Stoke-on-Trent Church Launches Emergency Appeal After Lead Theft

The Rector of Stoke, the Revd Preb David Lingwood has launched and emergency appeal this morning to raise over £30,000 for repairs to the roof of Stoke Minster.

Stoke Minster

The repairs are needed after an incident on 19 April where lead estimated at £13,000 was stolen. Five men were arrested near the Minster on 19 April after a member of the public called police to report suspicious activity. 4 men have been charged with the theft of lead and will appear at North Staffordshire Magistrates Court, Fenton on 27 May, the fifth man is wanted after failing to answer bail.

Although the Minster is fully insured, the underwriters will not insure churches for the theft of lead although the insurance company itself will pay £5000 towards the claim, leaving the church to find the balance of the cost of repairs itself.

The thieves managed to remove 72 sheets of lead from the roof before the police were called and in doing this they caused several thousands of pounds of damage to the actual roof structure.

Stoke Minster is the latest of a number of churches in the area to be targeted by lead thieves, Astonfield in Staffordshire Moorlands was recently subject to lead theft. The thieves made 4 visits in just over a week to remove lead.

Gavin Drake, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Lichfield said, ‘all our churches have treated their lead with smart water to help combat thefts. Smart water allows police to trace lead back to an individual church in the diocese, so if they stop a vehicle carrying metal they can quickly check for the presence of the smart water and then check to see if the metal has been stolen. The smart water works in such a way that even if the lead is melted down it is still possible to test the metal.’

People wishing to make donations to the appeal can do so either by calling in at the church and making a donation, using the donation envelopes, sending cheques to the Minster payable to Stoke Minster or by visiting the online donation site that has been set up, linked from the bottom of this article and the Stoke Minster website.

Bethel City Church – An agnostics impression

Last Sunday, Tony, Mike and myself went down to Bethel City Church in Abbey Hulton. Tony had called me a couple of times to see if I’d be interested in shooting a bit of video down there and asked me if I wanted to do the interviews.

I was a bit unsure about setting foot in a church in a reporting mode, I go to school plays and the like but, that’s just paying lip service, it has no further impact upon my life.

I remembered the 1980s. we had a really active Christian neighbor, he raved about the reverend Billy Graham. After a while our indifference and his enthusiasm drove a wedge between our families, and I guess that experience made me suspicious of modern Christians, the group who have been rudely labeled as “happy clappers”.

I’ll be the first to say that I went to BCC firstly to do the article. I am an unbeliever, have been for years, despite having a church upbringing.

Dont get me wrong, I still like Churches, fantastic buildings with awesome architecture and sculpture. I love their historical value. Their records of Births marriage and Death have been invaluable to my genealogical research. I have spent many happy hours tramping round graveyards reading inscriptions looking for lost ancestors. However, that has been where my interested has ended. I don’t go in to churches for what they offer, GOD.

That said, BCC was something different. I’m not a “Bandwagon” kind of Guy, so I won’t say it lightly.

They have got it organised, you don’t just wander in and be alone wondering where to sit, there are people there to help you find a parking space, they greet you as you enter the church, you are looked after.

That in itself makes a massive difference to the way you feel when you walk into a church. Being brought up church of England, I often felt like the black sheep (no pun intended) when I walked into the church. The people knew me, knew I was a rebel, knew I liked a drink, bucked authority etc, and it showed, it showed in their reactions and their commitment, their relationship towards me. I’m not blaming them for everything, I was most probably a toe-rag of the first order, but I reckon if someone had tried to reach out instead of judge me, it might have been a different story.

About 15 years ago, I remember feeling very low after a breakup of a relationship, I thought I’d go and seek solace in a church. Not one church in Newcastle was open that day. Not one. I went home alone without being able to talk to anyone. I get the feeling that couldn’t happen with the BCC.

Whilst we were there, we never wanted for anything, we were announced to the whole congregation who welcomed us with claps and cheers. They brought us drinks and accommodated us in every way. The cynical amongst you will say ” Of course they did, they wanted a favourable article!”
Well that’s possible I’ll concede but as we know, fakery shows through eventually and if there’s any there it will out in time. I didn’t’ see it.

What I have seen so far isn’t scary or sinister, it’s just positive. It’s more positive than I’m used to, one can become cynical when you follow politics.

I haven’t had the energy and the inclination to be nice and lovely to people all the time like the guys at BCC were, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like their approach,or that it hasn’t influenced me. Surely we all aspire to be better people?

When I say better, I mean better to other people. Sometimes I’m an asshole, I’m pushy, I question everything, I wont take no for an answer, I rush and drive too fast, I expect everyone to operate at maximum efficiency or get out of may way. In my opinion being better has nothing to do with money.

For me, you could take all the money in the world and burn it in a big pile and I wouldn’t shed a tear. You can take your fancy cars and posh clobber, your sky TV and conservatories and blow it all up, I’m not interested in it, it doesn’t impress me.

I want to learn how to love others,(I’ve read the Kama Sutra). I want to be more accepting and really help those who struggle. I’d like it if people who were further along spiritually …would do the same for me.

I could actually feel the energy radiating out of that church hall on Sunday, it was tangible, it affected your emotions. I keep mine well wrapped so, it must have been strong.

To all the cynics I’d say, if you are interested in doing good work helping Stoke, Get down to BCC, and get involved with Love Stoke. This will give you a chance to see how things are operated, and if you don’t like it or feel uncomfortable , then no one could say you didn’t give it a go. No one tried to force religion on us whilst we were down there.

I’ll definitely be down there again soon to see what projects I can get involved with, I’m not into the God stuff really but I am into the close community and love stuff, who can really get enough of that?

Bethel City Church – A Positive Light In Our City

Two things that should never be discussed, if you listen to the experts, are Politics and Religion.

