Sunday, 21 January 2018

That was the Church that Was: A Look at Denmark













That was the Church that Was: Dane Law

Linda Woodhead is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University. She is the co-author of “That Was the Church That Was: How the Church of England Lost the English People.” 

I’ve been reading the book, and while it is full of gossip, the sociological explanations seem to be facile, and not standing up to the evidence. But what is the evidence? Here is some of it, from an interview, she gave in November 2016:

“The Church of England's own statistics, published late last month, show attendance falling relentlessly by 1% a year, and funerals declining even faster - down 30% since 2005. Today only about 1% of the population (750,000) are in one of its churches on Sunday, and fewer than one in three have an Anglican funeral.”

In her narrative of decline, she makes the following comparison with the Danish Church

“Church leaders like to blame ‘secularization’ but a glance at the Church of England's sister churches in Scandinavia shows this can't be the whole story.”

“Take the Church of Denmark, a fellow Reformation church integral to the project of nation-building and existing today in the context of an affluent liberal democracy. Its decline is far slower than the Church of England's, with over three-quarters of Danes still choosing to pay church tax, 83% having a Church funeral and two-thirds of Danish babies baptised.”

Her thesis is that by doing things wrong on an organisational and managerial level, the Church of England has declined more than the Danish Church.

But dig beneath the surface of the Church of Denmark, and a very different picture begins to emerge. This rather undermines her thesis, as it demonstrates that allegiance is only skin-deep, and it is beginning to decay just as rapidly as the Church of England.

The Independent in 2016 reports:

Thousands of people have left the Church of Denmark following a nationwide advertising campaign by the country's atheist society. Between April and June, 10,000 people left the church - the highest number of registered withdrawals since 2007. Chairman of the society Anders Stjernholm told Politiken: "We’re pleased that Danes have taken the opportunity to express what they actually want. “We have long seen in surveys that there aren’t that many Danes who are devout Christians.”

In fact, the final statistics show that some 25,000 Danes ceased to be a member of the church in 2016 – of which 35 percent were aged 18-28.

Part of the reason is that baptism confers automatic membership of the church in Denmark.

“All Danish citizens automatically become members of the Church of Denmark when they are baptised and can withdraw by written application to their parish office or by joining another faith.”

This is however a small number in terms of church membership, but far more significant is the decline in baptisms. CHP Post reports on figures from the Church Ministry that:

“The figures reveal that 62.6 percent of all new-borns in Denmark were christened in 2014 – a 1.3 percent drop from the year before and a considerable decline since 1990, when 80.6 percent were baptised.”

The reasons are seen by observers as due to lifestyle choices rather than anything the Church is doing:

“Research has also showed that younger people are less likely to feel connected to the Danish Church and its rituals. More and more children are making their own decisions now. ‘Many parents refuse to make a choice regarding religion for their children,’ said Trolle. ‘Most of the parents that I spoke to, in connection with the survey produced by theologian Karen Marie Leth-Nissen and myself, said the child’s right to choose was most important.’”

As “The Local DK” website reports:

“As of the first quarter of 2016, there were just under 4.4 million members of the Church, amounting to 76.9 percent of the population. Ten years ago, 83.1 percent of Danes were members.”

It also notes that “as a place of worship, attendances have never been lower, with only 10 percent regularly attending church.” That’s 2016. In 2012, “only about 20 percent of members attend regular Sunday services.” That is a huge decline over 4 years.

A result of this cultural shift is that more people in Denmark attend All Saint’s Day rather than Christmas. The most popular service hasn’t been Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday, but rather All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday of November.

“Danish people, following a similar tradition to Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), use the service to remember the passing of their loved ones.”

A recent Epinion survey on behalf of national broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) reveals that religion means little to most Danes:

“Just 17 percent of the respondents said religion was important to their lives. Fully 49 percent disagreed with the statement that “religion is very important to my life”, and a further 30 percent were ambivalent.”

“The vast majority of the doubters are not religious or atheist at all, but simply don’t care. It’s a growing group – in Denmark and in the rest of the world.”

