Procession of Light
Last year in partnership with We Are Bearwood, Bearwood Action for Refugees held a rather special event in solidarity with refugees at home and abroad. They invited the local community to join us in a twilight torch-lit lantern procession through Warley Woods. They didn't know if anyone would join us and were totally blown away when over 200 of you turned out. So guess what? They're doing it again!
On 14th October you are invited to join us in a walk through Warley Woods, starting at the fountain at 6pm. Bring your own torch.
Grenfell fire tragedy: 'An amazing outpouring of kindness and generosity'
A Baptist minister has spoken of the relief efforts following the fire at Grenfell Tower – including those of his own congregation. Westbourne Park Baptist Church in West London is around a mile from Grenfell Tower. ‘Members of the congregation know people who live or have lived in the tower, teach children who live there and are caring for those taken to hospital,’ said its pastor Jem Sewell. 'As a result, there is a huge impact on us and a desire to help.’
The EU Referendum campaign was, at times, bitter and divisive. People on both sides felt misrepresented and misunderstood. Many of us are uncertain about what the future holds. The new Conversation Welcome resource is designed to bring people, with their many different thoughts, hopes and concerns, together and help churches explore the important underlying questions about the sort of society we wish to live in and wish to leave to future generations. Download a copy.
Chance Glassworks 2017
See the 3D representation of the thrilling world-class regeneration project at the famous Chance Brothers Glass Works in Smethwick where the lighthouse lenses that lit the world’s sea lanes, the opal glass of Big Ben and so many other pioneering innovations in glass where made.
Gambling is for losers
Birmingham was recently named second worst in England for gambling machine losses - with one man blowing £200k.
Birmingham punters lost more than £30million in just one year on a machine labelled the crack cocaine of gambling.
The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have become a huge revenue driver for bookmakers, offering video roulette and other sports to bet cash on.
When will we deal with this menace on our high street?
Report dumped rubbish (fly-tipping)
Fly-tipping is illegally dumped waste. It might be household rubbish, garden waste, mattresses, construction materials (like bricks and rubble) or electrical items (fridges and freezers).
If you are worried that the fly-tipping is a danger to the public, for example if it is blocking a road or there are dumped chemicals, please call the council immediately on 0121 368 1177. Their opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 5.30pm.
If it's not dangerous, please fill in the form.
The Big Spring Clean
One of Sandwell's most popular community campaigns, is back for 2017. Sandwell Council, its waste partner Serco and local charity Litter Watch will be running the initiative again this year. The multi-award winning campaign takes place across the borough's six towns and is inspired and led by the borough's residents. Hundreds of locations have benefited from The Big Spring Clean thanks to the commitment of thousands of volunteers in recent years.
Events can be focussed around any of the following:
Supporting local wildlife
A place to call home?
Britain is facing a housing crisis – a claim which few people dispute. This has many symptoms that stretch across the whole of society. For some it means no home at all. Since 2010 there has been a steady increase in the number of families accepted as homeless and in the numbers living in temporary accommodation. More recently the number of people sleeping on the street has also begun to increase. More and more families (especially families with children) are forced to live in overcrowded housing. 'A place to call home?‘ is a new resource on housing; a set of six bible studies for small group discussion focusing on a range of issues around housing. It is produced by our four churches in collaboration with Housing Justice and Scottish Churches Housing Action.
In this month’s Bearwood e-Bulletin we feature some of Ken Harrison’s wonderful pictures looking at the progress made inside and outside Lightwoods House and Julia Morris describes some of the features of the restoration.
We're moving MPs!
Under new plans to re-draw parliamentary boundaries, Abbey Ward (where our church is sited) is set to merge with the neighbouring Birmingham constituency of Edgbaston. The proposals drawn up by the Boundary Commission are part of a government scheme to reduce the number of parliamentary constituencies to 600, from the existing 650. Consultation on the proposals closed on 5 December 2016, but in the spring of 2017, you will be able to see and comment on what others have said. In the meantime you can still view the initial proposals by clicking here.
A brand new website from Sandwell Council showcasing the very best that Sandwell has to offer has been launched.
Discover Sandwell is packed full of information about living, working, enjoying and exploring the borough.
It includes details about great places to visit – from beautiful and award-winning green flag parks and nature reserves to interesting historical sites and museums, and from an exciting mix of shops to fantastic places to socialise.
Beyond BeliefCARE has developed with the Think Tank Respublica a major new report on religious liberty in the UK that documents the many legal cases that have in the last 15 years of so seen the marginalisation of Christians and Christianity, from the shutting down of Catholic adoption agencies to the recent Ashers judgment against a Christian baker who refused to produce a cake with a message supporting same sex marriage, and the cost to society of allowing this process to continue unchecked. It sets out a series of public policy solutions, at the heart of which is the provision of greater space for the manifestation of religious belief through the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation.’ Click here for the report summary.
Help us open people’s eyes to trafficking
Human trafficking happens all around you. People are forced into prostitution, begging and labour. Don't shut your eyes to this crime against humanity. Learn the signs and what to do at http://www.dontshutyoureyes.org
Seeing the Olympics from the inside
Like many millions across the globe, Adam Pengilly can’t wait for Rio 2016. The Olympics are billed as the greatest show on earth and if you are a sports fan it is not hard to see why. However, while most of us will be glued to our TVs, often in the early hours of the morning, very few will get to see the games from the inside. That is the position Adam occupies as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Member. Read more.
