Corona Virus Outbreak

Given the unprecedented situation around the Corona Virus pandemic, and the resultant closure of churches, we felt that we had to find a way to communicate with people in the local and wider communities.

Therefore we made a video in the empty Toll Gavel church using the consumer video technology that we had at hand, edited it and uploaded it to YouTube. Here it is:

Watchmen Warriors

Watchmen Warriors is a new initiative that is designed to connect the praying power of churches across the East Riding with specific prayer needs supplied to us by the Police and other Emergency services. 

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The initiative was inspired by a city-wide prayer movement in Liverpool which has seen measurable change in their city through targeted prayer, combating areas like drugs, human trafficking, anti-social behaviour, poverty and crime. Watchmen Warriors will send out a bi-monthly prayer bulletin which will then be publicised around the churches and prayer groups of the East Riding.

1) Mental Health

Police officers have to live with an incredible amount of personal pressure, due to the nature of their work. Mental health issues are on the increase among police officers. The need to develop a support group for men and women within the forces has become very evident. PC Carl Osler is currently looking, with others, at setting up such a group. Please pray for wisdom for Carl, that he would be able to make the right connections and obtain any resources which are needed to see this vital help established.

2) Issues relating to the Christmas season

1.    “Black Friday” for the police is Friday 20th of December. This is the day when lots of companies finish work for Christmas, bringing a significant spike in drunken behaviour and violence (both domestic and on the streets). This has a huge impact on both the police and ambulance services and puts tremendous pressure on the NHS and all resources. Why not make a diary note to specifically pray for the Police and Emergency services on this day.

2.    Over the holiday season, drink-driving and driving whilst under the influence of drugs is also a big issue. Pray that God would influence people to be responsible in this area. Pray also for protection for the public, for passengers and for any drivers involved, for those whose policing provides a deterrent and for the emergency services involved in any incidents.

3.    Loneliness, especially over the Christmas holiday period, leads to an increase in suicides. Pray for those who are at risk.

4.    There is also a greater risk of domestic violence at this time of the year, which can be fuelled by alcohol, financial pressures or relationship issues.

5.    There is often an increase in incidents on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Prolonged drinking celebrations can easily spill over into anti-social behaviour and violence.

3) Brexit

“The issue of Brexit has played a part in an increase in hate crimes, with both families and communities becoming deeply polarised by the referendum vote of June 2016. Illegal migration and human trafficking also remain important issues. Pray for peace on our streets and in communities, and that any protests would remain peaceful and respectful.

Let’s stand together as Christian believers and pray that we see a measurable reduction in the crime statistics across the East Riding. And let’s not forget to pray for the welfare of all of the Police and other emergency services personal who make such a positive contribution to our communities.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6, 12)

“Watchmen Warriors” is a part of the “Pursuing His Presence” regional prayer movement. It is managed by Julie Burton (Pocklington) and Steph Murray (Driffield), overseen by John Beynon (Beverley) and administered by King’s Church Beverley, with information supplied by Carl Osler, the Community Cohesion Police Constable for the East Riding

How to Go Greener Day

The ‘How to Go Greener Day’ on Saturday 30th March was a great success with many attendees, and everyone agreed that the quality of the speakers was outstanding. The speakers were drawn from a wide range of environmental campaign groups.

The day started with coffee and an introduction by Rev’d Peter Cross.

Rev’d Peter Cross welcomes the attendees to How to Go Greener Day

At 10:15 a rousing talk by Hilary Blake of ‘Joy in Enough’, a Christian sustainability group.

Then a talk by Rachel Curry which examined the very complex science behind the climate change arguments. With a background in science, and currently studying chemistry at York University, it was nice to hear from someone with expertise in climate chemistry.

Rachel Curry showed the audience some excellent and compelling scientific evidence for climate change.

Then a coffee break, which featured vegan milk, fair trade tea and coffee and locally sourced cakes – from volunteers.

Vegan milks!
Elaine works with the locally sourced scones!

Suitably refreshed, everyone then listened to a talk by former MEP Philip Bennison, now the owner of a small arable farm, on how farmers can help feed Britain and the world with better crop yields and sustainable farming practices.