Yet despite only 17 percent finding religion to be of importance, the survey also notes that 76 percent of Danes are still members of the Church of Denmark. But according to Jacobsen, that’s down to culture, not religion.

“For many Danes, their relationship with the church has more to do with a national identity rather than a religious one,” he said. And clearly that no longer needs church as notional for life rituals.

So despite Linda Woodhead’s comparison, what picture really emerges in Denmark is a church in  decline, buildings being sold off, a decline in numbers of clergy, less baptisms, and even where there are baptisms, this is more of a token rite of passage, more folk religion than Christianity. Membership figures are falling, but within that membership figures – and despite embracing women priests and gay marriage – fewer and fewer people are making a real commitment.


The surface decline appears notionally slower in Denmark than England, but as surveys show, the actual decline is just as prevalent.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Ruach




In these times of strong winds, a poem to reflect on the wildness of nature and the wind in particular. "Ruach" is a Hebrew word meaning wind, spirit, breath. This poem tries to capture all three meanings.

Ruach

Strong winds, and endless rain
The wind blows where it will
Rain as tears, in thunder, pain
But eye of storm, so very still

Stars creep out, a cloudy sky
The wind blows where it will
A world in pain, whistling cry
But this wild song can thrill

Blizzards bringing hail and snow
The wind blows where it will
Sky is black, just fleeting crow
But the sun is rising over hill

The wind blows wild, and never tame
Both bringer of dread, and hearts aflame

Friday, 19 January 2018

A Guidebook to St John in the Oaks Jersey – Part 5

This guidebook is no longer available from the church, so here is a transcription over the next few weeks. Photos are my own.

A Guidebook to St John in the Oaks Jersey – Part 5
7. The Chancel (former North Chapel)



















Above the Vestry door hangs the White Ensign which a previous Rector managed to acquire. In the narrow case below, the flag is the ceremonial drummer's sash of the Royal Hampshire Regiment, now disbanded. It was presented to the army after local subscription in memory of Drummer Colin Clifford, who was killed in Northern Ireland and who now lies buried in St. John's Parish cemetery. "God stills not the drumbeat of sacrifice".



















The broken holy water stoup is somewhat of a mystery, for these were normally positioned to the right of the main door. Perhaps it might have been a piscina from a side-chapel for a confraternity during the Middle Ages. The magnificent oak choir stalls were put in by the Rev. Raymond Hornby in the years immediately before World War II. The screen behind the console of the electronic organ spent five years unassembled on Southampton docks.



















The Romeril Window, installed in 1946, features the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, Christ's Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
















Noteworthy points are the 1946 dress style of the mother and children at the confirmation service and the descending Pentecostal tongues of fire, which are very rarely shown in stained glass.



















The Valpy Easter Window, generally an excellent design, has three examples of "artistic licence" or perhaps lack of attention to detail. Christ, it would seem, is both left-handed and right-handed in giving the benediction, his toes are almost the length of fingers and Mary Magdalene's pony-tail has a distinct colour-problem!














The silver processional cross was given by the congregation to mark the end of the Occupation in 1945. The Bishop's chair is in memory of Captain B. M. Peck, RN.















The reredos of the high altar was designed by the Wareham Guild, a leading English firm of church furnishers. It stands to the memory of Ernest St. John Nicolle, Rector (1891-1937), and it's beauty is best appreciated when, during a late winter's afternoon, its illumination conveys an almost ethereal atmosphere to the gold and blue of the decoration, highlighting the figure of Christ in Majesty.


















To the left of the high altar is a blocked-up door. The date on the outside is 1622 but the door is about 250 years earlier. It cannot be a priest door for these were always on the South side of a chancel. In all probability, it is a mortuary door leading to "God's Acre", the churchyard, which was sited on the North side.

The latest addition to the Church buildings is the purpose-built vestry block erected in 1970 and providing a welcome amenity and meeting place for groups, including the Parish Church Committee and Mums and Tots.

