The items below were previously displayed on the News and What's On Page
Posted: 4th January 2017 by Grace Davis
Torch is delighted to announce that from January 2017 we are introducing Premier Christianity Lite, a new 'lite' edition of Premier Christianity magazine, which will be available in braille and large print (17pt or 25pt).
Premier Christianity is the most popular Christian magazine in the UK and contains informative articles, interviews, and news. The new magazine will be available monthly for both UK and overseas readers.
The 'lite' version allows us to contain the magazine in a more manageable two volumes per edition.
If you prefer audio, a more complete edition of Premier Christianity is available on DAISY audio CD or USB memory stick.
Although we won't charge you for the magazine, you might wish to make a regular voluntary donation to cover our costs - we suggest approximately £35 per year (the full print magazine is £5 per month or £42.00 for an annual subscription).
To subscribe, please contact our Client Services team on 01858 438260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: 14th October 2016 by Grace Davis
Although it's still autumn, with the darker nights and colder weather drawing in we can't help but be aware that winter is coming! So to keep you busy in those winter nights, why not sign up to a TorchTalk group? It's a great way to socialise with like-minded people from the comfort of your own home. Read on to learn more...
TorchTalk groups are simple to join - just register your interest with our Client Services team and at the time of the group you'll be called and added in.
We have a variety of regular groups available, here are just some examples:
We also run seasonal groups, starting on October 17th will be the Harvest Group, and running from the end of November until Christmas will be a special Advent Group.
For more details on any these just call 01858 438 260 or email email@example.com
Posted: 20th July 2016 by Grace Davis
Torch is pleased to announce that, in partnership with Dernier Publishing, the complete series of Beech Bank Girls books is now available in accessible media!
Aimed at younger readers, from about 10 to 14 years old, these books tell the story of six teenage friends facing issues of family, friendship and faith.
There are four books in the series, currently available from Torch in giant print with braille and DAISY audio soon to be added. If you'd like to find out more about what the Torch postal lending library can offer you, do get in touch! The library is free to use for anyone who has sight loss. We also have many books available to purchase in a variety of accessible media, including large print, braille, DAISY and USB audio. Just contact us on 01858 438260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 6th June 2016 by Grace Davis
If you're already a regular listener to Torch's weekly national radio show, Reflections, you might know about our monthly podcast! It's hosted by blind Christian singer-songwriter Marilyn Baker and draws together a whole month's worth of Reflections episodes. To listen to it, click here or read on to find out more...
Reflections is the show from Torch Trust that focuses on faith and disability in today's world. It's just fifteen minutes long but is packed with inspiring, informative and entertaining guests, prayers, songs, readings and more! You can listen to the show on Sundays, on RNIB Connect Radio just after the 9 am news or on Premier Christian Radio at 4 pm.
If you are blind or partially sighted you can also sign up to receive a free CD copy of the Reflections podcast every month. Just call Client Services on 01858 438260 or email email@example.com.
We hope you enjoy the show!
Posted: 29th April 2016 by Grace Davis
This year's Day of Prayer will be taking place on Wednesday 1st June at Torch House, it's a great time when staff and volunteers come together to pray for the year ahead - and perhaps you would like to pray with us from where you are!
We'll be praying for the diverse ministries of Torch, people to fill staff and volunteer vacancies, and God’s provision to continue to fulfil our range of work, and plenty more. So, if you feel that would like to join us in prayer, please do so. We thank you for your contined prayer for the work of Torch and give thanks to God for all of our supporters.
Posted: 16th March 2016 by Grace Davis
We are holding a sight loss awareness training session in Hull on April 28th to help equip churches to support the 18,000 people living with sight loss in Hull & East Yorkshire. The event is completely free and includes light refreshments.
It'll be a great chance to learn more about the many ways your church could support people with light loss and help to ensure that we have a truly open, inclusive church. Read on to find out more!
At the event you'll have a chance to:
- Gain skills to build your confidence in communicating with people with sight loss.
- Learn how your church can make a real commitment to including people with sight loss in the life and ministry of the church
- Be inspired in mission to people with sight loss
The event will begin at 10 am, coffee and registration from 9:30, and will end at 1 pm. For more information and to register contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07446 898149
Posted: 11th February 2016 by Grace Davis
After last year's successful launch of our befriending scheme, Journeying With, we are pleased to announce that our telephone counterpart service Journeying With by Phone is also up and running!
Both schemes aim to support people who are challenged by adjusting to sight loss, and we're looking forward to growing the schemes throughout the UK...
We know that emotionally sight loss can bring a sense of isolation and exclusion, while practically speaking the list of difficulties is endless. Some describe the trauma of sight loss as being similar to a bereavement. Our volunteers are able to journey alongside and offer the gift of encouragement and support on a regular basis; so that whatever they are facing, they don’t do it alone.
Our first trained Christian volunteers have been matched with clients. Offering a friendly supportive telephone call once a week, for a period of 6 months, they are a ‘listening ear’ and provide invaluable emotional and practical support at a time of crisis.
Here’s what Judith had to say about the benefit of telephone befriending…
"Meeting my needs and giving me emotional support or whatever you want to call it. I had a need to process what was happening to me in my life. It's a challenge and a struggle but I feel encouraged to persevere."
Please do pray for our volunteers and for those that they are befriending. We hope to see a growing number of trained volunteers able to support clients in this way in the coming months, and would ask you to pray for the scheme.
If you are interested in finding out more about Journeying With by Phone please do get in touch and give Client Services a call (Tel: 01858 438260), or visit our dedicated Journeying With website.
Posted: 11th January 2016 by Grace Davis
Lent is coming and it's an early one this year - are you prepared? Yes, February 10th marks Ash Wednesday and, as ever, we have some wonderful new resources ready for you - including a freebie!
Read on to find out more...
Dust and Glory by David Runcorn is our Lent addition to the Torch catalogue. This book 'ranges across the whole business of living and believing, where the questions are as important as the answers...' Runcorn focuses on the idea of authentic faith, of believing in a very real way and living the faith every day. This book will be available to buy or borrow in braille, large print (to borrow: 25pt, to buy: 17, 20, 25 & 30pt) and DAISY audio. It will cost £7.99 to purchase.
Our freebie this year is The Mystery of the Resurrection, a short tract written by Rev Malcom Lorimer which imagines famous television detectives examining the events of Jesus' resurrection. It's a light, different approach to the 'case' we know so well and a great way to get people talking about the Resurrection! This booklet is available in braille, large print (in 17, 20, 25 & 30pt), audio CD and DAISY.
Finally, we have a new York Course, entitled The Psalms: prayers for today's church. Designed for both groups and individuals, the course is divided into five sessions perfect for use at Lent, Advent or any time of the year. Bishop Stephen Cottrell, one of the contributors to this course said 'This course will introduce you to the psalms as God's offer of words to shape your praying.' This is available to buy only, in braille and large print (in 17, 20, 25 & 30pt) and will cost £4.00.
Posted: 24th December 2015 by Grace Davis
We'd like to wish all our clients, supporters and friends a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year. May God's blessing be upon you and his presence surround you.
In 2016 we have a lot to look forward to, read on to find out more...
That's just a small selection of our services and goings-on for next year so do check back in the new year for more information on what's coming in 2016! Until then, merry Christmas and God bless!
Posted: 15th December 2015 by Grace Davis
There's still time to join our special annual Christmas Eve TorchTalk Group! Don't know what TorchTalk is? Read on to find out...
TorchTalk is our great telephone friendship group service, which offers Christian support, fellowship and fun from the comfort of your own home!
The Christmas Eve Group will be an encouraging, warm celebration of Christmas and the coming of Christ, as well as an opportunity for spiritual reflection within a Group of friendly like-minded people. The Group will be taking place at 11am on December 24th.
It's easy to sign up for TorchTalk - all you have to do is contact Suzanne in Client Services to register your interest. Just call us on 01858 438 260, or email email@example.com - so don't delay, register now! When you have joined a group, you will be telephoned at that group's start time and connected to the conversation, all you have to do is pick up the phone!
There are plenty of other TorchTalk Groups available too, some regular, some short-term and some one-off special Groups. To find out more visit our TorchTalk Groups page. We'll have more groups starting in the new year, including a five-week Lent Group - so stay tuned for more information!
Posted: 2nd December 2015 by Grace Davis
If you're a Torch News subscriber, you'll have noticed our articles in the Winter 2015 reporting on the great sucess of our combined Thanksgiving Celebration and Holiday & Retreat Centre Reopening! We'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone who attended or sent us their prayers and well-wishes!
We're pleased to be able to announce that the excellent speeches given on the day are now available to read online in full...
The guest of honour at our reopening ceremony was Kevin Carey, the chair of the RNIB, who gave a beautiful speech before cutting the ribbon. You can read Kevin Carey's speech here (an abridged version of this speech appears on page 3 of Torch News Winter 2015).
Later in the day, we held a service of thanksgiving at which local vicar Reverend Jane Willis spoke, sharing a lovely message of hospitality with us. You can read Reverend Jane Willis' speech here.
So, once again, thank you all for your support. God bless.
Posted: 27th November 2015 by Grace Davis
Have you heard of TorchTalk? It's our great telephone friendship group service, which offers Christian support, fellowship and fun from the comfort of your own home! And today we're announcing our special annual Christmas Eve Group...
This Group will be an encouraging, warm celebration of Christmas and the coming of Christ, as well as an opportunity for spiritual reflection within a Group of friendly like-minded people. The Group will be taking place at 11am on December 24th.
It's easy to sign up for TorchTalk - all you have to do is contact Suzanne in Client Services to register your interest. Just call us on 01858 438 260, or email firstname.lastname@example.org - so don't delay, register now! When you have joined a group, you will be telephoned at that group's start time and connected to the conversation, all you have to do is pick up the phone!
There are plenty of other TorchTalk Groups available too, some regular, some short-term and some one-off special Groups. To find out more visit our TorchTalk Groups page. We'll have more groups starting in the new year, including a five-week Lent Group - so stay tuned for more information!
Posted: 3rd November 2015 by Grace
Advent is fast approaching and Torch has some great resources to help you get ready for the Christmas period!
Once again, we are adding a new Advent book to our catalogues, as well as a great little freebie.
Our Advent book this year is Comings and Goings by Gordon Giles, published by BRF and is available to loan in braille, DAISY, USB and large print sizes 17pt, 20pt, 25pt & 30pt. The purchase price is £7.99 in all media except USB, in which it is only available to loan.
Our FREE give-away this year comes from the Hayes Press and is called: Who is better than Santa? This short tract is available in Audio CD, braille and giant print.
And don't forget, we have a range of Advent and Christmas books available to loan and to buy, in various formats. If you would like to find out more, order a book or join the Torch free lending library, do get in touch. You can call us on 01858 438 260 or email email@example.com.
Posted: 9th October 2015 by Grace Davis
We have a few spaces left on our last few holidays of 2015 at our lovely Holiday and Retreat Centre in West Sussex! Completely refurbished and extended, the Centre is open and ready to welcome you!
Upcoming holidays include:
Or if you're starting to think about next year's holiday, you can view our full list of 2016 breaks in the holidays area of our website!
What’s special about a Torch Holiday? Guests who return to us year after year say that it’s the warm welcome of Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre as a real ‘home from home’; and the understanding and acceptance in a place where, as one guest said, ‘it’s normal to be blind’. Another special feature of a Torch Holiday is the holistic care on offer. With its strong Christian ethos, there’s a daily opportunity for guests to take time to think about their spiritual wellbeing and welfare as well as being refreshed physically and mentally. The centre welcomes blind and partially sighted people of all faiths and none; it’s a place of peace, prayer, personal retreat and renewal.
Posted: 30th September 2015 by Grace Davis
Are you going to CRE Midlands? Come along and meet our Journeying With team there on October 7th and 8th!
We'll be in the Caring and Enabling Zone this year with our stand and we'd love to say hello! CRE Midlands is on from 10 am to 5 pm on Wednesday 7th, and from 10 am to 4 pm on Thursday 8th. The exhibition will include over 180 exhibitors, more than 40 practical and resourcing seminars, and a great range of Christian music and theatre.
Torch's CEO Gordon Temple will hosting a seminar on both days called 'Pastoral Responses to Disability and Chronic Illness', this will be at midday on Wednesday and 1 pm on Thursday.
The exhibition is being held at the NEC, for more information visit CRE's website http://www.creonline.co.uk/visitors/cre-midlands-birmingham-2015/ or for directions to the NEC, visit the following link: http://www.thenec.co.uk/visiting-us
Posted: 4th September 2015 by Grace Davis
Come along and join us for our annual Thanksgiving Celebration - taking place this year at our extended and wonderfully refurbished Holiday and Retreat Centre in West Sussex!
The event starts at 2 pm and ends at 5 pm. For directions and more information about the Centre, visit our Holidays page!
We are also holding an open day at the Holiday and Retreat Centre on Satuday 12th September, as part of the Hurst Festival 2015. The day will run from 10 am to 4 pm and will be a great chance to explore the Centre, find out all about Torch and to enjoy some good company and delicious refreshments! To find out more telephone 01273 832282.
Posted: 18th August 2015 by Grace Davis
We are happy to announce that our fully-refurbished and upgraded Holiday and Retreat Centre in West Sussex is open for business - and we still have a few spaces on our Moving Forward breaks for people who have learned they are losing their sight.
Taking place over four days, Moving Forward breaks feature
The breaks are hosted by Centre Manager Gail Millar, a qualified Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, and her team of friendly, passionate staff. Moving Forward breaks cost £220, this includes accommodation, meals, and all sessions.
The next Moving Forward breaks will take place on 20 - 23 November 2015, and 18 - 21 March 2016. To find out more visit the Holidays section of our website or telephone 01273 832282.
Posted: 8th July 2015 by Grace Davis
Torch has an extensive network of local and diverse Groups serving and supporting the needs of blind and partially sighted people. Regional Coordinators promote Torch in the region as well as helping support and develop these Groups.
The role of the Coordinator is varied and depends much upon their gifting. Attending exhibitions, visiting local Torch Groups, and alerting people with sight loss to the services Torch offers are some of the tasks Coordinators cover.
We are specifically interested in working with Christians located in London, Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Shropshire and Gloucestershire. We offer our Coordinators support, resources and training, as well as covering all expenses. The first step for each of us is saying: ‘Here I am, send me.’
To register interest as a Coordinator or learn more, please phone 01858 438260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also view all of our vacancies on the page Work with Torch.
Posted: 3rd June 2015 by Grace Davis
Disability Sunday is an annual day for churches to celebrate the abilities of disabled people. This year it’s on 5th July.
Churches for All is offering new downloadable Disability Sunday resources for use in churches. The pack includes interactive sermon outlines, a drama, resource booklet, materials for Sunday schools and more.
Here's what Tim Wood, CEO of Through the Roof has to say about Disability Sunday: 'A recent survey by SCOPE revealed that 67% of people admit to avoiding disabled people. Often, this stems from anxiety about unwittingly offending or encountering needs one cannot meet.
The theme for Disability Sunday this year is friendship.
Visit the Churches for All website to download the resource pack or, to obtain a copy in a variety of formats, phone our Client Services team at Torch House.
Posted: 13th May 2015 by Grace Davis
Join us at CRE International! We look foward to meeting you in the Caring and Enabling Zone, at stand HW15!
The event takes place at the ExCel Exhibition Centre, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London E16 1XL, from 19th - 22nd May.
Torch CEO Dr. Gordon Temple will be presenting two free seminars: 'Insight into Disability' and 'Insight into Sight Loss' and South West Area Presence Developer Janet Eardley will be presenting the 'Is your church sight loss friendly?' seminar. Each day at the exhibition, Marilyn Baker will be presenting the Reflections Radio live chat show, at 11am.
To receive your complementary ticket, just follow the on-screen instructions here.
Posted: 13th April 2015 by Grace Davis
TorchTalk Groups aim to provide Christian friendship, support, encouragement and fun to people experiencing sight loss via Telephone Friendship Groups - with two brand new Groups starting in April!
Beginning Friday April 17th, and running for 5 sessions only, the Spring Themed Group takes a look at the new life all around us and the way the beauty of Jesus can be reflected in everyday life.
Or, for visually impaired Mums and Dads, we have Parent Link. This Group will run on the last Tuesday of every month, starting from April 28th.
If you are interested in these, or any of our other Groups, visit our page here: Groups and Fellowship or give us a ring on 01858 438260.
Posted: 31st March 2015 by Grace Davis
Carol Eddon's Easter reflection - Celebrate Easter with Torch Trust - is on 2nd April from 2:30 for an hour.
RNIB is running this group so, if you're blind or partially sighted and you'd like to join it, please contact RNIB Talk And Support on 0845 330 3723 before the day of the event. On the day, RNIB will call you to join you into the group. There is no charge. Carol's theme is Surprise, Surprise!
To find out more about RNIB's Talk and Support visit their website.
Or, if you're interested in joining a regular telephone group run by Torch, visit our TorchTalk page.
Posted: 26th March 2015 by Grace Davis
Join Torch Trust in Market Harborough this Good Friday at Churches Together in Harborough's 'Good Friday in the Town Square' event.
Taking place on April 3rd, from 11 am to 2 pm, Torch will be part of this family-friendly event aimed at exploring the real significance of Easter. There will be a range of stalls, children's activities, a prayer and a Good Friday service at 11.15 am. This will be followed by a soup, bread and cheese lunch.
"The theme for Good Friday in the Town Square is 'For God so loved the world'. We hope everyone will enjoy all that is happening and take a few moments to think about God's amazing love for all of us, put into action in the town through the compassionate work done by the organisations with displays in the Square," said Revd James Shakespeare, chair of Churches Together in Harborough, who will lead the service.
