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27 May: The Old and New Registers.

Earlier this month the regulations for recording marriages were changed; after centuries of pen and paper, it’s going digital. Rev Jo Richards of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter marked the occasion with this post and special prayers.

Marriage Registers: There are significant changes in the Registration of Marriages – this will no longer take place during the marriage ceremony – be it in a church/chapel/registry office or licensed venue. Rather the couple will sign a Marriage Document (or Schedule) during the service. This is returned by the minister who conducts the service within 21 days, to the General Registry Office (GRO) – it is from there that the couple have to get their marriage certificate and where the marriage is now electronically registered, rather than being given the certificate on the day. The marriage certificate is also somewhat different with the inclusion  of mothers – since their inception in 1837 only father and father’s rank/profession were on the document. Now the mother’s details are included, along with their occupation. It was this that triggered the changes – along with the GRO going electronic.
Needless to say we have had training both by the GRO and CofE for marriages that will take place from today onwards. The other change is that the new certificate is portrait (previously landscape) and we can include up to 4 parents (e.g. step-parents) and 6 witnesses. We do however have to have a ‘register of marriage services’ book. This will be a special book, as we have for burials, baptisms and confirmations. This is just filled out by the minister, again as per other occasional offices.
This is also an historical moment, and I attach the prayers that I said in St Dunstan’s on Sunday, to acknowledge the closure of the two Registers there, and I will do likewise for both St Peter’s and St Mildred’s this coming Sunday. We are permitted to keep one Register in church for historical reasons, and the other returns to the GRO. We no longer provide replacement certificates, again all through the centralised GRO.
There is no change as far as Banns are concerned – what is called ‘marriage preliminaries’ remain the same, and the marriage service is the same – rather than ‘signing of the registers’ it will be ‘signing of the marriage document’ – and will be a lot quicker – one piece of paper rather than three! And we can still take photos!

At the Closing of the Marriage Registers

Introduction

The duplicate register books are placed on view, with the blank entries struck through as required by law. This or similar might be read by the minister.

The Church has been closely involved in witnessing and solemnising marriages since the 11th century, and from the Reformation parishes were required to keep written record of all those married in their churches, a requirement formalised in Canon 70 of 1610, which remained in force until the 18th century. The Marriage Act 1836 provided for the duplicate green register books with we are all so familiar, and whose use comes to an end today. For centuries it has been our privilege as a church, entrusted to us by the state, to keep these legal records of marriages. Herein have been recorded the acts of loving commitment made by successive couples, witnessed by their friends and family and recorded on their behalf by our clergy. In years to come the legal record of all marriages will be held nationally by the Registrar-General, but we shall still rejoice to welcome couples to marry here, and pray that God will bless and support them in their unions. Today we give thanks for the duty of record that has been ours.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Marriages

Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of love and remember the many men and women who have stood in this place to make their vows to one another, and whose names are written in these registers [and those before them]. We thank you for all the joy and fruitfulness born of their marriages. We remember: Those whose faithfulness was lifelong and who are now at rest. Those who were widowed and bore long grief, or who married again. Those whose marriages, begun in hope did not bring them joy, or which ended how they did not intend. We remember also the fathers, whose names are recorder here, and the mothers, whose names are not; the friends and relations who bore witness to the weddings, and the clergy who solemnised them. Give us grace to remember all that is past with thanksgiving and with love, committing to your care and healing sorrows which cannot now be changed in this world, but which will find peace through the grace of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Records

God of order and peace, we thank you for the means by which the turnings of our lives are faithfully recorded, and for those who keep the records with diligence. For the means they offer for truth-telling and justice, and the record of memory of generations past. As we prepare to commit these records to the archives, help us to leave the past in your care, and renew our trust in your changeless mercy, that brings us life and wholeness in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The register books are closed.

A Prayer for Marriages Yet To Come

Loving God, we pray for those who will come to this place to declare their love in time to come; for those planning weddings here in coming years, those whose love is yet unkindled and the generations still stored up in your bounty that they may live and love in the freedom of your creation. May this place be to them a sign that their earthly love is a sign of your eternal love, that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and that holds us in life until we come to the kingdom prepared for us in him.

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7 May: Praying with Pope Francis

Looking from Greenwich to London’s Docklands financial sector. Saint Paul’s Cathedral is all-but invisible to the left.

Universal Intention: – The World Of Finance
Let us pray that those in charge of finance will work with governments to regulate the financial sphere and protect citizens from its dangers.

I guess Pope Francis feels he has had his share of being let down by those in charge of finance! It always seems to be the poorest who suffer most when finances go wrong, both at a personal and a national level. Company executives remain wealthy when their businesses go bust, while their workers lose jobs and the pensions they had been paying into. Indebted countries find their debts rising at the same time as opportunities vanish to earn more from trade and so pay off debts. And don’t ask about covid vaccinations!