Love your Neighbour
Over many generations people have made the UK their home, built it up and found
they can belong here. But we cannot take our diversity for granted. Loneliness is at epidemic levels, prejudice threatens to pull communities apart.We cannot love our neighbour if we do not know our neighbour, understand them, their culture and identity. The 'love your neighbour' campaign is owned by us all and seeks to draw people together and to believe the very best for our cities and regions. So go… know your neighbour… love your neighbour.
Made for Goodness: A faithful response to the refugee crisis
What has caused the refugee crisis?
What does scripture have to say about movement and migration?
Does Brexit affect our responsibilities to protect refugees?
‘Made for Goodness’ from the Praxis team explores all of these questions, unpacking the origins, facts and realities of the humanitarian catastrophe that is affecting 65million people worldwide. Use it to discuss and stimulate debate about what more the UK needs to do to address this crisis.
We are also invited to write to the new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, reminding her of the UK’s legal and ethical duty to protect and support refugees in light of Brexit. We want to see Ms Rudd make clear that the UK is committed to extending its resettlement targets to include non-Syrians, and to make special provisions for at least 3000 of an estimated 90,000 unaccompanied minors who find themselves vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation at the hands of criminal gangs. Download the postcard.
After the Referendum
Across our communities, including in churches, some will face the decision to leave the European Union with dismay; others with celebration. Together we are facing a time of significant change. Whatever view we might hold about the referendum result, this is a time to recognise that the wellbeing of the UK and its people does not solely depend on its place in the European Union. Here is a prayer from the Joint Public Issues Team called 'A Recommitment to the Common Good':
God of every nation and people,
At this historic moment we pray for all who are affected by the decision that we have made.
Whatever differences this has revealed within our own society,
may they not eclipse what we have in common.
Where the narratives of political debate have caused harm and division
help us to reclaim the true values of our shared humanity.
Where exaggeration and distortion have generated suspicion and fear
may truth and honesty restore hope and goodness.
We pray for all the nations of Europe
that you will help us to find ways of living and working together
to pursue the mercy and justice that you require.
We recommit ourselves – together – to the values of your eternal Kingdom
and pray that along with all people
we might help your world become more as you intended.
The threat to the steel industry and role of government policy: a short article by Steve Hucklesby of JPIT.
Widespread closure of Tata’s steel mills would have a devastating impact on the social and economic fabric of communities in South Wales, Scunthorpe, Sheffield and elsewhere.
The Workplace Chaplaincy Mission UK has also provided a reflection from Revd Bob Paul recalling the human impact of previous closures.
Human rights legislation over the past 70 years has arguably resulted in some of the greatest advances for human society. People are able to seek protection against torture and discrimination, and are recognised to have rights to life, family relationships, freedom of religion and privacy. Yet at the same time there are clearly many people in the world who have these rights violated on a daily basis. The Government is looking at introducing a British Bill of Rights.
In this context, this resource is offered to help churches to reflect on what human rights meant to Christians and to the society we live in. This resource can be used for individual or group study as the question of the future British approach to human rights grows in importance.
This film by Applecart in support of #Enough introduces us to a disgruntled farm worker and his boss. Their conversation about pay is paralleled by a conversation between a member of parliament and a journalist who are discussing the employment and the benefits system. It’s inspired by one of Jesus’ parables in which a landowner hires people to tend his vineyard and pays them all the same amount, regardless of how long they’ve worked. The parable and the film raise questions of fairness and rivalry. The following conversation points are guidelines.
80 of the most powerful people in the world met in Paris to forge a global deal on climate change. We want to see a Big Shift away from dirty fossil fuels that are hurting poor communities and a Big Shift towards clean renewable energy. Find out how you can be part of tackling climate change by joining the Big Shift.
“Sunday shopping hours represent a valued compromise allowing people to shop, retailers to trade and shop workers to spend time with their families. Polling from February 2015 showed that 76% of the public support existing Sunday trading hours and don't want to see any change.” A letter to the Prime Minister from the Keep Sunday Special Campaign is supported by a range of small business organisations, churches and shop workers to deliver three simple facts; the public support the existing compromise, Sundays are special day for families and communities, and any change in the law will damage small businesses.
David Cameron intends to further liberalise Sunday trading laws by amending the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill. Although we don’t know exactly when, there will be a vote on this issue at some point in the next few weeks before the Cities Bill completes its passage through Parliament. More information here.
Few cities are responding as proactively to the refugee crisis as Birmingham. The work of the Methodist Church in Birmingham, combined with the efforts of Citizens UK, has secured 50 homes for refugees in the city.
This result came after meetings with Birmingham City Council at both specifically organised events and City Council meetings.
Around the table representatives from the Birmingham Methodist Circuit, Mutath Muslim Trust, Newman’s University, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, Aspire Muslim Youth/Community Group, UNISON, St. Chads and St. Francis Catholic Schools, Keel University, Birmingham University, HOPE projects and Citizens UK.
Work is under way to welcome refugees, not only in Birmingham but also in others across the West Midlands including Coventry, Stratford-upon-Avon, Redditch and Wolverhampton.
The DWP is institutionalising food banks – let’s make them unnecessary instead. The Hungry for Change report calls for a concerted strategy for tackling the issue of food poverty and household food insecurity, and outlines 14 recommendations for action. The DWP should focus on addressing the underlying problems that lead to food bank usage – not just benefit delays, errors and sanctions, but low pay and the poverty premium.
Meanwhile, the Bible has quite a lot to say about food, who has it and who hasn't, who deserves it and who doesn't. Its prophets would have been brilliant in our House of Commons. In its most political collection of books, history, letters, speeches, prayers, prophetic oracles and stories, it is positively stuffed with food and people who need it. Read more here.