Posted: 19th March 2015 by Grace Davis
Torch will be at the Christian Helplines Association Annual Conference on Saturday 21st March, 'Supporting People Through Change and Loss'.
Everyone is affected by change and loss - and often in very different ways. Change and loss can take many forms, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of sight or hearing, or the changes brought by the onset of dementia, to name just a few. Being equipped to support people through change and loss in our churches and wider communities is important.
The event will take place at Queens Road Baptist Church, Coventry, CV1 3EG from 11am – 5pm. Speakers Bob and Joy Jones (Care for the Family) will give an overview; Debra Chand (Torch Trust) will cover physical loss and Louise Morse (Pilgrims’ Friend Society) will speak on the onset of dementia.
Tickets are still available online at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/christianhelp or on the door. More infomation can be found here: Supporting People Through Change and Loss Leaflet.
Posted: 12th March 2015 by Grace Davis
We are holding a one-hour telephone session for anyone who would like to know more about TorchTalk Telephone Groups.
There are a wide range of Groups available, in which members can participate via phone from their own homes. If you would like to know more about how this works, the different Groups on offer or anything else to do with TorchTalk, please give us a ring to register for the Enquirers' Session which will take place on Saturday 28th March, from 4 to 5 pm.
Contact Client Services on 01858 438260.
Posted: 13th February 2015 by Grace Davis
The Exeter and Exmouth Torch Fellowship Group will be meeting on February 14th to celebrate a big milestone: their fortieth anniversary!
Each month, the Group brings blind and partially sighted people together with sighted helpers for an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship.
Pat Cave, secretary of the Group, has been involved for almost 30 years. She says, ‘The best things about the group are bringing people together, the Christian fellowship and the help and encouragement it provides.’
The Exeter and Exmouth Torch Group is one of over 100 local groups. Torch Groups are Christian-led but non-denominational and open and welcoming to all who are affected by sight loss.
The celebration is open to visitors. The local Group is always on the lookout for new volunteers from local churches so why not come along and see if you can help.
Or, if you would like to find a group in your area, please go to our directory.
If you would like more information about setting up a Fellowship Group, please have a look at our Groups and Fellowship area.
Alternatively, you can contact Client Services on 01858 438 260, for more information about Torch Groups.
Posted: 6th February 2015 by Grace Davis
Sight loss can be devastating. 1 in 4 of us will experience it. Would you like to know what you can do to help?
Torch is running three Sight Loss Awareness Sessions in Devon this March.
The sessions are open to anyone interested in finding out about the impact of sight loss, and how Christians and churches can support people in their local area who are affected by sight loss.
To find out more and to book your place, please to go our Sight Loss Awareness Session page.
Posted: 3rd February 2015 by Grace Davis
Change and loss affect us all throughout our lives in different ways. The death of a loved one, loss of a pet, a friend moving away, the loss of sight or hearing, or the changes brought by the onset of dementia - to name a few. Being equipped to support people through change and loss in our churches and wider communities is important.
A day conference, Supporting People Through Change and Loss, will take place on Saturday March 21st. Organised by the Christian Helplines Association (CHA) the event will take place at Queens Road Baptist Church, Coventry, CV1 3EG from 11am – 5pm. Speakers Bob and Joy Jones (Care for the Family) will give an overview; Debra Chand (Torch Trust) will cover physical loss and Louise Morse (Pilgrims’ Friend Society) will speak on the onset of dementia.
To book go to www.christianhelp.ticketsource.co.uk
Early bird tickets cost only £20. (£25 from 1st March or on the door). The price includes buffet lunch and refreshments.
Posted: 22nd January 2015 by Debra Chand
CRE Southwest is coming soon! We look forward to meeting you at Torch stand P58, in the Caring and Enabling zone.
The event will take place at Westpoint, Exeter, EX5 1DJ, on 10-11 February, starting at 10am each day.
Gordon Temple, Torch Trust CEO, and Janet Eardley, our South West Area Presence Developer, look forward to meeting you with our team of volunteers at Torch stand P58.
To join us, follow the on-screen instructions HERE for your free badge.
Join us, too, for a free seminar - Is your church sight-loss friendly? – on Tuesday, 1pm.
Led by Janet Eardley, this will be an interactive session exploring ways in which your church can be more 'sight loss friendly'. One in four of the population will experience sight loss, so this is an issue affecting every church. Find out more about the effects of different eye conditions, how sight loss affects our experience of church, and how churches can respond and reach out to people with sight loss at church and in their local community.
Janet is working with local churches to develop support for people who are experiencing sight loss. Janet formerly worked with the Christian charity, Prospects, developing ministry among people with learning disabilities, and prior to this gained many years’ experience at a sight loss charity in Kendal, Cumbria, and also as a social worker for the Deaf.
For more information, you can contact Janet by email on email@example.com
Posted: 22nd January 2015 by Debra Chand
Are you caring for someone who is experiencing the early stages of disability? A day conference coming up soon could be just for you...
Every day hundreds of people across Britain learn that they are in the early stages of a limiting disability such as sight loss or chronic illness, bringing practical, emotional and spiritual challenges.
Gordon Temple will be leading a day course, ‘Insight into disability’, for carers of people experiencing the onset of disability, and of interest to anyone involved in pastoral care.
Organised by CWR, the event will take place on Saturday 7th March at Waverley Abbey House, Farnham, in Surrey, from 9am to 4.20pm.
The day will cover aspects such as how we understand disability and support people through change and loss, while also protecting the wellbeing of carers. How can we offer a pastoral response, to help disabled people rebuild their lives and express their God-given gifting? What part does the Church have in their rehabilitation and re-enablement?
Gordon brings many years of experience in this area, as CEO of Torch Trust, which brings Christian support for people who are blind or partially sighted, and Executive Officer of Churches for All, which works to equip and enable churches to ensure that everyone feels included and able to grow in faith and ministry. Gordon is also author of the book Enabling Church - a Bible-based resource towards the full inclusion of disabled people.
Book now for the early bird price, £46.80 (£52 from 7 February). Fee includes lunch and refreshments. Group discounts available. For more information or to book go to www.cwr.org.uk/training or phone 01252 784719.
Posted: 8th January 2015 by Grace Davis
A great start to the new year for Torch Trust as our 40-foot container arrived on the premises on Monday morning.
As the photo shows, unloading it was a big task involving cranes mounted to a sidelift trailer! Soon it was safely in place, and the Torch staff gathered together to give thanks for its arrival and pray for the rest of its journey.
Over the next couple of weeks, the container will be gradually filled with all kinds of relief items before beginning its long voyage to Africa.
Posted: 18th December 2014 by Grace Davis
Hello everyone, and a merry Christmas to you all.
It's been a busy season here at Torch and we'd like to thank all of our supporters, our clients and our volunteers for the wonderful work they do throughout the year.
We'd like to wish you a blessed and happy Christmas, may it be a time of peace, reflection and new beginnings for you all. God bless.
Posted: 4th November 2014 by James Seager
If you live within reach of Leeds and would like to find out about sight loss and how Christians can support people affected, you are warmly invited to a free morning workshop this Saturday.
The ‘Discover Torch’ event runs from 9.45-12.30, Saturday 8 November, at South Parade Baptist Church, Kirkstall Lane, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3L.
The trauma of a sight loss diagnosis has been compared to a bereavement in terms of its impact, yet only one in five people has someone with them at diagnosis - and 100 people learn that they are losing their sight every day in the UK.
At the conference you will discover more about the impact and needs of people living with sight loss in Leeds, an introduction to sight loss, and an overview of Torch Trust - including resources to help churches reach out to people with sight loss in the local community, such as setting up a local befriending service and friendship groups.
For more information (booking advisable), contact James Seager by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone James on 07446 898149.
Posted: 9th October 2014 by Debra Chand
If you are experiencing sight loss or know someone who is, a Moving Forward break may be just the thing - book now for the next 31 October - 3 November.
These short residential breaks provide information, skills training and pastoral support for people who are adjusting to life with sight loss.
There’s just time to book for the next event, which will take place from Friday 31 October – Monday 3 November, at Torch’s Holiday and Retreat Centre in Sussex. The centre has been beautifully refurbished to create a relaxing, fully accessible venue.
Headed by Torch’s holidays leader and centre manager, Gail Millar, a qualified Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, the Moving Forward team are all Christian professionals in the field. Practical sessions will include coping with everyday life, helpful equipment and services, managing finances, and staying well connected, along with opportunities for reflection, prayer and relaxation. Feedback from clients has been so encouraging that Torch plan to run more events in 2015.
‘Before I went to the Torch weekend I wasn’t coping – I put on a brave face, but thought I was a failure and that life as I knew it was pretty much over... Being there has given me a hope that I never knew possible.’
Places are limited and booking is essential. To find out more and to book, contact us on 01273 832282 or email@example.com
Posted: 6th October 2014 by David Palmer
A Harvest-themed telephone Group for blind and partially sighted people.
Whether we like it or not all the signs of autumn are now fast approaching! The nights are drawing in, the mornings feel more chilly, the trees are changing colour and churches up and down the country start to celebrate and give thanks to God for all his bounty and provision.
In line with this theme TorchTalk, our telephone friendship service, is running a six week harvest themed Group entitled ‘The Sower’, reflecting God’s creative activity in the world and our lives. The Group commences Monday October 6 at 3.30pm and will run for six weeks until November 10. Each of TorchTalk Groups holds between six to nine people so if you are interested please hurry and call one of our Client Services team on 01858 438260.
Posted: 3rd October 2014 by Debra Chand
Find out more about the latest technology to help people with sight loss, at a product roadshow in London this week.
The roadshow, run by Action for Blind People, is free for anyone who is blind and partially sighted and living in the London Boroughs. It will showcase state-of-the-art gadgets to help manage sight loss.
There will be opportunity to try out devices such as vibrating bank note detectors, talking microwaves and electric magnifiers to help with reading. There will also be iPhones, iPads, and computers adapted with accessible features, such as talking screen readers, and screen magnifiers, and opportunity to chat with manufacturers and experts.
The event will take place on Monday, 6 October and Friday, 10 October between 10:30am-3:30pm, at RNIB, 105 Judd Street, London, WC1H 9NE, near Kings Cross in London. For further information contact 01733 375249 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 9th September 2014 by David Shepherd
Our annual Thanksgiving Day will also be an Open Day at Torch House in Market Harborough on Saturday 20 September - and you are warmly invited to come and join us.
From 2pm to 4pm there will be an opportunity to visit displays around the building and to meet staff and volunteers.
As well as celebrating 55 years of Torch we will also be marking 10 years in the present Torch House.
The doors will be open from 1pm so if you would like to to come earlier you are very welcome.
Strawberry cream teas and drinks will be served throughout the afternoon.
From 4.30pm to approximately 5pm there will be a time of worship and celebration and a short message from our guest Rev Jonathan Edwards, former General Secretary of Baptist Union. If you are bringing a group, it would be helpful to know numbers in advance - please email Carol Nokes at email@example.com or telephone 01858 438260.
We look forward to meeting you on the the 20th!
Posted: 4th September 2014 by David Palmer
If you live in the West Midlands and would like to find out about the impact of sight loss and how Christians can support people affected, you are warmly invited to a free event being held near you this autumn.
The events, run by Torch Trust, will take place on Saturday at:
Hanley Baptist Church, Stoke on Trent (4 Oct);
Baptist Church Central, Shrewsbury (25 Oct),
and The Crossing at St Pauls, Walsall (1 Nov).
Each ‘Discover Torch’ event will run from 10am-12.30pm, starting with coffee / registration at 9.45am.
At these events we will think about how Torch can support and enable you and your church to reach out to people who are blind and partially sighted. Sessions will include:
For more information or to book, contact David Palmer on 01858 438260 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 27th August 2014 by Lin Ball
If you live within reach of Bristol and would like to find out about the impact of sight loss and hear about how Christians can support people affected, you are warmly invited to a training afternoon being held in November.
The event runs from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday 8 November at Fishponds Baptist Church, Downend Road, Bristol BS16 5AS.
‘Blindness is the disability the majority of people say they most fear,’ says Debra Chand of Torch Trust. ‘Every day in the UK, 100 people learn that they are losing their sight. As our population ages, the numbers will increase. Almost one in four of us will know what it is to live with a disabling level of sight loss.’
The trauma of a sight loss diagnosis has been compared to a bereavement in terms of its impact. ‘Despite this, only one in five people has someone with them at diagnosis,’ says Debra.
‘People often find themselves with no way to adapt their normal routines. Acute loneliness and clinical depression are not uncommon. We would like to support churches in setting up a befriending scheme to bring Christian volunteers alongside those adjusting to the challenging news of sight loss.’
November’s training session will include an introduction to blindness and partial sight - including definitions and different eye conditions, advice on guiding blind and partially sighted people and an overview of the biblical perspective on disability. There will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions. The session will be particularly valuable to anyone involved in pastoral work in their communities.
To book (which is essential), follow the links for the Poster, programme and booking form. For more information please contact Janet Eardley (Janete@torchtrust.org / 07870 909779). The cost of the afternoon is just £5 and will include refreshments.
Torch is looking for welcoming churches across the country willing to set up befriending groups. To find out more about the Journeying With befriending project click here or phone Torch’s Client Services team on 01858 438260.
Posted: 28th July 2014 by Lin Ball
A good friend is a good listener. And feedback from the Torch Journeying With initiative suggests that people losing their sight find a trained volunteer befriender is – quite literally – a Godsend.
The befriending service has initially been made available in Northern Ireland. Following training, which includes learning about sight loss and its impact, a befriender gets alongside someone newly diagnosed for up to six months. He or she helps as someone deals with the emotional, social and physical impact of sight loss on their everyday life, supporting them as they make adjustments. As well as being a listening ear at home, they may accompany them to eye clinic appointments, help them venture into new social settings, suggest ways in which gadgets and technology can assist with everyday activities and generally encourage them to see that life can still be good.
Clients who have been befriended through the project have given very positive feedback about the whole experience. They particularly valued having someone to confide in about their concerns.
One said, ‘My befriender was a good listener. That’s what you need, because you don’t like … other people … thinking you are moaning and groaning. I can’t see people’s faces, for example. You’re walking past them and you can’t see them properly. People wave out of their cars and you don’t know who they are.’
And other comments suggested that having the befriender helped them cope with the loneliness they were experiencing.
‘Her … just coming to the door … that means a lot because I don’t have many people coming … I’m so lonely, very lonely. I have other friends, yes. But they are in different parts of the town and they have their own families. I don’t have anybody … Life is so quiet,’ said one person, who felt that sight loss had put an end to many of the activities of her life.
Positive responses were also given about how befrienders were a help on their faith journey.
‘It helps to be able to talk about your faith. It comes back to you when you are talking about it.’
‘Blindness is the disability the majority of people say they most fear,’ says Debra Chand, who heads up the Torch Trust Journeying With project. ‘But every day in the UK, 100 people learn that they are losing their sight. As our population ages, the numbers will increase. Almost one in four of us will know what it is to live with a disabling level of sight loss.’
The trauma of a sight loss diagnosis has been compared to a bereavement in terms of its impact.
‘Despite this, only one in five people has someone with them at diagnosis,’ says Debra.
‘People often find themselves with no way to adapt their normal routines. Acute loneliness and clinical depression are not uncommon. Our new church-based befriending scheme brings Christian volunteers alongside those adjusting to the challenging news of sight loss.’
Torch is looking for welcoming churches across the UK willing to run the initiative in their areas. To find out more about the Journeying With project click here or email Torch’s Client Services or call 01858 438260.
Posted: 3rd July 2014 by Lin Ball
The first holiday guests with sight loss have been bowled over by the renovations at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre.
‘I love the lounge with the new bright blue carpet…’
‘I like the fact that there are dado rails everywhere to follow, everything is tactile so you don’t get lost…’
‘The bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms are lovely, very easy to get into, especially for wheelchair users…’
‘The new mattresses are amazing…’
‘You get an even warmer welcome than before…’
Gaill Millar, Holidays Leader, says, ‘Our first holiday in the renovated centre – our annual 10-day activities holiday – has been very exciting. I have so many stories to tell of this first phase of renovation work – and I believe I will be telling them for years to come! Every chapter of this story abounds with miracles and answers to prayer.’
With a great deal of hard work by the contractors, the Torch staff and volunteers, this first phase of the work was complete in time for the holiday to begin for the 24 guests.
‘God gave us a Bible verse back in October 2013 as we stood and prayed this project into being,’ said Gail. ‘It was Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1). God has provided the finance, has blessed all those who have done the work and will bless those who come here in the days and years ahead. It all looks amazing, from the new carpets and curtains to the built-in wardrobes and the specially embroidered pillows on every bed.’
So the full summer programme of all-inclusive holidays for guests with sight loss is under way. Do contact us if you’d like details. With the increased accommodation now at the Centre, there are still a few vacancies.
Posted: 17th June 2014 by Lin Ball
If you live within reach of Hull and want to make a difference for the blind and partially sighted people in your community, the insights and information you need are coming your way soon!
Faith-based organisations, community groups and churches are invited to send teams along to Discover Torch – a free morning conference and workshop being held on Saturday 5 July.
James Seager, newly appointed to grow Torch impact in the north of England, says, ‘In Hull and the East Riding, 12,000 people are living with sight loss – and every two days another person is diagnosed as visually impaired. Most of these people are disengaged from church life. This event will help you discover more about their needs and what we can do to involve them in our church communities.’
James was previously a local church minister for 15 years. ‘During that time,’ he says, ‘I developed a great desire to see people cared for, especially at the lowest points of their lives. The Church is in a powerful position to offer support to people, as we have something to give that is unique – hope in Jesus.’
