Focus on Israel/Palestine
One of St John’s ‘Vision’ priorities during 2013/4 was to help raise awareness about issues of injustice in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory that require our prayers and actions. We are continuing this with a Programme of Action in 2015
The Parochial Church Meeting approved the Kairos Programme for 2017 at their meeting held on 25th January 2017.
Our trip to the Holy Land on 12th-21st February 2016 was exhausting, but very rewarding. We visited most of the Holy Sites, but even more importantly, met lots of people and heard many stories. Much to think about.
While we were away, we posted a daily blog on the Kairos Crowthorne website - http://kairoscrowthorne.blogspot.co.uk . On our return, Hilary and Doreen wrote an article for St John's News on our trip. Do download it and find out more.
We hope to have the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with the congregation and other interested parties in the Autumn.
World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel was 20th-26th September. There were be events around the country to pray for peace. There was a peace vigil on Wednesday 23rd September at St John the Baptist Parish Church in Crowthorne, followed by coffee and cake and an opportunity to share information on the current situation in Israel and Palestine. Twenty people attended.
Changing our waste disposal supplier
On the face of it, the contractor who supplies and empties our waste bin appears to have little connection with our commitment to work for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine. However, our present supplier is Veolia. This is a company which has been widely criticised for operating an apartheid system (see www.palestinecampaign.org/campaign/veolia/) on Israeli bus services which Palestinians are not permitted to ride and also supporting illegal settlements. Our Standing Committee has decided to change supplier to Biffa. The service will start on 1st June and will offer a recycling bin as well as the normal general waste bin. It is also cheaper, so we get a better service, at a cheaper price, and are acting more ethically too. We hope to organise a wider discussion on the issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) later in the year.
Ken is now regularly writing and publishing articles for Kairos Britain, the national organisation supporting the call for peace and justice issued in 2009 by the Churches in Jerusalem. Do have a look at this site for news and events related to Kairos.
Our Holy Land Trip
The trip will be on 12th-21st February 2016. We have expressions of interest from 20 people and the maximum number will be 25. The brochure is being prepared and will be available soon, after which people will be able to book places. The itinerary looks really interesting and will include meetings with local groups as well as visits to Christian sites in and around Jerusalem and the Galilee. We will stay in Bethlehem for 7 nights and then move to the Galilee region.
Plans for the trip to the Holy Land are progressing. We have had 17 people express an interest so far and the detailed planning of the trip is now underway. The dates are 12th - 21st February 2016. We expect to spend 6 nights in the Jerusalem/Bethlehem area and 3 nights in Galilee. A brochure is being prepared with all the details. Contact me if you are interested in going.
We have received our certificate as a registered Active Kairos Community. This will be posted at Church.
The PCC meeting on 9th July 2014 decided unanimously that St John’s should become a Kairos Community. We have now signed up as a Kairos Community on the Kairos Britain website (www.KairosBritain.org.uk)
On October 21st the PCC approved our Programme of Action for 2015. This is to:-
- Keep ourselves informed about the situation in Israel and Palestine through the weekly newsletter, St Johns News and the website as appropriate
- Continue to keep Israel and Palestine in our prayers
- Support the development of a network of UK Kairos Communities, with emphasis on the Churches within the Oxford Diocese.
- Undertake studies to understand more about the historical context and what the Bible has to say about Israel/Palestine.
- Look for, and advertise opportunities to hear more about the situation in Israel and Palestine
- Inform people of opportunities to take action for a just peace in Israel and Palestine
- Support initiatives by groups working for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine.
- Learn more about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) programme and consider whether we might take action as a Church or as individuals
- Inform people about, and encourage them to take up, opportunities to visit or to volunteer to work in Israel/Palestine
- Maintain the “Kairos Crowthorne” blog (used for sharing news of events and networking with other Kairos Communities) with links to St John’s website.
In order to support this programme, the Kairos Group will be opened up to others, possibly including people from other local Churches. If you would like to join the group, please talk to one of the current members.
The Kairos Group will consult with the PCC on any proposed collective actions by the Church.
Vote in Parliament
On 13th October, the UK Parliament On 13th October the UK Parliament passed the following motion by 274 votes to 12:
"That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution."
Although the current Government is not committed to change its policy, this is a significant moment in putting right the wrongs which Britain has done to the Palestinian people. The Labour Party, if elected to power, is committed to formally recognise Palestine as Government Policy. Other European Countries (e.g. Spain and France) are considering their position. May the many wise words said in the UK debate help in working towards justice and peace for all in Israel and Palestine.
A Pilgrimage for Peace led by Rt Revd John Pritchard
The retiring Bishop of Oxford is leading a Pilgrimage of Peace to the Holy Land on 20th-30th April 2015. Details can be found on www.lightline.org.uk. This is a really ethical tour aimed at people who want to learn more about the situation. You would meet people from Jewish and Arab communities with different experiences to share and a profoundly different understanding of their place in the ‘Land of the Holy One’. In addition to this fascinating programme there will be opportunities for guided reflection and study.
