Category Archives: Politics

Everything is connected

We are delighted to welcome Peterson Toscano and Ruth Wilde to All Hallows’ on Friday 28th September at 8:30pm and for a follow up “Dig Deeper” workshop on Saturday 29th September at 10:30am to 12:30

Everything is Connected: A lively discussion about identity, justice, and peace

Pull just one strand in our world and see how deeply it is connected to many others. In this entertaining and insightful presentation, Ruth Wilde and Peterson Toscano join forces to reveal strange and often unseen connections in the world. Drawing on ancient stories, comedy, and insights from their travels, they weave together a tapestry that covers identity, LGBTQ issues, climate change, justice, peace, and much much more.

After spending 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents attempting to de-gay himself through gay conversion therapy, Peterson Toscano came to his senses and came out as an American quirky queer Quaker concerned with human rights and comedy. He asks himself and his audiences unusual and stimulating questions: Who are the gender outlaws in the Bible? What is a queer response to climate change? and How can comedy help us better understand our most tragic losses? A Bible scholar, a comic, and public speaker, Peterson is on a mission to connect with his audiences in deeply personal ways stirring up hope and purpose in a rapidly changing world.

Ruth is the UK Outreach Worker for Christian Peacemaker Teams. She also works as National Coordinator for Inclusive Church, so she understands how oppressions can intersect, and how climate change is ‘sexist, racist and classist’. Ruth has known about the oppression of / racism against indigenous peoples since she went on a CPT delegation to Grassy Narrows First Nation, Ontario, Canada in 2011. Now she sees clearly that climate change is also ‘racist’ against indigenous peoples and she thinks this is painfully ironic because they are often the humans who live the most sustainably and most in harmony with the earth. This makes her more determined than ever to educate and speak out about what is happening to indigenous peoples around the world!

In addition, Peterson and Ruth will also be leading a Dig Deeper workshop on Saturday 29th April at All Hallows. Ruth Wilde and Peterson Toscano stir up lots of discussion in their lively presentations. In order to deepen the experience and help communities figure out their next steps, they offer a facilitated discussion that includes small and large group activities designed to dig deeper into the issues raised during their presentation. Come to share your insights and to engage in others in conversation about making the world a better place for all.

Anti-hate or Pro-love?

Last Saturday Leeds was visited by members of the English Defence League, a far-right group who are racist and fascist. A rally and march protesting against what the EDL stands for was organised. In several conversations before the events we asked why is it that we always seem to put our energies into being anti something instead of pro something and so it was great to see so many people out on the streets of Leeds celebrating that, in the words of the great Jo Cox “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Against hate – FOR HOPE.
Against fascism – FOR FREEDOM.
Against EDL – FOR EVERYONE!

‘Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.’   — 1 Corinthians 13

Here are some photos from the event and a video of Heston speaking on the Town Hall steps with our great friend Adam Aslam

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Theatre of the Oppressed workshop

While some were camping others were exploring issues of power using image theatre and forum theatre in a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop organised by GeorgeF and Reboot the Roots. How do you change oppression by protest, humour, cooperation, and imagination? More workshops to come.

Jan Betts

Stop G’s deportation

G is a volunteer at our Rainbow Junktion Cafe. G was two working days away from making a fresh claim when she was detained by the Home Office and sent to a detention centre. They plan to deport her on Tuesday 22nd May. However, G was only given ‘removal directions’ on Friday 18th May, in clear contradiction to the policy that states that 72 hours’ notice must be given (including at least 2 working days).

Please read and sign the petition below, if you are able, and help us to stop G’s deportation and make the government’s “system” at least work according to it’s own policies.

https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-mp-stop-the-imminent-deportation-of-g-release-her-from-detention

International Conscientious Objectors Day

Next Tuesday is International Conscientious Objectors Day, it is marked around the world each year on 15 May. In London each year a brief ceremony is held at the Commemorative Stone, during which the names of representative people who ‘maintained the right to refuse to kill’ are read out and white flowers are laid on the Stone for each of the people remembered.

Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace,
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.
Let us dream together, pray together, work together
to build one world of peace and justice for all.
Amen.

More information:

Sermon by Paul Magnall – 4th June 2017

Notes from the sermon by Paul Magnall on 4th June 2017 – Pentecost and Environment Sunday (there was a PowerPoint presentation as well)

Reading:
Psalm 104
Mark 4:30-34

Good morning. No apologies but “there now follows a party political broadcast on behalf of…”

I hope I don’t offend anyone, but if I do it is not intentional! I need to point out that there will be political content and you will probably guess my politics (see the colour of the slides!) but I am not here to tell you how to vote. What I will do is to encourage you to join the debates around the election and to make your voice heard by voting on Thursday.

This Sunday is Pentecost, it is the Sunday when we celebrate the working of God’s Holy Spirit and, in particular, when God poured out His Spirit onto His followers days after Jesus had ascended into Heaven.

This Sunday is also Environment Sunday when we celebrate God’s Creation and how we look after it.

Today I am going to combine the two!

There are many images of the Spirit of God, a white dove, a wind, tongues of fire but one of the earliest is as breath. The Hebrew word is Ruakh and has many interpretations, is it gentle breathing or a passionate snort? Or maybe both?

The Bible talks of God as Spirit right from the very beginning – “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” Genesis 1:1-2

We then see God breathing life into a man made from the dust of the ground.
So the image of the Spirit of God is there in creating and in bringing about life.

The Spirit of God also brings change and disruption. In a story harking back to breathing life into a man made from the dust of the ground, Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the dry bones in the middle of a valley and they all join together but are still lifeless. Ezekiel is then told to prophecy to the breath and God breathes life into the bones (Ezekiel 37)

And throughout the Old Testament the Spirit of God comes upon people inspiring them to do great, crazy, disruptive things in order to bring people back to God’s ways of justice and love.

In the New Testament we see Jesus, full of the Spirit of God, preaching, teaching, performing miracles which change and disrupt people’s lives, showing and challenging them to live in peace and harmony, to stand against the injustices of the time, to love one another even if they were the equivalent of Conservatives, or Liberals, or UKIP supporters, or Labour or Greens, even if they were oppressors or murderers.

And then, on the day of Pentecost, more change, more disruption. The Spirit of God falls on the followers of Jesus and they go out preaching and teaching about the Good News of God’s Kingdom – of love. And the disruption was so much that many people “devoted themselves …. To fellowship” and “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” What a huge disruption!

Second Reading: Mark 4:30-34

I think that the parable of the mustard seed is all about disruption. No one in their right mind would have planted mustard in their gardens in the days of Jesus, in fact it was seen like we see invasive species today, I believe they even had laws about planting it. Once planted it took over everything, like bindweed or goose grass but possibly even worse! So when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, was he saying that even a tiny little thing like a mustard seed could cause incredible disruption?

So, what about the Environment? It doesn’t seem to be getting any press these days! (Picture of Trump)

When God saw His finished Creation he didn’t just think it was good, He thought it was Very Good (Genesis 1:31), so much so that he took time off to relax and enjoy it!

But if I think about breath and creation now, what do I think of? I think of choking
– Choking on air pollution
– The seas choking on plastics and chemicals
– A world where animals are being choked out of existence
– A world where human beings are choking on the injustices that we impose on them.

