Reading Rep and 2 Heavy Productions have teamed up in a challenging production. Race is a play about a controversial subject, as author David Mamet states: “The central theme of the production is race and the lies we tell each other on the subject”.

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The new Bishop of Oxford is looking forward to getting to know the people of Berkshire.

Earlier today, the Rt Revd Steven Croft was announced as the new incumbent for the post, which covers Anglican churches in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. He is currently the Bishop of Sheffield, but is no stranger to the region having studied at Oxford.

To mark the start of his new ministry, which will formally commence with an installation service at Christ Church Oxford in October, he took part in a whistlestop tour of the diocese on Tuesday.

Venues that he visited included meeting members of the farming community at Dorchester Abbey and serving lunch to homeless people who attend CIRDIC – the Churches In Reading Drop-In Centre. He was joined for the lunch by the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, the Bishop of Reading.

In one of his first interviews since his appointment was made public, Bishop Steven said he wanted to ensure the region’s churches worked more closely together. He also wants to the Church to play a part in address poverty in the region and is also looking forward to getting to meet everyone, regardless of their view of Christianity.

“We are looking forward so much to moving to the Diocese of Oxford, to serving the people of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and engage with the life of churches and the other faith communities and the wider communities,” he said.

Part of this engagement, he feels, comes from the way in which the church reaches out to people and he felt that Reading’s CIRDIC centre was a great example. The centre, which is open during the day throughout the week offers food, shelter and support for people who are homeless or on the fringes of society. It is a pan-denominational project and has been operating for many years.

Bishop Steven said: “This homeless drop-in centre is a magnificent way for churches to respond, offering not just food and physical nourishment but fellowship, hospitality, treating people with dignity, a safe space for people where they can come.

“One of the priorities I have throughout my time as Bishop of Oxford is engaging with the poorest people in the community and with areas of deprivation so that the prosperity of this region is shared and enjoyed by everyone who lives and works here.”

Churches in Wokingham have been ‘cakebombing’ new residents moving into new houses being built as part of the borough’s regeneration project. They visit, offering a gift of cake and a warm welcome. This is something that Bishop Steven very much wants to encourage.

“Immediately before I became Bishop of Sheffield I worked for five years encouraging Fresh Expressions of Church across the whole of the Church of England and Methodist Church and other churches,” he explained.

“The Fresh Expressions movement is all about the Church going outside, to places where people are, serving people, loving and caring for them, and by those means, where they can, introducing them to Jesus Christ, so I absolutely want to encourage all the churches of this region to be creative, entrepreneurial, to be missional and to grow together.”

When asked where he saw the Diocese of Oxford in five years’ time, Bishop Steven gave a note of caution.

He said: “First of all I need to see where the church is here and now and I’ve only just begun to do that.”

However, he hopes that in fives years, the Church would be “Even more united, even more focused on mission and serving our wider society, growing and making disciples, adults, children and young people, and rejoicing in the wonderful gift we have of faith in Jesus Christ.”

Moving to the Diocese of Oxford, and being based in the city, means that there is a chance he could meet one of its most famous professors, Richard Dawkins. Is this something that he relishes?

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to meeting everyone actually, from all kinds of social backgrounds, from all kinds of academic to intellectual backgrounds,  from the youngest child to the oldest,” he said.

“I really enjoy people and I enjoy engaging with people. And of course,  there are people with many different views on the Christian faith I hope to have conversations with them all, learn something from them all and also share something of my own faith and story.”

N The Diocese of Oxford has a population of 2.3 million people, more than 800 churches and almost 600 parochial clergy. It also includes 12 secondary and 270 primary church schools.  Bishop Steven will be the Anglican church’s senior bishop for the Thames Valley..

The Oxford graduate met and married his wife Ann in the city and the family lived in Oxford from 2004 until 2009 when Bishop Steven was leading Fresh Expressions, an initiative aimed at encouraging new forms of church for the 21st century.

The bible is packed with stories of Jesus and His disciples healing people. But that was 2,000 years ago. What about today? Can it happen here in the 21st century?

