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Podcast Sunday

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  • 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
  • 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. 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. Producers: Catherine Murray & Jill Collins Production co-ordinator: Liz Poole Editors: Helen Grady and Tim Pemberton
  • 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
  • Repairing Relationships; Faith in Prisons; Embracing Failure.
    Prince Harry wants to reconcile with his family. But how easy is that given the continuing fallout from his interviews and memoir? Sacred texts are full of tales of feuding siblings, so what can they teach the Royals? Imam Qari Asim and Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen share scriptural insights and pastoral advice. If you've already failed to stick to your New Year's resolution, help is at hand. The Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson has written a book on how to cope with and learn from failure. Cricketer Monty Panesar and Comedian Shazia Mirza also share how faith has helped them deal with failure in their lives. In the last two years, thousands of Hong Kongers have taken advantage of a new Visa scheme to the UK, following China's imposition of a national security law on the former British Colony. Vishva Samani reports from Reading where large numbers have settled, to see how they are integrating within the local faith communities. The life and death of the late American singer Whitney Houston inspired Candice Marie Benbow to become a theologian. As Whitney's story is retold in a new film biopic, Candice tells Emily how the woman she refers to as the ‘ultimate Church girl’ impacted her faith journey and opened up important conversations about how her Church sees women. Overcrowding, drugs, staff shortages and long waits for trial are just some of the issues facing those in the prison system. But what lies behind the headlines? In a new four part series, we'll be taking a closer look at the prison system through the eyes of the religious groups and figures working within it. In this first episode we examine the issue of sentencing, with Bishop James Jones, Chair of the Independent Commission into the Experience of Victims and Long Term Prisoners. Producers: Jill Collins and Catherine Murray Production co-ordinator: Liz Poole Studio managers: Phillip Halliwell, Chris Hardman and Tom Parnell Editor: Helen Grady
  • Remembering Pope Benedict XVI
    In a special programme to mark the death of Pope Benedict XVI, Edward Stourton and guests discuss the life and legacy of the gentle German academic who became the spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics all over the world. The 95-year-old Pope Emeritus, who stood down almost a decade ago due to his poor health, died at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery within the walls of the Vatican, where he had lived during his final years. He led the Catholic Church for fewer than eight years but is considered by many to be one of the most influential religious leaders of modern times. He defended Catholic teaching fearlessly, speaking out against what he called "the dictatorship of relativism", and produced deeply moving spiritual writings. In a special programme, Edward Stourton looks back at his life and pontificate and assesses the impact of his resignation in 2013 - the first by a Pope since Gregory XII in 1415 - and looks ahead to the impact his death will have on his successor Pope Francis. Edward remembers Pope Benedict's UK visit with the screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, who helped organise it, and one of the young Catholics who met the Pope when he came to Birmingham. And he assesses Benedict's lasting impact on the Catholic Church and the wider world with an expert panel of British Catholics and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Presented by Edward Stourton. Produced by Julia Paul and Katy Booth. Editor: Helen Grady.

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