8. A Candle for Peace















On 9th May 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of the German occupation of Jersey, a "Peace Candle" was presented to the Parish Church of St. John by our friends at Sion United Reformed Church in Jersey. It has been lit at every service since then to remind us of the peace it is intended to evoke.

The significance of this particular gift lies in its history. In 1986, a group of American Christians were visiting Russia and after one particular service in a Russian Orthodox Church, an elderly woman pushed three roubles into the hand of the minister who was leading the party, Dr. Blair Monie, and asked him to buy a candle and light it at services in his church as a symbol of peace.

When he returned home, Dr. Monie duly bought a candle in a glass holder and placed it on the Communion Table in his church, the First Presbyterian Church, York, Pennsylvania, and this is lit at every service of worship. Later that year, the church decided to buy a supply of candles and holders inviting members of the congregation to send them to other churches with whom they had contact. A chain of peace candle distribution began and continues to this day.

In recent years, we have been privileged to add to the chain:

On 8th July, 1996, the Beaulieu Convent School, Jersey held a Quiet Day for year seven students, whose theme was "living in community", concluded with the gift of a Peace Candle.

On Sunday 1st August 1999, in the Cathedral Msoro, Zambia, the Jersey Overseas Aid Team, led by Dave and Betty Ellis, presented a small gift of a lighted Peace Candle, in a simple, yet beautiful heart-shaped holder.

As the chain of peace spreads yet further, so may that old Russian woman's hope for peace spread far and wide, as churches and worshipping communities in many parts of the world receive these reminders of the vital task of working and praying for peace, a crucial task in which we must all play our part: "Peace in our hearts and peace in our world"

9. Chandeliers
















Of the eight chandeliers in St. John's Church, three are the work of George Fenton of London and almost certainly came from St. Thomas' Church, Portsmouth (now the Cathedral), in which event they date from 1806, cost £69. 1 s. 7d (£69.08) and were disposed of in 1850. Two of the chandeliers were the models for three of the four chandeliers that were added by the Tudor Art Metal Work Co. Ltd., of London in 1925.

Information gained in making those three chandeliers explains the presence in St. Alban's Cathedral of a "replica of a Cromwellian candelabra from a Church in Jersey". The eighth chandelier was made in London around 1780. It would have come to St. John secondhand, but the original setting has not been identified. The chandeliers at St. John, originally candle-burning, are a remarkable collection in themselves. 

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Cheaper Petrol could be on the way














The JEP reported recently on petrol pricing, and the recent victory in Court by ATF Fuels over the cost of aviation fuel.


On petrol prices, they note:

"Prices in Jersey have followed a similar pattern to those in the UK, with an increase since the beginning of December. The lowest petrol price in the Island, according to the Consumer Council’s Fuel Watch, is currently 107.9p per litre and is available at M&S in St John, St Peter and Motormall."

The decision by Ports of Jersey not to renew the lease on the Airport Garage, and instead have Roberts Garage take over the site, means yet another source of cheaper fuel has been lost.

ATF are planning on entering this market, with lower prices and hence more competition. It will be recalled they wanted to tender for the fuel farm lease at La Collette Terminal (“LCT”) which was rushes through with no tendering process and no change for Scrutiny because it had expired in January and no one had noticed or flagged it up - a failing by the Civil Service or by the Minister or both.

The story can be read here:
http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2016/03/unseemly-haste-fuel-farm-lease-mystery.html

Meanwhile, Jonathan Best, ATF chief operating officer, has contacted me with this message, which I think is also worth sharing on both the Court case and petrol competition.

Message from Jonathan Best:

I’m the COO of ATF Fuels, and I’m aware that you facilitate very useful debate on issues in Jersey, and I wondered if you were considering posting something regarding the The Royal Court’s recent ruling to set aside the decision by the Jersey Competition Regulation Authority? 

The regulator had falsely claimed that ATF had abused our position in marketplace in relation to the supply of aviation fuel. Beyond overturning the decision, the full judgement from Royal Court commended our approach that has ensured fairer, lower and more transparent pricing in the Channel Islands and for providing better quality fuel. 