The Welfare Reform and Work Bill is currently passing through Parliament and will lead to substantial cuts to family incomes – especially lone parents and other families with children. We are particularly concerned that the Bill also seeks to disconnect the basic needs of a family from the benefits it can receive as this has the potential of leaving many families is severe hardship.
- It removes Child Poverty targets from law and any reference to poverty as a concept related to income, replacing this with “Life Chances” – which are not measured in relation to parental income.
- Single parents with a 3 year-old will be treated as Jobseekers, expected to take an appropriate job, subject to sanctions etc.
- “Work allowance” in universal credit, where people could earn a small amount without having their benefit affected, to encourage people to take any casual work offered, is to be abolished for most claimants.
- There will be no equivalent of tax credits after the second child, including families who have not needed to claim tax credits before. These will be todays larger families whose parents have become sick, unemployed or separated.
This month will see the return of the Kings Head clock on Saturday 24th November.
The clock was one of Birmingham’s prized “Chamberlain clocks”, installed outside the Kings Head coaching station in 1900. The maker of the original clockwork drive unit was Arthur Walker (1871-1948) whose gear cutting machine and other accessories are kept at The Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry, Newall Street.
With its gas-lit dials and horse trough, the clock helped to service and monitor first the trams, and then the buses, plying the routes through Bearwood and Harborne. When the King’s Head became a major stop-off point on the Outer Circle bus route in the 1920s, such a clock was much in demand. In 1971 it was removed for road widening, and for the last few decades has stood looking slightly forlorn and out of place in a shopping mall in the City centre. Its inscription 'Tempus fugit' is a Latin expression meaning "time flees", more commonly translated as "time flies".
In a joint statement on the situation in Calais, the leaders of four churches including our Baptist Union of Great Britain say 'As churches with members directly involved in assisting the people in Calais seeking sanctuary in the UK, we believe it is important that public debate is grounded in values of compassion and that decisions are made on the basis of facts. In recent weeks discussion has increasingly appeared to be based on the principle of self-interest. Our faith instructs us not to fear the stranger, but to love our neighbour. We view the situation with growing alarm and anger.' Read more here.
Hiroshima Commemoration Birmingham
St Philip Cathedral, Birmingham
On 6th August 1945 an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan, marking the first ever use of nuclear weapons in human conflict. 3 days later, on 9th August, a second device was used to attack the city of Nagasaki. Sunday 9th August 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of these bombings. Koko Kondo, daughter of a Methodist Minister, was just 8 months old when the bomb struck Hiroshima. Read her story here.
You can also sign up to support the UK multi-faith statement on nuclear weapons 2015.
Trowels at the ready! The second Bearwood biannual Front Gardens
Competition is officially open. The deadline for entries will be 15 July 2015, after which a map of all entries will be provided so you can follow the trail. The first competition in 2013 saw neighbours talking more, wandering the neighbourhood admiring the new gardening talent on show and generally helping our Bearwood to bloom.
The dust has settled and we now have a new Parliament with many new faces. Your Member of Parliament (MP) has the opportunity to influence decisions at the heart of government and she or he is your link to engaging Parliament in the issues that you care about. There will, no doubt, be many local concerns you would like to raise with your MP, but if you would like suggestions, then here are some of the issues which the leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland raised in an open letter to the Prime Minister:
- our concerns about the damage caused, particularly to vulnerable people, through the benefits sanctions system and our call for the government to undertake a full review
- our hope that the Government will consider a deferral of a decision on Trident in 2016 to enable the UK to play its full part in new multilateral disarmament initiatives
- our concern about Christian and religious minorities facing persecution and asking the Government to make freedom of religion or belief a human rights priority in all areas of foreign policy.
The Internet isn’t just for tweens and young socialites. In fact, a large population of Internet users are 50 and older, utilizing the Web for social media, shopping and even education. Take a look at why the stereotype of the not-so-tech-savvy Baby Boomer is more than faulty.
Poverty and inequality will be the most important issue facing the UK for evangelicals considering who to vote for at the general election in May.While immigration is the issue of highest concern for the majority of voters, the Evangelical Alliance's Faith in Politics? report shows 32 per cent ranked poverty and inequality top. The survey, which questioned more than 2,000 evangelicals on their political views, also found evangelicals are more engaged with politics than the average person –94 per cent answered that they are "certain" or "likely" to vote.
A new Guide to Using Prepayment Meters will help people with prepayment meters to avoid paying unfairly high prices for their energy. Prepayment meters (PPMs) charge higher tariffs for gas and electricity than credit meters, meaning that people on low incomes end up paying a ‘Poverty Premium’ for their energy. The Guide is designed to help people avoid these pitfalls and reduce their energy costs.
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, in collaboration with a number of ecumenical partners, has produced a ‘2020 Vision of the Good Society.’ This discussion document sets out a positive vision for the kind of ‘Good Society’ we would like to see in 2020 – the end of the next Parliament – rooted in Christian values and theology. This document is specifically designed for use in Hustings events and includes suggested questions to use as discussion starters with candidates in relation to five key ‘Good Society’ themes.
More election resources from Christian Aid, the Joint Public Issues Team from Baptist Union, and the full Bishops letter which has been much in the news.
The vast majority of parents try to build normal lives for their children, but too often unmanageable debt wrecks their efforts. A simple setback can push families into The Debt Trap. The Childrens Society report, The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children, shows that personal debt has risen steadily for years. For some families – particularly those on low incomes - debt repayments and creditor demands can spiral into unmanageable situations that can devastate lives. Repayments have forced nine out of 10 parents in problem debt to cut back on essential items for their children within the last year.
Click here for a response to the “Consultation on the Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17" on behalf of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.