The conference runs from 10am to 12noon at New Life Church, Bridlington Avenue, Hull, HU2 0DU. Though brief, the event will present an overview of the local needs, give information on sight loss and introduce Torch Trust’s new outreach and befriending project, Journeying With. There will also be an opportunity to talk to a Christian with sight loss and take part in a practical workshop.
To know more, contact James direct (email@example.com / 07446 898149).
Posted: 4th June 2014 by Lin Ball
Does your church mark Disability Sunday? If not, why not ask the leadership to consider it? And there’s a free resource pack to help you make it a very special day.
This year Disability Sunday is Sunday 6 July – though if that date doesn’t work for your church calendar, any other Sunday could be chosen.
The purpose of Disability Sunday is for churches to focus on disability and think about how welcoming they are to the disabled people in their communities. How can your church enable disabled people to come along, join in and be part of all that’s going on?
Churches for All – the network of Christian disability organisations of which Torch Trust is part – is offering a free resource pack for Disability Sunday. It will take you step by step through the planning and offers plenty of ideas for the content of the day. There are two sermon outlines, ideas for drama, quizzes, children’s activities, tips for involving disabled people in the event, and links to videos you might add into the programme. There are even templates for invitations and publicity. This year’s pack has been prepared by the Christian disability organisation Through the Roof.
Discover Torch conference
And, talking of learning about disability, if you live in Hull or the East Riding you are warmly invited to a ‘Discover Torch’ morning conference and workshop. This takes place on Saturday 5 July from 10am to 12 noon at New Life Church in Bridlington Avenue, Hull. To find out more and register, you can contact James Seager ( firstname.lastname@example.org / 07446 898149).
Posted: 23rd May 2014 by Lin Ball
Mike Townsend lost his sight as a boy – but a key encounter at blind school totally changed his direction, leading him into a busy and fulfilled life.
An experimental eye operation at the age of eight caused Mike to become totally blind – but his view of what happened then is characteristically positive.
‘Losing your sight at eight is probably a good time – if you’ve got to lose it! I was young enough to learn the skills I needed such as braille and getting around. As a lad I was full of life and wanted to get on with things and I don’t believe it slowed me down much, except I had to leave home and go away to school.’
Mike’s early experiences of blind school were tough. He describes it as ‘horrible, a dreadful place’. All children complain about school food, but Mike feels his complaints were justified. When a 10-year-old at the school died of malnutrition he felt determined to get away. He did well academically and passed an exam for Worcester College for the Blind – now New College. Life there was so much better that Mike says, ‘I thought I’d gone to heaven!’
For a while, Mike’s main aim in life was to earn lots of money, so he planned to go to the London School of Economics – which he succeeded in attending. However, he was also thinking about the deeper issues of life.
‘I was searching for spiritual understanding for life,’ says Mike.
‘A boy at school had told me about Jesus and how he knew him as a personal friend. I thought, how can you know someone who lived two thousand years ago as a real friend?’ But, examining his friend’s life, he could see that knowing God made a difference – and Mike wanted to know more. Picking up a braille book his friend left lying around – Peace with God by Billy Graham – Mike learned that the barrier to him knowing God himself was the barrier of sin or wrongdoing.
‘I have a very clear, powerful memory of the time that barrier was removed,’ says Mike.
‘I prayed to God and felt the wonderful, powerful presence of God in the room and in my life. It really was a turning point, a total change of direction.’
This change of direction took Mike’s ambitions away from money and materialism. Although he did a degree at LSE, and went on to a lucrative career in computer work initially, he abandoned that for working with a number of Christian and charitable organisations. He’s been involved over many years with Torch Trust, RNIB and Guide Dogs, he’s also the longest-serving deacon at his home church, Fleckney Baptist Church in the Midlands and he is now chair of the disability organisation Through the Roof.
Computers remain a fascination to Mike. ‘I was one of the first blind people to be involved in computer programming, and technology has been quite a key part of my life,’ he says.
‘I love access technology … making computers think, making computers do braille and making computers speak. I’m one of these people who loves gadgets! A real gadget freak.’
Tune in to Reflections
You can hear Mike’s story in more detail, and find how why his guide dog Tom is a bit of a celebrity by tuning into Reflections, Torch’s weekly radio programme, on Sunday June 15th, when Mike is interviewed by Sheila Armstrong. Sheila, also blind, is Torch’s Customer Services Leader.
Reflections can be heard on RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188, freesat 777 and Freeview 730 – on Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. It’s also broadcast on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725 – on Sundays at 4pm.
Posted: 13th May 2014 by Lin Ball
‘In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it’… So went the lyrics of the Irving Berlin song. Every year on Easter Sunday, New Yorkers walk down Fifth Avenue in an explosion of colour, in a tradition stretching back to the 1800s. Not to be outdone, members of the Motherwell Torch Fellowship Group held their own Easter Bonnet parade – and very creative they were! First prize went to Cathy Young (seated, second from right) whose hat featured miniature models of many of the traditional symbols of the Easter story such as a piece of unleavened bread and a goblet of wine, with the banner ‘He is risen’ above them. Second prize for her predominantly pink creation went to Ellen Simpson (far right). And third, sporting bunnie ears, was John Wallace.
Posted: 30th April 2014 by Lin Ball
Work is forging ahead on phase one of the extension and renovation project at Torch’s Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex. The Centre, which is the base for specialist holidays with a Christian ethos for people with sight loss, is a hive of activity at present, as initial demolition has given way to construction.
Reports Gail Millar, Holidays Leader, ‘It’s been busy, exciting – and very noisy! As well as the conversion of existing rooms to give them ensuite facilities, a welcoming reception area and office have been created at the front of the building. A lift has been installed to enable upstairs rooms to be easily accessible to guests who find stairs difficult. It’s so good to see things taking shape! This week four bedrooms above the lounge have been plastered, wired and made ready for sanitaryware to be fitted.'
The lovely venue set in on the edge of the South Downs National Park and close to some beautiful coastline, is being upgraded in line with Torch’s plans to take more guests on its holidays and Moving Forward short breaks - breaks which are designed to help people recently diagnosed with sight loss.
‘We thank God every day for his provision for the project – which will tell the story of his goodness for many years to come,’ says Gail. ‘And we ask for prayer for safety on site, for opportunities to share the message of Jesus with the builders, electricians and plumbers. And also for God’s provision for the next phase of the project – building three more ensuite bedrooms.’
It’s expected that a full programme of specialist holidays and retreats will resume at the Centre from late June onwards.
Posted: 24th April 2014 by Lin Ball
‘Our society often pushes people with disabilities to the margins – but not Jesus! Two thousand years ago Jesus welcomed everyone – and he still does!’ says Revd Jonathan Edwards (pictured right). The former General Secretary of the Baptist Union, now the Executive Ambassador for Prospects, the Christian organisation working with people with learning disabilities, is a keynote speaker at a major conference in June on how the Church engages with disabled people.
‘We all confidently sing about the Gospel of Jesus – but we don’t always live it,’ says Jonathan. ‘The Enabling Church conference gives us the opportunity to reflect deeply on how we can become a more truly Gospel Church where everyone is welcome.'
The Enabling Church: Everybody In!conference will look at the challenges faced by the UK Church in welcoming and including people with all kinds of disabilities – including sight loss, dementia, hearing loss, autism and loss of mobility; and it will also discuss how the Church supports carers. Roy McCloughry, newly appointed Disability Advisor to the Church of England, is among an impressive line-up of Christians with relevant experience in different fields of disability.
‘People with disabilities are just like everyone else in that they want to be loved, understood and included,’ says Jonathan. ‘Everyone with a disability is unique and it is vital that churches value them and imaginatively include them in their life.’
‘Eleven million people in the UK have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability – that’s one in six of us, and that number will continue to rise,’ says conference organiser Dr Gordon Temple. Dr Temple is the executive officer of Churches for All, a network of 14 Christian organisations working alongside disabled people, as well as being CEO of Torch Trust.
‘It’s a very live issue for the Church to consider and to prepare for,’ adds Dr Temple. ‘We need to become a more caring society – and the Church can lead the way.’
Enabling Church: Everybody in!takes place onJune 3rd at Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich, just off the M5 and near central Birmingham. For more information about the programme and the line-up of speakers, go to www.churchesforall.org.uk/EnablingChurch . ‘Early bird’ tickets (£13.50) can be booked now.
Posted: 15th April 2014 by Lin Ball
‘We don’t worship a dead man – but a living Saviour!’ says Marilyn Baker, blind presenter of the hour-long Reflections radio programme going out this Sunday, Easter Day! The Easter special is packed with interviews, readings and music. Included are thoughts from a woman who works with blind people in Afghanistan and describes a special sunrise over the city of Kabul; a blind woman who recalls a trip to Jerusalem and the emotion of visiting the Garden Tomb; and a blind Nigerian man who found true healing at the cross of Christ. There’s also a dramatised reading based on the Bible account of the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Fans of Reflections will be pleased to know that this month, thanks to RNIB’s latest bold investment, Torch’s radio reach is greatly expanded with a new Freeview launch of the programme, along with adopting Torch’s audio ‘thought for the week’.
Reflections is broadcast on RNIB’s Insight Radio weekly on Sundays with two latenight repeats. Now new Freeview access means a major extension to its reach. As well as being available on FM, Sky, freesat and online, the programme is on Freeview Channel 730.
‘Over 20 million people in the UK have access to Freeview and RNIB see this as the easiest way for people with sight loss to tune in, rather than through the internet,’ says Rachel Dalby, who produces Torch’s flagship weekly radio programme.
‘RNIB are also encouraging us to grow Reflections from its current 15 minutes and – as resources are provided – it’s our prayer that we will be able to use this amazing invitation to reach many more people with sight loss with programmes we hope will be life-enriching,’ adds Rachel.
As well as reaching a largely disabled audience with Christian content through Insight Radio, Reflections also brings the message about disability to a largely Christian audience through Premier Christian Radio, where it is broadcast at 4pm on Sundays.
In addition, Torch’s audio ‘thought for the week’, which last just three or four minutes, is now being aired every Monday morning at 7am on RNIB’s Insight Radio. Journey is available anywhere in the world as a download from the Torch website, but previously its use has been limited mainly to talking newspapers and blind clubs.
‘This programme, known as Journey, is scripted largely by people with sight loss,’ explains producer Lin Ball. It reflects on real life experiences, introducing the Christian faith with a light touch, helping people to consider some of life’s big questions.’
Our picture shows John, Andrew, Bridget and Rachel recording Journey in the studios at Torch House.
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188, freesat 777 and Freeview 730. Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm.
Posted: 1st April 2014 by Lin Ball
Our picture shows Torch Regional Outreach Leader David Palmer arriving at Lichfield Cathedral with a very large package on a trolley. The big black box contains all the flatpack components to build what we call a Torch ‘pod’! For the uninitiated, this is a circular display stand some six or seven feet high topped with a moving gauze ‘flame’. Visually it represents a torch, but in practical terms it serves as a unit which is used to demonstrate three aspects of Torch work and these can be changed to suit the needs of different events. This particular Torch pod is standing in Lichfield Cathedral throughout Lent, with the hope that many people passing through will pause to learn something of Torch’s work with blind and partially sighted people. If you live in the area, we hope you might drop in.
Lichfield is a very appropriate site for one of our Torch pods, since the diocese is one of the sponsors of a significant national conference Torch is organising to take place in June – and we’re anticipating that many local churches will send representatives along to the event.
The local church is key to the theme of this day conference, which is called Enabling Church: Everybody In! The programme will look at how the local church can be equipped to welcome and involve the growing numbers of disabled people – including people with sight loss – in the UK.
‘There are over 11 million people in Great Britain with a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability,’ says conference organiser Dr Gordon Temple, CEO of Torch Trust and Executive Officer for Churches for All – an alliance of 14 Christian organisations working alongside disabled people.
‘That’s one in six of the population – and growing,’ Dr Temple adds. ‘And the Church needs to apply itself to enabling disabled people to participate and share their God-given gifts. The conference seeks to be unashamedly transformational as we bring these issues into the light. We hope that many churches will send representatives to listen and learn.’
Enabling Church: Everybody In! takes place on Tuesday 3 June in the Birmingham area, and will be backed by leading Christian organisations such as Care for the Family, Prospects, Livability and Premier Christian Radio. There are specialist plenary speakers taking part including Roy McCloughry, the Church of England’s National Disability Advisor, and Jonathan Edwards, the former General Secretary of the Baptist Union who’s now an ambassador for people with learning disabilities. See www.churchesforall.org.uk/EnablingChurch for more details and to take advantage of the special Early Bird price of only £13.50.
Posted: 11th March 2014 by Lin Ball
You can’t read the Bible without getting the message that Jesus was interested in all kinds of people and always had time for people who were sick or disabled. So why don’t we see more people with disabilities in our churches? Could it be that the Church itself is ‘disabled’ because there’s no provision for people with disabilities to take part in its activities on equal terms, using their God-given gifting? There are over eleven million people with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability in Great Britain. That’s one in six of the population – and growing. So how can the Church respond?
Two major Churches for All events coming up on the calendar – and in which Torch Trust will play a key role – will encourage churches to be more welcoming and inclusive of people with all kinds of disabilities.
At the annual Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) at Esher in Surrey (13-16 May), Torch Trust will have a stand in the Churches for All Zone. Each day a series of workshops will take place in the Zone: from parachute games to a British Sign Language taster. Visitors can drop in for a coffee and a chat. The programme will also include opportunities to listen to live chat shows with the Reflections radio team from Torch Trust and its host, Marilyn Baker. And on the Torch stand there’ll be an opportunity to have a demonstration of how Worship for All – the free web-based system for producing service material in large print and braille for people with sight loss – can be used in a local church. Also available in the Zone will be a free resources pack for churches to use for Disability Sunday 2014, happening this year on 6July. For more about CRE go to: www.creonline.co.uk . Or email Torch using email@example.com to be sent a free ticket for CRE when they become available next month.
The second major event for which Torch Trust is preparing is the Churches for All day conference Enabling Church: Everybody In! which takes place on 3 June in the Birmingham area. There are many specialist plenary speakers taking part including Roy McCloughry, the Church of England’s National Disability Advisor, and Jonathan Edwards, the former General Secretary of the Baptist Union who’s now an ambassador for people with learning disabilities. The programme will feature dedicated streams on disability, deafness, dementia and families and carers. See www.churchesforall.org.uk/EnablingChurch for more details and to take advantage of the special Early Bird price of only £13.50.
Posted: 26th February 2014 by Lin Ball
From everyday activities like cooking, going for walks and enjoying books through to more unusual ones like riding a horse or sailing – anything’s possible for blind and partially sighted people who go on a Torch Holiday!
‘One of the greatest challenges in my work is to find a way that someone with sight loss can experience the same things that sighted people do – and I love it!’ explains Torch Holidays Leader Gail Millar.
‘People often arrive at our holiday centre lonely, isolated, broken or weary. And most of our guests come on their own. Here they meet others, make friends and experience love in a way they’ve never experienced it before. They’re given support and encouragement to do new things. The team just love helping them tackle new challenges.’
And the occupancy of the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex is being doubled as part of an expansion project now under way.
‘I’m very excited that we’re going to be able to accommodate more people than ever on our fantastic range of holidays, especially since blind and partially sighted people often struggle to find something appropriate for their holiday needs,’ says Gail.
By June when the holiday programme gets under way in earnest, as well as new ensuite facilities, there will be a new office, a new lift, and the whole place will have been given a lick of paint.
‘One of the most important things about the holiday centre is that our guests really do see it as a home from home,’ says Gail. ‘And that won’t be lost. There are many features which subtly make it a place where people with sight loss are welcome and can really feel comfortable. For example, we use high contrast colours with the decoration, everything is level access, and there’s plenty of reading material around in braille, large print and audio.’
Describing the improvements at the centre as ‘costly but good value for money’, Gail said, ‘God has miraculously provided for phase 1 of this project, prompting people to give sacrificially to make it happen. It’s very humbling.’
This year’s Easter house party will still go ahead – but based in Oxfordshire. By June, in Gail’s words, it will be ‘all systems go, with back to back holidays right through to Christmas!’
‘Throughout the summer months we’ll be making the most of the better weather and the beautiful situation of the holiday centre near the south coast, plus the fact that from our garden we can step straight onto national parkland, walking on the South Downs,’ she says.
For information on the full range of Torch Holidays click here or go to the Facebook page or phone 01273 832282.
You can also tune into Reflections, the radio programme on faith and disability produced weekly by Torch, on 16 March, which features an interview with Gail about Torch Holidays. Reflections is broadcast on RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777 every Sunday just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. And it can also be heard on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725 on Sundays at 4pm. All the programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Posted: 18th February 2014 by Lin Ball
A new production of the musical comedy The Threepenny Opera starts a tour of the UK this week. And one star of the disabled cast is blind singer Victoria Oruwari, who plays one of the main roles, Mrs Peachum.
Victoria only heard about the audition three days before it was scheduled. She said her first response was to pray to God for strength to learn the songs, which included the famous Louis Armstrong standard ‘Mac the Knife’, in the short time she had.
‘I was nervous, but it was an excited sort of nerves rather than being too scared to do it,’ said Victoria, interviewed for Torch Trust’s weekly radio programme, Reflections.
But, having prayed about the audition, Victoria said, ‘I didn’t feel like I was alone. I have grown spiritually considerably since the last time I had an operatic audition.’
She makes her acting debut opposite her stage husband Garry Robson, who is a wheelchair user. And her director, Jenny Sealey, is Deaf.
The Threepenny Opera, a musical first performed in Germany in 1928, has been translated into many languages and performed around the world. But it’s possibly a first to have it put on by a cast of disabled actors.
Victoria said that learning to talk in Mrs Peachum’s accent had been one of her biggest challenges. Memorising all the lines is demanding too, she added, but not as difficult as delivering the lines in a way which shows Mrs Peachum’s reactions to the other actors on stage.