Below is a quote directly from he judgement: 

"In deciding which evidence we considered to be most significant in relation to this appeal, it is right to say that we have given some weight to the fact that fuel prices at Jersey Airport have dropped considerably during the relevant period since the ATF Fuels commenced trading… "

"Customers purchasing aviation fuel obtained a considerably better deal than they were getting from Fuel Supplies / Rubis and ABP in the years before the ATF Fuels started its business…we think it is right to give credit to ATF for the significant impact which its business has had on aviation fuel prices in the Island since it started business." 

"In giving that credit, we record also that we were told – and this was not contested by the JCRA – that the quality of aviation fuel now supplied is an improvement on what was available previously." 

To explain a little further, if the original decision by the regulator had been enforced, it would have required us to engage in trading at the airport in the way that previous suppliers Rubis and Aviation Beauport used to. 

Ethically this was not something we would have been willing to do. It would also have meant, that we would have had to put the cost of aviation fuel up for our customers. This would have impacted our whole business, and meant that we would have had to put prices up for home heating oil as well. 

This would have gone against everything we are trying to achieve - since we started trading we have successfully brought prices down not only in aviation fuel, but also in other markets such as home heating oil. 

We know that this makes a real difference to people’s weekly budgets and the affordability of living in Jersey. 

We are also soon going to be opening a forecourt and entering the petrol market,(where again we will commit to having the lowest prices), and we are concerned that we may face unfair opposition to competition there too. 

We are hoping that if enough people pay attention to this recent ruling on aviation fuel, that the government will consider investigating the regulator and seriously investigating how they are approaching their decision-making process, and what the real purpose of the organisation is. 

I personally would be very happy to reply on your page to any questions people may have. I think it’s really important that this issues with fair competition in Jersey get highlighted, as it impacts all of us.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Radio 4 Review - 4 Plays


Radio 4 Plays

I’ve been listening to some very good plays on Radio 4, and here are some details and my comments.

Sophie's Lights

A delightful festive drama about a little Jewish girl's belief in Santa.

A father is torn between his Jewish heritage and his love for his daughter, when she becomes convinced that Santa Claus is real. A heart-warming festive drama about learning to live in two places at once.

Written by Adam Usden.
Directed by Charlotte Riches.

Comments:

This is a wonderful play about faith, and how for those on the fringes of faith, there can be guilt at being between the secular and religious worlds. The father Alan is concerned about Sophie’s belief in Father Christmas, and not sure if she should be taking part in a nativity play. As a young Jewish girl, as well as attending Primary School, she also receives instruction on the Jewish faith and the meaning of Hanukkah.

The criticism of the teacher on Sophie’s belief in Santa Claus, which is upsetting other children, and the guilt over his own faith, causes stresses in Alan’s marriage to Rachel, but, rather surprisingly after a Midnight Mass he attends (to keep warm after he has left home), a priest gives him advice, and there is a tender reconciliation with his wife and daughter, and they discover that Sophie has learned all about Hanukkah and come top in her class

In the end, it is not what you believe, but who you trust and love, regardless of belief, that matters, and brings reconciliation.












Mr Betjeman's Class

1 / 2. By Jonathan Smith. First of two plays celebrating one of Britain's best-loved poets. 1928. John Betjeman, aged 23, has left Magdalen College - sent down without a degree. He's spent three years at Oxford being a class-conscious social climber, clowning his suburban way into the country house weekend set. With his ambitions in ruins, he's reduced to acting as cricket master in a prep school. He knows nothing of cricket. Stars Benjamin Whitrow in his final role before his death at the age of 80.

Producer/director: Bruce Young

(Jonathan Smith's second play, Mr Betjeman Regrets, is at 2.15pm on Boxing Day).

Comments:

The focus of this play is the older Betjeman looking back on his younger self, just after he was sent down from Oxford. The older Betjeman, played by Whitrow, is full of regrets and sees the past very differently from his younger self (Philippe Edwards) who is rather a pompous and pretentious figure, often “sailing close to the wind” at the prep school where he teaches.

