Friday, 24 January 2014

SON CHRISTIAN MEDIA LIMITED : Spearheading a revolution in faith publishing

A report by Carey Lodge of ChristainToday.com



Despite a decline in the publishing industry and a huge drop in sales for lads' mags, Sorted magazine – aimed primarily at Christian men - is celebrating, having doubled its circulation in the past year from 20,000 to 40,000.

Editor Steve Legg first came up with the idea of creating a wholesome magazine for men after chatting with another dad at the school gates and discovering that young boys were bringing inappropriate material into school.

He saw a gap in the market for a magazine that "stimulate[s] the mind rather than the libido" and set about creating something "more mature, upbeat and wholesome" for the men's market.

The end result was Sorted, which comes out six times a year and is sold in newsagents such as WH Smiths, as well as being made available in bars, gyms, clubs, prisons and waiting areas across the UK. Published by Son Christian Media Ltd, it is also currently sold in 15 other countries globally.

Steve, a professional evangelist who often uses escapologist displays to communicate the gospel, says: "It's something for men to identify with in a positive way."

The magazine has proved a hit among those who don't wish to be patronised by the usual offerings aimed at their demographic, which are currently facing pressure from campaigns such as 'No more Page 3' and 'Lose the Lads' Mags'.

Though the magazine has a Christian basis, it also hopes to reach men from all faiths and walks of life, or indeed no faith at all.

Director of publishing Duncan Williams notes that the majority of subscribers are not, in fact, Christians. "We have a huge number of subscribers in the Armed Forces and the Royal Navy distribute the magazine in all their mess halls," he explains.


"Having spoke to chaplaincies, while troops are away they can become very isolated and have no Christian reading material beyond the Bible. Sorted is accessible and real to them. With film reviews and things like that, it lets them know what's going on in the secular world."

Each edition features a detailed interview with a male celebrity. Past starts include Will Smith, Steve Carrell, Denzel Washington and Michael Caine. It also runs articles about finance, sport, faith, addictions, fitness, mentoring, gadgets and more, not to mention a '60 Second life Coach' and a 'Sex Doc'.

TV presenter and professional adventurer Bear Grylls, known for his strong faith and endorsement of the Alpha course, also regularly contributes to the magazine. He has labelled it as "down to earth, real [and] un-religious", and says it has "helped my Christian faith so much".

There is obviously a market for this different kind of men's magazine, revealed by Sorted's growing circulation and subscription rate.

Of the new increase in readership, Williams says: "Sorted has been an encouraging success, as has our lifestyle title for women, Liberti magazine.

"The popularity of these two titles has been a real sign that there is a growing readership, male and female and of various ages, that appreciates contemporary Christian publications.
"I think demand has risen following the hacking scandal to have genuinely positive, trustworthy and ethical reporting, and Christian media provides that.

"We ask fundamental questions – we ask about faith or lack of it, which gives an interesting angle rather than tapping around celebrity gossip. When David Frost asked Tony Blair 'Do you pray?' it completely flummoxed him. By asking that question to celebrities you get some interesting reactions, and it's been really rewarding to find a different angle to the usual salacious gossip offered by the tabloids."

The next edition of Sorted featuring Ben Stiller will be published on 18 February.


Ben 'Zoolander' Stiller gets SORTED!

Church's credit union set for July launch

A report by Tim Wyatt for Church Times

SIX months after the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he wanted to "compete Wonga out of existence", the Church of England's plans to boost credit unions are taking shape.

On Thursday of last week, a former head of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Sir Hector Sants, was named as the chairman of the Archbishop's task group on credit unions and the financial sector.

Meanwhile, research by the Church Urban Fund (CUF) released this week suggested that the Church's vocal backing for credit unions was having an impact in congregations. The survey, conducted in November and December last year, found that churchgoers were twice as likely as others to support credit unions.
Sir Hector, who was previously the chief executive of the FSA and then Barclays' head of compliance and regulatory affairs, has accepted an invitation from Archbishop Welby to chair his committee, tasked with developing the Church's support for credit unions.



The group also includes the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, who worked as an economist before joining the clergy. Representatives from the credit union industry and banking sector are also on the panel.

The leader of the credit-union initiative is the Church's Director of Mission and Public Affairs, the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown. He said on Monday that much of the groundwork had been put in place since Archbishop Welby hit the headlines last year (News, 26 July).

"One of our aims was to get the Churches' Mutual Credit Union off the ground," he said. "We have drawn in some more capital and joined with the Church of Scotland. We are looking to launch it at General Synod in July."