A major report ‘Emergency Use Only‘ was published recently by the Church of England, Oxfam
and the Trussell Trust.
It outlines the reality of 'Foodbank Britain':
Those receiving emergency food from food banks rose from 128,697 in 2011-12 to 913,138 in 2013-14.
Many food bank users faced multiple challenges, including ill-health, relationship breakdown, mental health problems or substantial caring responsibilities.
The report is further evidence of the impact of a deepening web of poverty that increasing numbers of people find themselves caught in the poverty of Materials, Relationships and Identity.
Saturday 1st November sees the launch of Pray and Fast for the Climate
– a campaign calling on Christians to pray and fast on the first day
of every month until December 2015 when Paris will host the 21st UN
Climate Change summit. Find out why here.
Our local councilors have published some proposals for improvements along the length of Bearwood Road include items like improving the physical environment, making things easier and safer for pedestrians, and some items like new waste bins, street lighting and general maintenance improvements. The draft of proposals can be downloaded here and there is some more detail on some maps here.
Meanwhile there has been a lot of speculation about what will be happening in Lightwoods Park, what elements are due to close, and when. Here, Cherie O'Sullivan, Project Officer, provides some of the answers.
“Fraud and Error in the Benefits System“ from the DWP Select Committee points out that much less money is lost to fraud than to error but that much more attention is given to fraud. It also notes there is a tendency in the press to use numbers for the levels of fraud and error together but talk about them as if the number refers only to fraud This link gives you an idea of the relative costs, and the wildly exaggerated perception of benefit fraud that these distortions encourage. This one puts the level of benefit fraud in context, comparing the cost of the abuse of the benefits system with the cost of the abuse of the tax system.
We believe that every life has value from its beginning at conception to its natural end. With renewed efforts to change the law underway in Scotland and expected soon in Westminster, now is a crucial time to understand the implications of introducing assisted suicide into Britain. Live and Let Live is CARE’s campaign to inform and equip you to take action on the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Click here for their latest resource exploring what the Bible has to say about assisted suicide and euthanasia. Written by Dr Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, it is an accessible and user-friendly booklet which will help you and your friends explore the issues involved.
‘It is hard to understand British society at the time of World War 1 if you subtract the Bible from it.’ (Dr Michael Snape, Reader in Religion, War and Society at the University of Birmingham).
The Bible was a defining influence on British culture across class divides. From the public school to the Sunday school, from art and music to political debate, the Bible was in the blood of British people, according to the Bible Society.
GreedCo is Traidcraft’s tongue-in-cheek take on the well-known supermarket chains that dominate where millions of consumers shop across Europe. But the problems these giant retailers create are very real and their pursuit of profit comes at a high human cost:
•Long hours of physically demanding, labour intensive work.
•Hazardous working conditions shown to cause a wide range of health problems.
•Low pay – it would take a worker in an Indian cashew factory a day and a half to make enough money to buy a bag of UK supermarket cashew nuts.
Don’t think much of this deal? Then please take action to demand tougher rules for supermarkets from European policy makers.
Download our GreedCo leaflet to find out more: please fill out the ‘campaign coupon’ against supermarket bullying and they'll be handed in to decision-makers in Brussels.
The CAP Money Course: a revolutionary money management course that teaches people budgeting skills and a simple, cash-based system that really works. This course will help anyone to get more in control of their finances, so they can budget, save and prevent debt. Bearwood Baptist Church are running the CAP Money Course starting Monday 12 May. If you are interested, please contact us.
We are the new home of 'Bearwood Handmade', by Crafty Muthas. The dates for the upcoming fairs are: Saturday, 5th April & Saturday, 7th June As advertised on the Crafty Muthas website: "The Hall is really nice, freshly painted, large enough for 22 tables and we’ll have the opportunity to use the kitchen and a smaller room, plus outside space. We’ve been welcomed with open arms and we’re really looking forward to starting afresh in this new space."
Many churches and organizations are working hard to help people who are facing the challenges that come with poverty. They
rely on volunteers to be able to give the help that is much needed. Thrive Together Birmingham has launched a volunteer recruitment website as part of its work supporting churches to tackle poverty together.
From slave to minister: The remarkable life of a freed slave who became Britain’s first black Baptist minister has been made into a short film. The Revd Peter Thomas Stanford was born on a plantation in Virginia and kidnapped by Native Americans. But from these unpromising beginnings he would go on to become an educated and respected justice campaigner who crossed the Atlantic and thrived in Birmingham as minister of Highgate Baptist Church. His story, with echoes of the Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave, has now been made into a short film by History West Midlands.
Premier’s Not for Sale campaign is aimed at ending modern-day slavery in the UK, and you can help by getting involved. In May, a new Modern Slavery Bill will be presented to the British Parliament. By signing their petition and getting others to join with you, together we can encourage your MP to support this Bill. By simply adding your signature today you could help free someone from modern-day slavery.
A Baptist minister is supporting a community at the heart of the controversial Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street. The Revd Steve Chalke chaired a public meeting on Wednesday for residents of Winson Green in Birmingham. Following the meeting it was announced that a live Question Time-style debate would take place at the end of the series on 3 February, hosted by Channel 4 and chaired by Richard Bacon.
Behind cold doors: Millions of families in Britain are having to choose ‘to heat or to eat’ at serious risk to their children’s health. According to a new survey by the Children’s Society alongside YouGov and the Mirror:
- 5 million families are likely to turn their heating down this winter because they can’t afford it.
- 3.6 million children thought that their home was too cold last winter.
- 3 million families said they will likely have to cut back on food so they can pay their energy bills this winter.
- Half a million families will likely have to take a loan out this winter in order to help them with the heating costs.
