25 February 2024

15 - 21 February

‘A burden too great for mere mortal’: Taylor Swift, The Eras Tour – The Melbourne Anglican 

Whether you are a lover or a hater, it is impossible to deny the cultural meteor that is Taylor Swift, now in Australia as part of her worldwide Eras Tour. Her concerts at the MCG and Sydney’s Accor Arena sold out in hours as more than four million Australians vied for tickets. 

It was immediately clear that Taylor Swift was not there merely to perform for us, but with us. From the opening song Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince to the final song Karma most of the audience sang along, particularly those under 25. Indeed it often seemed the crowd were at least as loud as Taylor, if not more so. 

It demonstrated one of Swift’s most remarkable qualities, writes the Reverend John Forsyth. Her ability to emotionally connect with our desire for both the transcendent and the immanent through her music. 

Tasmania’s Anglican Church ordered to pay $2.4 million for abuse in landmark case – ABC News 

John Steen says he feels “very sorry” for his 16-year-old self. 

Mr Steen, now 53, was sexually abused by Tasmanian paedophile priest Louis Victor Daniels on multiple occasions in the 1980s when he was aged between 10 and 16. 

In 1987, he disclosed the abuse to then-bishop Philip Newell, and in 1994, the church was again made aware of the allegations. 

Christians around the world challenged to connect with God’s creation throughout Lent – Religion Unplugged 

A Rocha UK, a Christian environmental charity, points out that Lent “gives us the opportunity to reflect on the practice of fasting and commit to giving up something that brings a real benefit to nature and helps address climate change.”  

In fact, caring for nature over the next six weeks, Christians around the world can improve lives through eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyles emphasizing the transformative nature of Lent. Using the slogan, “Get Outside in Lent,” A Rocha UK has issued a range of resources and ideas that can be downloaded and used by churches, families and individuals. 

Italian town in turmoil after far-right mayor bans Muslim prayers – The Guardian 

The envelope containing two partially burned pages of the Qur’an came as a shock. Until then, Muslim residents in the Adriatic port town of Monfalcone had lived relatively peacefully for more than 20 years. 

Addressed to the Darus Salaam Muslim cultural association on Via Duca d’Aosta, the envelope was received soon after Monfalcone’s far-right mayor, Anna Maria Cisint, banned prayers on the premises. 

“It was hurtful, a serious insult we never expected,” said Bou Konate, the association’s president. “But it was not a coincidence. The letter was a threat, generated by a campaign of hate that has stoked toxicity.” 

Celebration or desecration? England’s cathedrals open doors to silent discos – The Guardian 

It was a night of old favourites and modern anthems. More than 400 people paid about £25 a head to dance beneath Winchester Cathedral’s magnificent medieval arches on Saturday evening. Drinks were served at a bar; music was fed through individual headphones. 

“If you had told me this time last year that I would be in the cathedral, with a beer in my hand while belting out the chorus of Rolling in the Deep by Adele, then I would have thought you were mad,” wrote Matt Rooks-Taylor, a local reporter. “Everywhere I looked, there were happy faces.” 

But not everyone is pleased at the growing trend for England’s glorious cathedrals to host silent discos. Critics of the “raves in the naves” argue that cathedrals were built as sacred spaces for the worship of God. 

Indonesia ends decades-old policy of referring to Jesus Christ by Islamic name – The Christian Post 

Indonesia has officially changed a decades-old state policy of referring to Christian holidays by their Islamic names, such as Isa Messiah for Jesus Christ. President Joko Widodo signed a Presidential Decree to mark this shift to accommodate the Christian population in the country, which has the world’s largest Muslim population. 

Deputy Minister of Religion, Saiful Rahmat Dasuki, stated that the change came after Christian and Catholic communities requested that the names of certain national holidays be updated, local media outlet VOI reported. 

Barriers to entry: For Iranian converts claiming religious persecution, European courts require proof of faith – Sight Magazine 

The tattoo spelling “God” sits prominently between the man’s eyebrows, a letter disappearing with every furrowed expression. The green ink, which draws sideways glances from nearby tables as Arash sips his cappuccino, would swiftly get him arrested or killed back home, apostasy being a crime of the highest order. But the British courts were not so convinced of his newfound religious beliefs. 

Arash, an Iranian who converted from Islam to Christianity and sought asylum in the UK, has had a difficult time proving he is really Christian. Immigration officials were sceptical when they read his application and saw the pictures of his permanent brow, said Arash, whose name has been changed by request to protect his family members who remain in Iran. 

“The Home Office thought it was fake,” Arash told Religion News Service, referring to the ink he got in 2017. 

Brazilian evangelical Christians disrupt pre-Lenten partying with ‘Gospel Carnival’ – Religion News Service 

The massive Saturnalia of the Brazilian Carnival, the five days of festivities, parades and public debauchery leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, has not historically been a scene for the country’s evangelical Christians. While Brazilians around the country dress in costumes and dance to Afro-Brazilian beats, especially samba, traditional church faiths organize spiritual retreats, hoping to lure churchgoers away from the lustful partying. 

But in the past few years, evangelicals, who make up about 30 per cent of Brazil’s population, have taken a new tack, working to short-circuit the festival with displays of Christian faith. 

Religious diversity is exploding – here’s what a faith-positive Britain might actually look like – The Conversation 

The future of the UK’s Inter Faith Network (IFN), a long-standing charity that promotes dialogue and cooperation between Britain’s religious groups, is in doubt after the government announced it was withdrawing funding for the group. 

Communities secretary Michael Gove has cited concerns that a member of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), with which the government has suspended cooperation since 2009, has been appointed an IFN trustee. 

Founded in 1987, the IFN represents Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian faith groups. In the charity’s 37-year history, religious pluralism in the UK has grown exponentially – and is still growing despite an overall decline in religiosity. 

How the autistic community guided our Christian parenting – Eternity 

Kate Morris writes about how autistic people have guided her family as they learn how their autistic daughter experiences the world in her unique way. They see how parenting differently, guided by biblical truths, can be beautiful. She is working to bring her research and experience together in a book. 

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