Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I've moved!

I'm now blogging at www.annamdrew.tumblr.com - please come and find me there.

For good measure, I've copied all the posts from 2012 over to the new blog, but the rest will remain here (because a full migration would be too challenging for my teeny tiny brain!).

See you soon! Anna

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When God seems distant...

This is a talk I gave last week at our Cafe Church service at Pip & Jims (the church my hubby & I attend) about the times when God seems far away. We're working our way through Dysciples - a fab book for dysfunctional disciples by Krish Kandiah.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

James, Lily and Rachel

James and Rachel Haddell have been working in Thailand with CCD for nearly three years. CCD works with Thai children who have been abandoned because of their disabilities, offering them hope and a future.

At their home in Pakkred last summer, Rachel and James told me about their decision to adopt Lily, a bubbly eleven year old Thai girl who was abandoned by her mother at birth. Although Lily is deaf and her mobility is impaired by cerebral palsy, she throws herself into everything she does.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Guest post: Laura Sykes on running an online house group

This blog has never had a guest post before. So it's really, utterly lovely to have the first ever guest post written by Laura Sykes, editor of Lay Anglicana - the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion. As an Anglican who occasionally worries that the dog collars tend to get all the say on Church stuff, I think Lay Anglicana is fab. Nuff said.

Anyway, I've been doing some writing and thinking lately on social media and the Church, particularly from a spirituality perspective and I have been particularly taken with the idea of online house groups (not 'virtual house groups' - online is as real as offline). The fabulous Bex Lewis told me that Laura was setting up an online Lent group, using the Big Read 2012 resources.

So last week I dropped Laura a line asking her how it was going and what her reflections on the process were. That convo turned into this guest blog: take it away, Laura!

I started the website Lay Anglicana in November 2010 to provide a forum for Anglican laity worldwide. So far, most of our exchanges have been within the UK and with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but in all we have had just under 17,000 visits from 7,000 people in 118 countries. The main restriction on worldwide use is of course the language, which is English.

We have thus started on the road leading to the ambitious target I set – a cyberspace where all English-speaking Anglicans around the world could exchange news and views from the pews. Almost all other religious sites are run by churches and clergy, in other words from the top down. I wanted somewhere those in the nave (Anglicans making a great distinction between the nave and the chancel!) could talk amongst themselves.

We are not as exclusive as that may make us sound. We have lay people from other denominations who have joined our community, as well as Anglican clergy – and indeed now one ‘pastor’. I would not like to say we are the opposite of ‘Thinking Anglicans’ but it is more relaxed and, dare I say, convivial!

Since attending the CNMAC 11, I have got to know Bex Lewis and Pete Phillips of CODEC, hence I became interested in ‘The Big Read’ and in particular the proposal that as many house groups as possible should join in the study of Mark’s gospel during Lent, all using Tom Wright’s exegesis. My ‘offline’ house group had different plans, so I thought it might make sense to use the Lay Anglicana forum to discuss the book at the same time as everyone else. In practical terms, we have been enormously helped by SPCK and 12Baskets in making Tom Wright’s text available to copy to the forum. Lots of podcasts are on offer from the main website, as is support and fellowship. I regard it as an online house group.

This is only our second day, but I have already been approached by people from as far afield as New York and China who say they may contribute, but in any case are going to ‘hover’ over the discussions. I don’t mind this at all – some people are shy of joining in this sort of thing, but the hope is that real bonds of friendship will be formed. Assuming that people do actually take part, I have little doubt from my own experience that that will happen. In the last eighteen months, my life has been enormously enriched, and my faith strengthened, by the people that I have met online (many of whom I have gone on to meet offline as well).

I find it an immensely appealing idea that all over the world in different time zones are people reading the same verses of the same gospel and discussing them amongst each other and with people of other nations. (My degree was in International Relations, and I have lived all over the world as first the daughter and then the wife of diplomats, so I suppose that is why I am still a little dewey-eyed about ‘hands across the sea’ and the Anglican Communion).

Laura Sykes

Friday, February 17, 2012

Writing to my MP for the first time

As someone who works for the Church on media, I am often involved in campaigns with my fabulous colleagues in the Joint Public Issues Team. As part of this work, I often ask people to write to their MPs to support a particular campaign. But I have never done so my self - I have been a hypocrite.

I'm doing the same thing now - encouraging people to write to their MP about the Churches' Measure for Measure campaign, asking the Government to introduce a minimum unit price on all alcohol sold in England and Wales. As well as being something that affects my local community, policing and health services, alcohol misuse is has personally affected some of the people I love very dearly.