Some Christians believe that it can – and they’re inviting you to join them at the School of Supernatural Evangelism (SSE) to find out more. Organisers say that the SSE is born out of theconviction that moving in signs and wonders and the miraculous should be normal for every Christian. The year-long school meets on Tuesday evenings over 3 10-week-terms and includes monthly street evangelism.

It has been carefully organised to provide practical training and knowledge in Kingdom and Prophetic principles. In doing so, organisers hope you’ll develop a deeper relationship with God, experience His miraculous healing and prophetic power through you and experience personal transformation that involves being released from things that are holding you back in unexpected and profound ways. The course aims to equip you to bring people to Christ.

Teaching is led by Rob Gardiner, the founder and Senior pastor of Network Vineyard church, which has congregations in Reading and Bracknell, and Mark Iles, a church builder, prophet, teacher, mentor and advisor.

Steve, who attended the course, said that he found the course “life-changing”, while Carole said: “I was very nervous about joining a class full of “super-spiritual” people and felt that I might be out of depth. I soon found that everyone on the course was very honest and open about weaknesses and we learned a lot together”.

Nick said: “The SSE has been absolutely amazing and I have felt enabled to do so much more because of it. I didn’t see myself doing half the stuff I have this year…without the work God has been doing in my life through SSE”.

Thousands of people poured into Prospect Park on a warm Sunday on July 5 to see The Berkshire Motor Show held their annual event at Prospect Park, Reading. On display were classic and custom cars, hot rods, bikes, lorries and stationary steam engines.

An estimated 4,000 people visited the event with the monies raised supporting chILD Lung Foundation. ChILD UK and Ireland supports families affected by childhood Interstitial Lung Disease (chILD) by raising awareness, working with medical professionals to create a better understanding of chILD and offering practical and emotional support.

Although chILD is a rare condition affecting about 1 in 10,000 children, three children in the Reading area are known to the charity.

As well as the vehicles on display there was lots of family fun to be had with Pelhams Fun Fair, bouncy castles and slides, crafts, including Chain Saw Carvers who carve beautiful objects out of tree trunks using a chain saw.

Several charities had stalls at the event including The Samaritans, The Dogs Trust and chILD Lung Foundation.

WAW Wrestlers were cheered on as they displayed their skill and the students from the O’Gara School of Irish Dance wowed the audience with their moves.

Event organiser Steph Awbery said: “We’ve done really well this year, we estimate that between 8,000 and 10,000 people attended the event. There was a slow start but all of a sudden it just filled up, everyone loved it.

“The tug of war was popular, the live wrestling and Ella and Elsa went down great with the children. The live Irish dancing was also brilliant. “I want to give a big thanks to all the traders and clubs for coming along and also to the helpers. They all play such a big part in the show, we couldn’t do it without them.

“Next year will be our 10th anniversary, I have started to organise it already and it’s going to be bigger and better”.

Kim Barkins was fortunate enough to find the car of his dreams 17 years ago when he saw the Armstrong Siddeley Whitley 18 hp in a garage in Brightwell cum Sotwell.

The car at that time had had one careful owner, Stanley Maciak. For most of its life the Whiley has been kept under lock and key in a garage resulting in only 16,000 on the clock to date from new.

“This car was built in 1951”, said Kim, “it was made in Coventry and only 2,582 were ever built.

“It’s been in a lock up all of its life and that’s why everything is clean and original. The interior is ash wood and it has the original leatherwork. I have had it resprayed, new door cards made and the wood trim re-varnished and worked on the body work.

“I used to be a mechanic until I retired due to ill health.

“The car is only used for show, I might take it for a spin on weekends”.

The original registration plate was LAD 14 which Kim still owns but the plate was transferred and the DVLA issued a new, year related number for the car.

The Whitley also has the famous Armstrong Siddeley Sphinx mascot on the bonnet. The first sphinx was used by John Davenport Siddeley when advertising the Siddeley Deasy car before the First World War, the company then adopted the sphinx and used it until their last car was made in 1960.