Being away from home to tour with the group, Graeae Theatre, will also be a new experience for Victoria. But all the actors will have personal assistants working with them, so she said, ‘I’m looking forward to living and working with the cast and getting to know them.’
The Threepenny Opera opens at Nottingham Playhouse on 21 February, where it runs until 8 March. Then it’s at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich from 12-22 March, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 27 March–April 12, and finally at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 24 April to 10 May. All performances include audio description and a creative combination of BSL interpretation and captioning.
And if you want to listen to the Reflections programme featuring the interview with Victoria, click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to select the 9 February broadcast.
Posted: 7th February 2014 by Lin Ball
‘A journey towards the cross, a journey of enlightenment: from wilderness to feast, from desert to oasis’ – this is how Lent is described in a poem by Kate Mcllhagga. And her poem will be just one source of inspiration being used in a special TorchTalk telephone friendship group being run in the six weeks leading up to Easter.
Ashes and Glory is the title of this seasonal TorchTalk group being facilitated by Sarah Brookman, starting on 3 March.
‘We’ll be helping one another journey together through the season of Lent as we prepare for Easter,’ says Sarah.
‘Using Scripture, poems and prayers, we’ll reflect on the events leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross. We’ll be taking time to get to know one another and listen to one another’s experience of faith, with its times of both wilderness and feasting. We’ll explore the nature of the promised Kingdom of God on earth, how we recognise it in our everyday life, how we can pray for it and share together in it.’
A number of TorchTalk groups are up and running and doing well. Ashes and Glory will be a six-week group, just running through Lent.
David Palmer, Torch’s Regional Outreach Leader, who has been helping the TorchTalk groups get off the ground, explains, ‘Most of us enjoy meeting and talking to people, but there are many people with sight loss who don’t have that opportunity. Many live alone. Some have additional disabilities or impaired mobility which makes it difficult to get out and about. Those who have started to participate in TorchTalk really look forward to it.’
Currently there are five regular groups running, with others are in the pipeline. Some of those will be special interest phone groups based on books, Bible study and even shared holiday experiences.
If you’d like to know more about the different TorchTalk groups available or possible, call 01858 438260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Posted: 28th January 2014 by Lin Ball
The very morning that staff were taking part in a half day of prayer for Torch finances, two visitors arrived on the doorstep with a cheque!
‘What a timely encouragement from God!’ said Torch’s Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nicholson.
Andrew is pictured here with the bearers of the gift. Jane Emerton (left), who’s partially sighted, and her friend Marion Welch, brought the results of fundraising by the Trefoil Guild of Northampton. The Trefoil Guild is linked to the Girl Guide movement and is described as ‘guiding for adults’. Jane and Marion also brought several bags of beautifully knitted blankets, jumpers and hats made by Trefoil members for needy people in Malawi who receive aid from Torch.
‘Staff were spending extra time in prayer that morning,’ explained Andrew. ‘In times of need, our policy is always to go first to God. At this opening quarter of 2014, we find ourselves in a challenging time.’
While a drop in legacy income is part of a challenging picture, staff are thanking God for the provision of specific gifts for some vital projects which get under way in 2014.
‘Amazingly, in answer to prayer and as a result of the generosity of individuals and some trusts, we are able to give the go ahead for the first phase of the ambitious renovation plans for our Holiday & Retreat Centre in Sussex,’ said Andrew. ‘The work being done will equip us to support more people at the start of their sight loss journey as they attend our residential break Moving Forward breaks and other specialist retreats and holidays which give them practical and spiritual encouragement.’
Posted: 7th January 2014 by Lin Ball
During a wild and windy January, why not plan a break for milder days? Fun and fellowship, sightseeing and spiritual input are all on the programme for a short break at Sneaton Castle, Whitby, on the east coast of Yorkshire. Blind and partially sighted people will be coming together from a number of Torch Fellowship Groups (TFGs) in the area, from 28-30 April. The speaker will be Dr Mike Townsend, a Torch trustee.
‘Other friends are welcome to join us,’ says organiser David Judson of Leeds, Regional Co-ordinator for Yorkshire TFGs.
‘Information has gone out to TFGs in Hornsea, Bridlington, Scarborough, Washington, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool. We are hoping at least 30 will come,’ says David.
David can be contacted by phone (0113 2166411) or email (email@example.com).
Talking of holidays, the 2014 programme of specialist Torch Holidays for people with sight loss gets under way soon. This includes several Moving Forward breaks, specially for people newly diagnosed with sight loss. For more details of the full Torch Holidays programme, click here or phone 01273 832282.
Posted: 18th December 2013 by Lin Ball
Torch leader Debra Chand will be speaking on the onset of disability at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Peterborough this month (January). Debra, who heads up the area of Torch work called ‘Presence’ – the face-to-face initiatives for getting alongside people at the start of their sight loss journey – is concerned that many people don’t realise how devastating such a diagnosis can be. She describes it as ‘something close to the shock of bereavement’.
‘In fact, the onset of any disability can bring changes and losses that feel like a series of bereavements,’ says Debra. ‘It brings with it increased risk of depression and social isolation.’
In her session at CRE, Debra will explore these challenges, drawing on the experience of supporting people through the onset of sight loss, and highlighting the valuable role of the local church in ‘being there’ for people at this tough time of change.
CRE in Peterborough takes place on Wednesday 29 January and Thursday 30 January. Debra’s 45-minute seminar, one of 40 on the programme, will be held on Thursday at 1.30pm. The exhibition brings together about 150 exhibitors from many areas of the Christian world. There will be an extensive range of books, music and other resources to buy, and expert advice on the latest multimedia equipment.
Posted: 6th December 2013 by Lin Ball
What’s it like to spend Christmas in bomb-blasted Iraq? Or in the stinking slums of India? Well, Jesus is there too! You can find out how in some moving interviews which are part of an hour-long Christmas broadcast of Reflections, Torch Trust’s radio programme about faith and disability, presented by blind musician Marilyn Baker.
In the programme, being broadcast at 9am on Christmas Day on RNIB’s Insight Radio, producer Rachel Dalby talks to the Rev Canon Dr Andrew White (pictured here), chaplain of St George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, known popularly as ‘the Vicar of Baghdad’.
An international peacemaker, Canon White has a deep love for the Iraqi people and his church will be packed with several thousand people on Christmas Day – as it is every Sunday, since the idea of making a seasonal effort to attend church is unknown in Iraq. In fact, as Canon White explains, it’s Easter and not Christmas which is by far the biggest festival of the church year. Church attendance at any time in this war-torn country is fraught with danger and many of his congregation have been attacked and murdered for their belief in Christ. In Reflections on Christmas Day, Canon White describes some of the many miracles he has witnessed during his time in the Middle East.
Canon White has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and has been very ill in recent weeks. He has been through further stem cell transplant therapy in an effort to control his symptoms, and is returning to health only slowly.
Also featured on the Christmas Reflections is Nancy Rayan and her work with the India Fellowship For The Visually Handicapped (IFVH), which has grown to be a powerful force for change with 50 missionaries working in 12 states of India. Nancy describes how she will spend her Christmas visiting the poorest of the poor, in Chennai’s crowded and filthy slums.
‘As well as this strong international flavour, the programme is packed with music and seasonal readings,’ says producer Rachel Dalby. ‘We hope that there will be plenty to interest everyone. Most of all, we want our listeners to see that – whatever their situation – each one of them can know what it is to have the best Christmas present of all. That’s the gift of Jesus, God’s Son, sent into the world that first Christmas and still with us today.’
You can also listen to the usual Reflections programmes on the two Sundays either side of Christmas Day. On 22 December we find out why the sounds of Christmas mean so much to blind musician Kate Risdon. And on 29 December, Marilyn and her guests consider helpful strategies for thinking about the year past and looking forward to 2014. Those programmes are in the usual Reflections slots of 9am on Insight Radio and 4pm on Premier Christian Radio.
More about Reflections can be found by clicking here.
Posted: 23rd November 2013 by Lin Ball
Channel 5 will – after all – provide audio description for the broadcast of its epic mini-series THE BIBLE which starts next weekend, on November 30th.
Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple has been lobbying the TV company to think about the needs of blind and partially sighted people since the announcement of the series earlier this month.
Initially their response was a disappointing ‘no’ – and Dr Temple describes this last-minute turnaround as ‘an amazing answer to prayer.’
Martin Stott, Head of Corporate & Regulatory Affairs at Channel 5, said, ‘There are many demands from blind and partially sighted viewers for us to audio describe the programmes they like. I’m afraid it is simply not possible to audio describe them all … THE BIBLE was not originally included among the list of programmes to be audio described. We have now reconsidered the merits of this, and have decided that we will audio describe the series after all. So I can now confirm to you that all five episodes of The Bible will carry audio description.’
‘I’m so grateful to Channel 5 for their change of heart,’ said Dr Temple. ‘Now blind and partially sighted people will be able to really get into this marvellous mini-series.’
Audio description (identified ‘AD’ in TV guides) is an additional commentary describing body language, expressions and movements.
For more details of THE BIBLE, see the earlier news update below this report. Contact Torch for the souvenir guide to the series in braille, giant print and audio.
Posted: 8th November 2013 by Lin Ball
The Bible is the star of an epic 10-hour mini-series coming to Channel 5 and DVD soon – and people with sight loss will be able to get accessible versions of the accompanying Souvenir Guide from Torch.
Described as ‘breathtaking in scope and scale’, THE BIBLE was shot in Morocco and uses dramatic cutting-edge visual effects to portray some of the most famous and well-known Bible stories and characters. The accompanying guide provides articles and information on each episode and explores the major themes of the series, such as forgiveness and transformation.
CEO Dr Gordon Temple announced this week that, working with creators of the resource Damaris Trust, the Torch transcription team would be rushing through accessible versions of the guide so that people with sight loss would be able to participate fully in THE BIBLE.
‘This is a major media opportunity for tens of thousands of people to consider the Bible and the story of salvation and it will likely be a real talking point in our communities. Many churches will be using the guide – and it’s important that blind and partially sighted people have the opportunity to access the same material in braille, large print and audio,’ he said.
The five-part programme covers the accounts of Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, Daniel in the Lion’s Den and key events from the life of Jesus. Originally aired in the US on the History Channel, the first episode was seen by over 13 million viewers.
The producer is British-born Mark Burnett working with his wife Roma Downey, who said they were partly inspired to create the $22-million series because of growing biblical illiteracy among young people.
‘Part of what we hoped to accomplish with the series was to show the Bible is not simply a collection of unconnected stories which are often discussed and analysed in snippets with chapter and verse numbers,’ they said. ‘Instead, we wanted to show how the Old Testament connects seamlessly to the New Testament, how they are one sweeping story with one grand, overriding message: God loves each one of us as if we were the only person in all the world to love.’
Unfortunately, despite lobbying by Torch, Channel 5 say the series will not have audio description, which Dr Temple described as ‘very disappointing’.
The first episode of THE BIBLE will be broadcast at 9pm on Saturday 30 November on Channel 5. To find out more about THE BIBLE and to watch/listen to a trailer, go to www.thebibleuk.org
Posted: 17th October 2013 by Lin Ball
A half-million-pound plan to renovate and extend Torch’s Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex was the focus of a special Day of Prayer last week.
Staff and volunteers from Torch House in Leicestershire travelled to the centre to take part in the Day of Prayer.
‘We are looking to God for miraculous provision,’ says CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘The upgrading of Torch HRC is a vital part of our ongoing strategy to do more for people at the start of the sight loss journey – a strategy we believe we have developed as we’ve tried to discern God’s plan for Torch’s work.’
National research has confirmed that loneliness is the greatest issue affecting blind and partially sighted people in Britaintoday. Emotional support is vital to the success of adaptation and rehabilitation.
‘Emotional support for people with sight loss is what the Torch Holiday& Retreat Centre offers par excellence,’ says Dr Temple.
‘It’s a safe environment combining a “home from home” welcome with first-class accessibility, staffed by a team combining professional expertise with the selfless loving care that reflects our Christian ethos. The centre is the best venue for the Moving Forward retreats we have launched specifically for those who have recently begun to lose their sight.’
These new Moving Forward breaks together with growth in bookings for Torch’s programme of holidays and retreats has pushed the capacity of the centre to its limits and highlighted the needs for improvements in the accommodation.
The planned development will increase the guest sleeping accommodation by over 50 per cent to a total of 29 beds in 17 rooms, adding ensuite facilities to every guest room. A lift will be installed for improved accessibility and enlarged office accommodation created. The total cost of the improvements and extension of the centre is currently estimated at £520,000. Subject to funding, work will begin early in 2014.
Urging Torch supporters to pray for the project, Dr Temple adds, ‘Our vision for the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre is to create the ideal environment for holidays, retreats, activities and events for people with sight loss, where those who are lonely find companionship, those who are perplexed by their loss of sight find hope, where everyone feels at home and supported in an accessible caring Christian environment.’
Posted: 2nd October 2013 by Lin Ball
An interactive exhibition which builds people’s understanding of the issues around sight loss will be part of this year’s Torch Thanksgiving Celebration.
The activities will also include displays which put the spotlight on the wide range of new opportunities being taken by Torch Trust to serve people who are blind or partially sighted. Among the new projects featured will be the planned development of Torch’s Holiday & Retreat Centre, TorchTalk phone friendship groups, the Moving Forward retreat for people recently diagnosed with sight loss, and the online service for converting materials into a range of print sizes called Worship for All.
‘We’re looking forward to many Torch friends coming to hear about a number of exciting new initiatives now under way after prayer and planning,’ said CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘But most of all, we want to encourage people to join with us in thanksgiving to the faithful God who makes it all possible. As we have prayed and stepped out in faith, God has provided for us to meet the needs of people with sight loss. There is still so much to do, but this special day is our opportunity to praise God for his generosity.’
This year’s Thanksgiving Celebration will take place on Saturday 19 October at Westbury-on-Trym Baptist Church in Bristol, and all are welcome. Special guests for the event will include blind gospel pianist Peter Jackson, who will lead the worship. The exhibition will open from 11am, along with refreshments, and will be followed by a sandwich lunch for everyone. The celebration will begin at 2.20pm, chaired by trustee Dr Mike Townsend, with a packed and varied programme due to finish at 4pm.
For more about the event, you can call (01858 438260) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). For travel information, click here . If using a satnav you can find Reedley Road, where the church is situated, by using the postcode BS9 3TD.
Posted: 26th September 2013 by Lin Ball
If you have sight loss, how involved do you feel in your church programme? Here are the words of a partially sighted man who contacted Torch recently: I’m very concerned with the lack across the church community of accessible means by which visually impaired people can participate in sung worship and church life generally… I’m pretty much coming to the end of my tether… by and large, churches do not have a significant visually impaired population because they are excluded.
Does your church offer magazines, song sheets, home group studies, orders of service and so on in formats that work for people who are blind or partially sighted? Doing so is a significant way of saying, ‘Welcome to this church!’
After many months of experimentation and field testing, Torch Trust is now rolling out a free web-based service which converts materials for you into a range of large print sizes. This service is called Worship for All (W4A). If you have blind braille readers in your church, W4A can also generate a file to enable a braille embosser machine to produce braille versions. Can you imagine how welcoming that is to people needing them?
Braille reader Colin reports that his experience of attending church using W4A is ‘transformed’.
‘I can join in all the worship. I really feel part of it,’ he says.
‘It’s lovely to be able to join in rather than just listen,’ agrees Pam, also a braille reader. ‘I feel like I’m taking part rather than just being there.’
Andrew Nicholson, Chief Operating Officer for Torch Trust, explains, ‘With an ageing population experiencing sight loss problems, churches have to consider the usefulness of everything from the printed materials they use in church and home groups through to their data and video projection.’
‘More materials would be suitable for people losing sight due to macular degeneration or cataracts if they were produced in a larger type size, along with consideration of the font shape and the background colours,’ he says.
John Ball has been test-driving W4A for the Baptist church he’s a part of.
‘We’re a church of around 135 members and have a few people with sight problems who benefit from large print versions of all our materials. And we have three people who are blind and read braille. Using W4A, we simply take the text, put it in plain text into a Word document, then copy and paste it into the relevant page on the Torch website. It’s a process that an average computer user would have no difficulty with. Producing copies in a variety of type sizes is easy. And if there’s access to a braille embosser, W4A will also produce braille-ready files. Churches that don’t have the funds to invest in an embosser themselves will generally find that they can partner in using one at a public library, a local blind society or a larger church.’
Chair of Torch Trustees Marilyn Baker, who is herself blind, says, ‘The new W4A system could revolutionise the way people with sight loss are involved in church services and other church events. Many people, including me, have benefitted from W4A as it was trialled over the summer in a number of large Christian conference and festival events. Now any church that wants to include people with sight loss can do so.’
Torch’s radio programme Reflections takes a look at Worship for All on Sunday 6 October – just after the 9am news on RNIB Insight Radio and 4pm on Premier Christian Radio. If you miss the broadcast, it will be available a couple of days later on the Torch website downloads page.
Posted: 12th September 2013 by Lin Ball
How can people make good quality relationships with those they care for in the community?
This vital issue will be central to a major event being run in November by the Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) – their first-ever Pastoral Care UK Roadshow. And Torch’s Debra Chand will be running a workshop at the event, in Birmingham on 2 November.
Torch links with ACC have been strengthened recently with the launch by Torch, initially in Northern Ireland, of the Journeying With programme – in which church volunteers are linked with people newly diagnosed with sight loss as supporters and encouragers during the early months of coping with their major life changes.
‘Blindness is the disability the majority of people say they most fear,’ says Debra. ‘But every day in the UK, 100 people learn that they are losing their sight. As our population ages, the numbers will increase. Almost one in four of us will know what it is to live with a disabling level of sight loss.’