Rich nations often owe part of their prosperity to exploitation of workers or other assets overseas; there is an obligation to restore fairness in trade and to protect citizens of this one world from the dangers of unfair trade, which may persist for generations.

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9 April: Praying with Pope Francis.

Saint Dunstan, Canterbury

We usually post Pope Francis’ prayer intention on the first Friday of the month, but this month it fell on Good Friday, so we postponed it until today.

Pope Francis’s Intention for April: – Fundamental Rights
We pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and even in democracies in crisis.

One of the fundamental rights is to health care. As we have seen with the covid-19 vaccination programme, there are authoritarian regimes, conspiracy theorists and others with influence, who have been prepared to dissuade or prevent people from receiving the vaccine. Saint Dunstan’s church was illuminated last year to publicise the world-wide programme to end polio, a crippling disease which can be prevented with a childhood vaccination programme. This has been resisted by militia men who attack and kill public health workers, alleging that the vaccination brings on other diseases.

Just one group of people prepared to risk their lives for fundamental rights. Let us pray for them and all who work for people’s rights.

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22 October, Traherne XXVIII

Let’s return to our early ecological Christian, Thomas Traherne, meditating on God’s love for each one of us, individually created to enjoy and rejoice in all creation, but also to love and to be loved by our sisters and brothers.

The world serves you, as in serving those cattle which you feed upon, so in serving those men, that build and plough, and plant, and govern for you.

It serves you in those that pray and adore, and praise for you, that fill the world with beauty and virtue; that are made to love and honour you, to please and advance you with all the services that the art of man can devise.

So that you are alone in the world, though there are millions in it beside. You are alone to enjoy and rejoice in all, being the adequate object of His eternal love, and the end of all.

Thus the world serves to promote and advance you.

Century 2.15

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23 May, Proverbs 11.1: a just weight is his delight

scaales
Just and true measurements

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.”   Proverbs 11.1.

This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked ‘VR’ underneath to tell that they were trustworthy because they had undergone official testing. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.

Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!

No, Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them –  and I take delight in his delight.

Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.

And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.

  • Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

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February 21. What is Theology Saying? XLVII: What if Jesus had not lived?

50.40. pilgrimage

Jesus was not just a good man who founded a great religion. He is the Son of God, sent on a mission to transform the world by changing individual lives. Imagine for a moment what your life would be like if this wonderful life hadn’t appeared.

For two thousand years, followers of the loving Christ have carried his compassion and care to peoples everywhere. Nations have been won through his love. The majority of hospitals and other ministries of compassion around the globe have been launched in his name. Where there has been devastation through natural disasters, wars, or famine, people filled with God’s love have run to alleviate human suffering via the Red Cross, World Vision, and thousands of other agencies. Where would our world be without the love of Christ as expressed through his people?

What is our relationship with our world – with government, foreign policy, political parties..? Christianity is concerned not only with religion but with all human relationships between persons and groups – large or small. It is as much concerned with war, peace, poverty and race issues as it is with holy living [preacher stick to your pulpit]. It is concerned because these are the relationships that shape our lives; our way of living together and accepting our common destiny.

In Apostolic times the writers believed that history had more or less come to an end with Christ, and the Second Coming was imminent. This was no time to worry about politics and economics. They were to preach about the world that was on its way. They knew that Jesus had resisted all attempts to align him with the Zealots, who wanted to establish God’s kingdom through war and aggression. Jesus had said his kingdom was not of this world, he could not establish the kingdom using any kind of force.

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A Message from the leader of the L’Arche Kent Community

Many of you know L’Arche is an international organisation and aims to spread the word about how valued people with learning disabilities are, and how important it is to work with people from all over the world. L’Arche has a core tradition of hospitality and welcome and we believe that having assistants from abroad that live within the community brings an important irreplaceable asset to our Community and to the lives of people with a learning disability.

For over 40 years, L’Arche Kent has welcomed  people from within and outside Europe as assistants on a temporary basis, adding to the richness and diversity of our Community.  Whilst nationally the proportion of international assistants  every year is small, there are seven from outside the EU in L’Arche Kent this year, and they remain a vital element of our Community. L’Arche is both a well-regarded service provider and peace-building network.  By enabling relationships between such a diverse body of people, we evidence the central importance of relationship in the building of understanding, trust and friendship between different human beings.

We are now facing a time when this tradition is being challenged and the future of these “live in assistants” is being threatened and we think you need to know about what is happening.

The benefits these people from abroad bring to us all are now under threat by a recent tightening of the regulations and a more strict interpretation of UKVI guidance which applies to the type of visa which international live-in applicants require to join L’Arche (a Tier 5 Temporary Charity Worker visa). These community assistants  are provided with board and lodging and subsistence; they provide friendship and sustain the life of the Community, whilst also providing care and support to members with learning disabilities. We have operated this way for over 40 years.

Our  assistants who are affected would have to leave prematurely and suddenly in September were our visa sponsorship licence to be revoked. This would cause distress to them and to our Community  and disrupt the support we provide.

