Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January), often abbreviated as WPCU. It involves Christian communities from across the world and from almost every denomination.

There are many different Christian churches and denominations, but all have the same basic calling – to worship God, to share the good news about Jesus Christ, and to work for the good of all people. So they often need to work together, as well as co-ordinate the work they each do separately. When they do, they are acting as Churches Together. But being Churches Together means more than that. It means commitment by each church and denomination to deepen its fellowship with the others and, without losing what makes each interestingly different, to work with them towards a greater visible unity.

To help the churches live as Churches Together, a number of small organisations have been created to ease their way. There is one in almost every town or community to help them to work together locally. There are others in the regions and for each of the four nations of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. There is also an umbrella organisation in the UK, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), from which I have obtained the above information. Additionally, there is the World Council of Churches.

You can find helpful resources on the CTBI website, including for WPCU below:

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2020

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2017

Honey For Wounds (Ego Ella May)

As the title suggests, this album is one to soothe troubled spirits in a challenging world, even when addressing tough issues in today’s society. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Ego Ella May is a British songwriter and vocalist from South London. She has an all-encompassing love of music, which she channels into her own neo-soul and contemporary jazz compositions. She boasts a rich, mature sound, one that belies her years.

You can find the album on Bandcamp (and other streaming services) and an excellent review here.

Myopia (Agnes Obel)

The Independent has described this wonderful album by Agnes Obel as one “to experience alone, and there’s a comfort to being pulled into Myopia’s contemplative, isolating territory”. Snuggle up with your favourite earphones/headphones (with drink of choice) and allow this album to embrace you for forty minutes. It’s one of my favourites of 2020, and one which could have easily taken the top spot had I not gone for more upbeat albums.

Obel explained the meaning of Myopia: “For me Myopia is an album about trust and doubt. Can you trust yourself or not? Can you trust your own judgments? Can you trust that you will do the right thing? Can you trust your instincts and what you are feeling? Or are your feelings skewed?” Obel puts a feeling of quiet and gentleness in her music, […] which was the guiding concept of her previous album. The album contains a new sense of solitude instrumentalism and vocals, as well as departing from her upbeat early albums. Obel stated the album was sparked by a struggle to escape her “own tunnel vision”. Wikipedia.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Spook the Herd

Spook the Herd is an elegant and eloquent album by British indie rock band Lanterns on the Lake, one that has been described as a soundtrack for the age of anxiety. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020.

Although this is their fourth studio album, I’ve not come across them before, despite living just down the road from their home of Newcastle for five years. They’ve been gracefully holding up a mirror to the world for a while, their music reflecting northern communities in decay and the effects of austerity, with calls for both to be resisted, for example.

This album touches on addiction, division, bereavement, social media, the environmental crisis, and climate change, with a reminder to make the most of what we can, while we can. Empowerment and love are key to the challenges we face, changing ourselves and changing the world. This is a thoughtful and reflective album, expressed beautifully.

This is one of a number of albums I’ve discovered this year because they were nominated for the Mercury Prize 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

Brexit – a personal reflection

The UK has now fully left the EU, something I consider to be a huge act of nationalistic self-harm.

Sadly, the reality of what we’ve lost will only be fully demonstrated in the weeks, months and years ahead. But we are where we are, and we really are all in this together. I hope all Brits want what’s best for the UK (which, of course, may now break up) and we have to make it work. Remain voters are experiencing a palpable sense of loss and sadness, and this needs to be worked through.

‘Getting over’ this will inevitably take time before we can genuinely move forward, powerful human emotions are not easily dismissed by pressing an [ESC] key.

The campaign to rejoin the EU starts today!

Books Read in 2020

I always like to read, and often have more than one book on the go at the same time. Overall, it’s probably not a good idea to have be reading too many books at once, so I’ve decided to stick with just one (with the exceptions of the Bible, a devotional book, as well as anthologies and the like). For some examples of the latter, click here and here. You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Here’s links to the books I’ve read in 2020 (in the order of reading) since my retirement.

Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?

Reasons to Stay Alive (Matt Haig)

77 Million Paintings (Brian Eno)

The Magic of Reality (Richard Dawkins)

Caught (Harlan Coben)

Black and British (David Olusoga)

Undivided (Vicky Beeching)

Recursion (Blake Crouch)

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

Note: I’ve also read two anthologies and one yearbook making a total of twelve.

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

I’ve known the story for as long as I can remember, but I’d never actually read the book, until now (Christmas 2020) that is. It’s the classic Christmas tale by Charles Dickens, so familiar from movie adaptations, not least The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) starring Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. Since it’s release I’ve considered it one of the finest versions, and having now read the book I can see how faithful to the spirit (pun intended) of the original it is.

Not having read the book was a serious omission on my part, but thankfully I’ve now corrected that. The book is in the public domain, so easily found online.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Undivided (Vicky Beeching)

vickibeeching

I’ve just finished this excellent book, a really life-affirming contribution to the often divisive LGBTQ+ discussion within Christianity.

Vicky Beeching began writing and singing songs for the church in her teens, and by her early thirties she was a household name in Christian music, singing in America’s largest megachurches and recording a string of albums. Her songs were used by congregations around the globe. But all this time she was fighting a debilitating inner battle, knowing she was gay. The conflict was real because the churches in which she sang and ministered generally opposed same-sex relationships and saw homosexuality as sinful.

She knew that being true to herself and coming out would cost her everything. Having faced a major health crisis (quite possibly stress-related), she decided to tell the world she was gay at the age of thirty-five.

The reaction was far greater than even she imagined. She lost her music career and livelihood, faced hatred and threats from traditionalists, suffered further illness from the stress, and had to rebuild her life almost from scratch. She was despised and rejected by those she’d shared Christian ministry with and called friends.

She lost so much, but was finally able to live from a place of wholeness, vulnerability, and authenticity. She found peace with herself and God.

Read this book with an open heart of unconditional love and be prepared to be challenged and changed.

The book concludes: Freed from shame and fear, we are finally able to live, and love, from a place of wholeness. We find peace. We become complete. We become people who are, at our deepest core, undivided.

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Note: Vicky has now become a champion for others, fighting for LGBTQ+ equality in the church and in the corporate sector, and speaking up for mental health awareness. Her courageous work is creating change in the UK and the US as she urges people to celebrate diversity, live authentically, and become undivided.

You can find out more and support her work here.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.

Recursion (Blake Crouch)

I’d previously read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and thoroughly enjoyed it. So, on that very personal recommendation, I decided to read Recursion. I wasn’t disappointed.

What can I say about this mind-bending book without giving anything away? It’s a breathless, sci-fi thriller with so many twist and turns it often left my head spinning. After reluctantly putting the book down at bedtime I would settle down trying to work it out, often struggling to fully comprehend all the existential and philosophical questions raised. As, you’ve probably guessed, it was hard to put down.

Recursion takes mind-twisting premises and embeds them in a deeply emotional story about time and loss and grief and most of all, the glory of the human heart. Gregg Hurwitz

Yes, it’s sci-fi, but don’t let that put you off if it’s not your thing, it’s far bigger than one genre. It’s about life and love, memories and grief, relationships and commitment. It’s about what it means to be human, to live and love, and how circumstances and events affect us.

Note: I understand that both of the books are being made into movies, but I would recommend you read them first rather than waiting for them on the big screen.

You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2020 books here.