Category Archives: Inclusion

Safer recruitment

Lesley and Alan recently undertook some safeguarding training, and were reminded that the reason that the church sometimes does things differently is because most organisations can safeguard by exclusion – if they think that someone might be a risk they exclude them.  The church is inclusive and welcomes all. However, the impact of this is that we need different procedures to other organisations. 

The training was about Safer Recruitment, and one of the facts we were given was that other voluntary groups are getting better at this, and if the church doesn’t also do so we will become the most likely place for malevolent people to seek to infiltrate their way in.

All people helping with church activities which involve children or vulnerable adults should be “safely recruited”.  We have a large number of people who have taken on roles over many years without this.  It is within the PCCs authority to accept all those currently in role and implement this for those going forwards.

Safe recruitment says that for those roles which involve children or vulnerable adults:

A role description should be written;
The role should be advertised (not essential for volunteer roles);
An interview (which could be an informal chat for volunteer roles);
References should be taken;
There should be an ongoing oversight role;
A confidential declaration should be completed;
A review should determine whether a DBS is required.

If you would like to know more, please contact Alan.

Picture by  Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Celebrate Pride and God’s Love

Join us to celebrate Pride on Saturday, August 8, here online from 10am.

August 8 should have been marked by a Surrey Pride march and celebrations on the street but these had to be cancelled because of Covid-19. However, we are celebrating the LGBTI+ community and God’s wonderful, inclusive love with an online service.

There will be music, art, photography, prayers, poetry, Bible readings and reflections from individuals including a former curate of St George’s whom some of you may remember – Rev’d Paul Holt – along with Sara Gillingham, a leading intersex campaigner and great friend of the parish; Jayne Ozanne who runs the Ozanne Foundation which works with religious organisations to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender; and Dr Ash Brockwell, a transgender man and educator who has contributed both a poem and hymn to the service.

There is a moving reflection on growing up as a gay man from James Muller, a Farnham photographer whose work features regularly in Vogue Italia, and who has kindly contributed many of his beautiful photographs; there is art from local people, including paintings by members of Farnham Heath End School’s LGBT+ group, and stones painted with rainbow messages to indicate God’s love for everyone.

Stella Wiseman, who leads inclusion work in the parish, explains the thinking behind the service: “The church as a whole doesn’t have a great track record in welcoming people who do not fit into a heterosexual, cis-gender box, and indeed has caused great harm to many LGBTI+ people. This is something we need to repent of and make amends for. We have no right to limit God’s love and welcome like this and to damage and destroy people in the name of God is appalling.

“Thankfully, things are changing and many churches, such as those in this parish, are more welcoming and inclusive now. Some of us would have been walking under the Christians at Pride banner in Woking on August 8th but Covid-19 has put paid to that. So instead we are organizing this lovely, colourful service online and we are delighted that members of the local church are taking part along with friends from other churches. We are really grateful to them for giving up their time to share with us their experience of God’s love and welcome and grateful too for the art, photography and music.

“Pride in Surrey is taking a Pride-themed vehicle around the county that weekend too and will be live-streaming and the parish has just been asked to send a contribution to the online Pride. The Pride vehicle will be making its way to Farnham on Sunday 9th at 10am so watch out for that too. You can find out more on”

Everyone is invited to join the service online here on Saturday, August 8 , from 10am and on our Facebook page:

Churches reopen for services

Come on in! We are excited to announce that our churches will be open again for services this Sunday, after more than four months of being closed thanks to Covid-19.

There will be simple Communion services at each of the three churches from this Sunday: St John’s at 9.30am, St George’s at 10am and St Mark’s at 11am. We will also hold a service at noon on Wednesday at St Mark’s, replacing the old Friday service.

We are also going to continue to offer online services as we know that not everyone will feel able to come to the church buildings themselves. You can find our online services here.

If you are familiar with the services you will notice some differences, as Lesley Crawley explains: “We are absolutely delighted that we can return to the church buildings to worship together in person. However there will be changes to the services designed to reduce the risk of Covid-19.  For instance we cannot have any singing, we cannot sit close to each other and we cannot share the Communion cup of wine. We will, however, be able to receive the Communion bread. Please come along and be a part of our services if you are able to, everyone is welcome.”

We have installed hand sanitizers and put up notices to remind everyone about social distancing and where it is safe to sit. Everyone attending will be asked for contact details so that if someone tests positive for Covid-19 it will be possible to get in touch with others who attended church at the same time. Those coming to church are strongly advised to wear masks but this is not compulsory.