The Children’s Society are asking people to email their MP and ask the Government to ensure all families in poverty automatically receive the Warm Home Discount of £135 per year. Currently, it is at the energy companies’ discretion whether an individual family receives this.
There are people who are destitute in today’s Britain. The phenomenal growth of foodbanks has happened not because there is ‘infinite demand for free food,’ as Lord Freud put it last July – but because thousands of people have recognised something needs to be in place to fill gaps left by our creaking benefits system. Without them, families are starving. Poverty & Homelessness Action Week (25 January - 2 February) is an opportunity for Britain’s churches to show solidarity with people who are pushed to the edge of society through poverty or homelessness. This year we have turned to Proverbs for inspiration: “Speak up for the rights of all who are destitute”.
We believe everybody in this country has the right to a warm, dry home that they can afford to heat and power. Action to end fuel poverty will not only improve people’s lives but also help tackle climate change. This campaign calls upon the Government and the political parties to commit to the following pledges to meet this goal:
1. Carry out a national programme to improve the heating and insulation standards of our homes such that they reach the standards of new homes built today.
2. Commit to improving the homes of all low income and fuel poor households to the standard by 2016.
3. Oblige fuel companies to provide 'social tariffs' to low income and fuel poor consumers - tariffs that offer a better deal than tariffs offered to ‘better off’ consumers.
4. Improve the incomes of low income households and make sure all eligible households claim the benefits and tax credits to which they are entitled.
5. Compile a register of the energy efficiency standards of all homes in this country, as part of a detailed plan which shows how the Government will meet the pledges.
Don’t forget Syria: UK Christians are sharing hope in war-torn and devastated Syria through BMS World Mission grants. Violence in Syria continues to displace thousands but, as the situation deteriorates, BMS grants are providing a lifeline for those affected. Enabling the distribution of critical aid such as food, detergents, mattresses and blankets, UK Christians are comforting countless Syrian families. While a vast number of those affected remain in Syria, unsure of their future, increasing numbers are forced into exile in order to preserve the lives of loved ones.
City of Sanctuary is a national movement of people and community groups committed to creating a culture of welcome and safety, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. The Birmingham City Council has passed a resolution agreeing to “explore the appetite to achieve City of Sanctuary status”. Please sign a resolution of support.
Half a million people in the UK are now reliant on emergency food aid. The social safety net is failing to ensure that families have access to sufficient income to feed themselves. The single most common reason for people to require food aid is delayed or withdrawn benefit payments. The benefit sanctions regime has gone too far, and is leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale. Click here to call for an enquiry into links between benefit sanctions and food poverty. Meanwhile, Smethwick Foodbank is currently low on stocks due to high demand. Please continue to leave donations of food in the box in the entrance hall.
Recent major health reports show that Britain faces an enormous burden from alcohol, with death rates from liver disease rising by 65% over the past 20 years. The Alcohol Health Alliance of over 30 medical bodies, charities and experts on the harm caused by alcohol misuse, including the Baptist Union of Great Britain, wrote to the Prime Minister to urge him to implement the Minimum Unit Price policy. An e-petition to the PM is still live and can be accessed here.
Churches in the UK respond significantly to the social challenges in their local communities. Hours spent by volunteers in UK Churches on local social action initiatives have increased by 36% in two years to 98M hours.In spite of the current economic problems, funds given by UK Church members that were spent on social action initiatives have increased by 19% in two years to £342M.There has been a rapid diversification by churches - the average number of social action initiatives undertaken by a Church has risen from 5.7 to 8.2.Please note these figures only cover Church initiatives. It does not include voluntary work by Christians in the community that is not initiated by a Church e.g. work by local charities.
Traditional British social divisions of upper, middle and working class seem out of date in the 21st Century, no longer reflecting modern occupations or lifestyles. The BBC teamed up with sociologists from leading universities to analyse the modern British class system. They surveyed more than 161,000 people and came up with a new model made up of seven groups. To find out where you fit in use this calculator.
What if the church saw blood and organ donation as part of its giving? Flesh And Blood is a groundbreaking new campaign launched specifically calling on the church to increase the number of blood and organ donors in the UK. The initiative aims to profile the need for more blood and organ donors and encourage regular blood donation as an alternative way of personal giving within churches.
Let’s Grow Black Country is an exciting new initiative funded by Big Lottery Local Food Scheme. The scheme aims to support people of all ages and abilities to get involved in gardening and food growing wherever they are. Support from our team is offered across the Black Country.
Who is to blame for rising levels of poverty and homelessness in the UK today? What is worrying is that many are blaming the victims. We won’t tackle poverty and homelessness by blaming those who are poor and homeless. Please join us in Poverty & Homelessness Action Week 2013, and call for an end to this blame game.
The Laughing Sole is a comedy club working under a cleaner, less offensive ethos. It is not just about the content of material being more life-affirming but also the feel of the club as well. The Laughing Sole offers a friendly and hospitable environment for a great night of comedy. On the first Wednesday of the month (with the exception of the months that start on a wednesday) they meet at The Public in West Bromwich.
Housing in our country is in crisis. The failure of successive Governments to build sufficient affordable homes; house prices, mortgages and rents increasing faster than wages; the pain of the recession being made worse by spending cuts. Homelessness is increasing as are the number of people living in overcrowded or insecure homes. Have we gone too far in treating houses as mere “bricks and mortar”, as “a step up”? More than bricks and mortar? is a resource for churches to reflect on the moral, theological, political and practical challenges of the housing crisis.
Looking for a trader? The Tradewell in Sandwell Register covers all aspects of home improvement and repair work, including building, carpentry, external property repairs, decorating and home security.