Five fire crews from Hampshire Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service  were called at a blaze at All Saints Church in the heart of Fleet today (Monday June 22).  A spokesperson for All Saints said: “The fire started late in the afternoon and a ballet class in the Fleet Parish Community Centre was evacuated at 5;40pm. “Hampshire Fire and Rescue have said it is not thought anybody has been hurt. “The fire spread though the wooden roof of the main aisle and chancel which is reported to be completely lost. The stained glass and Victorian glass throughout the church has suffered substantial damage.  The roofs over the north and south aisles were still burning with smoke and flames emerging at 8pm”. The area has been cordoned off and a pall of smoke is covering the town. All Saints was built in 1860 by Charles Lefroy, the Secretary to the Speaker of the House of Commons in memory of his wife, Janet. It was designed by the architect William Burges, considered to be one of the greatest of the Victorian art-architects. All Saints website said: “Please pray for our community in Fleet.”

Living in beautiful countryside and villages are some peoples idea of dream come true, but the reality can be hard.

In 2010 the charity Together in Mission (TiM) conducted a social audit in West Berkshire/North Hampshire which highlighted a number of problems. One of the bigger issues was the concern that a growing number of older people living in rural areas feel isolated and aren’t easily able to get out of their homes.

TiM with a band of volunteers have stepped into the gap with TiM Friends, a befriending service for the people of Mortimer, Burghfield and surrounding areas.

“Many people find themselves alone for one reason or another,” said Bev French, co-ordinator for TiM Friends. “They may be isolated due to illness or disability. They just don’t get out as much as they would like to and see as many people as before.”

This is where TiM Friends comes in, working in partnership with other organisations (The Link, Age Concern and Churches Together in Burghfield, Sulhamstead and Mortimer), they offer friendship to people who would welcome hearing or seeing a friend on a regular basis. This can be a chat over the phone, a visit at home or a trip out.

TiM Friends relies on volunteers to deliver this service. “You don’t need any special skills to become a friend” said Bev, “You just need a warm and caring personality. We provide training and support during your time with us.

“Even housebound people can volunteer as part of the telephone befriending service.”

If you know of someone who would benefit from having a regular visitor, if you would like a visit yourself or if you would like to volunteer as a TiM Friend please contact friends@togetherinmission.org.uk

Telephone enquiries are 07778 911183 for Burghfield Area and 07778 911184 for Mortimer Area.

You can donate via Vodafone’s JustTextGiving by texting CTIM01 and the amount (eg CTIM01 £10) to 70070

photograph: Members of TiM outside Cafe B, a community cafe in Burghfield, run by local volunteers and managed and organised by TiM.

Darren Allwright has a huge heart and he is trying to fit 400 million children who are living in poverty into it. He knows that he can’t help them all but he is helping children in Nicaragua, Central America. Darren and his wife Rachel sponsor two children there through the charity Compassion UK.

“Rachel and I sponsor Katherine and Andru who live in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua”, said Darren. “I have also ridden from Lands End to John O’Groats to build extra classrooms at this [Mangua] Compassion project.

“This June I’ll be running a marathon just outside the Masai Mara Nature Reserve in Kenya for Compassion UK.  Even though there’s great need in Kenya, I’m focusing my attention on Compassion’s work in Nicaragua, Central America where 12% of the population live on less than 66p a day.

“Ever since I visited Compassion’s work there in 2012, I have fallen in love with Nicaragua!”

This is why we would love for you to join us in transforming this specific community through sponsoring a child or donating to this specific Compassion project in Managua, Nicaragua.

Compassion is an international Christian child development and child advocacy ministry who work with local churches. They are committed to the spiritual, economic, social and physical development of children living in extreme poverty in 26 countries, including Nicaragua.

If you would like to learn more about Darren’s marathon run in Kenya, would like to donate to Compassion or sponsor a child look at Darren’s Just Giving Page at https://www.justgiving.com/darrena/

Wokingham Fire Station hosted a charity car wash on Saturday April 25. The annual event was to raise monies for the Fire Fighter’s Charity which looks after the welfare of serving and ex-fire fighters across the UK.