The trauma of a sight loss diagnosis has been compared to a bereavement in terms of its impact.
‘Despite this, only one in five people has someone with them at diagnosis,’ says Debra. ‘People often find themselves with no way to adapt their normal routines. Acute loneliness and clinical depression are not uncommon. Our new church-based befriending scheme called Journeying With brings Christian volunteers alongside those adjusting to the unwelcome news of sight loss.’
With a pilot scheme for Journeying With under way, Torch is looking for welcoming groups of churches willing to run the initiative in their areas.
Booking for the ACC roadshow opens soon. The price for non-ACC members is £20 but churches sending six or more people are eligible for a discount. To know more about the event, click here . And for details of how to get to the venue, click here .
Posted: 3rd September 2013 by Lin Ball
When someone starts to lose their sight, the impact is not just personal – a whole family can be dramatically affected.
Gill started to lose her sight nearly two years ago after an operation to remove a brain tumour. And Chris, her husband of 43 years, describes it as a ‘total upset’ of their life which he’s still struggling to come to terms with.
‘Marriage is a union and when one of the partners is the carer and the other is the cared-for, it completely changes the dynamic within the household, within my head and within Gill’s head – because she’s aware that the most basic things need to be done for her.
‘It’s like living with a different person now and that’s quite a culture shock,’ he says, admitting that he doesn’t feel he’s coped well.
‘It was all new to me, living as a blind person,’ says Gill, adding that so far she feels she probably let Chris do too much for her.
‘Chris is quite an impatient person and I think he blames me to a certain extent for having to give up a lot of his hobbies. I feel at times that I’m a bit of a hindrance to him. But I do cope – because I have to.’
Sight loss isn’t the only major challenge Chris and Gill have had to deal with. Fourteen years ago they lost their only son to cancer, aged just 23. Then, they recall, they couldn’t have managed ‘the absolute pits of depression’ without each other’s support. But this time, it feels a bit as if Chris is doing all the work.
Debra Chand of Torch Trust says this is an all too-common scenario.
‘One hundred people start to lose their sight every day. Sight loss can put relationships under pressure. There can be feelings of isolation, loneliness, resentment, even guilt. Symptoms of depression can also be higher in people with sight loss,’ she says.
Torch’s Moving Forward breaks have been specially designed for those newly diagnosed with sight loss. Based at their Holiday & Retreat Centre in West Sussex, the event is an opportunity for people to come together and share their experiences as well as getting a lot of practical advice about coping with everyday living. There are sessions on handling money and claiming benefits, discovering kitchen gadgets, accessing computers. It’s all very ‘hands-on’.
Gill and Chris found Moving Forward has given them a fresh direction.
‘Moving Forward taught me to step back and give Gill the time to try things herself. And not to get very huffy when tea gets spilt on a worktop, which is easily wiped anyway. We all learn by making mistakes,’ says Chris, admitting that his impatience has been a barrier to Gill learning new skills.
Gill now recognises that she needs to be more assertive in asking for enough time to try things for herself. Both agreed that it was a tremendous help to spend time with others going through sight loss and those caring for them. They say they feel they now know how to set in place a series of little goals that are achievable and that will improve their lives.
‘I believe that God is with us in our journey,’ says Chris. ‘Listening to what he’s trying to tell you is the difficult thing. We as human beings have this fixed idea of where we want to go and what we want to do and so often that’s not what God’s got in line for us.’
If you would like details of the next Moving Forward break, do contact us at email@example.com or ring 0333 123 1255.
You can hear Gill and Chris in conversation with Rachel Dalby in the Torch radio programme Reflections: Coming to Terms with Sight Loss being broadcast on Sunday 15 September.
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm. The programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: go to http://www.torchtrust.org/smartweb/downloads/downloads and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Posted: 16th August 2013 by Lin Ball
A hugely comprehensive new Methodist hymn book which was seven years in development is now available for people with sight loss – and is being received enthusiastically.
In 2011 Singing the Faith, with 840 traditional and new worship items, replaced Hymns & Psalms which has been used for 30 years. And a number of blind people began to press for a braille edition – which initiated a huge two-year project for the transcription department of Torch Trust.
‘So, working with Methodist Publishing, Torch Trust produced an eight-volume set which was ready for shipping from mid-July and eagerly awaited by those who had pre-ordered,’ explains Andrew Nicholson, Torch’s Chief Operating Officer.
‘There’s no doubt that the Methodist Church has a rich musical heritage – often expressing its theology through its singing – and we wanted to ensure that blind people were included in the new resource,’ he added.
In keeping with Torch’s ethos to provide Christians materials for people with sight loss at no more than the cost of standard print editions, the selling price of the eight braille volumes is just £10. The print version of Singing the Faith runs to 1728 pages.
Andrew also added that, with the simultaneous publication of an electronic edition of Singing the Faith, churches have the option of importing the text into Torch’s new Worship for All service, which enables the production of materials in a range of font sizes suitable for people with varying levels of sight difficulties.
Lydia Tebbutt, Torch Publications Leader, reported that the braille Singing the Faith was selling well, with 30 orders in the first couple of weeks, and looked likely to become a very popular addition to the huge Torch offering of accessible Christian resources.
To order Singing the Faith or to ask about other songbooks, Bibles or other accessible resources from Torch Trust, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01858 438260. For further information about Worship for All contact Andrew Nicholson (email@example.com).
Posted: 6th August 2013 by Lin Ball
Sheila Armstrong, blind from birth, had never run. But recently she successfully completed the 5km Race for Life along with sighted guide Rachel Dalby.
‘I had to retire my guide dog in April, and was feeling depressed,’ recalls Sheila. ‘When Rachel suggested the Race for Life to me, in aid of cancer research, immediately it seemed something to focus on. It really helped me. And, of course, we all know someone with cancer. I’ve got a very close aunt who’s suffering at the moment.’
Sheila and Rachel, both on the staff of Torch Trust, signed up for the Race for Life in Leicester as ‘the Sole Sisters’ and treated themselves to some new running shoes. Neither were runners, and both describe themselves as pretty unfit. They started training on the recreation ground next to Torch House. So how – practically – did it work?
They used a rope about nine inches long held between them, knotted at each end, with Sheila running close but slightly behind Rachel. At the start, Sheila had no concept of running or jogging but she could hear the pace her partner was setting because of the car keys jingling in Rachel’s pocket. Rachel said they had to work a lot on communication.
‘We had to establish an emergency stop command very quickly so that I knew and Sheila knew that she was going to be safe. It took us a little while to practice this. If I shouted “stop”, we both had to stop dead, there and then.’
Sheila said she found it was not unlike following a guide dog!
‘And it’s a little bit like trusting God, really,’ said Sheila. ‘We have to obey his commands and we have to make sure that we are in tune with him as we’re walking with him. It has made me think about the importance of following our Lord Jesus in a spiritual sense. We have that physical rope between us, Rachel and I, but with the Lord we have prayer, we have the Bible, we have ways of knowing which direction he wants us to go in.’
Rachel and Sheila said they prayed a lot about their training, and also about their desire to give cancer patients hope, knowing that money was being raised for more research.
On the big day, both women felt the excitement and camaraderie spurred them on – enabling them to complete the race in 47 minutes, their personal best. And they also surpassed their fundraising target – collecting over £500 in sponsorship.
You can hear Rachel and Sheila talking about their training and motivation and also hear them being interviewed at the finish line on the radio programme Reflections, being broadcast on Sunday August 18th.
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm. The programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: go to the downloads page and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Posted: 24th July 2013 by Lin Ball
Say the words ‘harvest festival’ and it conjures up thoughts of pumpkins, huge loaves in the shape of wheat sheaves and children carrying tinned goods to the front of the parish church. But autumn can be a time for looking more creatively at the idea of a personal harvest. What, for example, does a fruitful life look like? And how do we share the harvest of our lives with others? These original ideas and more are behind a six-week harvest-themed telephone friendship group being run from this September by Torch Trust.
Torch Trust launched its first telephone friendship groups for people with sight loss – called TorchTalk – last year, following a successful pilot initiative. A number of groups are up and running and doing well. And now Torch is looking at running some short-term groups with specific areas of interest.
Sarah Brookman, a trained facilitator, is working on ideas for the Autumn TorchTalk group.
‘I see the group getting together each week to share our stories and thoughts together around the harvest theme, perhaps thinking about what makes for a fruitful life,’ explains Sarah.
‘We could discuss what barriers there are to us living our lives more fully right now. How can we celebrate life in all its fullness, reaching beyond our limitations? And how can we share our spiritual harvest of good things with others?
‘We’ll be looking to our own experiences as resources, along with the Bible, and perhaps poems or prayers that help us understand fruitfulness,’ adds Sarah. ‘And we’ll be thinking of fruitfulness in the widest terms – our home life, our work, our relationships with others. It will be an opportunity to learn from each other and to encourage one another.’
Autumn TorchTalk will run on Tuesday afternoons, from 2-2.45pm for six weeks starting on September 10th. If you’d like to know more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Torch general response line on 0333 123 1255.
Posted: 17th July 2013 by Lin Ball
Around 300,000 sheets of braille paper have been prayerfully despatched to Africa this week, along with tonnes of aid items. The paper – paid for out of the Bibles for Africa Fund raised by Torch UK supporters – is needed to meet the demand for braille Bibles, for which there is great spiritual hunger.
Over 4000 braille volumes in English and a number of African languages have been distributed in the past year in Malawi, Zambia and Kenya from the Torch production centre in Blantyre. Some of these are whole New or Old Testaments, some collections of the Gospels, others Scripture-based booklets aimed at people with AIDS.
For more about Torch work in Africa, click here for Torch in Malawi page.
Meanwhile, listeners to Torch’s radio programme will be able to hear of the challenges facing people with sight loss in India later this month.
In the Reflections programme being broadcast on Sunday July 28th, blind Torch trustee Dr Mike Townsend interviews Nancy and Prabhu Rayan, who founded the International Fellowship for the Handicapped in 1980. The Rayans describe the stigma of sight loss and other disabilities in India. Many people believe that disability is caused by wrongdoing or a curse – resulting in deep shame and alienation extending to the family of the disabled person. The Rayans set out to change people’s mindset about disability, particularly in the churches. They describe the improvements made in recent years – but also the challenges that remain.
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and Freesat 777. Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm. The programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: click here for audio downloads.
Posted: 2nd July 2013 by Lin Ball
The ‘Vicar of Bagdhad’ is interviewed for Torch’s radio show
What’s it like to go to church to deliver your Sunday sermon in body armour, in an armoured vehicle, surrounded by a military guard? To know that people who respond to the message of salvation you preach are likely be murdered? And to carry the burden of so many orphans and widows depending on you for food and shelter that you need to raise over £100,000 every month?
Canon Andrew White, known as ‘the Vicar of Baghdad’, spent time with Rachel Dalby of the Torch Media Team on a recent trip to the UK, describing his life on the frontline in Iraq as Anglican clergyman, peace negotiator and doctor – roles which he carries out in spite of having multiple sclerosis. Originally from London, he spends most of every year in Iraq, returning every six weeks or so to visit his wife and two sons and take meetings to raise funds.
Canon White talked of the reality of his faith in a situation where everyday life dawns with the potential for disaster, conflict and tragedy. There are 35 bodyguards on duty when he leads a church service, most carrying rifles. His congregation numbers 6,500 – but the church holds just 600, so services are held on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the request that people attend just once weekly. Canon White describes the current situation, though not currently hitting the headlines in the west, as ‘absolutely desperate’ – with riots, shootings and bombings. Ten years on from the Iraq War, the church is still providing food, healthcare and education.
Asking about how he lives in such a challenging situation, Canon White says, ‘I’ve never been terrified. God has called me to do what I’m doing where I am.’
He trained in medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital in London but then felt called by God to be ordained. His work in reconciliation based at Coventry Cathedral led to an invitation to Iraq.
Canon White’s MS affects his speech, vision, hearing and balance. Most of his symptoms are well controlled because he is given the world’s most advanced stem cell treatment – at a clinic in Iraq which he himself helped set up and which now treats 3,700 patients.
‘Even though life is quite hard for me,’ he says, ‘I have been able to achieve so much. It’s very easy for people to think that those with disabilities can’t do anything. The fact is that I am seriously disabled and I’ve got one of the biggest churches in the most dangerous place in the world and I’ve got a clinic as well. I run it all by God’s grace. I don’t know how I manage it but God does.’
You can hear the interview with Canon White in two Reflections programmes being broadcast on July 14th and July 21st. Reflections is broadcast on RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777 – on Sundays just after the 9am news, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. And on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725 – on Sundays at 4pm.
Two books by Canon White, The Vicar of Bagdad and Faith under Fire are available in accessible formats from the Torch Trust Library, free to loan for anyone registered blind or partially sighted.
Posted: 19th June 2013 by Lin Ball
Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple and trustee Dr Mike Townsend are among an impressive line-up of speakers at two major disability conferences happening soon – and there are places still available. Gordon Temple will be speaking on the onset of sight loss and other disabilities. And Mike Townsend will be speaking on involving disabled people in the community.
Other leading Christian speakers contributing to the programme for the ENABLING CHURCH conferences are Rev Roy Searle of the Northumbria Community, Rev Malcolm Duncan of Gold Hill Baptist Church and theologian Roy McCloughry.
The conferences are organised by Torch Trust along with other partners in the disability organisation network Churches for All, with the support of Premier Christian Radio. The aim is to inform and equip Christians to make churches accessible to people with sight loss and other disabilities.
ENABLING CHURCH runs on Saturday June 22nd at Bethany Christian Centre at Houghton Le Spring, just north of Durham, not far from the A1; and also on Saturday July 6th at Westbury-on-Trym Baptist Church in north Bristol – with good access from the M4, M5 and M32.
Full information on the conferences, which are being run by Churches for All with the support of Premier Christian Radio, is available by clicking here: http://churchesforall.org.uk/whats-on/enabling-church-day-conferences-2013. To book, go to www.premier.org.uk/enabling or call 020 7316 1349. The price for the day is £15. Delegates with disabilities are welcome. There will be BSL interpreting, loop system, large print and braille handouts, wheelchair access, quiet room and accessible toilet.
Posted: 11th June 2013 by Lin Ball
How did last summer’s Paralympics change the way you think about disability? Did your thinking undergo a seismic shift? Lord Sebastian Coe said at the closing ceremony: ‘I genuinely think we have had a seismic effect in shifting public attitudes… I don’t think they will ever see disability in the same way again.’ If that’s true, then what impact has it had on our churches?
Reaching out to disabled people and fully integrating them in the life and witness of the local church is not without challenges. Two major day conferences in the north east and the south west of the country called ENABLING CHURCH, which aim to inform and equip Christians to make churches accessible to disabled people, happen in the next few weeks – and there are still places.
There’s an impressive line-up of speakers – from Rev Roy Searle of the Northumbria Community, Rev Malcolm Duncan of Gold Hill Baptist Church, Catholic Bishop Paul Hendricks (Southwark) and theologian Roy McCloughry. The speakers also include people with first-hand experience of a wide range of disabilities – such as mental health issues, learning disabilities, deafness, autism, sight loss and mobility disabilities.
ENABLING CHURCH is being run on Saturday June 22nd at Bethany Christian Centre at Houghton Le Spring, just north of Durham, not far from the A1. And it will also be run on Saturday July 6th at Westbury-on-Trym Baptist Church in north Bristol – with good access from the M4, M5 and M32.
Full information on the conferences, which are being run by Churches for All with the support of Premier Christian Radio, is available by clicking here: http://churchesforall.org.uk/whats-on/enabling-church-day-conferences-2013. To book, go to www.premier.org.uk/enabling or call 020 7316 1349. The price for the day is £15. Delegates with disabilities are welcome. There will be BSL interpreting, loop system, large print and braille handouts, wheelchair access, quiet room and accessible toilet.
Posted: 4th June 2013 by Lin Ball
Next Monday, June 10th, is the Torch Annual Day of Prayer. And it comes in ‘an exciting period – a time when we are seeing years of planning and effort come to fruition’ says CEO Dr Gordon Temple. Calling staff, volunteers and supporters to pray, Gordon reminds everyone that the text chosen for 2013 is Isaiah 43:19: ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’
Relating this verse to new areas of support for people with sight loss being pioneered, he adds, ‘The wilderness for us is the uncharted territory through which we seek to navigate. The world around us is changing rapidly in many respects and that is impacting the lives of blind and partially sighted people too – some of it good, some not so. Some of the new things we feel prompted by God to move ahead with are unprecedented.’
The Day of Prayer will firstly focus on thankfulness and praise:
Change does, of course, mean challenge and some stress. So on the Day of Prayer we will also seek God for his enabling, strength and provision:
Please pray along with us on June 10th, that God will bless many more people through the work of Torch Trust.
Posted: 24th May 2013 by Lin Ball
What welcome do you get when you go to church as a blind person? As a disabled person? As the carer of a disabled person?
The welcome that churches offer is the topic of a lively discussion with three differently disabled people on the Reflections radio programme being aired on Disability Sunday, June 2nd.
‘When a church makes itself a better place for people with disabilities… it also becomes a better place for everybody,’ says Tony Phelps-Jones. Tony has hearing loss and has worked for many years with Prospects, the Christian organisation for people with learning disabilities.
Tony feels that there has been a big change in people’s response to disabled people since the 2012 Paralympics – but there’s plenty of room for improvement.
‘If people within a church... are really keen to make people feel welcome, included and comfortable - even if there are things that are difficult such as… steps that cannot be replaced and therefore there’s some inconvenience - if people’s attitudes are good and positive, people with disabilities will accept that and they will feel included and welcomed.’
