Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Officially LESS Religious?

The statistics prove it, the UK is a very different place to 10 years ago. The 2011 census results have started to be released since late last year and now it becoming available in various different formats:
  • The number who claimed to be Christian in 2001 was 72% (37.3 million), in 2011 it was 59% (33.2 million).
  • Christianity is the only religious group who have decreased in number, but actually increased in Newham, Haringey, Brent, Boston and Lambeth.
  • Over 240,000 people highlighted an 'other religion' on their census form - including 176,632 Jedi Knights. (Source)
Obviously the trends in the UK are similar in many European countries, but in many other parts of the world, religion continues to grow. 

So what are the results? Stories such as these: Air cadets rewrite their oath to remove God from pledge presumably? 

Secularisation is a key feature of UK society, that much is hard to deny. The questions will rest upon how the religious respond? Will this lead to conflict? Will secularisation continue at the same rate? Will the increase in growth from other religions affect the UK data for the 2021 census?

Changes in Upminster, UK:

Read more, including interactive representations: and

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Making Videos

6th Form students have the power with the tools in their pockets, or bags, to become like a Hollywood Director. Using their smartphones, iPods etc plus some software like MovieMaker or iMovie they can produce informative, entertaining resources to help in their learning.

These examples show 6th form students producing resources to help understand St Augustine's and St Irenaeus' Theodicies. It's a hands on and engaging way to learn about a topic. It's fun to share and hopefully becomes a memorable part of the course!

Some things to think about:

  • School rules on mobile phones. Think about time/place where is appropriate to use.
  • Comedy aspect... Don't sacrifice good content for what could end up simply being an 'in joke'.
  • Planning... This will save a lot of time in the long run.

Do you enjoy making videos? Do you think it helps with your learning? What would you make a video about?

Some examples from students around the UK:

St Augustine's Theodicy:

St Irenaeus’ Theodicy:


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Big *IF*: There Is Enough Food For Everyone...

Nearly 100 leading charities, including CAFOD, want to make 2013 the beginning of the end of the global hunger crisis. It is a major campaign to lobby David Cameron, the prime minister, to use Britain's presidency of the G8 to leverage action on ending global hunger.

There is Enough Food for Everyone….

we force governments and investors to be honest and open about the deals they make in the poorest countries that stop people getting enough food.

governments keep their promises on aid, invest to stop children dying from malnutrition and help the poorest people feed themselves through investment in small farmers.

we stop poor farmers being forced off their land, and use the available agricultural land to grow food for people, not biofuels for cars.

governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries, so that millions of people can free themselves from hunger.

The launch of the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign is supported by One Direction, Orlando Bloom, Natasha Kaplinsky, Bill Gates, David Harewood, David Gyasi, Anjelique Kidjo, Nina Wadia and Myleene Klass. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Charity vs Cheating: Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong has been in the news for months now after he has been exposed as a drugs cheat and having all seven of his Tour de France victories taken away. His team were said to have run "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen". (Source).

Armstrong was seen as an absolute hero to millions, not only for his sporting achievements, but also because he battled, and overcome cancer, and started his LiveStrong campaign raising over $470 million for charity.

He has come out and apologised and asked for forgiveness from the US public on the Oprah talk show (Link).

Lots of ethical and moral questions can now be raised:
  • Does apologising make amends?
  • Does he deserve to be forgiven?
  • Is a life ban a suitable punishment?
  • How will people view other seemingly exceptional sportsmen and women?
  • Can he continue his charity work?
  • Should his charity work effect the public view of his cheating?
Only time will now tell how the public will react to Armstrong. However for many, a hero has been vilified.

Rear more here, a interesting article on grace.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Y9 Assessment 2: The Messiah

Key Questions:
1) Describe the Jewish expectiations of the Messiah?
2) Did Jesus fulfil these expectations?
How can I present this?
  • Essay: 2-3 sides
  • Booklet
  • Factfile
  • PowerPoint
Where can I find information?
  • Notes in exercise book
  • Bible
  • Y9 Textbook (in class – copy also available in school library)
  • Internet – be careful! (Maybe search for Messiah GCSE)
Possible things to consider including:
  • Jewish expectations of the Messiah.
  • OT prophecy about Messiah.
  • Matthew trying to prove Jesus was Messiah.
  • The Messianic Secret (What did Jesus want to keep a secret? Why?).
  • Events at Caesarea Philippi (Significance?).
  • The Son of Man (Where from? Why chosen?).
  • Misunderstandings (from the disciples).
  • Jesus the Messiah, key facts/overview.
Reflection: Chris Tomlin - Jesus Messiah

Monday, 14 January 2013

Deaf... Going Blind: Euthanasia the Solution?

Two Belgium men ended their lives just before Christmas after being born deaf and finding that they would soon also go blind.

Marc and Eddy Verbessem had spent their entire lives together, sharing a flat and both working as cobblers. Their local hospital refused to give them injections to end their lives, but eventually they found a doctor willing to carry out the procedure.

The law states euthanasia can be carried out in cases of 'unbearable suffering'. Yet debate has begun as to whether this can be classed in this way or not.

