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Wondering how to vote in European elections in May?” ask Churches

european electionsChurches are urging people to vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.

The United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church in Britain and the Baptist Union of Great Britain, have produced a document outlining important issues for the election with the aim of boosting turnout and encouraging people to reflect on their vote. Only a third of voters participated in the 2009 European elections, compared to two thirds who voted in the 2010 General Election.

The Churches’ briefing illustrates how the European Parliament affects all our lives. “European laws affect things such as energy security, immigration and justice,” the document states. “MEPs have an important job to do in shaping the laws of the society we live in and it is important to remember that these elections are for people to represent us in the European Parliament and not an opinion poll on the EU, or a warm up for the next General Election.”

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Hosanna! Blessed is the One who delivers justice!

palm sunday imageToday is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, marking the beginning of Holy Week and the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. To mark the occasion, the Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, moderator of General Assembly has written the following reflection:

“Beyond the waving of palm branches, donkeys, palm crosses from the tropics and triumphalist music are the harsh realities of food banks, unemployment, the political scape-goating of migrants, and the blaming of Europe as the cause for most of our ills. These realities are more than enough to make us cry out: “Save us now!” in hope of a deliverer/saviour with a different message from that of suffocating politics and lukewarm messages from religious establishments.

“There were lots of expectations placed on Jesus as he rode into town. What quickly transpired is the cost of having to meet the impossible expectations of many and all. We all know the consequences of not being able to live up to the expectations of individuals and crowds, especially when these expectations may not match our own sense of purpose and call. As the post Palm Sunday events suggest, we quickly sense the kind of person the crowd wanted Jesus to be. Sacrificial giving for the sake of others, humility, an inversion of the ordering of society, and obedience to God, were not very high on the people’s list of priorities. 

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Away with discrimination and hatred

stop hatingThe United Reformed Church is encouraging its young people aged between 11 and 25 years, to enter a short article competition on the theme “away with discrimination and hatred”. The competition is a joint initiative sponsored by the Fellowship of United Reformed Youth (FURY) and the Racial Justice and Intercultural Ministry (RJiM) department of the URC. It is calling for articles of approximately five hundred words that answer the following questions:

• What would you do to counter discrimination?

• How will you engage hatred and intolerance to become an agent of change?

• How will you become part of the solution?

The competition hopes to encourage discussion on divergent expressions of hatred, tolerance and discrimination and offers awards for the four best entries.

Matthew Barkley, FURY moderator, said: “Youth Assembly concentrated on issues relating to disability as just one example of where people have experienced intolerance and discrimination. This competition offers an opportunity for young people to be a voice of change for all who suffer hatred and injustice.”

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Planting poppies for peace and remembrance

poppy seeds handsThe United Reformed Church is encouraging churches and individuals across the three nations to plant red and white poppies on Good Friday and/or during Holy Week to mark the 100 year commemoration of the declaration of the First World War.

The campaign is a joint initiative from the mission and communications committees of the URC and is part of the denomination’s commemorations to mark  the centenary of the outbreak of the four years of World War One.  The Church is encouraging the planting of both white poppies for peace and red poppies for remembrance. 

Gill Nichol, the URC’s interim director of Communications, said: “The idea is to encourage URC churches across the three nations to plant both red poppies and white poppies, in land, window boxes, or even tubs outside their church building during Holy Week, with the idea that they will be in bloom on or around 4 August – the 100 year commemoration of the declaration of war.

“This initiative was first announced at Mission Council in March, and then relayed to churches via the March Synod meetings ... we had 100 packets of red  and 100 packets of white seeds to give away – and we were thrilled with how quickly they were snapped up!  We’ve now sent those seeds out, and given every synod moderator some seeds too – so we hope that United Reformed Churches in every part of England, Scotland and Wales will be busy planting seeds in April, and watching them bloom in August!”

Resources – including prayers to be said during the planting of the seeds and a template news release which local churches taking part in the initiative can use – are available here.

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