Fire fighter Ross Burton said: “We raised just under £1,000 on the day which is a fantastic effort from everyone.

“A special big thank you to Domino’s Pizza at Lower Earley for giving us a free lunch and keeping us going, and to Wokingham and Whitley Wood Fire Stations who helped us out with the car wash.”

Rev Maureen Devine from St Nicolas’ church, Earley was also present in her capacity as Chaplain for Wokingham Road and Whitley Wood fire stations. “I visit all the watches once a month,” she said. “I listen to them and care for their needs and support them.

“They are a great bunch and I love this job.” she said.

The Bishop of Reading Andrew Proud will be donned his sandals and hoisted a bundle of firewood as he walked through the shopping centre of Reading in the shoes of Ethiopian women living in poverty ahead of this year’s Christian Aid Week (May 10-16, 2015).

Bishop Andrew is joining Christian Aid in asking the British public to support women living in poverty around the world who are discriminated against from birth as part of Britain’s longest running house to house fundraising week.

Four times a week, in a remote corner of Ethiopia, Loko Jarso makes a back-breaking eight-hour trip to gather wood. With only thin flip-flops to protect her feet from thorns and rocks it’s a task she dreads, but she steels herself to do it because if she doesn’t her children will starve. To earn enough money to feed her children one small meal a day, she needs wood to sell.

Women and girls from Loko’s community are expected to fetch and carry wood and water to provide for their family. Denied a good education and the respect of their community, women are trapped in a life of poverty.

The Bishop of Reading Andrew Proud, formerly the Bishop of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa is putting on his flip-flops and ‘walking in Loko’s shoes’ through the streets of Reading to raise awareness of the difficulties many women face. He says:“All over Ethiopia, I’ve seen women just like Loko, collecting firewood to carry into the nearest town, to take to market, where they sell it to buy lentils and maybe a few onions to feed their family.

“They walk for hours each day, carrying their burdens in bare feet or flip flops made of car tyres. It is back-breaking work and these women often only live until their early forties.

“Anything we can do together to provide them with a different way, a better way to feed their families and to live longer has to be good. Please give generously, so Christian Aid can help them change their lives.”

Discrimination against women is one of the greatest injustices of our time and the statistics speak for themselves.  Globally, less than 20 per cent of landholders are women[i] and women do twice as much unpaid work as men[ii].

In many countries girls are treated like second-class citizens while boys are provided with opportunities for an education, work, food and even decision making at the expense of their sisters.

Almost as soon as girls are strong enough to walk many can spend hours fetching water and doing household chores.  Often forced into early marriages, they can also face the dangers of giving birth before their young bodies are ready.  Deprived of an education, later in life women have to rely on men for their financial security, with any hope of following their own dreams dashed, leaving them vulnerable to deprivation and violence.

Christian Aid believes this has to change – for the sake of everyone; for the sake of women, men, girls, boys, communities and societies warped by such an extreme imbalance of power.

In Ethiopia Christian Aid partner HUNDEE works with both women and men in poor rural communities to challenge violence against women and harmful traditional practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), to bring about lasting change and ensure women can live in dignity and are treated with respect.

HUNDEE encourages men to get more involved with household tasks, including looking after their children, and consult their wives about the decisions that affect them.

They also provide the poorest women in rural  communities with livestock, raising their status within society, because  when they have a cow they have a voice in community decision making, as well as a means to earn a living.

Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive of Christian Aid said: “We cannot end world poverty without addressing the fundamental issue of discrimination against women and girls.  The unequal distribution of power and opportunities between the sexes is at the heart of poverty, and we are working with both men and women in communities around the world to bring about change. We are working with partners like HUNDEE to break down the barriers and root out the injustices that hold women back, and give them a chance to stand on their own two feet.”

You can help to change the lives of women in places like Ethiopia this Christian Aid Week by donating online at www.caweek.org  calling 08080 006 006, or texting ‘WEEK to 78866 to give £5.