Christian Aid and Church Action on Poverty are joining forces to take the campaign for Tax Justice on the road, with a seven-week Tax Justice Bus Tour visiting the West Midlands on 29-30 August. In an age of austerity and spending cuts, tax avoidance is morally unacceptable: tax dodging costs lives. It effectively amounts to robbing the poor – in the UK and in poor countries– of the money that should be spent on education, health and welfare. Contact: John Cooper.
High Streets First is campaigning to put local democracy before betting shops. Right now bookies are clustering in some of our poorest areas where they are often more common than corner shops and post offices. They can fuel debt, addiction and put off other businesses from moving in. But current planning regulations treat bookmakers in exactly the same way as banks and building societies, leaving councils with no meaningful say over their numbers. The campaign supports the government's own independent review which gives local people the right to choose what their high streets look like. If you agree, please sign the petition. Giving the go-ahead for more gaming machines on the high street threatens to trigger a surge in problem gambling, say Church groups as parliament reveals its report into gambling, The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?
Restrictions on Sunday trading are to be relaxed for the eight weeks of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Government has said that this is just a temporary measure to ensure Britain is "open for business" during the Games. But there are concerns that this move could be the first step along the path towards completely scrapping the restrictions on Sunday trading. Churches, unions and others have spoken in favour of maintaining the current trading laws in order to keep Sunday as a time for families, rest and relationships: see this briefing for more.
Are you interested in the people, places, things and events that helped shape our heritage in this area then why not join the Smethwick Local History Society? We were formed in 1984 and have just celebrated our 25th anniversary with, amongst other things, a visit to the Houses of Parliament and the production of a commemorative coaster. We pride ourselves on being one of the oldest and most active local history societies in the region. We usually meet at Bearwood Baptist Church on the second Wednesday of each month.
Sandwell may not be the first place you would look if you are thinking about food growing or farming. However, Sandwell has over 1600 allotment plots, a working Dairy Farm, a model Victorian Working Farm and Walled Garden, a community garden and a therapeutic garden. Sandwell Allotment Gardeners Association is a voluntary body originally set up to help advise the Town and Borough Councils on matters relating to allotments. It actively promotes allotment gardening as an inclusive activity, regardless of the age, sex, race, creed or disability of aspiring gardeners.
The rich in the UK currently pay a lower proportion of their income in tax than the poor: although high earners pay higher rates of income tax, taxes like VAT and fuel tax account for a higher proportion of expenditure for lower earners.Tax avoidance is big business, and as we’re constantly reassured, is ‘entirely legal.’ But it’s hardly moral. Every pound avoided in tax is a pound less to spend on childcare, social care, health or education. We can Close the Tax Gap...change attitudes, and press for a tax system in which businesses and wealthy individuals pay their fair share, and regulating or closing tax havens. In It's Time to Close the Gap: the Basic Case, 11 prominent Christians were asked to reflect on different aspects of the gap between rich and poor, what can be done to address them, and why the church must get involved.
A YouGov survey has revealed that 61% of UK adults believe that excessive drinking is a problem (from minor to major) in their neighbourhood.The survey, carried out on behalf of The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, asked people to judge the
effects of alcohol on the area within walking distance from their home, or where they use local facilities.The three Churches have expressed concerns about the increasing availability of cheap alcohol and the effect that this might be having on communities across Britain.
Britons are less honest than they were a decade ago, according to research from a new Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity, based at the University of Essex.The online survey, which repeated questions asked in the year 2000 in a large-scale study of citizenship, reveals the public are now more tolerant towards a range of misdemeanours such as having an extramarital affair, drink driving or failing to leave a contact after damaging a parked car.
The Safer Sandwell Partnership's annual review of its work to make the borough a safer, cleaner place includes reports progress on crime levels, the Midlands' first 'premises closure' order, a national charity that has taken over Sandwell's drug and alcohol services, a reduction in the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time, and a new Sandwell Police headquarters.
Today, there are many financial products that take into account ethical, social or environmental issues.However, not everyone is aware of the range of both modern and traditional options now available.National Ethical Investment Week is a cooperative campaign to encourage people to consider green and ethical options for their savings and investments;
Our own Catholic comedian Frank Skinner has called for the Church to go on the offensive against atheism. In an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral, Skinner criticised atheists for ‘looking down their nose’ at Christians, compared atheists with global warming deniers and warned that secularism is ‘a threat to the salvation of millions’.
A Bearwood Wiki site, a kind of anyone-can-join-in network where you can register and are free to contribute, aims to provide news and promote events in and around Bearwood.
Graham and Pat Wigley from New Life Baptist Church in Birmingham report on life as 'retail chaplains': visiting traders in the shopping centre, discovering how life is for them, listening to their concerns and offering support. Click here.
Tax dodging and avoidance by some companies are estimated to cost poor countries $160 billion each year. Delegates at the Baptist Assembly in Blackpool have voted to campaign against multi-national companies that evade paying tax in
third world countries.
A global culture of financial secrecy allows some unscrupulous firms to dodge tax - and rob poor countries of more than $160bn a year.Christian Aid's Trace the Tax campaign is about getting their money back.
There is so much news that can bring us doubt, fear and worry, so Christian Media Services believe we should buck the trend and focus on stories that can bring us joy, inspiration and encouragement. FaithLivesInBrum is a collection of positive real-life experiences to build bridges between the Christian community and the media.
Abbey neighbourhood police team is working hard to resolve issues and concerns raised by the local community. If you have a specific concern about the neighbourhood in which you live, you can share this information with them here. If you have you had dealings with your local police recently, what sort of service did you receive? Use this site to let local police - and members of the public - know about your experience - good or bad. You don't have to give your name. Remember - your feedback can influence policing in your area.