Tony says he understands why churches find it challenging when people with learning disabilities turn up. People can feel fearful about communicating in ways that are understood, or worry that they will not understand what people with learning disabilities say. But, he adds, ‘people with learning disabilities are no different to anybody else. They are people with likes and dislikes and preferences… they are people that we need to get to know and develop a relationship with.’
Another contributor to the discussion, autism advisor Ann Memmott, describes churches as a ‘mixed bag’ in terms of the welcome extended to people with autism. She is on the autistic spectrum herself and recognises the difficulties people have in understanding how best to make people with autism feel comfortable in church. Often there is a real sense of panic when children with autism arrive in the Sunday School. But this is a situation that churches need face, since the latest statistics show that one child in every 50 is on the autism spectrum
‘Getting good advice at the start is very important,’ says Ann, pointing out that it is a common misconception that autism is a behavioural condition. ‘Mostly it’s a sensory processing condition,’ she explains. This means that crowded situations can be overwhelming. But simple changes can make a big difference.
Dr Mike Townsend, who has been blind from childhood but is also a church leader, is keen to help other church leaders understand what it’s like for a blind person going to church. His main message is for people not to make assumptions, but to ask people about the sort of help they need. Attitudes need to change, he says, and sometimes that means taking risks, but also treating people as people, not as disabilities.
All three people involved in the radio discussion have contributed to a new book called MAKING CHURCH ACCESSIBLE TO ALL – Including disabled people in church life, newly published by Bible Reading Fellowship. The book is available from www.brf.org.uk , from www.prospects.org.uk and from Christian bookshops. And it’s available to buy or borrow from Torch in braille, giant print and DAISY audio. As well as looking at issues around blindness, learning disabilities and autism, the book also contains chapters on welcoming people with mental health conditions, hearing loss and mobility issues. Although the advice is directed primarily at churches, the principles are important for other organisations too.
How can you listen in to this discussion programme? Reflections is broadcast on RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777 – on Sundays at 9am, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. And it’s on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725 on Sundays at 4pm. The programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: go to http://www.torchtrust.org/smartweb/downloads/downloads and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Posted: 14th May 2013 by Lin Ball
An internationally famous children’s choir will visit Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre to give a concert on May 24th. The Watoto Children’s Choirs have been delighting people around the world since the work was founded in Uganda in 1994. The choirs are advocates for the estimated 50 million children in Africa who have been orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS, war, poverty and disease. The ministry has also been extended to reach out to vulnerable women as well as the war-affected community in Northern Uganda, including the many child soldiers who were forced to become weapons of war.
Accompanied by a team of adults, the choir presents the Watoto mission through stories, music and dance. The concert will be held in the lovely grounds of Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre, open from 5.30pm for you to bring your own picnic. The performance will begin at 7pm.
HRC, the venue for most of Torch’s specialist holidays for blind and partially sighted people, is at 4 Hassocks Road, Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex, BN6 9QN. There is no charge for the concert, but a love offering will be taken up for Watoto. For enquiries: email TorchHRC@torchtrust.org For more about the choir: www.watoto.com/the-choir
Posted: 1st May 2013 by Lin Ball
‘God loves us no matter what size we are, no matter how fit or unfit we are,’ says fitness guru Rosemary Conley. ‘But we owe it to God to take care of this one body that he has given us – and we owe it to ourselves.’
Rosemary’s story is featured in a Reflections radio programme. Interviewed by Torch radio producer Rachel Dalby, she describes how her life was at a crossroads in 1986.
Rosemary had developed a serious gall stone problem; her diet class business was about to end and she was struggling to keep up her mortgage payments; she had divorced her first husband and a second relationship was in trouble. Then, sitting in a hospital outpatients department, she saw an ad for a book called Power for Living which she felt she had to read. The ‘power for living’ turned out to be a commitment to following Jesus Christ.
‘The book spoke to me about Christianity in words I could understand,’ explained Rosemary (66). ‘I hadn’t understood that when Jesus died on the cross, he had paid for the sins of Rosemary Conley.’ When she prayed the prayer in the book, asking God to be in charge of her life, she felt different. ‘I just felt utterly washed through, utterly new,’ she says.
Before that time, Rosemary said she was ‘a fire alarm Christian’ – only speaking to God in a crisis. Though her commitment to be a Christian was followed by enormous challenges, she says that she no longer worried, feeling confident that God was with her. Rosemary got back together with her ex-boyfriend Mike, who also became a Christian, and they married four months later – and have been together now for 27 years. Almost overnight she became a household name, largely due to the runaway success of her international bestseller, The Hip and Thigh Diet. That led to tours, videos, a TV show, and – in 1993 – the launch of her fitness club.
‘My world was like a volcano that had exploded in a very positive way,’ laughs Rosemary. She feels her success has given her an opportunity to speak out about her faith in an industry – diet and fitness – that is not always looked on as being good or ethical.
You can hear the full interview with Rosemary Conley on Rosemary Conley’s Story being broadcast on Reflections on Sunday May 12th. Rosemary is also featured on Reflections this coming Sunday, May 5th, talking about Steps School, the school in Leicestershire for young children with motor disabilities, of which she is patron.
Reflections can be heard on RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777 – on Sundays at 9am, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. It can also be heard on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725 – on Sundays at 4pm. The programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: go to the Downloads page from the drop down menu top left of the home page, and scroll down to the bottom of that page.
Posted: 15th April 2013 by Lin Ball
A Derby church hit the headlines of the national press and the BBC when its creative use of new technology broke through access barriers for people with sight loss in the congregation.
Robert Gill (58) explained how this was making a real difference to his enjoyment of the services.
‘I’ve always had a lazy left eye, but my right eye used to be 20/20 with spectacles. But then in 2009 I had a detached retina in my good eye. Six operations later, all that can be done has been done, but I can see very little with it and have to rely on my left. I can’t drive but use a symbol cane to get around. In the past, I had to use a large print hymnbook at church together with a magnifier.’
Then, like many churches, St John’s Mickleover moved to having a digital projector and screen – but for Robert seeing the screen was impossible.
‘Quite a few churches think that a screen and projector will be the end to all their problems – but it’s not for people with sight loss,’ said Robert.
But this was where some imaginative thinking came in. The church had already set up a WiFi spot for general community use. Robert already had an iPad. He suggested the material from the screen could be sent via WiFi to his iPad. That worked – and not only did he benefit but The Cloud (the BskyB WiFi provider) donated 20 small tablets so that others in the church who were struggling to see the screen could use those.
Robert is ‘very pleased’ with the way he can now access church services, and feels other churches could use technology to achieve the same thing.
Apart from a few years in his teens and early 20s, Robert has always been a churchgoer. He moved to Derby in 1981 and since about 1985 has attended St John’s. From 2002 Robert and his wife Margaret have run their own accountancy company from home. They have two daughters – one married and living in Cheshire, and another completing a PGCE.
If you’d like to know more about the process in which a church which describes itself as ‘in no way a high tech church’ helped its members with sight loss, go to the website www.stjohnsmickleover.org.uk and click on a link near the bottom of the home page called ‘this is how we did it’.
TORCH TRUST works with churches in many ways to enable improved access for people with sight loss. To find out more about resources, training or our Foursight for the Church programme, email email@example.com .
Posted: 4th April 2013 by Lin Ball
Much of what Torch Trust is involved in comes from an understanding that sight loss frequently brings with it loneliness and isolation. One of its newer projects – telephone friendship groups called TorchTalk – will be featured in a radio interview this month. Producer Rachel Dalby interviews Jan Turner, who is blind. Jan has been involved in TorchTalk from its beginning. One of the first people to be trained as a TorchTalk facilitor, she has now become a co-ordinator for the project.
‘We get together through telephone conferencing,’ explains Jan. ‘Everyone rings a central number and enters a code which takes them into a virtual conference room.
‘We talk about all sorts of things. We have good times! TorchTalk is open to people of any faith or none, like all Torch does, but to take part you really need to be sympathetic to the Christian ethos.’
As a facilitator, Jan’s role is to help the conversation flow, and to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak. As a co-ordinator, she will be looking for more people who want to participate in the groups, link them up with others and support them as they begin with the group.
Currently there are five groups running. In the radio programme, Jan explains that others are in the pipeline – not just simple friendship groups but special interest phone groups based on books, Bible study or even holiday experiences.
‘I enjoy talking to people but I believe there are many people with sight loss who don’t have that opportunity. Those who have started to participate in TorchTalk really look forward to it.’
To hear the interview with Jan, tune into Reflections on Sunday April 28th. The programme is broadcast at 9am on RNIB Insight Radio – available online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. And it’s also on air on Premier Christian Radio on Sundays at 4pm, which can be found online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. Within a few days of first broadcast, the programme can also be heard on the downloads page of the Torch website.
Posted: 13th March 2013 by Lin Ball
What would your church magazine or weekly news sheet look like if it could be produced in a range of type sizes that would suit people who have difficulty reading standard print? Torch Trust is working on a web-based automated system to make that happen, which we are planning to launch this year – and if you’re attending the Christian Resources Exhibition in May there’ll be an opportunity to try out the new system for yourself.
‘With an ageing population experiencing sight loss problems, churches up and down the land are having to consider the usefulness of everything from the printed materials they use in church and home groups through to their data and video projection,’ said Andrew Nicholson, Chief Operating Officer for Torch Trust.
‘More materials would be suitable for people losing their sight due to macular degeneration or cataracts if they were produced in a larger type size, along with consideration of the font shape and the background colours.’
For some time Torch has been pioneering software to enable some of its Christian magazines for people with sight loss to be sent out in a variety of sizes to suit individual needs. But now this facility is to be made available to churches to do so for themselves. They will be able to log onto the website and follow step-by-step instructions to produce their own materials on demand.
If you would like to see the system in operation and discuss your own particular needs, bring along a Word file of one of your church magazines to the Torch stand in the Churches for All Zone at CRE. You can have it converted into one or more alternative sizes and take it away with you on a Torch data stick – all completely free.
CRE INTERNATIONAL 2013 runs at Sandown Park, Esher, KT10 9AJ, from Tuesday May 14th to Friday May 17th. The Torch Trust stand can be found with a grouping of other disability charities known as the CHURCHES FOR ALL ZONE, an area which will have its own programme of talks and interviews during each of the exhibition days. If you would like a complimentary ticket to CRE, contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information about the event itself, go to www.creonline.co.uk
Posted: 20th February 2013 by Lin Ball
Reading audio books becomes a lot easier from this month! Torch Trust is bringing audio material to blind and partially sighted readers through a simple memory stick – a lightweight device the size of a pack of chewing gum. The memory stick carrying the audio book slots into a small player, which is a box not much bigger than a brick and with large bright coloured buttons designed for ease of use by blind and partially sighted people.
The announcement that this new service is available is being made following a successful trial of the new memory sticks and players.
Now books in the Torch Trust Library of Christian resources will be made available on the memory sticks – free, as they always have been, to people who are registered blind. And the players, which cost £24, will be delivered from RNIB, who have worked closely with Torch on the project.
As well as Christian books in all genres, daily Bible reading notes such as Daily Bread or Every Day with Jesus can be supplied in this format.
Readers who took part in the pilot scheme have responded with enthusiasm.
‘I am enjoying using the box,’ emailed Jan of St Albans. ‘I am very encouraged by the reproduction. Thank you once again for letting me be part of trying it out.’ Jan has enjoyed listening to a book about the late John Stott, Inside Story by Roger Steer, and has moved on to enjoy Karen Kingsbury’s Red Gloves Collection.
Another listener said, ‘I’m really, really pleased with my library books on memory stick. The player is so easy to use and so clear. I’m thrilled to bits.’
One woman in her 90s felt that the new memory sticks had made life easier for her. ‘The doctor told me I had to rest and put my feet up,’ she said. ‘When I had cassette books I had to get up frequently and change the tapes. Now I can sit back and relax and listen to a whole book on the memory stick straight through. It’s great!’
No one surveyed wanted to return to cassettes. ‘The old cassettes used to get tangled,’ remarked one person. ‘What a fuss!’ And another reader was so delighted, she got through 34 books in 10 weeks.
If you’d like to ask about the new service, email email@example.com or call 01858 438260.
Posted: 5th February 2013 by Lin Ball
Are you preparing yourself spiritually for Easter? Torch has a range of helpful resources available. The York course is among the most popular Lent studies every year, and for 2013 it’s called Glimpses of God, written by the popular David Winter. This is a five-session course for individuals or small groups, with contributions from a range of well-known personalities including Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Rev Professor David Wilkinson and the Right Hon Shirley Williams. The focus of the course is how to find strength and encouragement when living in turbulent times. Glimpses of God is available to borrow or to buy in giant print and braille.
Another popular writer, former Bishop of Durham Rev Tom Wright, has produced a book of 13 short meditations ideal for Lent called The Crown and The Fire. The material encourages the reader to consider words spoken around the cross by key people involved, such as the Roman centurion and Pontius Pilate. This title is also available to borrow or buy in giant print or Braille.
A third book to consider is Love Beyond Degree, by speaker and retreat leader Starla Shattler. This offers 40 devotions tracing God’s plan of redemption, and is available to borrow in DAISY audio, giant print and Braille.
There are more titles in the Torch Library that would be suitable for reading during Lent, listed under Resource Catalogue on this website click here If you prefer, you can phone and discuss your needs with one of the Torch Client Services team on 01858 438260 or you can email Carol Nokes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Every year, Torch has a free leaflet about the meaning of Easter for you to have for yourself or a friend with sight loss. This year it’s called Better than Chocolate! This is available on request in giant print, Braille, and audio CD.
Posted: 31st January 2013 by Lin Ball
Leading Christian worship songwriter Stuart Townend will be one of the guests on this Sunday’s Reflections radio programme from Torch Trust. Stuart is well-known for co-writing the lyrics and music for a number of well-loved contemporary classics that have become popular around the world, including ‘How Deep the Father’s Love’ and ‘In Christ Alone’. He was interviewed by Reflections producer Rachel Dalby for the programme as he was preparing to lead worship at the annual Keswick Convention.
‘Sunday’s show looks at how God can speak to us powerfully through music and song, having a real impact on the way we live,’ says Rachel.
Stuart says that it’s really meaningful and encouraging to him when people tell him that one of his songs has made a difference in their lives or helped them at a specific point. ‘That’s a wonderful thing to play a part in,’ he says.
Disability campaigner Jonathan Bartley, who plays in a blues band, and blind singer-songwriter Victoria Oruwari also talk about the influence of Christian music during Sunday’s programme. ‘Undoubtedly God can speak through song lyrics,’ says Jonathan, referring to the songs in the Bible called Psalms as well as to contemporary songs in the charts.
Victoria, who is classically trained as a singer, describes feeling compelled to write a new pop song called ‘Forgive and forget’ which she hopes communicates a powerful message about the need for forgiveness.
You can tune in to this programme, presented by Marilyn Baker, on Sunday at 9am on RNIB’s Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Or you can hear it at 4pm on Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. If you can’t listen in live, all Reflections programmes can be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast by going to our audio downloads page.
Posted: 24th January 2013 by Lin Ball
Reflections – Torch Trust’s weekly radio programme on faith and disability – now has its own Facebook page. Listeners are able to post comments about the programmes as well as receiving updates on future shows, news about guests and glimpses behind the scenes into the recording studio!
Rachel Dalby, Reflections producer, said that the Facebook page (called simply Reflections from Torch Trust) would not only be a good platform for publicising the programme and growing the audience, but a very immediate way of keeping in touch with our listeners.
‘We enjoy hearing from our listeners, especially those who are blind and partially sighted, about what they think of Reflections – and what they’d like to hear on future programmes – and this is a fantastic way to achieve that,’ said Rachel.
As soon as it was set up, the Reflections page started attracting people, even before an announcement was made.
‘Amazing!’ said Rachel. ‘But that’s the power of social media. Whenever I post an update on the programme it means that everyone who has “liked” us will receive it, and if they choose to “share” it, then all of their friends will also see the update.
‘From February, listeners to the programme will be told about the new Facebook page and invited to join, so we anticipate an avalanche of interest!’
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on FM 101 (Glasgow), on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Sunday at 9am, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm.
Posted: 15th January 2013 by Lin Ball
Every year thousands attend the Christian Resources Exhibition to see for themselves the huge range of what’s available to help them in every aspect of church and mission life. And this month Torch Trust takes a stand at the CRE when it makes a first-ever visit to Bristol. More than 300 Christian organisations are expected to be represented, from puppeteers to suppliers of clerical robes, from church furnishing companies to international mission agencies. CRE West is being held at the exhibition centre of the University of the West of England (BS16 1QY) on January 23rd and 24th.
The Torch stand is numbered P22 and forms part of a ‘Healing and Wholeness Zone’ along with other Christian disability organisations. So do come along if you can, bringing your questions and comments about our ministry to blind and partially sighted people – whether they are about our specialist holidays, our 100-plus fellowship groups across the UK, our huge library of accessible Christian books and magazines, our radio programming for blind people or our international work. Your views are important to us.
As well as exhibition stands, there’s a full programme of seminars and events, so there are plenty of other attractions to make a day out really useful. Among the speakers will be the Rev Paul Langham, author and vicar of Christchurch, Clifton (Bristol), who will share his passion for non-Christians. Founder of Messy Church, Lucy Moore, will also lead half-day workshops on each of the two days of the exhibition. And eminent Bible scholar and teacher David Pawson will be speaking on Christian suffering. On a lighter note, there will be an ecclesiastical fashion show called Clergy on the Catwalk!
TORCH CEO DR GORDON TEMPLE is a speaker at CRE on Wednesday 23rd at 12 noon.