Dr Brown said that a large part of the challenge was to convince churchgoers that credit unions were not just charity for poor people, but something that the well-off should also become involved in. "We are trying to get the conversations going about what is possible," he said.

"A lot of these conversations have begun, but turning them into facts on the ground? I wouldn't expect that at this stage. Justin Welby has been talking about a ten-year plan."

The national debate sparked by the Church's support of credit unions was a vital first step in ex- panding community finance, Dr Brown said. "There are parts of the country where you cannot physically get to a bank or a free ATM," he said.

"Credit unions have a tremendous role in those areas. But the paradox is that the best way to help the hard-pressed poor areas is to get buy-in across the social classes. It's only by becoming normal that we will get the credit unions which can reach those areas where the banks have walked away."

Dr Brown said that, because of the culture of volunteering in the C of E, asking parishioners to back credit unions was "pushing at an open door". "A lot of credit unions have volunteers already working with them who are also members of their church. We want to expand on that existing linkage," he said.

The CUF research found that almost half of those surveyed - which included non-Christians - backed the idea of churches raising awareness of credit unions and allowing them to use church premises. The survey also suggested that four in five people believed that payday lenders exploited those who did not have access to cheaper forms of credit.

More and more people are reported to be struggling with personal debt. The charity Christians Against Poverty, which runs 239 debt-counselling centres in churches around the UK, said that more people contacted them in the first week of 2014 than ever before in a single week.

Another strand of Archbishop Welby's vision was to push the broader financial sector towards supporting community finance initiatives, such as credit unions. Dr Brown said that the appointment of Sir Hector would help progress this.

"The task group is going to capitalise on the Church's moral authority," he said. "The Archbishop is . . . not coming from within the sector but he can help mobilise the resources of the sector."
Dr Brown also said that Sir Hector was one of hundreds of people from the financial industry who had contacted the Church to offer their support in promoting sustainable finance.

Archbishop Welby's intervention last year was undermined by the revelation that the Church Commissioners had invested in Accel Partners, a private-equity firm that helped to launch the payday lender Wonga (News, 26 July). In a statement, the Church Commissioners Assets Committee said that they were still investigating how to dispose of its stake.

"Due to the challenges involved, the timing of this disposal is uncertain and may take place some time in the future," the statement said. "The shares in Wonga are held in a venture capital fund. We cannot sell the shares without having to sell the majority of our total venture capital exposure, which is difficult because of the long-term nature of venture capital investment."

The committee said that they needed to have more flexibility in removing particular investments from their portfolio in the future. They said that they were conducting a review to ensure that the Church's National Investing Bodies "adhere to the highest ethical standards in selecting and managing assets".

NEW research has found that while churchgoers largely back the Church of England's support for credit unions, the vast majority are neither members of one nor intend to join one.

A study by the Church Urban Fund (CUF) - Money Speaks Louder Than Words - which was released on Tuesday, found that of the 385 churchgoers surveyed, only five per cent were a member of a credit union. But churchgoers - of all denominations - were twice as likely as non-Christians to be a member.

Although nine in ten churchgoers had heard of credit unions, only 22 per cent felt that they knew much about their workings. One of the main recommendations of the CUF report was for a renewed effort to communicate the benefits and need for credit unions, especially to those on middle or higher incomes.
Many of the Christians surveyed said that they had not joined a credit union because they did not see any need to do so. Some 44 per cent of those who attend church at least once a month said that they had no need to use a credit union, and only 25 per cent said that they would even consider the idea.

The authors of the study, which drawing on evidence from a number of focus groups which followed the survey, suggested that this was because most believed credit unions were only for the very poor.

The report also says, however, that almost half of churchgoers agreed that churches should raise awareness of credit unions, allow them to use their premises, and encourage their congregations to volunteer. One participant was quoted in the report saying: "I'd also love to just say how excited I was when I heard what the Archbishop said, because I thought that is brilliant."

Credit unions as an ethical alternative to mainstream banks also seemed to appeal to most Christians, the CUF report found.

www.cuf.org.uk/money-speaks


Saturday, 18 January 2014

'Wholesome' men's mag with a Christian slant bucks the trend of circulation decline



Report for Press Gazette by Emma McGarthy

The circulation of men's magazines such as Loaded, Nuts and Zoo have been in freefall in recent years - but a title with more "wholesome" content claims to be bucking the trend.