The Kairos Group
(Ken Perrett, Tracy Perrett, Brian Berry, Hazel Berry)
Kairos Day of Prayer and Reflection
On 7th June, we had a day for prayer and reflection for Kairos. This offered the opportunity for people to reflect on all that we have heard and learned about the situation in Israel and Palestine, to pray about our response, and to provide some feedback to the PCC as they prepare to make a decision about whether we should become a Kairos Community.
The day started with a wonderful liturgy prepared by Hazel Berry. There were seven prayer stations around the Church, each dealing with a different aspect of the Israel/Palestine situation. In the hall we showed several short videos and gave people an opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussion.
Fifteen people took the time to complete feedback forms. Fourteen of these were in favour of several actions which the Church might take, and five were interested to be involved in these actions as an individual. Thank you to all who attended and completed the feedback form.
Kairos Crowthorne Blog
We have set up a blog called KairosCrowthorne.blogspot.co.uk. You can read more details about the day of prayer and reflection and all the other Kairos activities on the blog.
Hazel and Brian Berry and Ken and Tracy Perrett travelled to Birmingham on Saturday 21st June to attend a national Kairos Training Day. It was very well attended with about 60 people and was most informative and encouraging. We had sessions on Kairos Theology, ethical visits to the Holy Land, Kairos Communities and Political Engagement. After a marvellous lunch in a small Lebanese restaurant, we attended several workshops on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions(BDS), Kairos Communities and Political engagement.
We had the opportunity to meet the national advocacy worker for Kairos Britain, and hope to work with her in the future.
PCC decision on becoming a Kairos Community
The PCC meeting on 9th July considered all that we have learned about Israel/Palestine and the feedback from the process. They then decided unanimously that our Church should become a Kairos Community. We will provide further details of what this may entail in future editions of St John’s News.
The Kairos Group
I have been asked to write about my eight week stay in Bethlehem, from 3rd February until 31st March.
The background to my trip
Where I lived in Aida Refugee CampI suppose the starting point should be, why? Why spend eight weeks in Bethlehem. Well for me, the story started with Greenbelt. This is an annual festival focusing on Faith, Arts and Justice. For several years Tracy and I had attended the sessions on Israel/Palestine and felt the sense of great injustice in this troubled land.
Following the Church retreat in 2012, we got speaking to Anne Mohan and Anne Pelham about the possibility of visiting Israel. A few weeks after this, Bishop John announced that he was leading a pilgrimage and we signed up straight away. We spent 10 days with the group of 85 and our Bishops (John and Andrew) early in 2013 on a wonderful tour of the Christian sites. But we also saw the occupation in practice and were shocked to see it, as are most visitors, for the first time.
I resolved to try to do something personally, and so applied to be an Ecumenical Observer, under a programme run by the World Council of Churches, for three months. I was very disappointed not to be selected, especially as I felt a strong sense of God calling me to become involved in working for peace in Israel and Palestine.
Of course, God always has a plan. Later in the year, in August 2013, we went to Greenbelt as usual and, this time, the Kairos Britain document was launched. This was a response to a call by the churches in Palestine for support to accelerate the achievement of justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land. As I sat listening to the launch, I knew that this was God’s plan for me. On our return we proposed a Kairos Action Plan to the PCC, which was approved.
I felt that I needed to learn more about Israel/Palestine. In October, following discussion with Tracy, I decided that I would go to Israel/Palestine on my own. I had met Sami Awad of the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem and knew that they had a home-stay programme, so I contacted him to ask them to arrange accommodation for 8 weeks. I then booked my ticket.
"Kairos Britain - A Time for Action" was launched at the Greenbelt Festival in August 2013, in response to the "Kairos Palestine - A moment of truth" published in 2009 by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, calling on the International Community and World Churches to accelerate the achievement of justice, peace and reconciliation in the Holy land.
The PCC established a "Kairos Group" at its meeting in Sep 2013. The group was charged with preparing a plan of action for consideration at the October meeting. The Kairos Action Plan (attached) was approved at the October meeting. We will now spend six months informing the Church about the situation in Israel/Palestine, after which there will be a time for prayer and reflection before the PCC decides whether St John's will sign up to become a Kairos congregation.
The next step for St John the Baptist will be to hold a day of reflection and prayer on June 7th 2014. This will provide an opportunty for people to pray about the situation in Israel/Palestine and to consider whether the Church should become a Kairos Congregation. The PCC will meet on 9th July and will consider feedback from the day of prayer and reflection before making the decision.
Meanwhile, we have established a new blog called Kairos Crowthorne. This includes information about Kairos and provides some useful weblinks.