Farmer Peter Bennison talked about sustainability in farming.

Next, David Hughes, a founder of the Climate Stewards organisation, gave a talk about how we can all help to reduce human impact on the environment.

David Hughes of Climate Stewards talked about how we can all help in the battle against climate change.

At 12:15 Kallum Nicholson took the podium and talked about the looming disaster of discarded plastic in the environment, especially the oceans. Plastic particles are now found in the bodies of creatures throughout the oceanic food chain, from shrimps to the great whales.

Kallum Ncholson gave a talk which warned about the effects of discarded plastic on oceanic life, and the danger this poses to humans.

Finally, local circuit preacher Linda Johnson talked about the joys of veganism and how, conversely, modern industrial livestock farming is having a dramatic adverse effect on the environment.

Linda Johnson talks about the joys of veganism.

After a tasty locally sourced vegan lunch there were afternoon workshops where green activists, green organisations and green businesses talked about their campaigns, ideas and products.

Green Christians talk about their beliefs
Ethical products were on sale at the event
Free Flow talk about the ethical approach to period poverty
Ethical cloth demonstrations
Making eco bricks from discarded plastic
Friends of the Earth
A smiling face from Christian Aid.

Tea and coffee certification schemes

Josie Wexler of Ethical Consumer compares different certification schemes in the Coffee and Tea industries to see which ones we can trust.  The article which appeared on on 17th December 2018 is copied here in full. Where the word ‘we’ is used, it refers to Ethical Consumer’s opinions.


At a global level, about 17% of tea is certified Fairtrade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, or Utz. But, in Kenya, which supplies the biggest portion of the UK market, more than 80% of tea is certified by one of these schemes.


To understand Fairtrade, it helps to know a bit of the history because, to a great extent, Fairtrade arose as a response to the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement.

Image: Fairtrade logo

This agreement had regulated how much coffee each country was allowed to export, stabilising prices and keeping them reasonably high. It was partly a product of the cold war: the US was frightened that Latin American coffee producers would turn to communism if they were too immiserated by low, volatile coffee prices. The International Coffee Agreement collapsed in 1989, and the result was a horrendous drop in world coffee prices which threw many coffee farmers into desperate poverty.

This history is why Fairtrade put so much focus on prices – it was, basically, stepping into the void left by the collapse in this agreement. It has a fixed premium that must be paid on top of the market price, and it has a minimum price that must be paid when the market price falls below it, as a safety net.

To complement this, regulations were added. To get certified, a producer must show that it is meeting certain social and environmental standards. It can then attempt to sell its produce at the Fairtrade price, if it can find a buyer.

That last point is a bit of a snag, however, and a common cause of confusion. Being certified Fairtrade does not mean that a producer is selling its produce as Fairtrade. Certified tea producers on average only manage to sell around 7% of their tea on Fairtrade terms. The average across all products is about 40% for small farmer organisations, and 20% for estates.

It’s basically an extra fifth on top

The Fairtrade premiums are currently set at US $ 0.50/kg tea, and $0.20/lb coffee. The market prices, meanwhile, are at around $2.50 /kg tea, and $1.10/ lb coffee. In other words, both premiums provide about an extra fifth on top of the market price.

The coffee price fluctuates more wildly, and has much more frequently gone below the Fairtrade minimum, which is between $1 and $1.40/lb depending on the type.

Rainforest Alliance and Utz merge

Rainforest Alliance and Utz are two more modern certification schemes, now much bigger than Fairtrade. They are merging into a single new program at the end of 2019, which will keep the Rainforest Alliance name.

Logos: Rainforest Alliance

Both schemes are purely focused on policing production, and don’t have any fixed pricing structures. However, guaranteeing higher standards, if it works, should naturally cause prices to rise, since the improvements inevitably have to be paid for.

(Utz buyers are supposed to pay a premium over the market price, but it is negotiated between buyer and seller, not fixed. It is generally substantially lower than Fairtrade’s).

Rainforest Alliance tends to have a stronger focus on environmental features, and Utz on social ones, but both standards regulate both.

