This weekend, pop stars including Justin Bieber joined Ariana Grande for the One Love Manchester benefit concert, an event that honored the victims of a recent terror act at one of her shows and raised money for organizations helping them.
After playing an acoustic version of the song “Cold Water,” Bieber told the 50,000 in attendance to hold on to faith and hope even in the aftermath of tragedy and violence:
I’m not going to let go of hope. I’m not going to let go of love. I’m not going to let go of God. Put your hand up if you’re not going to let go. God is good in the midst of the darkness. God is good in the midst of the evil. God is in the midst, no matter what’s happening in the world, God is in the midst and he loves you and he’s here for you.
O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Grammy award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix is getting into the Christmas spirit with a music video of the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah” off their new album A Pentatonix Christmas, which came out recently.
Christmas is a time we should spend with family and friends.
But we all have busy such lives. Sadly, that often mean we compromise the time we should be spending with our family. Maybe this is one of the reasons this advert left me in tears. The advert’s narrative revolves around an old man whose family is always too busy to see him during the holidays.
Well, I don’t know if this is the most powerful Christmas commercial ever, but it’s definitely one of the most watched. The video has garnered over 51 million views on YouTube alone.
Girlguiding turns to social media – and Unilad – to expose everyday sexism.
Girlguiding has used negative commentary from media personalities to highlight the everyday sexism that women still suffer in a new video designed to challenge outdated perceptions and to encourage people to see the charity in a more modern light.
#ForTheGirl has been launched in the light of research by the charity that found 70 per cent of 11 to 21-year-old girls believe sexism is so widespread it affects most areas of their lives. The film and campaign directly target women aged 25 to 34, both as role models for the charity’s young members and as a key demographic for future volunteers and parents of girls who might join the charity. The campaign will be aired through a number of channels, including Unilad’s Facebook page.
“#ForTheGirl highlights the level of sexism and inequality girls face in their day-to-day lives and through the mainstream media, and reminds them that they don’t have to accept it,” said Becky Hewitt, communications director at Girlguiding.
“We are calling on everyone to join girls in challenging sexism whenever and wherever they see it to build a fair future for girls everywhere.”
This week the funeral of the great pub landlady, Peggy Mitchell, took place in Albert Square. It was full of wonderful East End traditions, like the horse drawn bier led by the funeral conductor and the people standing by in respect. There were hints that Peggy had specified what kind of funeral she wanted – and it was certainly a very traditional, even old-fashioned, affair in the local church.
But these days a Church of England led funeral needn’t be traditional, whether it takes place in the local church or elsewhere. People can wear brightly coloured clothes, the coffin might be wicker or felt or hand-decorated, it could be draped with a favourite sports shirt, balloons might be released – whatever reflect that unique life and the love of God within a framework of reflection, prayer, thanks and commendation into God’s care. The EastEnders funeral reminded me of the time I took the funeral of a pub landlord – there were nearly 1,000 people present, a wicker coffin, the singing of Waltzing Matilda and lots and lots of tributes. I spent a lot of time with the family discovering what would make this funeral helpful, and to this day I remember them and pray for them.
Whatever the circumstances, the vicar talks with the family beforehand, finding out key family contacts and tensions (that would have been interesting in the Mitchell clan!) discovering what made this person uniquely loved and special to those around him or her. The vicar may encourage the family to make a tribute, talking about their own personal memories, and will be there alongside on the day, ready to offer a steadying arm or even take over if emotions became too much. Together with the Funeral Director the minister is responsible for the service, making sure it all works smoothly, offering care and support as needed – and should something go wrong, the vicar will be there.
Christians believe in a God who made every human being uniquely, who knows every step we take, walks with us through our journey in life, so celebrating and giving thanks is a central part of every Church of England led funeral. The camera cut away from the funeral service, but I do hope someone spoke about Peggy with affection. If I’d have been taking her funeral I would definitely have used the line ‘Get out of my pub!” somewhere in the service! But funerals are more than just thanksgiving: there is grief and loss, sometimes anger or regret, and a church service will also make space for holding those emotions, letting go where appropriate and finding comfort to face the future.
Above all a Church led funeral offers a message of hope – a hope that death is not the end and that both we who have to carry on living and those whom we love but see no longer are all held in the great love of God. Our recent research around Church of England led funerals showed that the timeless words ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life’ have a powerful resonance with people, even though their full meaning will take us all a lifetime to grasp.
A good vicar – and there are many like Revd Juliet Stephenson from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the current Funeral Celebrant of the Year – will offer pastoral care before, during and long after the funeral. Sometimes that’s the space to light a candle, sometimes the space to remember and sometimes a listening ear. I know EastEnders isn’t real [it isn’t is it?] but I hope that all who are faced with organising a funeral will know that the Church of England is there for them, meeting their needs with compassion, humour, love and grace.