There will be services available online from 9am on Sunday. “Holding services online means that more people can access them,” says Lesley. “Some people may feel particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and therefore not want to come to church, and there are also others who cannot come to church perhaps because of mobility issues or illness, or because of work or family commitments. We should have thought about online services long ago but Covid concentrated our minds rather and has enabled us to be creative and reach more people.”

We are also very aware that the Covid pandemic has accentuated the divide between those who have access to modern technology and those who do not. Many of those who are not online are also older and have been increasingly isolated during lockdown. The parish, along with other groups in Farnham, has been supporting those who are isolated and is looking at how to increase this support in the future.

Painting a rainbow

We are holding a Pride Service online on Saturday, August 8, in celebration of the LGBTI+ community and God’s love for us all.

We’d like people to paint rocks in rainbow colours, with pictures, designs or messages of love and inclusion on them. We plan to have the painted rocks at St Mark’s like the one in the picture below, painted by Aly Buckle. Or how about some other art to celebrate inclusion, like the ones above which were painted by members of the LGBT+ group at Farnham Heath End School?

We will tell you when to bring your rocks and other art and take a video of people bringing them to the church and include the video in our Pride service. If you can’t come yourself send Stella a photo of the rocks/pictures you have painted.

More on the Pride Service shortly.

MP, Mayor and Intersex advocate choose favourite hymns

Jeremy Hunt, MP; the Mayor of Farnham; a prominent advocate for those born with intersex traits; and other key members of the local community, are all taking part in an online service of their favourite hymns, which will be online here on Wednesday, June 10, from 6pm.

Each person has chosen a hymn and will introduce it online explaining why they like it and what their Christian faith means to them. The hymns are a mix of old and new, and range from the 17th century My Song is Love Unknown, chosen by Janet Martin, one of the key organisers of the Farnham Flash Festival, to the 1980s’ one The Servant King, chosen by Sara Gillingham. Sara, an accountant by profession, also works with the church, universities and the media to raise awareness of people born with intersex traits, which is her own story.

Each speaks about what the hymn and their faith means to them – for Sara Gillingham it is a faith in a God full of grace, in whose image we are made, and Christ there beside us; while Jeremy Hunt speaks of the stillness which his faith gives him and how it is reflected in his choice of hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Among the other hymns you can hear are Father I Place into Your Hands, chosen by Bob Skinner, whom many will know from Farnham Foodbank, and Faithful One so Unchanging, the choice of Cathy Burroughs, manager of Hale Community Centre. You will also hear the rousing God is our Strength and Refuge, chosen by Pat Evans, the Mayor of Farnham, and sung to The Dam Busters March.

Lesley Crawley explains the thinking behind the service: “Favourite hymns can speak to us on a deep level, through the music and the words, and help us understand more about God and our faith. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to hear the choices of those who have so kindly contributed and understand more about what their faith means to them.”

Join us here on Wednesday, June 10, from 6pm, or on Facebook or on the parish YouTube channel. You may even want to sing along!

Black Lives Matter

In our quiet corner of Surrey where there is little ethnic diversity it may be hard to relate to the unrest taking place across the USA. But, however, distant we are in both miles and life experience, the parish stands with those who are reminding us – in increasingly urgent voices – that Black lives matter.

The reason is the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when Derek Chauvin, a white American police officer, kept his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, during which time Mr Floyd was gasping that he couldn’t breathe. For the last almost three minutes George Floyd was unresponsive. He died. Derek Chauvin has now been charged with murder.

This is the current background to the call that Black lives matter, but the background could just as well have been the death of Eric Garner or John Crawford or Michael Brown Jr or Tanisha Anderson or Tony Robinson or Michael Dean or Jamee Johnson or Yassin Mohamed or Finan H. Berhe… the list goes on and on. They were all black and they were all killed by police officers.

These were in the USA where the Black Lives Matter movement began, but the background is also the disproportionate number of arrests of Black people in the UK (three times higher than for white people)1; it is also the fact that Black workers with university degrees earn 23.1% less on average than white workers1 ; the fact that a survey found that 38% of people from ethnic minorities reported being wrongly accused of shoplifting between 2013 and 2018, compared with 14% of white people, with Black people and women in particular more likely to be wrongly suspected2. It could be the greater impact of coronavirus on Black people than on white people in this country which has highlighted longstanding inequalities in health, incomes, housing and employment3.