For full details about the CRE programme go to www.creonline.co.uk We have free tickets to give away! - email David Palmer (email@example.com) to apply
Posted: 8th January 2013 by Lin Ball
As the New Year opened, Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple attended and spoke at a thanksgiving service for Wendy Morgan – who, as a young blind person, was used by God in the birth of Torch Trust. ‘I don't know that I ever met Wendy, yet Wendy is one of the people that I talk about most often,’ said Gordon. ‘Her story is one I’ve told a thousand times!’
In 1958 a Christian couple, Ron and Stella Heath, opened their home in Reigate to young people on Friday evenings. Lillian Taylor and her twin sister Helen had come to faith in Jesus through the club – and Lillian asked Stella if she could bring along a girl from Hethersett, the RNIB home for the blind where she worked as an assistant cook. That young girl was Wendy – and when she too came to faith in Jesus through the group, the change in her was so noticeable that the Hethersett principal urged the Heaths to take an interest in the other blind and visually impaired students. So the Heaths’ home was opened up to blind young people on Sunday afternoons.
‘The Heaths looked for Christian literature in braille for these young people but found very little that was suitable,’ explained Gordon. ‘They learned braille themselves so they could copy out things for these young people.
‘In their search they came across the Torch magazine for blind people, edited by an elderly lady in the Lake District. She saw the opportunity to give a future to the magazine and asked the Heaths to take it on. And so, in 1959, the Torch Trust was born. It grew and grew, and in less than 10 years the Trust had its own property at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex.’
In the Heaths’ home Wendy and others found personal faith in Jesus, along with Christian fellowship and access to Christian literature.
‘Fifty-four years later,’ said Gordon, ‘Torch has around 100 groups meeting monthly across the UK, modelled on those Sunday afternoon get togethers for which Wendy was the pioneer. There are others in Malawi and elsewhere around the world. The occasional house party of earlier years has developed into an annual programme of up to 25 Christian holidays and retreats.’
The earlier literature work has also multiplied enormously. Today Torch produces a wide range of Christian literature in braille, in giant print and in audio formats. Magazines and daily Bible readings serve over 10,000 people. Each day over 50 books are loaned from the Torch library of exclusively Christian books. The Torch magazine has a circulation of over 9,000 with a readership spread over 81 countries. The braille edition alone has a circulation of almost 5000, making it the world's largest readership regular publication in that medium.
And Torch is at work around the world through partnerships, especially in Africa with a base in Malawi.
Today Torch has almost 40 full- and part-time staff, and over 1000 volunteers.
‘What started with Wendy and her journey of faith has grown to bless thousands across the world,’ said Gordon.
‘And 54 years later there is still a group meeting in that centre in Reigate – and Lillian is still involved!’
Our condolences go to Wendy’s family, particularly her husband Dudley.
Posted: 20th December 2012 by Lin Ball
A special hour-long edition of Reflections – the radio programme produced by Torch Trust focusing on disability and faith – will be broadcast on Christmas Day. The festive show will air in two slots, from 6am and from 7pm, on RNIB’s Insight Radio. There will be Christmas music and readings, along with the stories of people who have experienced God’s transforming work in their lives. Torch Radio Co-ordinator Rachel Dalby said, ‘This is definitely one not to miss! Our own Marilyn Baker and interviewer Lin Ball talk about their encounters with angels. One of our most popular guests, John Flanner, explains how God turned his life upside down for the better. There’s also music from the Torch Singers and interviews with Jill Ferraby and Carol Nokes who lead the Singers.’
You can listen online by going to www.insightradio.co.uk and pressing the ‘listen live’ button, or on FM 101 (Glasgow), Sky 0188 or freesat 777. If you can’t listen in on Christmas Day, the programme can also be heard on the Torch website, like all our Reflections radio programmes, by going to our audio downloads page.
We also have an audio treat in store on December 23rd, when the usual weekly 15-minute edition of Reflections is called Christmas Voices. In this programme you’ll hear Christmas memories and thoughts from a number of Torch’s blind staff. That’s broadcast at 9am on RNIB’s Insight Radio, with repeats on Tuesday at 2am and Friday at 1am. You can also hear it on Premier Christian Radio online, on MW 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB, on Sky 0123 and on Freeview 725 at 4pm on Sunday 23rd.
The festive picture alongside this news item comes from the Bristol North West Torch Fellowship Group’s Christmas meeting, when everyone had a really creative time making Christingles. David Murray, chair of the group, kindly sent in instructions on how to make Christingles, so why not have a go?
David says the Christingles are, ‘a wonderful way to express Christmas and the Christian faith’ because of the symbolism. The orange represents the world. The red ribbon stands for the love and blood of Christ. The dried fruits and sweets are symbols of God’s creation. And the lit candle stands for Jesus, the light of the world.
Posted: 6th December 2012 by Lin Ball
Acceptance, understanding, new skills and greater confidence – all experiences listed by people new to sight loss in positive feedback they have given after attending Torch Trust’s Moving Forward break. Comments from guests staying at the Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre speak for themselves:
‘It is such a privilege to give hope to people who feel their lives have come to an end due to losing their sight,’ said Holidays Leader Gail Millar. She said the Moving Forward break had been ‘life giving’ for those who came.
Moving Forward is designed especially for people adjusting to life with sight loss. It offers practical hints and useful information, but also helps people come to terms with the emotional trauma of a changed life.
‘It’s a busy programme,’ says Gail, ‘but interspersed with fun and laughter as well as times of quiet reflection.’
Gail and her team are now busy planning the Christmas house party for blind and partially sighted guests. But there are more Moving Forward short breaks planned for March, June and November 2013. To find out more, call 01273 832282 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: 27th November 2012 by Lin Ball
Four years after The Shack – which courted controversy and stimulated debate but went on to sell a staggering 18 million copies around the world – comes Cross Roads. And – for the first time – a faith book expected to be a giant blockbuster is available at launch in braille and large print for people with sight loss, a publishing coup made possible by Torch Trust.
‘So often people with visual impairment have to wait many months, even years, to get the books everyone is talking about,’ said CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘This time they don’t have to wait – it’s available now! Working in partnership with publishers Hodder Faith, we’ve pulled out all the stops in our transcription department to make it happen. We’ve been working on an automated system which produces not only braille but various sizes of large and giant print on demand, and this has been a great book to trial our new process. It’s an initiative that’s totally in line with our whole ethos – to see people with sight loss fully included in all aspects of Christian life. It’s a real injustice that only small numbers of the thousands of books published in the UK are put out in accessible formats. Cross Roads is available to borrow or to buy by people with sight loss.’
Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young is described as a book about choice, participation and relationships. The central character is a businessman who falls into a coma, which takes him to revisit choices he made in his past.
Young, the child of missionary parents, wrote his first book The Shack for his family, making 15 copies with no intention to publish. He was persuaded to offer it for publication – but 23 publishers turned it down. ‘The secular publishers didn’t want it because it had too much Jesus,’ he explains. And ‘it was too edgy for faith-based publishers’. Two pastors formed Windblown Media to publish the book, and a million copies later it was noticed and taken on by part of the Hachette group, which includes Hodder Faith. Christians loved it – and loathed it! Critics said it was theologically wrong in its portrayal of the Trinity but others found its imaginative view of the Christian gospel at work in the ups and downs of life really inspirational. Much of The Shack is autobiographical, about difficulties in Young’s life, including sexual abuse at school and adultery.
Ian Metcalfe, Director of Publishing at Hodder Faith, preparing this week for the author’s promotional tour of the UK in December, sent a message to Torch Trust saying, ‘Congratulations on your speedy turnaround!’
Hodder Faith are launching with a hardback, an eBook and a digital audio download. Torch Trust will soon add a DAISY format audio version for blind people to their braille and large print editions. Update, 5 December 2012: DAISY version now in Torch Library.
Posted: 14th November 2012 by Lin Ball
Blind singer-songwriter Marilyn Baker interviews a blind singer-songwriter on the Torch radio programme Reflections on Sunday - and they’re definitely on the same wavelength!
Nigeria-born Victoria Oruwari has been classically trained - but in a bold new venture is hoping to break into the pop music charts soon.
In conversation with Marilyn, Victoria describes how she has put her new album together.
‘First a feeling comes to me, then a melody, and then I put words to it.’
Victoria wrote a lot of the songs on the new album a couple of years ago when she was very ill and wasn’t allowed to sing operatically for six months. She saw the experience as a ‘test of strength’ and asked God to help her through it.
‘I sat down and started to write songs about the way I was feeling. One of the songs I wrote at this time was “Your Love”, written in that period when I felt very low and very useless because I felt, if I don’t have my voice then what can I do? But I remembered that whatever happens, God loves you.’
Victoria is comfortable singing opera and musical theatre – and feels that working on her new album in a contemporary style, when she had to introduce inflexions into her voice and be more adventurous, has made her a better musician overall and had a good effect on all her singing genres.
‘The new direction wasn’t a direction that was planned. It was more that I needed to express myself and this was the way it came, in a popular music style. It came straight from my soul.’
Her classical training helped with the voice projection needed for pop music, says Victoria.
As she stepped out into this new field, she got friends to listen to her new material – and also the students in the secondary classes where she teaches music.
‘I played “Your Love” to my students and they were surprised when I told him that that it was about God’s love – not the love of a special boyfriend.’
Victoria says that the presence of God and talking to him in prayer are daily realities in her life.
One of the songs on the new album, ‘Girl in the Corner’, in which she sings with black gospel singer Aaron T Aaron, has a message about disability.
‘It’s the really important message that everyone is the same regardless of what they look like or what abilities or disabilities they have. Every human being has a disability of some sort and it’s important to respect everyone and give everyone a chance.’
But the album also contains slower numbers such as ‘Forgive and Forget’ which, Victoria tells Marilyn, has ‘a quiet message that should be whispered into people’s ears.’
Listen in to Reflections on Sunday November 18th to hear Marilyn and Victoria in conversation, with some excerpts from the new album. And watch out for more of Victoria next year, when she’s been invited to be a guest presenter on Reflections. For more details about Victoria and her music, go to www.victoriaoruwari.com
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on fm 101, on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Sunday at 9am, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on mw 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB, on Sky 0123 and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm. The programmes can also be heard on the Torch website a few days after first broadcast: go to http://www.torchtrust.org/smartweb/downloads/downloads and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Posted: 6th November 2012 by Lin Ball
A new befriending service gains momentum this week in Northern Ireland. This service is part of the ‘Journeying With’ project – a vital part of Torch’s strategy to extend its reach to people who are newly diagnosed with sight loss. The programme will be launched with an INFORMATION EVENING on Thursday November 8th, 8pm at Emmanuel Church, Lurgan.
‘This is a Christian response to a challenging need,’ said Torch Regional Networker Leonard Campbell. ‘In Northern Ireland 50 per cent of those who are blind or partially sighted live alone. And over 70 per cent have difficulties getting out of their homes on their own. This leads to loss of independence, isolation and loneliness.’
Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple confirmed that this was a situation replicated all over the United Kingdom – and with more and more of our ageing population being diagnosed with sight loss, it was a challenge that would increase.
‘The Northern Ireland pilot will significantly equip us to roll out a befriending programme across the UK,’ said Dr Temple.
‘We are fortunate enough to have encouragement from the RNIB and professionals in the field in Northern Ireland, who recognise the needs in their communities and welcome our initiative. We want to offer relevant support to people at a time in their lives when they need it the most.’
Volunteers from local churches will be recruited and trained to get alongside people early in their sight loss journey. There will be an information evening on Thursday November 8th, 8pm at Emmanuel Church, Lurgan located 23a Castle Lane, Lurgan, Co Armagh BT67 9BD. Enter Castle Lane from Market Street and park in the shoppers car park on the right. Enter the Heatons store lobby and look for the signposts to the church entrance.
‘There’s an open no-commitment invitation to Christians in the area to come along and find out about what we’re planning,’ said Leonard.
If you need more information, contact Leonard Campbell on 0289 266 1932 (email email@example.com).
Posted: 31st October 2012 by Lin Ball
‘A cracking event! Faith was moving and the Lord very present. It was wonderful.’ Franciszek Kozorowski of Hartlepool, known to all as Franick, gave a verdict on the Torch Annual Thanksgiving that was shared by many.
About 150 attended the day, held at St Matthias Church in Burley, Leeds.
‘There was an excellent turnout of local people and the church was comfortably filled throughout the day,’ said Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple. He paid tribute to all who contributed to the success of the event, including the Leeds Torch Fellowship Group.
‘A particularly pleasing feature was the involvement of the Wiggins family,’ said Gordon.
‘Oliver leads the worship group at the church, which includes his daughter Catherine. Oliver and Catherine have visual impairments. They planned and led the sung worship for our celebration. Catherine sang and played the trumpet brilliantly.’
The day began with a concert from Marilyn Baker and Tracy Williamson. This was followed by a relaxed programme of worship, together with testimonies from the different aspects of Torch work – which included a live link to International Leader Janet Stafford on a crackly phone line from Mozambique. There was also a brief overview of exciting new ministry opportunities being explored through developing technologies and new strategies to reach many more people at the start of their sight loss experience.
Posted: 25th October 2012 by Gordon Temple
Come and join us for our annual celebration of thanksgiving to God for all he has done through Torch in the past year. This year our Thanksgving Celebration is on the afternoon of Saturday 27th October, preceeded by a concert with Marilyn Baker and Tracy Williamson in the morning.
At St Matthias church, St Matthias Street, Burley, Leeds LS4 2DZ
Arrive from 10:45am for coffee
Concert with Marilyn Baker and friends 11:30am
Lunch at 1:00pm - sandwiches, cakes and drinks provided
Celebration meeting 2:30 to 4:00pm and depart
We will have a relaxed programme as we sing God's praises, hear testimonies from the different aspects of Torch work and finish with a look ahead to what we believe God is calling us to do.
The refurbished church has level access and next door is the modern church centre.
Posted: 10th October 2012 by Lin Ball
ENABLING CHURCH – hailed as ‘a great addition to books that can be used to look at how we can best serve the whole population in an open, welcoming and inclusive way’ – can now be yours in less than a minute! The title is now available as a Kindle download, priced by Amazon at £6.83: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Enabling-Church-resource-inclusion-ebook/dp/B009FR5X8I/ref=tmm_kin_title_0
ENABLING CHURCH has been written by Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple with writer Lin Ball, with the aim of resourcing Christians who want to understand disability from a biblical perspective.
Early reviews have been positive, praising the book for its positive messages on inclusion, acceptance and inter-dependency. The material in the book is presented in seven sessions ideal for small groups, with Bible study discussion questions, activities, prayer and worship suggestions, and real-life interviews with disabled people – but all of it can be used very flexibly by individuals and churches in different ways. The book has been commended for dispensing with jargon and also for being a platform for the voices of disabled people.
The book ‘does just what it says on the tin,’ says Disability Advisor Wendy Bryant. ‘There is a good selection of imaginative exercise aimed at helping us to understand the experience of disability, and to explore our own attitudes, and the accounts of personal experiences help to bring the book alive.’
ENABLING CHURCH has been published as a standard 112-page paperback (by SPCK) and in braille, large print and audio editions (from Torch Trust). All these editions are £7.99.
Posted: 26th September 2012 by Lin Ball
Torch International Leader Janet Stafford flies into Blantyre, Malawi, next week on one of her regular trips to support Torch work there among blind and partially sighted people. Janet will spend over two months travelling in Malawi and Mozambique, visiting groups of blind people, many in extremely poor villages living on the desperate edges of human need.
Malawi, where life expectation is 53 years, is generally agreed to be the eighth poorest nation in the world (World Bank statistics). An online blogger wrote in stark terms recently:
“So, what does national poverty look like? People have no money; the average annual income in Malawi is less than a dollar a day. The government has no money; the VAT is 16.5 per cent but who has money to spend? You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. Consequently, Malawi depends on largess from wealthier countries for almost everything. A bridge built by the Japanese. A stadium built by the Chinese. The preferred hospital in Blantyre built and funded by Seventh Day Adventists. A hydroelectric plant funded. A highway constructed. Medicines, schools, clothing, food. You get the picture. Malawi is poor.”
But the same blogger commented on the richness that can be found in the country – a richness that Torch staff members have also experienced:
“Malawi presents itself as ‘the warm heart of Africa.’ The people live up to that reputation. Greetings are spontaneous; smiles are warm. The polite question, ‘How are you?’ is more than a formality; people attend to the answer. Undoubtedly Malawi is an impoverished country, but there is a richness of spirit here that flourishes independent of circumstance.”
Around 60 Torch Fellowship groups meet in Malawi and across the border in Mozambique. Janet will be doing her best to visit many of the groups, taking some material aid and also bringing Bible teaching and spiritual encouragement; and she will also hold some clinics to distribute basic medical care items. She will spend time in Torch House too, where African language braille and giant print is produced by national staff. Key points on her schedule include speaking at a conference in Mozambique on the weekend of October 26-29th and at a conference in Konzere in Malawi from November 9-12th.
Janet’s husband Michael will join her in mid-November, and will be involved with her in the Torch trustees’ meeting on November 21st as well as teaching at a Bible school from November 29th to December 2nd.
Your prayer support for Janet and Michael is much appreciated. Click here for more information on Torch work in Malawi. Janet and Michael produce a regular bulletin of International News for Praise & Prayer and if you would like to receive this, email Janet on firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 19th September 2012 by Lin Ball
Did the Paralympics raise awareness of disability? Whether or not you answer ‘yes’ to that question, there are certainly more opportunities around at the moment to hear about disabled people on the media. Here are some of them that you might like to tune into.
Gordon Temple and Lin Ball from Torch Trust, co-authors of the book ENABLING CHURCH, which looks at the biblical message on including disabled people, chat with UCB’s Paul Hammond on the UCB morning chat show. You can listen each morning this week (including Wednesday 19th at around 11:40am and Thursday 20th at about 9:25am) and then hear the whole interview on Saturday evening 22nd September. Listen in on-line or on Sky 0125, Virgin 914, DAB Radio or get the iPhone App. The interview will also be made available as a podcast from www.ucbmedia.co.uk during the following week.