Sorted, a men's title with a Christian slant, comes out six times a year and has doubled its circulation over the last year from 20,000 to 40,000.

Launched in 2007, it has a newsstand sale of 2,000 and 3,300 subscribers with the remainder circulated via bulk distribution deals to outlets including bars, gyms and health clubs. Business backers pay for the title to be distributed for free into UK prisons and to the armed forces.

The title covers usual men's mag fare of science, football and movies - but also deals with "faith". Publisher and editor Steve Legg says he was inspired to launch Sorted after talking to a dad: “He was telling me how his 11-year-old son's mates were bringing in lads mags and he was complaining at the lack of something more positive and wholesome in the marketplace.”

Director of publishing Duncan Williams said Sorted is a more mature, upbeat and wholesome magazine than other men's titles, with more in-depth content.

He says: “It’s something for men to identify with in a positive way...A lot people buying it are women as presents [for men] as it’s not derogative.”

Each publication features an in-depth interview with a male celebrity. He said that big names who have spoken to the title include Will Smith, Steve Carrell, Denzil Washington, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Caine. Williams says: “We try to ask in-depth questions that aren’t the usual PR fair…which produce interesting interviews. Asking that key question about faith is rewarding.”

The magazine is next published on 18 February priced £4.

It has a full-time staff of three, with six freelances, and revenue comes from a mix of subscribers and advertisers such as Apple and David Beckham’s deodorant brand. Regular editorial contributors include TV adventurer Bear Grylls.

Williams said: “Advertisers are very keen to be associated with a more wholesome and mature publication.”

There are plans to expand the title into New Zealand and Australia.



Sunday, 12 January 2014

World War One : A Heads Up...

A commentary written by Jane Stranz 

Some of the loose change in our purses or pockets will soon have the iconic image of Lord Kitchener’s handlebar moustache and pointing finger. The Royal Mint chose his picture for the £2 coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. At the same time Michael Gove, the secretary of state for education, has called for a more positive appraisal World War One in the school history curriculum. As the anniversary approaches we seem intent on taking sides rather than being open to learning from the past.

Six weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Advent, I was preaching in the French town of Reims and began to question my own view of World War One. The Protestant church in Reims was rebuilt after having been completely destroyed by German bombs during the ‘great war for civilisation’. I realised how much my own approach to the war fought  on French,  Belgian and Eastern European soil  was formed not by Blackadder but by British poets, writers and novelists.  Experiencing in person and not only on a map, just how far into France the German advance had reached made me think again.

One of my grandfathers fought in the Great War. He was already 24 in 1914 and must have been a student or trainee lawyer at the time that he enlisted or was conscripted. I know almost nothing about where he fought. There is some vague family memory of him being decorated for his war service, but it was the long-term aftermath of the war, the inability to make a lasting and meaningful peace internationally and at home that affected his life story much more. I do know enough of my grandfather’s story to say that the buckle on his military belt was embossed with the words “God with us”, though it was written in German: “Gott mit uns”, because he was born in Danzig, in what was then Prussia and is now Poland.

A convert to Christianity, my grandfather had four Jewish grandparents. Despite having served his country when it needed him, he was put in a concentration camp for six weeks following the Nazi’s Kristallnacht “night of broken glass” in November 1938. He was fortunate that some feisty people in Britain were willing to put their names to immigration papers in 1939 for each of the four members of the family – one person who signed was a Quaker, another was an evangelical Anglican, another a socialist lawyer.

Reparations against Germany following the war were vengeful, reflecting the reparations and humiliation France experienced at the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. Only after the horrors of World War Two did some kind of understanding emerge that the only coinage that has real value in the aftermath of war is rebuilding: institutions, countries and communities.

War is always somehow fascinating, yet utterly appalling. In its wake comes instability, revolutions and mass displacement of peoples. Yet we continue to hear arguments about how it is ‘inevitable’ or ‘just’. The scale of it is often too much to take in, strange details stick in our mind. For me it’s that two out of five adult British males at the time were not fit enough to serve in the army and the reminder that many of the men who died for their country did not even have the right to vote, since full adult male suffrage was achieved only in 1918.

So I wonder does it really honour those who fought and died a hundred years ago to say ‘we were right’? Surely war is almost always the sign of something being wrong, of a failure: of democracy, of diplomacy, of community, of the economy … The 1914-18 war plunged large swathes of Europe into revolution, regime-change and the redrawing of borders. Will we have the humility and generosity in our remembering to reappraise what ‘we’ got wrong?