Instead of a world where we have everything in common, where we have Fair Share (Permaculture ethic!), instead we have a world of greed and destruction:
– We make money out of armaments which exchange hands again and again and are used indiscriminately aroundthe world to kill and maim people and to destroy the environment that we depend on for life
– We extract as much out of the ground and air as we can with little or no thought of the consequences
– When we think we have got everything out of the ground we find other ways of getting stuff out of the ground, even if it is not economically viable! We seem fixated on Fracking!
– We continue to pollute the air that we breath even though we know that we don’t have to and that it makes us ill and it kills us
– We pollute our water with plastics and chemicals doing untold damage to the life in the sea that sustains us
– We continue to erode the very soil that we are dependent upon for growing our food
– And of course, there is climate change.
And we do most of these things, not through ignorance but through greed. It is done to make some of us rich but it makes the world a poorer and more unsafe place to be.

So, on this Pentecost Sunday, where do we see the work of the Spirit of God in all this? Where is His disrupting influence?

To find out we can stop and look and observe
– where Life is being enhanced and celebrated, where life is being breathed.
– And we can look at where there is disruption and change for the better.
– In Permaculture we have a principle about observing (which I have spoken about before) and we have a principle that we should “Use edges and value the marginal” – it is at the edges and boundaries that things happen, where it is most fertile for change. Even the Franciscans were aware of this – St Francis wanted us to live a life on the edge of the inside—not at the centre or the top, but not outside throwing rocks either. ( https://cac.org/at-home-in-the-world-2017-06-02/ )

So here are just a few of the places where I think the Spirit of God is at work, breathing new life and bringing about change and disruption for the better:
– David Attenborough, educating us about the wonders and the fragility of Nature and that we are part of Nature
– Children growing up and learning about nature
– Caroline Lucas and the Green Party, a smallish voice speaking out for the Common Good
– Green Peace, protesting against the damage that we do to the planet
– Protestors such as the Anti-Fracking groups who make us aware of the damage Fracking causes and the fact that we don’t need to do it.
– People growing their own food in ways that work with Nature rather than against it eg Agroforestry and Forest Gardens
– People helping to reclaim the deserts and marginal lands that we have abused
– The Permaculture movement
– Climate change talks and agreements
– Emanuel Macron and other politicians who stand up for the planet
– And there are loads more! So be encouraged!

So, what little things can we do that might be part of God’s ongoing work in creation, of building God’s Kingdom of love and justice, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share?

Every little thing helps. I’m going to suggest a few simple and relatively easy things that came off the top of my head
– A vote on Thursday (assuming that you are voting for the correct party!)
– Using a bar of soap instead of plastic bottles of liquid soap – this reduces packaging, waste, weight of material transported, and natural soaps will be even more environmentally friendly. I use soap made from goats milk!
– walking or cycling or using public transport instead of driving, or even car sharing
– growing some of your own food, even if it is just a few strawberries

Over to you – I challenge you to think of something, little or big, that you can commit to doing over the next year, write it down on a piece of paper and then come and put it on the balance at the front. Let’s see if we can tip the balance!

References:
– For natural soap bars I use http://itsbaaathtime.co.uk/ in particular I like the Chunky Baa
– Toothbrushes – if you google bamboo toothbrush you will find many suppliers. Look for one who supplies them with biodegradable bristles then you can throw the whole thing into the compost bin when you finish with it.
– Journey of a toothbrush video – https://youtu.be/Pd_C3YK3kI4
 Permaculture Principles

Conscientious Objectors Day

Every year, 15th May marks International Conscientious Objection day – a day to celebrate those who have and those who continue to resist war, especially by refusing to be part of military structures.

100 years ago The Great War was raging in Europe – we now know it as the First World War – and those who objected to the war and refused to be conscripted could be imprisoned, many ended up doing hard labour in Dartmoor prison, civilian ‘work of national importance’ or conscripted into the Non-Combatant Corps. Some volunteered to serve in the Friends Ambulance Unit or other medical organisations but if they were drafted into the army (some by force) they could face a court martial and even be shot. Many famous people were conscientious objectors but for a long time their stories were suppressed as the government thought that conscientious objection would weaken the war effort. There are some links at the bottom of this blog to some resources about conscientious objectors.