Their older brother said:

"Many will wonder why my brothers have opted for euthanasia because there are plenty of deaf and blind that have a 'normal' life... But my brothers trudged from one disease to another. They were really worn out." 
The doctor who carried it out said:

"It is certain that the twins meet all the conditions for euthanasia."
However Chris Gastmans, a professor in medical ethics at a local Catholic university responded by saying:

"Is this the only humane response that we can offer in such situations? I feel uncomfortable here as ethicist. Today it seems that euthanasia is the only right way to end life. And I think that's not a good thing. In a society as wealthy as ours, we must find another, caring way to deal with human frailty."

Most cases in Belgium, which legalised euthanasia in 2002, are for patients who are terminally ill or suffering physical pain. However the law has very recently be changed to allow the euthanasia of children and Alzheimer's sufferers.

Do you think this was the right decision for the twins? Do you think that euthanasia was the only solution? Do you think the law is correct to allow for such cases? Do you think there will be future implications as a result of this case?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Can Muslims 'Reclaim' Jihad?

MyJihad is an organisation that is trying to change the public perception of the word jihad which has been distorted by extremists, both Muslim and anti-Muslim alike. It has taken out a number of bus adverts in Chicago.
As their website claims:
"Jihad means "struggling in the way of God". The way of God, being goodness, justice, passion, compassion, etc. It is putting up the good fight against whatever odds or barriers you face in your life. It is a central tenet of the Islamic creed that has unfortunately been widely misrepresented due to a) first and foremost, the actions of Muslim extremists, b) attempts at public indoctrination by Islamophobes who claim that the extremists are right and the rest of us are wrong, and c) a selective media that understandably focuses on the sensational."
They claim that the voices of moderate Muslims, living in the mainstream, are "either drowned out or diluted."
The MyJihad ads, feature young, attractive men and women with slogans such as "My Jihad is to build friendships across the aisle. What's yours?" and "My Jihad is to stay fit despite my busy schedule. What's yours?"

Here is a short video about the campaign:
Do you think think that MyJihad is a worthwhile campaign? Did you know what Jihad meant? Is Jihad misunderstood in the UK as well as in the US? Do you think the adverts will change peoples' perceptions? How do you think Muslims would feel about this?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Gay Mass: BANNED (?)

Back in March 2012, after several complaints, Archbishop Vincent Nichols reassured homosexual Catholics that the 'Soho' Masses would be continuing as long as they didn't "confuse" Church teaching.

At the time complaints were made because, "bidding prayers read by [a] transgendered person ... referred to celebrating 'diverse sexual orientations'" as well as claims that, "before the bidding prayers the priest said they celebrated 'being proudly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and proudly Catholic.'" (see here)

The Masses have been a hot topic of debate in the Church, with traditionalists trying to ban them. According to an in-depth BBC article, a group prayed the rosary, kneeling in the road outside the church where these services took place (read more here).

However it seems those who wanted the Masses banned have succeeded with Archbishop Nichols announcing that not only were the celebrations of the Eucharist to stop, but that the church where they took place being is being handed over to the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, the body set up by Rome to cater for those who have defected from the Church of England to the Catholic church.

A service, but not Mass, would take place for the homosexual community but the Archbishop is said to believe that the pastoral care of the lesbian and gay church community should now be uncoupled from the sacrament of Mass, and that the community should not be singled out to have "special" masses.

Some have claimed that it has caused a major division with the Church in Rome and this is the end result.

However a statement from the Soho Masses Pastoral Council indicates that the move in location offers even greater opportunities to minister to this particular community (read it here). As such the debate may well run...

Do you think homosexuals should be allowed their 'own' Mass? Why do you think homosexuals found comfort in this Mass? What issues can you see with homosexuals having their own Masses? How do you think this reflects upon the Church?

Volunteering at Crisis 2012

In December, I blogged about how my school was raising funds for Crisis as our Christmas fundraising initative (see here). This was really important to me personally as I have volunteered with Crisis nearly every Christmas over the last 12 years. 

In my time I have worked at venues across London, helped in set-up, used the 02/Millennium Dome as a shelter, been used as a poster boy, and got to sound-engineer The Cheek Girls:


However the most important part is always the truly amazing and inspiring time spent with the guests. They come from all walks of life, with all kinds of amazing stories. I'm lucky to be part of the activities team, we are tasked with putting the 'fun' in Crisis at Christmas. We run a whole range of activities including IT, art, music, games, sports, a library...

Take a look at this video to see a little of what Crisis at Christmas 2012 was all about:

A moment that will always stick with me this year is seeing a young girl (aged 19) who I had got to know as we spent time making a Christmas card, just after she had had her teeth checked and cleaned and her hair cut. I asked her how she felt and she just smiled and said, "Beautiful."

This summed up the work we do, making people feel human again.

There were difficulties, and hearing stories of the conditions in which many of the guests spend their nights during the rest of the year, drug and alcohol problems, abuse and so on is always hard. Introducing them to Skylight and the services on offer can be a genuine and very real step forward and a way of breaking the cycle that many guests are desperate to escape.

Leslie Morphy, Crisis chief executive said: "This year Crisis at Christmas was busier than ever. With homelessness on the rise, we would like to express our gratitude to our volunteers, donors and supporters for providing such an excellent service to our thousands of guests. In 2013 we will continue to deliver life-changing services and campaign for change".

Sacred Heart of Mary raised over a £1000 this Christmas and this will be spent on changing lives for the better. Thank you SO much.