Recently I met a Syrian friend. She watches from a far country as her family is repeatedly displaced within the country.  It is desperate. And yet she said to me: “I do not want to say or do anything now that will not help reconciliation and peace in the future.” Holding on to that kind of hope for tomorrow requires a very determined kind of courage.

In my purse I have currency from countries I regularly travel between: euros, pounds and Swiss francs, lots of coins. Whether it is Caesar’s head or Kitchener’s on the coins, I am called to follow the God of Jesus Christ. To set my feet on the path of peace I need the moral courage to remember the past in new ways. To heal memories. Who knows, it may even help make the future possible.

*Reprinted with permission from Friday Night Theology with the Evangelical Alliance. **Author Jane Stranz is the ecumenical officer for the Protestant Federation of France

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Pope Voices Gratitude For Group Committed To Christian Unity


Report by Kerri Lenartowick
 
 
Pope Francis met with an ecumenical scholarship organization on the morning of Jan. 11, thanking them for their dedication to the work of Christian unity.

“I express my deep gratitude to all the benefactors who have supported and (continue to) support the committee,” he told members of the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration.

“Without your valued contribution this work would not be possible. Therefore, I encourage you to continue in the action that you perform.”

The committee, begun by Paul VI in 1963, is meeting to mark the occasion of their 50th anniversary. The organization is dedicated to helping students from the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition and the Oriental Orthodox Churches by a student exchange and scholarship program.

“The Second Vatican Council had not yet concluded when Paul VI instituted the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration,” Pope Francis noted.

“The path of reconciliation and renewed fraternity between the Churches, wonderfully marked by the first historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, required the experience of friendship and sharing that arises from the mutual understanding between members of different Churches, and in particular the young people initiated into sacred ministry.”

Pope Francis addressed the student participants directly, saying “A special greeting to you, dear students, who are completing your theological studies in Rome. Your stay in our midst is important for the dialogue between the Churches of today and, above all, tomorrow.”

Expressing his own desire for Christian unity, he continued, “I thank God because he has granted me this beautiful opportunity to meet you and tell you that the Bishop of Rome loves you.”

“I hope that each of you can have a joyful experience of the Church and the city of Rome, enriched spiritually and culturally, and that you do not see yourselves as guests, but as brothers among brothers.”

“I am certain, that for your part, you by your presence you enrich the academic communities in which you study,” he added. “May the Lord bless you and the Madonna protect you.”

Monday, 6 January 2014

Latest News: About SCM Ltd

Son Christian Media Ltd is Britain’s leading mainstream faith publisher.

In addition to our social media platform THE SON , we publish print titles called SORTED magazine and Liberti magazine, which are distributed nationally via WHSmith and all good newsagents and in 15 other countries globally. Sorted magazine, which is aimed primarily at Christian men, has doubled its circulation in the past year from 20,000 to 40,000.

Created by editor Steve Legg and publisher Duncan Williams after seeing a gap in the market for a magazine that “stimulate[s] the mind rather than the libido” and set about creating something “more mature, upbeat and wholesome” for the men’s market.

Steve says: “It’s something for men to identify with in a positive way. We have a huge number of subscribers in the Armed Forces and the Royal Navy distribute the magazine in all their mess halls. Having spoke to chaplaincies, while troops are away they can become very isolated and have no Christian reading material beyond the Bible. Sorted is accessible and real to them. With film reviews and things like that, it lets them know what’s going on in the secular world.”

The content regularly includes celebrity interviews, past stars have included Will Smith, Steve Carrell, Denzel Washington and Michael Caine. As well as finance, sport, faith, fitness, mentoring, gadgets and more.

Duncan Williams says: “Sorted has been an encouraging success, as has our lifestyle title for women, Liberti magazine. The popularity of these two titles has been a real sign that there is a growing readership, male and female and of various ages, that appreciates contemporary Christian publications. I think demand has risen following the hacking scandal to have genuinely positive, trustworthy and ethical reporting, and Christian media provides that.

“We ask fundamental questions – we ask about faith or lack of it, which gives an interesting angle rather than tapping around celebrity gossip. When David Frost asked Tony Blair ‘Do you pray?’ it completely flummoxed him. By asking that question to celebrities you get some interesting reactions, and it’s been really rewarding to find a different angle to the usual salacious gossip offered by the tabloids.”



For more details visit: WWW.THE-SON.CO.UK

WWW.SORTED-MAGAZINE.COM

WWW.LIBERTIMAGAZINE.COM