These live in assistants, these community members from abroad that are willing to give us a year of their lives to help us, are not a strain on the resources of the UK or the UK taxpayer.  International live-in assistants  have no recourse to public funds. They are not eligible for welfare benefits, and they pay their own way via the Healthcare NHS surcharge, and other costs such as short breaks away during their year.  Any change in their status or whereabouts during the year is reported to UKVI by L’Arche.  Live-in assistants are not paid a salary; they receive free board and lodging and subsistence. L’Arche was awarded an exemption from the National Minimum Wage Act in 1999, in recognition of the Intentional Community nature of shared living, and in pursuit of a religious and spiritual objective (Section 44A of the Minimum Wage legislation).  Live-in assistants receive the same training as live-out assistants, plus additional input tailored to their specific community-building role.  They contribute to the support which Social Workers assess for each person with a learning disability – and add enormous value through the daily life they share living alongside people with learning disabilities.

Why is the UK Government changing our lives? 

Prior to the introduction of the Points Based System for visa awards in 2008, the Home Office guidance contained a concession for charities wishing to invite voluntary workers from outside Europe (chapter 17 section 9 of the Immigration directorate’s instructions in force at the time).  L’Arche was specifically named in Annex B to that section of the guidance, and our live-in assistant roles were described as falling within the concession.

With the introduction of the Points Based System, the guidance was rewritten, and the Annex containing the list of legitimate charities was deleted.  At the time, we understood we had clear agreement from UKVI that our continued Mission would fit with the criteria applied by the new Tier 5 visa rules. This proved to be the case for several years, and our view was affirmed by two inspections in 2012 and 2015.

However our commitment to International live-in assistants  is now jeopardised by the recent UKVI decision on 8/6/18 to suspend L’Arche’s licence to sponsor Tier 5 visas.  Although we have not changed the way we welcome international live-in assistants, these roles are now judged to fall outside the guidance. This decision partly rests on a tightening of the wording of the regulations in late 2015; it had previously been accepted that International live-in assistants were not taking up permanent roles, because they were dependent on a one-year visa. The new wording said that permanent roles could not be filled on a temporary basis, and our arrangements have been judged to fail this test. More generally, UKVI staff are implementing a stricter interpretation of the guidance than had been in place; arguing for example that our subsistence payments are too high, although we are confident that we are operating within our concession under the National Minimum Wage Act.

We have responded challenging these points, but if UKVI are not convinced by our arguments, they will revoke our licence and all of our International assistants will have to leave the country within 60 days. We fear that even should we mount a successful challenge this time, the questions will arise again. We are therefore asking for your help in lobbying the Minister to not revoke our licence, but instead to reinstate the explicit concession for L’Arche (and similar charities) within the guidance, so that our Communities can continue with the life-affirming mission in which we have been engaged for over 40 years.

We hope that you will share our concerns and contact your MP or visit them to help create awareness amongst our politicians as to how this change will affect the L’Arche Communities and the L’Arche Kent Community.

Yours

David Bex

Community Leader

L’Arche Kent

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22 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Bishop Stuart and Bishop Michaud.

justin-welby_blesses_francis2

A story for Christian Unity Week from Uganda.

During the 1930s the Canadian Edouard Michaud was the Catholic Bishop (or Vicar Apostolic) of Uganda. When Cyril Stuart was appointed as the Anglican Bishop of Uganda in 1932, Michaud called on him at the earliest opportunity. And they promised to work together and communicate with each other whenever events seemed likely to cause division.

All through the time both worked in Uganda there were on-going discussions between the churches and the British Protectorate Government about education. Most schools were provided by one or other church, so it was important for distrust and suspicion to be replaced by friendly rivalry. That took time. Health services too were run by the churches: try looking up Dr Albert Cook and Mother Kevin Kearney to learn about an Anglican and a Catholic pioneer.

Bishop Stuart’s account of their meeting does not go into details, but he says that when Michaud gave him his blessing, he was delighted.

Although Stuart in his turn greeted every in-coming Catholic bishop, including the first African bishop from South of the Sahara, Joseph Kiwanuka, he never plucked up courage to offer them his blessing.

A shame.

So let’s smile gratefully at this image of Pope Francis receiving the blessing of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and thank God that we are nudging closer – or being nudged closer – to each other.

Ut unum sint: may they all be one!

MMB

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23 January: Crossing Barriers, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Canterbury.

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West Gate  Monday 23rd January, 7.30‐8.15pm

New Life Church Hub, Roper Close, CT1 2EP

Law and local government, Justice

Just beside the West Gate Towers stands the Guildhall, the place from which the city has been governed for centuries. Today we pray for our city and county councils, for Sir Julian Brazier, our local MP, and for all those involved in the judicial system; for wisdom, insight and godly action.

(since most of the city gates have been demolished, this week’s pictures show gates from around Canterbury.)

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