Whatever your views are about the armed forces, Conscientious Objectors have played a major role in the protest against war and the campaign for peace. On our website we have the International Prayer for Peace, a prayer that we long to see answered:

Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace,
Let peace fill our hearts,
our world, our universe.
Let us dream together, pray together, work together
to build one world of peace and justice for all.
Amen.

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/conscientious-objectors-in-their-own-words

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27404266

http://www.methodist.org.uk/mission/conscientious-objection

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscientious_objector

Subversive Peacemakers: War Resistance 1914–1918: An Anglican Perspective by Clive Barrett (I have a copy of this if anyone wants to borrow it – Paul)

Who will you be known as?

‘You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.’
Isaiah 58:12 The Message version

I love this version of Isaiah 58:12, it is so “Permaculture” but also speaks so much about what I think our faith is about. The whole of Isaiah 58 speaks of how we should live – the kind of “fasting” we should exercise, we are called to “loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke”.

If we were to change the word fasting to “voting” then perhaps this would give us an indication of some of the things we should be taking into consideration when we choose who to vote for in this coming election. Which party or parties are going to work towards these things, towards justice, a loosening of burdens and release from oppression, who is going to promote sharing food with the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked. Which party is going to help us restore, rebuild and renovate so that our communities are “livable again”?

Permaculture is based on the ethics “Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share”. As I have said here before, for me, these fit so well with my Christian faith and I use them to help me make every day decisions like “what do I buy (or not)” and “who do I vote for”. In these coming elections let us try to steer clear of the media hype, the fear mongering and name calling and let us apply our understanding of our faith to making a decision who to vote for.

If you would like to meet for a conversation around this topic over the next few weeks do let me know.