Fairtrade vs Utz and Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance and Utz have been studied a lot less than Fairtrade. Results that do exist are mixed, but some do suggest environmental and socio-economic benefits, including higher productivity and higher income.

Logo: UTZ certified

However, any scheme that relies on policing alone is dependent on being able to pull it off. And studies like the Sheffield University one mentioned in our tea guide suggest that policing is not always watertight.

Thus, overall, we consider Utz and Rainforest Alliance to be weaker schemes, and reward them with only half a mark, while Fairtrade certification gets a full mark. The fixed price side of what Fairtrade does is unique – basically, it is the only certification scheme that directly addresses things in terms of cold hard cash.

Our worries about the Utz-Rainforest Alliance merger

We are concerned about the possibility of the Utz-Rainforest Alliance merger leading to a watering down of standards, and recently published an open letter signed by fourteen UK environmental and workers’ rights organisations urging the new organisation to combine the strong bits of each standard, rather than the weak bits.

Currently, for example, Utz forbids employers to ask for working weeks over 60 hours, while the Rainforest Alliance allows it in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

And Rainforest Alliance specifies that agricultural land cannot have been recently deforested, whereas Utz allows deforestation of anything other than primary or ‘old growth’ forest.

Current signs look rather worrying.

Fair for Life

Logo: Fair For Life

Fair for Life was launched in Switzerland in 2006. It has received praise for its social and environmental requirements, which are more comprehensive than the other certification schemes.

It certifies the whole company group, rather than single brands, and it also certifies producers and manufacturers in developed countries, which Fairtrade does not. And it is very transparent, publishing a summary of all of its assessments on its website.

However, it is like Utz and Rainforest Alliance in that it doesn’t have fixed prices. It does have a premium and a minimum price, but they are negotiated between buyer and seller (as Utz has, for the premium part only). The premium is typically 10% on top of the market price. As above, Fairtrade’s, in the case of tea and coffee, is about 20%.


Logo: Soil Association

For a crop to be marketed as organic in Europe, it must be grown using organic production methods according to European legislation, which prioritise techniques such as crop rotation, biological crop protection, green manuring and composting, and it cannot use manufactured pesticides or fertilisers. The growing and processing sites are audited at least once a year.

The Soil Association standard does also contain a few lines on workers’ rights, saying that the employer should adhere to the core standards of the International Labour Organisation, although this obviously isn’t the focus.

As far as tea goes, it is conventionally grown on intensive monocultures, which has deleterious effects on biodiversity and also encourages pests. Indian tea thus tends to be grown with a lot of pesticides. All Kenyan tea is basically pesticide free, however, because the high altitude and the strains used inhibit pests naturally.

Direct trade and specialist produce

Higher quality produce tends to benefit producers more, since the greater skill required to produce it means that the producers can command a greater portion of the final value.

Furthermore, a key factor for producers’ well-being is long term, stable relationships with buyers. Such relationships – sometimes called ‘direct trade’, are becoming more common in coffee but are rarer in tea, as the variability of the crop means that buyers constantly want to vary blends to keep a constant taste. However, if you can find directly traded tea it is definitely worth considering as an ethical option.

One option is to join the Just Change movement. Just Change tea and other products are 100% owned by the members of Just Change India – the producer co-operatives. This is very unusual, especially in relation to tea production.

Volunteer groups, fair trade shops, food co-operatives, community groups and social enterprises can sell Just Change products in the UK.

The Ethical Tea Partnership

The Ethical Tea Partnership is an industry group that was set up in 1997. It used to work as a certification scheme and conduct audits, but now it has shifted direction and instead says that it aims to “tackle complex deep-rooted issues that cannot be addressed sufficiently through certification alone”. Its members include Unilever, Typhoo, Tetley, Twinings, Bettys and Taylors, and Cafeology.

Congratulations, Karen

Norwood Church’s Children and Family Worker, Karen Eyre, was recently awarded a Foundation Degree in Early Childhood Policy and Practice at Bridlington Priory. The degree was awarded by East Riding College. Karen is now studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree at East Riding College. Congratulations, Karen!