Well, on this site Politics are dissected on a daily basis and as this site supposed to push the boundaries we thought we would do religion!

Recently, whilst we on this site have been busy networking with people through the medium that is ‘Twitter’, we had noticed a number of incredibly positive local people.

All of these people were tweeting about something called ‘BCC’ and after a bit of research we found out that this particular BCC was indeed  Bethel City Church located here in Stoke-on-Trent on Leek Rd, Abbey Hulton.

Bethel City Church

 Our interest was fuelled even more by a letter that was published in the Sentinel by the Lead Pastor James Galloway in response to a comment article by the excellent Martin Tideswell. (No relation to our own Tideswellman).

 Bethel City Church

Martin, it seems has had similar experiences to my own regarding religion and the occasions that I have needed to visit Church in the past few years [I’m a bit older than him – so it’s been mainly funerals!].

Bethel City Church are the force behind Love Stoke.org, a project that has won an ‘Our Heroes’ award.

This project does truly good work. They have a team of dedicated volunteers and they go out into the community and undertake a variety of work to improve and enhance life in the City of Stoke-on-Trent. They manage to get some major support from retailers and businesses in the City which helps with materials etc.

The Pits n Pots team decided to pay  Bethel City Church a visit and I can honestly say we received one of the warmest welcomes you could ever imagine.

The actual service was like none any of us had witnessed before.

There was no ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon or maudlin hymns. There was no reliance on the traditions of the past hundreds of years. There were no formal clothes and no penitence and blame.

What there was though, was an incredibly inspiring ‘preach’ by Pastor James Galloway that did not talk at you, but to you. The music was rock ‘n’ roll and the whole service was upbeat and lively , featuring something called the ‘Bethel Bounce’.(see video)

Christian church congregations are dwindling in numbers week by week. Church buildings are being left empty or turned into warehouses and the such like.

Bethel have managed to buck the trend – big time!

So,  is this the new face of religion that is fit for purpose for this day and age and for the needs of the modern day family?

Well, that’s for you to make your minds up about. But, whether you are religious, or have an interest or a dedication to a religion, what cannot be doubted is that this church and these people love this City and are committed to making a difference. They are reaching out into the City instead of waiting for the City to come to them.

Through the work that they do via lovestoke.org they are a positive identity in our City, and for that they deserve a huge amount of credit.

Watch the two part video that shows  Bethel City Church in full swing and listen what they have to say about their role in the City.

Bethel City Church

This article/video/photo’s were put together by the Pits n Pots team of Tideswellman, Mike Rawlins & Tony Walley.

CHURCH OF ENGLAND BANS THE BNP!

cofebnpimage3This just in to us here at pitsnpots……………..

The Church of England is to consider banning clergy from joining the British National party amid fears the far-right party is promoting its image as Christian.

Next month’s General Synod, the church’s national assembly, will debate a motion calling on Anglican bishops to formulate a similar policy to that of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) on the BNP.

The Acpo policy states that no member of the police service may be a member of an organisation whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the “general duty” to promote race equality. This specifically includes the BNP, the policy states.

General Synod member Vasantha Gnanadoss, who works for the Metropolitan police service, will call for a similar ban to apply to all clergy, ordinands and employed lay persons who speak on behalf of the Church of England.

In a background paper to her private members motion, Gnanadoss said such action would make it “much more difficult” for the BNP or other similar organisations to exploit the claim that there are Anglican clergy or church representatives who support them.

“Of specific relevance to this motion are some of the tactics adopted by the BNP, which in recent years has sought to identify itself as Christian and sometimes specifically with the Church of England, in order to further its agenda,” she said.

The motion comes after a list of 12,000 names and addresses of BNP membership was posted on the Internet in November.

Five “Reverends” were identified on the list, but the Church of England said none were licensed or serving Anglican clergy although one was a retired priest.

The call from Gnanadoss, who is from the south London diocese of Southwark,  comes after several denunciations of the BNP by senior church figures.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Rev John Sentamu, took out an advertisement in the local newspaper in 2007 urging voters in the local elections to come out against the BNP and warning that they risked sleepwalking into a “wall of hate”.

The General Synod has backed a motion brought by the Rev Simon Bessant condemning voting for or supporting a political party that offers racist policies as “incompatible” with Christian discipleship.

William Fittall, the secretary general of the General Synod, said it was church policy that people should not enter ordained ministry if they held racist views.

But he said if the church were to vote for an identical policy to that of Acpo this would mean amending the recently passed clergy discipline measure.

Fittall said: “The Synod has discussed organisations that promote views that are highly contentious on racial issues and Synod has expressed very clear principles ? but this motion raises slightly different questions.

“It is whether the church should have formal policies that make it impossible for a member of the clergy or indeed a member of the lay staff to be a member of these parties.

“That is of course, a trickier question, not least because not long ago the Synod passed the clergy discipline measure which specifically said you could not discipline a member of the clergy for political views or membership of a political party.”

A spokesman for the BNP denied it was racist or had racist policies. He said: “I am aware of this, we were told by a member of the General Synod. There are members of the General Synod who are sympathetic towards us and we were made aware of this a long time ago.

“This is a disgraceful way to politicise the church. The church has got far more important things we feel to worry about regarding the collapse of morality and the collapse of attendance at Church and the advance of Islam rather than a vindictive campaign against a perfectly legitimate political party”

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that the  Church of England should allow their priests to be members of a far right party that openly prejudice against non whites. The clergy should preach peace and love for our fellow man. There is so much written in the bible that encourages us to embrace others and to live by a strict moral code. Remember how many people who are black and are practicing Christians, would it be fair to expose them to potential racists hiding behind priestly vestments. They say you should never debate about religion and politics, well here we’ve done both!

Over to you!…………………..