These, and many more reasons are why Black Lives Matter, a phrase that has sparked a campaign which is here in the UK too ( There will be people who say“but all lives matter” and, of course, all lives do matter, everyone is equally important. And that is the point. When there is a group of people being treated unfairly, even brutally, when there is a group of people which is discriminated against even to the point of being murdered, then it is up to us all to say “enough!”

What does it have to do with this parish in north Farnham? Most of us will claim not to be racist. We also claim to be inclusive and to be so because we follow Jesus. But we have to put that into practice. We have to remember that Jesus responded to need where it was. When someone was on the margins and asking for help he didn’t check that the more privileged were OK first.

So what do those of us who are white do? For a start, don’t just listen to me, a white woman. Instead, you and I must listen to the experiences of Black people, we must look at ourselves and our own actions, and we must see where we can change and where we can stand against racism and for our Black brothers and sisters. We must ask what our faith challenges us to do – what Jesus, whom we try to follow, would call on us to do.

We need to listen to people like Siana Bangura when she tells us that “being anti-racist is a verb, a doing word” and that “Guilt has little use now, we need to see courage and action. In the same way that you love black culture, you need to show up for our struggles too.” We need to listen to British man Rakeem Noble who spoke on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show this week (1hr, 50)and explained why the UK is not innocent. And we need to read the Gospels.

As Lesley Crawley says: “The Black Lives Matter campaign is so important because there are such gross inequalities between the way Black people and white people are treated, not just in America but here too. It is of central importance to us as Christians because Jesus, time after time, stood on the side of those who were marginalised. He stood up for lepers, for Samaritans, for the disabled, for women, for the poor… the list goes on. If these passages were removed from the Gospels then there would be very little left. Our heartfelt prayers are for an equal society, and until we get there, we lift our voices with those from whom justice is denied.”

Let’s add our voices to those calling for justice, for George Floyd and for all Black people.

Stella Wiseman

Note:  I have capitalised the word Black because I have been following the guidance of Lori L Tharps, Black woman and journalism professor, who wrote: “Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.

1 Race report statistics, Equality and Human Rights Commission

2 Robert Booth, Aamna Mohdin, The Guardian, December 2, 2018.

3 Haroon Siddique, The Guardian, May 27, 2020

Photo: George Floyd memorial. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

VE Day

Today we commemorate the end of World War II in Europe, 75 years ago, the end of almost six dark years of a war against a fascist ideology which sought to destroy all freedom and which denied the God-given beauty and equality of all people.

As we remember, let us vow never to let it happen again.

Join us here for a VE Day service on Sunday, from 9.30am.

Everyone is welcome

This is just a reminder that EVERYONE is welcome to the churches in our parish. God does not discriminate. God loves and welcomes all of us, whoever we are. Sometimes the church doesn’t appear to offer that welcome, particularly to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary or intersex, but all are welcome in this parish, and we work to challenge discrimination and exclusion.

Our inclusive values mean that we extend this challenge to all areas of discrimination and we belong to Inclusive Church, a network of churches, groups and individuals uniting around a shared vision:

We believe in inclusive Church – a church which celebrates and affirms every person and does not discriminate. We will continue to challenge the church where it continues to discriminate against people on grounds of disability, economic power, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, learning disability, mental health, neurodiversity, or sexuality. We believe in a Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”

We will get it wrong. If you feel excluded or discriminated against, tell us. But let’s work together to offer God’s welcome.


Picture by Cecilie Johnsen on Unsplash.

Special atmosphere and Santa at SHIP party

Families from Sandy Hill met Santa Claus and showed off their dance moves at a party at St Mark’s on the Monday before Christmas (December 23).

The families, from the Sandy Hill Inclusive Partnership (SHIP), enjoyed a party which included table tennis, pool, art and craft, music and dance provided by the performing arts school Boogie Pumps, and, of course, a visit from Santa Claus who brought gifts for all the children and their parents too.

“It was a really special atmosphere,” said Francis from Boogie Pumps, who led the children in a dance session involving hoops, pom poms, baby sharks and a lot of energy and enthusiasm, while the general consensus among the families was that it was “awesome” and “we’ve been spoiled!”.

More than 100 presents were provided for the children following the annual Farnborough Business Park Christmas Gift Drive, collecting brand new toys, clothes, vouchers, make-up and jewellery for some young people. Members of St Mark’s, St John’s and St George’s churches had also donated enough presents for the SHIP adults to take home a bag of gifts each too.

A big thank-you to everyone who gave so generously, and to everyone who helped put on the party, including Waitrose who provided some of the food. It was great fun and a lovely start to Christmas. We are looking forward to other events with SHIP in the new year.