher Madeleine Ward has had a series of meetings with key individuals from academia and the public policy sector. These have included Anthony Heath, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Oxford and author of the recently published Social Progress in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); Molly Morgan Jones, Head of Policy and Engagement at the British Academy, and Jemma Adams, Programmes and Projects Officer at the Church of England Education Office. We are also in conversation with the public policy division of the Evangelical Alliance to discuss their historic responses to government output on social cohesion.

Alongside this, we have contacted all MPs in our case study areas for interview; we plan to conduct the majority in Westminster for convenience. We have already secured interviews with Stephen Timms MP, Christopher Williamson MP, and Sir Roger Gale MP.

Action points for observers:

Looking forward, we would be grateful to draw on your connections and contacts in our case study areas. In particular, we would benefit from contact emails (and where appropriate, introductions) for church leaders, leaders of other faith groups, community organisers, and those representing key stakeholders.

As a reminder, our case study locations are: Bolton; Bradford; Bury; Derby; Haringey; Middlesbrough; Newham; Peterborough; Plymouth; Solihull; Thanet.

"At least one child is bullied in every class, each day across the UK," the TES reports

I have been shocked and saddened to read in the news recently that at least one child is bullied in every class, each day across the UK. You can read this article in the Times Educational Supplement HERE. Almost half of young people said they had been bullied, face-to-face, in the last six months.

Many of us will have encountered bullying and perhaps have been bullies ourselves. It is a deeply upsetting and threatening thing to experience and is often borne of powerlessness and which creates powerlessness and fear…

The Anti Bullying Alliance (ABA) is a unique coalition of organisations and individuals who are working together to achieve our vision to: stop bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn.  You can read more about their work HERE.

They welcome members from a wide variety of organisations, including faith groups. You can sign up for their newsletter HERE.

There are lots of different ways to get involved in their work. They also have a range of resources and training programmes available. Why not get your church involved in this work, so that bullying can be tackled and we can all be educated to improve the lives of children and young people in our schools and colleges?

We are approaching the international day of prayer for schools - Pray Day - on 20th November - so perhaps you could pray for the work of the ABA and for the perpetrators and victims of bullying, that peace and reconciliation might be achieved.

As the Scripture tells us… “for God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:7). In the name of Jesus, peace maker and healer, Amen

Revd Sara Iles, FCG Education Asst