It is hard to make the connection between the two parts, and see how the younger became the older, because there is almost nothing in common between them in both manner and outlook on the world. Obviously people do change, but I found this jarring, and it didn’t really work that well for me.










Mr Betjeman Regrets

2/2. By Jonathan Smith. Stars Benjamin Whitrow who died shortly before he could finish recording this play. His role was completed by Robert Bathurst, a friend and fellow Betjeman enthusiast. Towards the end of his career, Sir John Betjeman is a national treasure. He's become an immensely popular TV and radio performer, selling over two million copies of his Collected Poems in his lifetime. But he continues to worry about his chequered career and complex personal life.

Betjeman.............. BENJAMIN WHITROW/ROBERT BATHURST
Lady Elizabeth ..................... ...........................JOANNA DAVID
Lady Penelope ..................... .....................SARAH CROWDEN
Producer/director: Bruce Young.

Comments:

This is the much stronger of the two plays, which is all set in one time period, close to the end of his life, when Betjeman has become “a national treasure”. You can understand his love of Cornwall where he grew up, his failing marriage, his connection to his daughter, and the widening gap between himself and his son, which he wants to amend before too late.

And there is also the mistress in Cornwall, who understands and loves him, and where he finds companionship in his twilight years.

It is a charming piece, and could just as easily be standalone as bookended with the first.










January
By Elizabeth Lewis.

Daphne and Ben met as teenagers; theirs was a love story of passion and poetry. Now, more than 20 years later, they meet again and return to the coastal cottage where they first found love. But when they arrive at Dragon's Back Bay, they are haunted by the ghosts of a past that it's impossible to recapture.

A strange and haunting hymn to lost love and the inevitability of passing time.

Directed by James Robinson

Comments

This is a strange surreal tale of two former lovers, Daphne and Benjamin, who split when very young (in their late teens) returning to a cottage where they first became intimate as lovers, but now in old age. But time fractures – well done by scene setting moving between daylight and bright sunlight and warmth of summer, and cold, wet, winter night with only the occasional glimpse of the moonlight.

As time breaks again and again, they see snatches of themselves, and hear their former selves, and then realise they can meet themselves. What happens next, as they sail round dragon’s back rock, is a voyage of remembering the pain of the past, and healing the hurt.

It is a fantastical but beautiful time travel play.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

General Hospital: The Photo Novel Short Story



Happy days are here! Yes, Minister.




The cast list of the hit TV Show:

Dr Kildare: Senator Andrew Green
Dr Cameron: Constable John Refault
Dr Finlay (and his therapeutic casebook): Peter Mac












Open and Transparent. You can see my thinking.















A shady character! The People's Park is chosen
for the hospital site... but the people are kept in
the dark. The shutters are down.

"We have not yet decided on a site. Well, we have
but wanted to keep it secret until the JEP blew
the gaffe".













Feeling the cold wind of public option!
"I'm convinced the People's Park is the right option"

A sunny disposition!
1. Changing his mind - was that private treatment?
2. Dropped the people's park
3. Now building next to the current hospital
"I'm convinced next to the current hospital is the right option"



















Approving the proposals for planning.
"I can see clearly there will be few obstacles"



















A sunny disposition!
"The site is right. It is the footprint that is wrong."
"I am not losing the plot".
Stop Press: New plans to be drawn up by a podiatric physician.












Will he stand? Or is he feeling a bit green around the gills?

Watch out.... for the next exciting episode of.... General Hospital.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Selling off the Family Silver?












Selling off the Family Silver

When the States of Jersey Development Company took over the Weighbridge Square, they took it over on a 150 year leasehold from the Public of Jersey from 15th February 2008.

This is, therefore, land owned by the public, not by the SOJDC.