Crafty Muthas are a bunch of friends who meet regularly in Bearwood to share our love of crafty pursuits and generally inspire each other to be creative. They've launched 'the bearwood tapestry' - a crafty night attracting 30+ craft lovers to a local pub every third Thursday of the month.
Products of Slavery helps you, as consumers, understand the scale of slavery in the global markets and how you can take action to end slave labour.
Do you love Bearwood but think it could be better? Do you dislike bits of Bearwood but have ideas about how to improve it? Use this wiki to share your ideas. Don't be shy.
A blog site has been set up to keep local people updated about developments around Lightwoods Park in Bearwood.
Calthorpe Haven has a Friends group: a much neglected green space in the middle of Bearwood, and a much needed resource for Bearwood Primary as there is no other green space within half a mile of the school.
Some of the leading clothing retailers in the UK had written to the government asking for a change in the law so that big shops could open on Boxing Day, which this year falls on a Sunday. It’s bad enough that shops want to open on Boxing Day anyway, which was traditionally a gift in the form of a day of rest to people in service positions. The Keep Sunday Special Campaign is firmly opposed to this and has now written to the new Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, insisting that the government does not try to change the law.
Now is the time for governments to make the use or possession of nuclear weapons illegal through a new Nuclear Weapons Convention. Now is the time to put all bomb-grade material under international control. Now is the time to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and build a secure future for all. Now is the time to make your voice heard. Sign the petition.
The British Waterways leisure website is packed with information about things to do and places to visit not only on and around our local British Waterways network but on other rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs.
UK-wide research shows that one in 10 people often feel lonely and half think that people are getting lonelier in general. According to a new report released today by the Mental Health Foundation, relationships that are vital to health and well-being are under threat by modern life, which can isolate people from one another and lead to loneliness.
Shami Chakrabarti talks to BMS: Is Christianity under attack in contemporary Britain? Is there a place for public expressions of faith in a society that is becoming increasingly secular? Do issues like homosexuality and religious jewellery or clothing bring some religions into conflict with fundamental human rights?
Industrial Heritage Stronghold has been set up to create physical markers of the disappearing identity of the Black Country, informed and inspired by these sometimes forgotten Industrial communities.
South Asian Concern is for anyone interested in finding out more about South Asians living in the West and the issues they face. You can also explore Asian spirituality, visit our online prayer room, and look at Jesus Christ from a South Asian perspective.
Hope not Hate is a campaign to counter racism and fascism in elections and beyond. They want to make sure that people know the full story about who the BNP are and what they really stand for, providing up to date news, good practice and analysis.Life Beyond Debt: highlighting some of the ways that churches can respond to the economic crisis. With national networks, and local presence, the church is uniquely placed to help those who are struggling with debt, unemployment or other financial pressures.
A worldwide competition for innovation has been won by a teacher running a project at Shireland Academy which encourages open debate between pupils from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.The Bearwood Blog of the Sandwell Abbey Ward councillors, gives residents an opportunity to pass comments on about the items featured.
The West Midlands is one of the areas across the country with significant numbers of people who do not have access to mainstream financial advice, affordable credit or banking. In order to tackle these problems Birmingham City Council established a Financial Inclusion Partnership to tackle the problem of financial exclusion by working in partnership with key organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Consumer Credit Counselling Service, Trading Standards, Job Centre Plus, Credit Unions, Banks and Utilities.
One too many…? outlines the current situation about alcohol misuse and goes on to summarise the measures that are being taken in response. How can we play our part in tackling problems associated with alcohol?
Slavery and the slave trade are connected to the development of Sandwell. Profit from the slave trade is bound up with gun making, chain making, and building the canal network. Commitment to Methodism, Quaker teaching, and the idea of women organising themselves connected Sandwell to the opposition to slavery. Guns, Shackles & Chains is a learning resource for anyone interested in Sandwell's past.
The Skillseeker zone offers information on a variety of services which have been gathered through the help of voluntary and public organisations in Sandwell.
Take Five Café, at Dorothy Parkes Centre, Church Road, Smethwick, has become part of the Community Café network, trying to provide local people with a choice of healthy, fresh and nutritious food at an affordable price. The café is run in an environmentally friendly way, and their menus include regional produce and Fair Trade food.
Credit crunch. Housing crash. Debt. Redundancy. As the recession bites, it’s tempting to hold on extra tight to whatever money we’ve got, and dream of the stuff we can buy when it’s over. But Jesus challenged us not to worry about money, and to look after the needs of others instead. Simplify is a Church response to the recession. For one month, we will live on the amount of money
we would receive if we were on benefits.
We’ll learn how to economise from people who
already live like this, and we’ll give the money we save away to support those who don’t have the choice.
Scene Central is your online guide to what’s on in the West Midlands. From plays to club nights, exhibitions to book groups, it offers the most comprehensive set of arts and cultural listings in the region.
Bearwood Breeze: local services for local people: if we buy our goods and services locally, then there's a better chance that our money will stay within the community...
It's Fruitless: the government is proposing to double the amount of money that can be staked and won on the kind of fruit machines found in Bearwood Road's pubs and amusement arcades. We are very concerned about the possible impact these increases will have on problem gambling: join us in urging the government to reconsider.
Sandwell Volunteer Bureau is your voice about volunteers and volunteering in Sandwell.
Reserve and renew library books, book a squash court, check out planning applications, apply for a school place, report fly tipping: just some of the things you can do with Sandwell Council on line.