Paul Magnall

Sermon for Transfiguration / Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Reading: Mark 9 – The Transfiguration of Jesus
Lord, I pray that the words that I speak, and the words that are heard contain something of your transforming glory so that we can join together in the work of bringing about your kingdom here on earth. Amen
In Mark’s Gospel so far, Jesus has been leading his followers up a metaphorical mountaintop to give them a new view of God’s kingdom which he was ushering in. However so much of what Jesus has said and done has been a mystery to those experiencing it. Gradually, though, their eyes are being opened and they are starting to get glimpses of things as they really are. Jesus’ many miracles and parables are starting to show them that he is the Messiah and they are beginning to understand more fully what that means.
At the Transfiguration, it is no longer just metaphorical, we are on an actual mountaintop. God’s voice confirms what the disciples are gradually realising: “This is my Son, and I love him”. Just like Moses and Elijah received their calling from God on a mountaintop, Jesus also meets God on a mountain. He is sent out to finish the work started through the Law and the Prophets. The transfiguration is a sign of Jesus being entirely caught up in the transforming love, power and kingdom of God, so that it transforms his whole being with light. This is the sign that Jesus is not just indulging in fantasies about God’s kingdom, but that he is speaking and doing the truth. It’s the sign that he is indeed the true prophet, the true Messiah.
For us, experiencing the kingdom of God in Jesus shouldn’t mean merely a few minor adjustments to our ordinary lives. Jesus’ whole being was transformed until he was shining with the light of God. The transfiguration account invites us to a whole-hearted transformation of ourselves, so that we too can pick up our cross, like Jesus did, and follow him. We should be transformed by God’s light, until we’re overflowing with the light of the world. We know that, but do we really allow ourselves to be fully transformed into the likeness of Jesus? Are there areas of your life that continually resist full transformation?
Our Chapter of Mark continues with the argument between the disciples about which one of them was the greatest. It amazes us that they have spent so much time with Jesus and yet they still don’t understand the upside down kingdom that he has been talking about and bringing about. But, if you’re honest with yourself, do you really get it? Are you completely immune to the pressures of this world for material success and status?
We know that in God’s upside down world God is biased towards the poor. The theme of Church Action on Poverty Sunday is “Poor Church, Transfigured Church”. What can the account of the Transfiguration teach us about what we should be like as a church? If our churches are to be communities that put the poorest first, how must we change? What must we let go of? What sacrifices are we called to make? How can we allow God to transform us into what Pope Francis has called a “poor Church for the poor”?
First we need to see God in Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel the accounts of Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration are two times that Jesus is identified as the Son of God, both times by a voice from heaven. The only time he is actually recognised as the Son of God by a human being is at his crucifixion. And this wasn’t by someone who had walked with him and listened to him – Jesus was recognised for who he really was by a gentile, a Roman centurion. And it didn’t happen when Jesus was at his most powerful. In fact it was when Jesus was at his most vulnerable – he had been stripped of everything and was at the mercy of the authorities. Jesus’ divine identity was most truly revealed when he was at his weakest.
We need to see God in Jesus and then we need to see God in each other. I think Emma reminded us last week that the Quakers try to see “That of God in everyone”. Do we really see God in those who, by the world’s standards, are weak and seemingly at the mercy of the “system”? Those people who are as weak and vulnerable as Jesus was at his crucifixion? When we see people in poverty do we see the face of Jesus Christ, and want to listen and learn – or do we see “them” as people who are not “us”, do we see “them” as a problem, do we want to fix “them” and sort “them” out? Fixes that come at cost to “them” but not to “us”; that change “them”, but fail to transform “us”?
Part of Church Action on Poverty’s mission has always been to give a voice, a face and a name to those of us who experience poverty on a daily basis. To create a space where there are different voices and people truly listen to each other.
I think we, at All Hallows, are not too bad at doing this. We have a lot of things going on in our building during the week. Through our work with refugees, through our café, and through many other things that we as individuals are involved with we encounter people different from ourselves.
In our café just last week we took part in a Big Conversation as part of the End Hunger UK campaign which is co-ordinated by Church Action on Poverty, and Student Christian Movement is part of. Emma, Sarah and I asked people to write on paper plates their response to the question: “What one thing would you ask the government to do to end hunger in the UK?”. The significance of using paper plates was that we were asking the government to “step up to the plate”! It was fascinating to listen to people’s conversations as they struggled to narrow it down to just one solution! You can see the ideas they came up with displayed in the café. It was a vivid reminder to me how much I have to learn from listening to people and learning from their experiences.
Have a think about your week ahead. How often will you make time to encounter someone with a different lived experience to you? Can you make some more time to sit and listen, maybe to someone who has had their benefits sanctioned or who has had to make the impossible choice between heating or eating? Can you make more time to hear people’s experiences for yourself and be transformed by them?
When thinking about the possibility of being a poor church for the poor I’ve been challenged to think not only about what we do in mission but also about our act of worship here on a Sunday morning. We like to think of ourselves as an inclusive church, and we try very hard to be, but how varied are the voices who lead us? Heston is very conscious of being a white male, although at least he is from another country and challenges other stereotypes of a parish priest! How many people of different colours, countries and financial situations are involved in designing our worship services? Is it actually possible to be inclusive for the person who struggles to read, while being inclusive to those who love the beauty of liturgical language? And what about being inclusive of the person who didn’t finish school, while being inclusive of those who like an intellectual debate about the finer details of eschatology? I don’t think there are easy answers but, to truly be an inclusive poor church for the poor, they are issues we need to be grappling with. How do we ensure we are a church where people from all backgrounds and life experiences can meet with the transforming love of God?
Instead of providing our own opinion of the solution, how do we equip and enable those individuals with personal experience of the challenges of life to exercise leadership? How do we empower them to make the changes they themselves have identified as necessary? It’s probably more costly, especially in terms of time which is a real challenge when we feel so time poor, but is it what we should be doing? Like Church Action on Poverty, how are we ensuring that we’re not just a voice for those without a voice, but that we’re helping those who are not heard to use their own voice?
As I finish I’ll leave you with some inspiring words from Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche which could transform us as individuals and as a church if we’re brave enough to follow them and really become a poor church for the poor:

“If you enter into relationship with a lonely or suffering person you will discover something else; that it is you who are being healed. The broken person will reveal to you your own inner hurt and the hardness of your heart, but also how much you are loved. Thus the one you came to heal will be the healer. If you let yourself be moulded thus by the cry of the poor and accept their healing friendship, then they may guide your footsteps into community and lead you into a new vision of humanity, a new world order, not governed by power and fear but where the poor and weak are at the centre. They will lead you into the kingdom Jesus speaks of”.

