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September 12, 2010

Chaplaincy Blog
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» Chaplaincy launches Faith Calendar – an excellent tool for furthering Equal Opportunities implementation

The Chaplaincy to the University of Glamorgan is pleased to announce the launch of our on-line Faith Calendar .

This calendar, compiled with assistance from the Chaplaincy’s faith advisors, indicates the main fixed and movable observances of the UK’s nine major religions, up to December 2013.

Most of the world’s religious faiths include festivals and fasts. On festival days, followers of a religion may consider themselves required to attend a place of worship or to rest from their daily work. Fasting can include avoidance of all food and water from dawn until dusk (such as the Muslim practice of Ramadan) or the avoidance of certain foods on certain days (many Christians avoid meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday).

Under new Equality legislation the University is required to avoid discrimination against its employees, students, and other clients, on grounds of religious faith or philosophical beliefs.

The Chaplaincy’s Faith Calendar is offered as a tool to help University personnel in planning future activities. The calendar identifies the principal celebrations within the UK’s nine major faiths which are most likely to impact the working arrangements of believers, and provides links to summary information about the festival.

The Chaplaincy welcomes feedback from University departments which could improve the usefulness of this calendar.

Further information on the relevant equalities legislation can be found in these documents from ACAS , from the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government and from the Equality Challenge Unit

The University Chaplain and the University’s Equalities Manager are also available for further advice.

September 7, 2010

Chaplaincy Blog
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» Chaplain Welcomes Hawking’s Rethink on God

In his 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, Professor Stephen Hawking famously asked: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? … Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”

Then, the professor speculated that a Creator God might provide the answer. Last week, in a new book serialised in The Times, Hawking declared God to be redundant because “the Universe can and will create itself from nothing”.

As a physicist and a Christian, I applaud Hawking’s change of position. Invoking God as the one who breathes fire into the Universe is to take the dangerous path of placing faith in the “God of the Gaps.” Faced with a link in a causal chain which we do not understand, we are tempted to declare “God did it!” and solve the problem… at least until science comes up with a better answer, and kicks away one apparent foundation of faith.

The beginning of the Universe represents a deeper problem than the usual “God of the Gaps” scenario, though. It represents the quest for the termination of a chain of explanations which would otherwise stretch on for infinity. Imagine a small child exploring the world and asking “… and why did that happen?” in response to every previous answer. What kind of reply would silence the child and provide an answer so satisfactory that no further why is possible, or necessary? Mediaeval philosophers declared the First Cause or Unmoved Mover to be “that which people call God”.

Hawking, together with many contemporary scientists, argues that the Universe itself is the kind of thing that needs no prior explanation – the ultimate free lunch. The explanation goes like this: Imagine you have no money – you can’t carry out any transactions. But suppose the bank gives you an interest free loan of £1,000,000. Your net worth is still zero – but there’s a lot of interesting things you can do with that million pounds. Further, the bank doesn’t need to have money in its coffers to give you the loan; it creates the capital by ‘quantitative easing’, so the bank’s net worth is also zero! In the same way, quantum physics says that nothing is identical to “something plus a debt”. Therefore from nothing (no universe), energy can be loaned to create a universe – and here we are! Perhaps the universe we are in is the only permissible debt under the rules; or perhaps it represents one of many debts which exist. No Creator is needed – for the same laws of mathematics create both the bank and the loan.

But… I am a Roman Catholic, and each Sunday at Mass I recite the words, “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.” How can I declare that with integrity?

My faith is in Jesus Christ, who came to show the world, in the fullest way possible, the God he called Father. After decades of reflection, a disciple of Jesus wrote the opening verses of the Gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Therefore, I believe that in these words Jesus is saying, through his disciple, “My Father and I were intimately involved in the beginning of all things.” I don’t need to know the details of how God did it, and I am not invoking God as a necessary explanation of why the universe exists. I am simply trusting in the Bible’s statement that God was involved.

Further, Jesus also said “I am the Truth.” In some profound way, the God revealed by Jesus is all truth, all love and all beauty. If the mathematical laws which govern the universe are intrinsically true, and are themselves sufficient to summon a universe into being, the fire is already present in the equations. God does not need to breathe on the equations. Rather, the fiery equations themselves are one small manifestation of that ultimate Truth, which people of faith call God.

This blog article was written by Revd Gareth Leyshon, who is a Roman Catholic priest, an Associate Chaplain to the University of Glamorgan, and who holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics for studies on dust in distant galaxies.

August 31, 2010

Chaplaincy Blog
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» Prayers for Healthcare

As part of our commitment to the Healthcare Christian Fellowship’s ‘Seven Years of Prayer’ project, we make a point of praying for healthcare locally and worldwide on the first Wednesday of every month.

In September 2010, we are especially praying for:

  • all students and staff in the Department of Care Sciences, especially any who are in particular need today
  • local hospitals, and HESAS students working in them
  • healthcare workers in places where there is war or communal strife
  • healthcare in Australia and the Pacific
  • the students from Kerala, India, who are coming to HESAS in September to study for their BSc in nursing, and a few for MSc
  • the ‘Books Plus’ Christian bookshop in the University of Wales Hospital, and similar shops in other hospitals
  • the work of the Healthcare Christian Fellowship
  • the Living Hope Hospital Outreach in Nigeria, doing medical and evangelistic work, and especially teaching on obstetric care: Aggie Horne and her husband Ron have been helping there in the past few weeks.
  • the “God loves the NHS” conference to be held in Sheffield in November
  • Dr Liam Chapman’s visit to Uganda to help with a community project there which includes bee-keeping, goat breeding, support for orphan children, church planting, water supply, training women in baking and sewing, help to hospital patients, training of community health workers, help to prisoners, literacy classes in prisons and in the general community, etc.

These prayer intentions are posted in the Chaplaincy Quiet Room in Glyntaff, where individuals and small groups make a point of dropping in to pray at some time during first Wednesdays. If you would like to come and pray together with others, please contact the Chaplaincy and we will help you co-ordinate your visit with others.

Rev. Ray Vincent – Associate Chaplain