Look after yourself. Are you getting your 5 x 30 minutes of exercise a week? There are lots of different ways and places to be active in Sandwell. Love Food Hate Waste: do more to make the most of the food we buy; events and promotions will be held across the Black Country. 70% of smokers say they want to give up. Sandwell Stop Smoking Service is a FREE NHS service who has helped over 1200 people give up since April 2008. EQUIP is an NHS gateway to more quality health and social care information for the West Midlands.
Life Beyond Debt is a response to the current economic crisis. We firmly believe that the Bible is outspoken on issues of poverty and injustice and we want to encourage others to be equally vocal.
Click here for all the latest exciting news and developments from Sandwell Leisure Trust, who run Smethwick Swimming Centre and Hagley Stadium.
Are you in touch with how your shopping choices impact on the people and the planet around you? Take these 10 quick questions to plot your own Ethical Compass.
Ever wonder what heaven will be like? I think it will be like dancing with Matt...
We Are All Born Free: Everybody video from Amnesty about the universal declaration of human rights with Julian Rhind-Tutt.
Get Fair wants to secure the commitment of all major political parties deliver on their
existing commitment to end child poverty by 2020, and to extend this goal to ending
poverty across every generation in the UK.
The Salvation Army has produced The Seeds of Exclusion report in order to understand the indicators in early life which can lead to future problems of social exclusion and to understand the nature, complexity and severity of problems facing people in various regions of the UK.
Options for Life are a registered charity providing a range of day opportunities, leisure, work experience and support services for people with learning disabilities who live in and around Sandwell in the West Midlands.
Thomas organises the Salsa workshops at the Bear Tavern pub function room every Monday at 8pm: "it's a fun exercise class with music".
Take the Future Generator quiz: a game to look at the effect of everyone's attitudes and lifestyle choices and predicts four likely scenarios for city living in the future; while its about London, it applies to all UK Cities.
One Small Barking Dog at the Custard Factory in Birmingham is an arts and media complex that keeps us very connected to emerging culture.
Adrian Goldberg is The Stirrer: news that matters, campaigns that count for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond.
Birmingham Alive the number one guide to concerts, music, gigs, theatre, & what's on in Birmingham UK this week.
Climate Change in Our World: a video demonstrates a new Google Earth layer showing potential temperature change and its impacts during the 21st century. Meanwhile, My Global Impact helps you to calculate how much carbon dioxide you emit, find ways to reduce it, then share what you have to protect poor people from the devastating impact of climate change.
Red2Black is a brand new campaign to encourage and support you in tackling debt issues in your community.
In Transit: stopping the trade in people: watch a short video about work in Albania and Birmingham featuring the 'Cuddles' brothel in Hagley Road.
The Still Human Still Here campaign is dedicated to highlighting the plight of tens of thousands of refused asylum seekers who are being forced into abject poverty in an attempt to drive them out of the country.
Find It In Sandwell: a FREE business networking website that keeps Sandwell organisations in touch with the latest business opportunities, supply and buying needs.
The Love Food, Hate Waste campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce the amount of food that we throw away, and how by doing some easy and practical things in the home we will benefit our purses and the environment.
Eatwell in Sandwell is our local award-winning healthy eating campaign. Through fun activities with school children, support for shopkeepers, and work with community groups, Eatwell makes it easier for people in the Borough to improve their diet and enjoy the benefits of a healthier way of life.
Sandwell Council's guide to where you can get help with problems with Alcohol,Tobacco,and other drugs.
Abortion: the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, expected to be introduced into Parliament after the Queen's Speech on 6th November, will open up the entire 1967 Abortion Act to amendment. Pro-choice MPs have pledged to liberalize the law and intend to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act this autumn with a push to bring in 'abortion on request' in the first three months of pregnancy.
Pressures faced by those in their 20s & 30s:
a summary of the survey ‘Your thoughts on being 20 or 30 something’ carried out by 2030vision.
IndependentAge helps older people on low incomes to live with dignity and peace of mind by providing a regular extra income, grants for emergencies, equipment to aid independence, the support and friendship of our volunteers, and nursing and residential care homes.
Staying active as you get older can improve your health and quality of life. Just 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five times a week can make a vital difference. Best of all, you can get your 30 minutes through simple, everyday activities.
The Black Country Bugle: 'the voice of the Black Country'.
Agewell has for 10 years supported and enabled older people in Sandwell to have a voice in the decisions that affect them: from transport to health, libraries to social care, parks to ‘meals on wheels.’
Find It In Sandwell: local products and services sourced from 1000's of local businesses, what other businesses in Sandwell are currently on the lookout for, and useful links for relevant advice for your business.
Abbey Ward Neighbourhood Forum is your opportunity to raise issues around anti-social behaviour and environmental issues in Bearwood and see something done. Representatives from West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, Sandwell Council and Sandwell Homes are there to listen and take action (meetings held once a quarter).
The Money Secret Adult Education Course: face your finance fears, discover the secrets to debt-free living, avoid common costly mistakes, regain control of your finances and become the master of your own destiny.
ministry for peace is an organisation working for the creation of a Ministry for Peace within government and an independent civil society body working alongside it.
After 3 years hard work by campaigners around the world, governments at the UN have voted in favour of a resolution to start work on an Arms Trade Treaty.
2007 is the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Today slavery still affects millions of people around the world (and in Bearwood). Join the Fight for Freedom as part of a movement to end slavery and sex trafficking today.
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough. Local meetings are organised by the Smethwick Town Committee, who have produced a local action plan.
Local MP, John Spellar, MP for Warley
European Parliament members for West Midlands
Write to Them facility to help you contact your political representatives
You Gov polling organization for people's views on political issues of the day