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Social action more than ‘do-gooding’, says Bishop

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Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies

Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John
Davies

FROM helping asylum seekers to providing affordable homes – social action is about bringing profound change to people’s lives, not just a bit of do-gooding here and there. That was the message from the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, at a national conference this week. He added that caring for the welfare of others was a Gospel imperative and the Church had a legitimate right to speak up and challenge those in authority. Bishop John was speaking at the Pushing the Boundaries conference, a three-day event hosted by the Church in Wales in Cardiff, for social responsibility officers from Welsh and English dioceses.

He said, “Social action is not just about a little bit of do-gooding here and there, it’s about profoundly challenging aspects of the lives of so many people – asylum seeking, affordable housing, disability issues, isolation of rural communities, unemployment, poverty, benefit caps – the spectrum seems to get ever wider day by day. We are engaging with all sorts of groups, not because we want to intrude on other people’s territories, but because it is an imperative of the church to be engaged with such issues, with such people and in such places.”

He urged Christians not to be reticent or apologetic about engaging with public authorities and secular institutions in the pursuit of social justice. He said, “The problem with the relationship between the church and matters of social concern is that if the church doesn’t do anything it is accused of being too self absorbed, too preoccupied with its own internal wrangling and therefore irrelevant. If it does say something, it is told it doesn’t really know what it is talking about or has the expertise and ‘we’d prefer it if you went away and minded your own private business’.

Examples of how churches are involved in social action were given in a series of presentations at the conference. They included promoting the needs of disabled people, tackling problems faced by people in rural areas, converting church property into affordable housing and helping people seeking asylum. Revd Dr John Gillibrand, vicar of Llangeler, described his experience with his son, who has autism, and outlined his political activity to raise awareness of the needs of disabled people. He said, “There is no such thing as mission without justice.”

He added, “We’re about ministry of people with disabilities not to them. We are an inclusive church.” The Church’s Rural Life lead adviser, Revd Richard Kirlew, outlined issues facing people living in Wales’ vast rural areas, such as the breakdown of community, isolation, unemployment and poverty. He said “rural” meant a whole way of life, not just “little bits of town in the country”: “There is a huge decline in the sense of community in rural areas as local amenities close down one-by-one. Churches need to adapt to these changes taking place. We have chaplains at rural shows now and livestock markets, for example, and these are a good way of reaching out to people.”

Pushing the Boundaries conference, Oct 6-8, was organized by Revd Carol Wardman, the Bishops’ adviser for Church and Society. She says, “The church doesn’t just exist for its own sake, but to act as salt and light in the society in which we finds ourselves. So alongside the task of nurturing believers, you’ll find church involved with all sorts of social action – from supporting refugees and asylum-seekers, running food banks and community cafes, and hosting credit unions, to running wide-ranging projects supporting children and families, or engaging with the Welsh Assembly, UK Parliament and other decision-makers to help bring about a more just society – nationally and internationally.”

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Further coronavirus restriction relaxations brought forward

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FURTHER changes to the coronavirus restrictions have been announced by the First Minister Mark Drakeford today.

The Welsh Government has confirmed further relaxations will be brought forward from 17 May to 3 May – including the resumption of indoor supervised activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, such as exercise classes, and the re-opening of community centres.

This means Wales will have completed the move to Alert Level 3 by Monday 3 May.

From Saturday 24 April, the rule of 6 will allow for up to six people from six households to meet outdoors, not including children under 11 years of age or carers from those households.

The Welsh Government has also confirmed the relaxations that will take place on Monday 26 April. Outdoor attractions, including outdoor swimming pools, funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen, while outdoor hospitality can also resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people will be able to take place and weddings receptions can begin again outdoors for up to 30 people.

Wales has the lowest coronavirus rates of the UK nations.  The successful vaccine programme continues with a higher proportion of people vaccinated in Wales than other nations of the UK for both first and second doses.

Changes from Monday 3 May:

  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities being able to reopen;
  • People will also again be able to form extended households with one other household.

Relaxations planned for 17 May will be brought forward to the 3 May, including:

  • The resumption of indoor supervised activities for children;
  • Indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults (such as exercise classes and swimming lessons);
  • And the re-opening of community centres.

The First Minister said:

“The sacrifices we have made continue to show results. By us all working together and sticking to the rules, combined with our vaccination programme, mean we continue to make progress. Rates of the virus continue to fall and the public health situation is improving. 

“Due to these efforts we are able confirm more easing of the restrictions from 26 April and for early May we are again able to bring forward some of our plans. However, this progress is dependent on all of us continuing to work together to keep Wales safe.

“At the last three-week review, I set out a forward-look of how the restrictions could continue to be lifted in the weeks ahead, if the public health situation remains stable.

“It will be for the incoming Welsh Government to confirm these arrangements at the next three-week review, which will be held on May 13 – a week after the election. It is my assessment that the hospitality sector – bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes – will be able to open indoors from May 17, together with all other tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions.”

Further possible easements are subject to the public health situation remaining favourable.

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News

Tragedy above Milford Haven takeaway

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DYFED POWYS POLICE has confirmed that a 20-year-old male passed away in Milford Haven last Saturday, April 17.

Police were called to the USA Fried Chicken store on Charles Street at around 1:30pm but have said there are no suspicious circumstances.

A Herald reporter was at the scene and witnessed a number of police cars and an ambulance while plain-clothed officers were also seen.

HM Coroner has been informed.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “We were called to Charles Street in Milford Haven on Saturday 17 April at approximately 1.34pm to reports of a medical emergency. We attended the scene with one emergency ambulance where we assisted colleagues from the police.”

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Health

Tavernspite School the ‘healthiest of schools despite the pandemic’

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THE STAFF, governors, parents, and of course, the children of Tavernspite Community Primary School are delighted to gain the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes National Quality Award for an incredible 5th time after a recent and very rigorous assessment.

The school is already well known and highly regarded for its outstanding work in developing the health and wellbeing of all members of its school community. To achieve this prestigious recognition in the midst of a pandemic is all the more impressive. 

Health and Wellbeing at the school is led by teacher, Lauren Arthur, who has done an incredible job preparing for this re-assessment and raising the profile of the Healthy Schools scheme.

The assessor Mrs Lynne Perry, enjoyed a virtual tour and presentation by Year 3 pupils who took great pleasure in proudly showing Mrs Perry all the wonderful work the school has done to ensure its children are safe, happy with high levels of emotional and physical wellbeing.

In her report, Mrs Perry wrote, ‘Tavernspite School continues to be an outstanding health promoting school. The health promoting school ethos is evident across the whole school population and it runs seamlessly throughout everything that the school does. Tavernspite School continues to give high priority to promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of the whole school community.’

The school received fantastic support from Mrs Liz Western, Senior Public Health Officer and Lead for Healthy Schools and Pre-schools, Pembrokeshire, to whom they are very grateful.

Head teacher Kevin Phelps said, ‘We were delighted to receive this award for the fifth time, particularly considering the experiences we have all been through these past twelve months. Health and wellbeing has never been so important and we are proud to be leading the way like this.’

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