So I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is and I wrote to my MP Tracey Crouch, expressing my concerns and asking her to support a per unit minimum price on alcohol.

Here's my email to her:

Dear Ms Crouch,

I write to you as a Medway resident concerned with how alcohol is affecting my community and local services. I note with concern that data from the LAPE (Local Alcohol Profiles for England) website shows that alcohol-attributable hospital admissions in Medway for both men and women are increasing year on year.

While alcohol policy is set nationally, it is in our local communities that the damage caused by alcohol misuse is felt most deeply, particularly disadvantaged communities, which continue to suffer disproportionately from alcohol-related harms.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Methodist Church and its partners in November 2011 found that 61% of UK adults felt that excessive drinking was a problem in their neighbourhood. You may have seen that there is increasing pressure from faith groups, charities and health bodies, who are calling on the Government to introduce a per unit minimum price on all alcohol sold in England and Wales. A study at Sheffield University found that over ten years, a 50p minimum price could save £1.37 billion in healthcare costs, £413 million in crime costs, £238 million due to workplace absence and £5.4 billion due to unemployment. For responsible drinkers like me this would mean paying only a few pence more per drink. The fantastic staff and services at Medway hospital are already overstretched – less spending on alcohol-related admissions and illnesses would free them up to improve and offer more services.

I am writing to ask you to support per unit minimum pricing and to encourage your fellow MPs to do likewise. The Scottish Parliament is currently discussing minimum unit pricing, and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are working towards a cross-border alcohol strategy including a minimum unit price. The success of the Government’s Alcohol Strategy relies on an appropriate UK-wide solution to pricing, namely per unit minimum pricing of between 40p and 50p. Medical and academic research suggests that other measures, such as the ban on below cost sales previously tabled by the Government, or tax raises, are unlikely to succeed.

I will be sharing this email publicly and will use it encourage others to also write to their MPs. With your permission, I would also like to publicly share your response to my email.

Many thanks for your time - I look forward to hearing from you,


And here's her thoughtful and timely response (apologies for small print size - click to read):

All in all, a very positive first experience of writing to my MP!

If you are concerned about alcohol misuse and how it is affecting your community and health service, please urgently email your MP, asking them to support a per unit minimum price. A briefing to help you is available here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

God isn’t a Shopkeeper

I’ve just been watching Francis Chan’s latest video. Fantastically, it’s available to view for free (yay!) over on the Relevant website. Watch it now!

First off, I want to say that I think it’s really, really good. I love the imagery and Chan is a really excellent communicator. It’s a great production and he has some very important things to say about the way we pray. He talks a lot about how we need to align our will with God’s so that in all our prayers there is an element of ‘thy will be done’. In this way, Chan says, we will be praying genuine, unselfish and godly prayers which the Lord will be delighted to answer.

For example, praying in a way not aligned with God’s will might be compared to going into a chemist with your grocery shopping list – ultimately, both you and the shopkeeper will end up disappointed (my dodgy analogy, not Chan’s).

I think this is something that Christians (or, well, me at least) really need to hear and take on board today.

With all that said, I offer the following as a reflection in the video and our attitudes to prayer, not a criticism of it. (I’m a bit sick of some super-critical elements in the Christian blogosphere that seem intolerant of different views. What a way to glorify God.)

Anyway, one thing I’m not very clear on is whether Chan is talking about ‘prayer’ or about ‘asking God for stuff’ I’m not sure that they are identical - although ‘asking God for stuff’ is part of prayer, I don’t think it’s the whole story. That said, I frequently confuse them, especially when I’m feeling particularly self-absorbed.

And I don’t think Chan is saying that they’re the same thing (the blurb under the video most definitely suggests he isn’t), but it would be really great to see something on basic prayer that doesn’t just consider the shopping-list approach. God isn’t a shopkeeper (again, my analogy – many apologies to Chan).

How do we enthuse and encourage people in the more difficult aspects of prayer? How do we train people to learn to listen to God in their own way? To share their worries with God without rushing straight on to what they want God to do about it? How can we explore what it means to dialogue with God, or to simply rest wordlessly in God’s presence?

I, as someone who struggles massively with prayer, would love to see some creative answers to these questions – and I’m sure there are lots out there already.

Answers on a postcard, please!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roll on Christmas!

Roll on Christmas, the wonderfully irreverent new Nativity play on Facebook is now live.

Award-winning comedian Milton Jones, who plays a photographer for the Bethlehem Star in the play, was in London for the launch and told me all about it. You can listen to the interview here.

To find out more, go to www.rollonchristmas.com.