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30
JAN

Spiritual Bear; Better Sermons

A teddy bear that was found washed up on a beach has been given a new lease of life and is now providing support to children and people living in care homes. The bear was restored by the Reverend Canon Eleanor Rance and its journey from discarded toy to "therapy bear" generated a global response on social media. The bear, named Sinbad, is used to help people to reflect on issues like brokenness and second chances. Reverend Rance tells us that people have found resonance in how he was washed up on a beach and then given a new start.

What's the trick to writing a really inspiring sermon? How can clergy keep their congregation listening? Pope Francis has suggested that Catholic homilies are often a disaster and recently repeated his call for them to be no longer than eight to ten minutes long. Quality is another consideration. Edward Stourton explores the issue with Quentin Letts, parliamentary sketch writer for the Times and drama critic of the Sunday Times and Revd Dr Alycia Timmis, Priest in Charge of the Northleach Benefice in the Anglican Diocese of Gloucester.

Producers: Jonathan Hallewell and Bara'atu Ibrahim
Presenter: Edward Stourton
22
JAN

Same Sex Marriage and the Church of England

It's been a tough week for the Church of England. The announcement that same sex marriages will remain banned in the Church though blessings for civil marriages of same sex couples would be allowed has been criticised by people on both sides of the debate. We hear from the Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell who says he will take part in blessing services even though the Archbishop of Canterbury says he won't.

The story of Fr Isaac Achi who was burned alive by bandits in his home in Nigeria has reverberated around the world this week and raised the question - how dangerous is it to be a Christian in Northern Nigeria? William talks to Illia Djadi from the missionary charity Open Doors and Abuja based security analyst Dr Kabir Adamu.

Music has the power to change a mood, but what about its ability to change your life? Ismael Lea South shares the story of how listening to Hip Hop in the 90s inspired him to convert to Islam.

As part of our series on faith in prisons, William speaks to Rachel Treweek, Bishop to Prisons in England and Wales, who believes that the majority of female prisoners shouldn’t actually be locked up.

To mark National Holocaust Memorial Day, we speak to Dov Forman, whose 99-year-old great grandmother Lily is a Holocaust survivor. He tells William about his first visit to Auschwitz and how he is using Tik Tok to remind the world about the horrors of the Holocaust.

And it's robots v rabbis as we try out a new development in AI technology called Chat GPT that can be used to write sermons and prayers.
15
JAN

Catholicism after Benedict. Faith in Prison, Shamanism

How might the death of the former Pope Benedict affect the future direction of the Catholic Church? When Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 citing old age, he became the first Pope in 600 years to step down from the role. For almost a decade there were in effect two popes living at close quarters in the Vatican. Some have regarded Benedict as more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis. We examine how the death of the former Pope could affect the pontificate of Francis and ask if it could lead to change.

Government figures show that more than half of adults released from prison in England and Wales go on to reoffend. In the second of our series on religion in prison, we hear about a faith group which is helping offenders to get back on their feet when they’re first released. Staff and clients at the Yellow Ribbon Community Chaplaincy in the English Midlands say drug and alcohol addictions often aren’t tackled in prison, and there's little support for people when they’re freed. The Justice ministry told us that it's improving rehabilitation in prison, and increasing the number of specialised wings to treat drug addiction and keep prisoners substance-free.

The data from the last Census released recently revealed a changing religious landscape in England and Wales, with a decline in the number of people identifying as Christian. But there were other interesting changes, including a rise in Shamanism. In 2011, just 650 people described themselves as Shaman, but a decade later, that had risen sharply to 8,000. We explore the appeal of Shamanism and ask why its popularity is increasing.

Producer: Jonathan Hallewell
Presenter: Emily Buchanan

4 episodes