Now things are to change, as the JEP reports:

“The land adjacent to the hotel is currently let on a long lease to the hotel to provide alfresco dining facilities, an arrangement that will continue. However, after being put up for sale by the SoJDC the land is to be sold for £975,000, with the money from the sale being used to help pay for the company’s development projects.”

Bailiwick Express reports:

“In a separate transaction, the JDC also decided to get rid of 10 parking spaces at Castle Quay, which were bought by their predecessor as part of an agreement with Dandara, who built the development. Those spaces are currently rented to Ports of Jersey to be used by marine traders attending Elizabeth Marina. They will be sold for a total of £415,000.”

Lee Henry remarked that:

"We carry out a number of projects and working capital is needed in all projects. Commitment is needed upfront for the schemes we work on and they are funded out of our working capital. The money we will receive from the transactions once they are approved will be recycled back and invested into projects. Once those projects are completed and sold, the pot will be replenished and recycled into other projects. It's a constant flow."

But where in this constant flow is there any flow returning to the States? The Accounts of the SOJDC state:

“100% of profits generated by JDC from the direct development of property will be repatriated to the States Treasury via a dividend, invested in public infrastructure or used as working capital for further developments.”

The Accounts state:

“JDC creates new homes for local residents and new Grade A office space for the island’s premier financial services industry. By investing in direct development, rather than selling land to developers, we ensure that returns to taxpayers are improved

What returns? Given that they received the land for a nominal sum from the States, at least if 25% of any sales were directly returned to the States would at least benefit in the short term.

It is interesting that responsibility for these high profile decisions has been allocated to the Assistant Minister, John Refault, rather than the Treasury Minister, Alan Maclean, who might find this kind of sale inconvenient in an election year.

Moving on to College Gardens, it is stated:

“A construction contract was entered with local contractor ROK Regal in September and the first units will be ready for occupation in April 2018. Phased completions will take place thereafter until final completion in April 2019. 100% of the profit generated from the development will be paid to the States Treasury as a dividend in 2019.”

But later on we read in the accounts, about loans taken out for the development:

“These loans will be repaid in full on the disposal of these completed assets with the profits being either paid out as a dividend or retained by the Company for the delivery of public infrastructure or used as working capital for future development projects”

And in fact this is what we see happening all the time. The last return to the States from the SOJDC  was in 2015. There won’t be another until 2019, subject of course to the proviso that monies may be “retained by the Company for the delivery of public infrastructure or used as working capital for future development projects”:

And as Ben Shenton has noted, the public deserved assurances that the reduced cost of the grounds and building was not creating false profitability for the JDC, which could then be used as a reason to pay staff bonuses.

“Given the level of pre-development expenditure on large real estate projects, the funding requirements for the delivery of public infrastructure in the Esplanade Quarter and the long lead-in times to realising receipts from real estate development, JDC agreed with its Shareholder that there would be no dividend paid in the year (2015: £1million). The next anticipated dividend to be paid by JDC will be in respect of the College Gardens development in 2019.”

Although we have one commitment... at the present. Lee Henry stated in 2017 that their £30 million JCG housing project would return £4 million to the States.

A brilliant return, given that a local developer had previously made an opening offer of £5 million for the site, but that the States refused to enter into talks!

In the meantime, expect little returns on any other developments.

As was stated in a reply by Alan Maclean, Treasury Minister, in 2017:

“SoJDC has publicly reported that profits from the development of the Esplanade Quarter can only be paid out as dividends after all the public infrastructure associated with the development has been delivered. SoJDC has stated that the forecast £50m residual return from the entire Esplanade Quarter development will be available in around 15 to 20 years’ time (on completion of the entire development)”.

I predict that it will be less than that.

But even if it is that, how much would that be worth in real terms? £50m back 20 years ago, in 1998, would have been the equivalent of around £29.9m. The value of money depreciates over time.

When one takes into account the deterioration in the value of money, what seems today like a good deal sounds like a life insurance policy which originally seemed 20 times the annual salary of the payee, and now is barely a quarter.

Someone is profiting from the SoJDC. I'm just not sure it is the public of Jersey.