Lydia Groenewald

For further inspiration: ‘Poverty is many things’ by Tony Walsh

Poverty is not entertainment, it’s not noble or romantic.
Poverty is… heavy.
It’s heavy hearts and heavy legs.
It’s sore skin and hollow eyes.
It’s upset and downhearted.
It’s hunger. Malnourishment. It’s always thinking about the next meal.
Poverty is bailiffs, it’s food banks, it’s queues and lists, it’s never being told what you’re entitled to but always being told.
Poverty is being shown up then put down.
It’s missed payments and mistrust.
It’s always answering questions but never answering the door.
Poverty is hiding in plain view. It’s hiding.
Poverty is high bills and low pay.
It’s higher costs and lower self-esteem.
It’s invisible scars and visible pain.
Poverty is living nextdoor, it’s living on your nerves, it’s not living, it’s… barely surviving.
Poverty is… everywhere. With… nowhere to turn
It’s a gut-wrenching silence, screaming.
Poverty is depressing, demotivating and dehumanising.
It’s degradation, desperation and despair.
Poverty is feeling… worthless, it’s feeling anxious, it’s feeling excluded, it’s feeling rejected, it’s feeling ashamed, it’s feeling trapped, it’s feeling angry, it’s feeling fffrustrated, poverty is…. exhausting.
It’s not feeling anything. It’s… numb.
Poverty is… crushing. Empty. Lonely.
Poverty is cold. It’s damp. It’s ill health. Bad housing. Sadness, fear and human misery.
Poverty is ignored and abandoned. It’s sanctioned and sectioned. It’s late payments and early deaths.
Poverty is not something that happens to… “others”.
Poverty is our old people, our young people, our sick people, our disabled people, our mentally ill people, our homeless people. Poverty is people seeking asylum, it’s people who are refugees, people who are migrants. Poverty is over-worked, under-paid everyday people.
Poverty is people. It’s children. Babies. Not… “them”. Us.
“Poverty is the worst form of violence.” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Poverty is growing in our country. In 2017.
Poverty is many things, but
it is not
acceptable.

A collaboration between Church Action on Poverty and Tony Walsh

Exodus and EU referendum in conversation (or, ‘Being read by our Bibles’)

twain

 

 

 

 

“When we let the story of the Exodus read us, we realise to our horror and dismay that in this story we’re not the innocent Hebrews. We’re the Egyptians.

Notice what Pharaoh says in Exodus 1: ‘Look,’ he says. ‘Egypt is crawling with immigrants. There’s too many of them. If we’re not careful they’ll outnumber us. They’re un-Egyptian. They have too many children. They’re at fault for everything that’s wrong around here.’ That’s the kind of thing we say.

Pharaoh believes he’s rich and powerful because he worked hard, and he thinks, ‘I’m not going to let the weak, the immigrant, or the underclass take away my entitlement.’ That’s the kind of thing we think.

Pharaoh makes up a story, a story of fear and mistrust and suspicion. He says, ‘They might outnumber us; there may be a war; they might fight against us with our enemies…’ That’s the kind of story we make up, and then we run to politicians who stoke our fears and play on our mistrust.

BUT here’s the surprising good news. Egyptians we are, but there’s more than one way of being Egyptian………”

(From Sam Wells: Learning to Dream Again; Rediscovering the Heart of God)