Also Mike Townsend, who is blind, a trustee of Torch Trust and chair of the disability organisation Through the Roof, is on TWR (Trans World Radio) at lunchtimes this week. Listen on-line.
And also, this month on Revelation TV: Treasure in Jars of Clay, presented by Marilyn Baker – the well-known singer/songwriter who is blind and another trustee of Torch Trust. This series with Marilyn Baker will show how people overcome disabilities and are used of God. It will be broadcast each week on Tuesdays at 5am, Thursdays at 9pm and Fridays at 1.30pm. Revelation TV can be found on Sky Guide 581, Freesat 692 and Freeview HD 113(internet connection required).
Posted: 12th September 2012 by Lin Ball
How long is a lifetime? ‘My first reaction when I heard that I was being awarded a lifetime achievement by RNIB was, “My goodness! I’m not old enough for that”.’ Dr Gordon Temple, CEO of Torch Trust, the Christian organisation for people with sight loss, has been given an award for his contribution to the provision of Christian literature in braille, giant print and audio.
‘Then I realised that it was 41 years ago that I first volunteered as a student to help Torch Trust get into the recording of Christian books and magazines. And that’s pretty much a lifetime – although, of course, I have done other things on the way, including having a career as an engineer and businessman.’
Gordon maintained that early connection with Torch Trust and blind and partially sighted people. That relationship grew more significant later in his life after he spent a year searching around for fresh direction.
‘I was trying to work out where God was leading me. In the end I really felt I heard the voice of God telling me that he had given me lots of small clues directing me to work for Torch.’
Gordon was a trustee of Torch for about 15 years before joining Torch as CEO over 10 years ago.
‘My involvement with Torch has had a huge impact on my life in many ways – not least because it was while volunteering for Torch that I met Pat, who has been my wife now for 38 years.’
As CEO, Gordon leads 40 staff and over 1000 volunteers around the country working in the various areas of Torch ministry – the accessible Christian materials, the specialist holidays, the network of over 100 fellowship groups, the international outreach which particularly focuses on Africa.
‘It’s challenging! There’s always change and growth. One of the biggest changes recently has been leaving the big house in the Leicestershire countryside where the work was based and moving to purpose-built offices in Market Harborough. What’s exciting is that this has not been about buildings but about the changing nature of the work. Advances in technology are having a huge impact on how we do our work.’
Gordon’s certificate and lovely glass ornament will be going on display in the chapel at Torch House, since he feels he has received it on behalf of the team – all who work for Torch. But the award is not about ‘having arrived’.
‘Every day I am reminded of just how much more there is to do to give blind people the opportunities to explore and discover Christian faith and live fulfilling Christian lives. So many people with sight loss live alone, leading lonely, colourless lives. There’s so much more we can do. To do more to the glory of God is my driving ambition.’
To hear more, tune in to Reflections, the Torch radio programme, this Sunday when Rachel Dalby interviews Gordon about the award.
Reflections: On RNIB Insight Radio – online, on fm 101, on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Sunday at 9am, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am. On Premier Christian Radio – online, on mw 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB, on Sky 0123 and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm.
Posted: 30th August 2012 by Lin Ball
Building on the euphoria of the Olympics, over 4,000 disabled athletes from around the world are anticipating unprecedented interest in their achievements as the Paralympics get under way. In the sporting arenas it will be all about pushing boundaries but, as Lord Sebastian Coe has pointed out, the Paralympics is also about changing attitudes and breaking down barriers to social inclusion.
Premier Life – the community arm of Premier Christian Radio – is partnering with Churches for All to deliver its very first Disability Week during the Paralympics.
With the theme REDEFINING ABILITY, a week of special programming including interviews and discussions with Christian Paralympians and people working in the area of disability will run from Sunday September 2nd.
‘With the Paralympics coming to London, churches have an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach out to disabled people in their communities – and with over 10 million of them that’s arguably the largest unreached people group in the country,’ said Dr Gordon Temple, Chief Executive of Torch Trust and Executive Officer of Churches for All.
‘It’s about inclusion – but much more. The Paralympics is not about disability – it’s about the abilities of disabled people. So that’s a challenge to us. What do we see when we see disabled people in our churches? Do we see only their disability and miss their abilities – their God-given gifts? We want disabled people not only to be welcomed but encouraged to use their gifting to the blessing of the Church. Marking Disability Sunday – or ‘All-Ability Sunday’ – with special content will help congregations consider Christian attitudes to disability and re-think their approach to disabled people.’
To download the free Disability Sunday pack: http://churchesforall.org.uk/home/disability-sunday-2012
To check out Premier’s Disability Week programming: http://www.premier.org.uk/life/Disability%20Week%202012.aspx
Posted: 7th August 2012 by Lin Ball
The euphoria of Team GB’s Olympic medal tally will likely carry through to the Paralympics – so is your church ready to take advantage of this unprecedented spotlight on disability? ‘There’s so much material in the media and the internet to provide fantastic resources for any church wanting to celebrate the inclusive message of the Gospel,’ says Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘While all eyes are on Paralympians and their achievements, churches can open their doors wide to disabled people in their communities who are overlooked and isolated. They can demonstrate that the message that the Good News of Jesus is truly for all people.’
If your church is looking for material, a good place to start is the new Churches for all website: (www.churchesforall.org.uk).
‘There’s much on the website to link with the Paralympics,’ says Gordon, ‘not least the Disability Sunday activity pack, which many churches will be marking this year during the Paralympics, on September 2nd or September 9th.’
The Churches for All website also features video of an interview with former blind Paralympian Alan Whetherly, which was broadcast on Channel 4 TV this month, one of a series of short interviews about faith and sport (www.4thought.tv). Alan Whetherly will also be interviewed in two Reflections radio programmes produced by Torch Trust and being broadcast on September 2nd and 9th. Reflections is broadcast on RNIB Insight Radio online, on fm 101, on Sky 0188 and freesat 777. Sunday at 9am, with repeats on Tuesdays at 2am and Fridays at 1am; and also on Premier Christian Radio online, on mw 1305, 1332, 1413, on DAB, on Sky 0123 and on Freeview 725. Sundays at 4pm.
More useful resources:
Posted: 23rd July 2012 by Lin Ball
Disabled people are being encouraged to turn out in force for a community festival on the opening night of the Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury – a place closely associated with the history of the Games. A huge turnout is being anticipated for ‘Stoke Mandeville Live’ which will feature a big screen relaying the opening ceremony live from London, a programme of fun, arts, crafts and sporting activities along with free food and drink. It will run from 6-10pm on Wednesday 29th August.
‘This is a unique and exciting opportunity to see Christian inclusivity in action, that could potentially become a global model,’ says Tim Wood, CEO of the disability organisation Through the Roof.
The event is committed to inclusivity including allocated parking for disabled people, step-free access, a loop system and sign language interpreters.
Local groups, including Torch Fellowship Groups, have been invited and people are expected to attend from London, Oxford, Milton Keynes and further afield.
Organisers of this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity are primarily More Than Gold and the Aylesbury Church Network. The committee for the church network says, ‘The most distinctive thing about the opening event is that will have a strong disability focus that should make it attractive for both disabled adults and children. We want to model inclusion and see the community working together to celebrate everyone’s gifts and talents. We hope to help create a legacy of disability ministry and build on an already considerable festival-type ministry in the centre of town.’
You are encouraged to attend and bring your friends, along with a picnic rug and suitable outdoor clothing. The postcode for the stadium in Guttmann Road, Aylesbury, is HP21 9PP.
Posted: 25th June 2012 by Lin Ball
Early reaction to a new resource book on a Christian approach to disability has been very positive. Author Gordon Temple, CEO of Torch Trust, has been encouraged that people have been blogging about the book in ways that suggest they have grasped the central messages of the book around inclusion, acceptance and inter-dependency.
A review on The Good Bookstall website (www.thegoodbookstall.org.uk) says Enabling Church is "a great addition to books that can be used to look at how we can best serve the whole population in an open, welcoming and inclusive way." Commending the book because it doesn’t dictate what people should be doing or inflict guilt or blame, the reviewer says, "I really think this is a book that churches and groups should give serious consideration to using soon."
One writer of a "blog" – a personal internet journal – calls Enabling Church "a little gem of a book". He goes on: "One of the most useful parts of this slim volume are the various sections on what disability is – providing a full picture, and equipping those of us who are ignorant (me) to think better about disabled people … There is also a useful section on holding an accessibility audit. Many churches (and this is my experience, too) are not particularly well thought-out for disabled people – beyond perhaps a dated p.a./hearing loop – often because of historically small church attendance by those less able."
Another "blogger" is happy with the "enabling model" put forward by the book, which differs from the "medical model" and the "social model" of traditional thinking about disability. She adds, "One of the things I really liked about the design of the book was the way it is set out in a way which encourages flexibility. There are questions, exercises, prayers and discussion starters but these are clearly designed and signposted to be worked through according to what is right for the group rather than rigidly. The book is designed to be worked through in seven sessions but again flexibility is encouraged by the authors. Another plus point is the writers make no assumptions about the level of theological literacy readers will have. The wording reflects this and, unlike a lot of Christian resources, the aim is achieved."
The insights from disabled people included in the book have also been welcomed and found a response. Ordering three copies, T. H. from Reading comments that he found these insights very helpful, especially the picture of citizenship described by blind Professor John Hull which is quoted. "In a minor way," writes T.H. "as a short-sighted person wearing glasses since the age of five, I was marginalised as a games-player, despite excellent health and stamina that should have been challenged to excel. Some of that exclusion left marks on my spirit – but hopefully has made me a better and more sympathetic person."
Have you read Enabling Church yet? Let us know what you think.
ENABLING CHURCH has been simultaneously published as a standard 112-page paperback (by SPCK) and in braille, large print and audio editions (from Torch Trust). All editions are £7.99. The flexible material in the book is presented in seven sessions ideal for small groups, with Bible study discussion questions, activities, prayer and worship suggestions, and real-life interviews with disabled people.
Posted: 8th June 2012 by Lin Ball
Prayer is all-important to Torch Trust. We know that we rely on God to meet our needs in every way, to bless and multiply all we do for people with sight loss, to inspire us and direct us as we plan the way ahead. Our annual Day of Prayer is on Monday 11th June. It's a time when we give thanks to God for his blessing on the work, his guidance and provision, and we present to him the needs we face in the months ahead. Staff, friends and volunteers will be praying at Torch House in Market Harborough – but we know that others will be joining us all over the country and around the world, in their homes and workplaces, on their own or in small groups. It’s a humbling and heartening thought.
We’ll begin the day with worship and thanksgiving. After that we’ll pray through all the major areas of our ministry:
And we’ll also be praying for projects in hand that will transform access to Christian material by blind and partially sighted people, in particular the project to automate transcription of worship resources for national Christian gatherings, and the plans to deliver literature in accessible formats online.
Thank you, in anticipation of your fellowship in prayer on Monday and at any time!
Posted: 18th May 2012 by Lin Ball
Have you ever wanted a book that would inform and inspire your church on the subject of disability? Well, here it is! ENABLING CHURCH, a creative new church resource giving a biblical perspective on disability, will go a long way to challenging the Church on timely issues, said Roy McCloughry at the book launch. Our picture shows Jeff Lucas on the left with co-authors Gordon Temple and Lin Ball.
Well-known Christian writer and speaker Jeff Lucas described his experiences on a ‘trip into disability’ as he gave his support to a new book launched at CRE – the annual Christian Resources Exhibition.
Having recently torn a muscle in his leg, Jeff was in a wheelchair for a week and then on crutches for three weeks.
‘I suddenly realised the indignity that disabled people experience,’ he said, describing in particular how people talked over him rather than to him during this time. ‘How tragic when it happens in the life of the Church.’
Jeff, speaking at the launch of ENABLING CHURCH, said the book was ideal for churches who wanted to take a fresh look at what the Bible has to say about disability and become equipped to be more inclusive. The resource is co-written by Dr Gordon Temple, chief executive of Torch Trust, and his colleague Lin Ball.
Also commending the book was Roy McCloughry – writer, consultant and lecturer on ethics – who has contributed a Foreword to ENABLING CHURCH.
The creative new church resource will go a long way to challenging the Church on timely issues, Roy said.
‘Disability theology is coming of age. The Spirit is moving on this issue. What kind of Church do we want to be?’
Roy described how he had faced discrimination as a young man because of his epilepsy –rejected from both ordination and a place at Cambridge University on medical grounds.
‘About twenty years ago I realised, as blind Professor John Hull puts it, that disability is a “strange gift”. Epilepsy is not something I wanted, but God has given it to me to use for his purpose – to be used redemptively.
‘The middle class church worships a God who is a superman,’ said Roy, adding that the contrasting biblical picture of the church community had weakness at its heart so that the power of God could be revealed.
‘In the throne room of God there is a dead lamb. Do we want to worship a God who doesn’t expect us to have problems? Or a Christ who still has wounds in his hands?’
Author Gordon Temple said that the book was about disabled people ‘not just being cared for, but becoming contributing members of the Church.’
ENABLING CHURCH is simultaneously published as a standard 112-page paperback (by SPCK) and in braille, large print and audio editions (from Torch Trust). All editions are £7.99. The flexible material in the book is presented in seven sessions ideal for small groups, with Bible study discussion questions, activities, prayer and worship suggestions, and real-life interviews with disabled people.
Posted: 9th May 2012 by Lin Ball
The Paralympics has become a much-loved part of the whole Olympics celebration – but did you know that when it began in 1948 as the International Wheelchair Games it was limited to war veterans with spinal injuries? It was the Canadians who afterwards pioneered a competition with different disability groups. Athletes with visual impairment have been included since 1976. Over the years the number of athletes in the Paralympics has steadily increased. In Rome in 1960 there were 400 participants. In Athens in 2004 there were 3806 athletes from 136 countries. This year 147 nations will be represented in 20 sports and in about 420 events.
There are high hopes for this year’s Team GB. Britain’s Paralympics team for Beijing in 2008 collected 102 medals – 42 of which were gold – and they finished second in the medals table to the Chinese.
If you are interested in the Paralympics, why not sign up for a Torch Holiday that has a special emphasis on that event? And that doesn’t only mean watching the events on TV and cheering on the team but actually attending some of the events at the amazing Olympic Stadium!
Torch Trust runs a programme of about 20 holidays a year designed to meet the needs of visually impaired and blind people and their carers. And this year a very special addition to the programme will be the Paralympic Games holiday week, which runs from 1st-8th September at Torch’s own holiday centre in Sussex. Or if you want to come for part of that week, that would be possible.
The fully inclusive cost of this holiday is £450 if you come for the whole time. Because of the kind of holiday this is, with trips out, it requires a certain level of mobility – the ability to walk up to five miles. Please note that, since Torch Trust is a Christian organisation, Torch holiday programmes always include some optional spiritual input. But the holidays are open to people of all faiths or none.
To find out more or to book, call 01273 832282. All bookings are on a full board basis. A non-refundable deposit of £50 secures a booking, with the balance payable six weeks before the holiday begins. Prices are per person, per holiday. Single rooms carry a supplement of £10 per night.
Also for people with sight loss and an adventurous spirit, Torch is running a holiday in Belgium from 10th-17th September, at an all-inclusive cost of £650.
For ideas on how your church can connect with blind and disabled people during the time of the Paralympics, go to Torch Trust/foursight/Paralympics
Posted: 25th April 2012 by Lin Ball
Torch Trust will once again be part of the Churches for All Zone this year at the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher in Surrey, from May 8-11, with special guests Jeff Lucas and Marilyn Baker. As well as stands representing all the major disability organisations, the Zone will present a full programme of talks, workshops and discussions of wide-ranging interest to churches wanting to make provision for all – for blind people, for deaf people, for people with learning difficulties or mobility challenges, people with no speech or facing mental health challenges.
This year a special feature of the Zone programme will be the opportunity to learn how your church can engage with the Paralympics. Another highlight will be live chat shows with well-known blind singer-songwriter Marilyn Baker, who presents Torch Trust's weekly radio programme broadcast Reflections on RNIB Insight Radio and Premier Christian Radio. Marilyn will be at the Zone on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and will be presenting a concert in the Zone at 12noon on the final day of the event.
Also available in the Zone – and being launched by international Christian author and speaker Jeff Lucas – are the first copies of Enabling Church. Written by Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple with Lin Ball, Enabling Church is a brand new resource book from Churches for All, published by SPCK. It's a book to help church leaders, congregations and small groups get to grips with what the Bible really says about disability. Themes of understanding, inclusion and interdependency are explored through discussion, prayer, worship, hands-on activities and listening to the authentic voices of disabled people.
Tickets for CRE are normally £7 but are available free by clicking on this link: CRE Tickets
This year over 375 exhibitors are taking stands at CRE, offering everything from church furnishings and leadership training to puppets and holidays. In addition, there are over 80 seminars, a film festival and much more.
The exhibition will be opened by Lord Putnam, who will also be giving a seminar on the making of the film Chariots of Fire and launching free resources for churches to capitalise on the re-issue of Chariots of Fire to coincide with the start of the Olympics.
The opening times for CRE are: 8 May 11am-6pm; 9 May 10am-5pm; 10 May 10am-5pm; 11 May 10am-4.30pm.
Travel: Trains to Esher station for Sandown Park run from London Waterloo and Clapham Junction approximately every 20 minutes and the journey time is 25 minutes. CRE provide a complimentary shuttle bus running between Esher station and the main entrance to the exhibition. Alternatively, walking from the station to Sandown Park is approximately 15-20 minutes. Visitors should turn left out of the station onto Station Road and then right at the 'T' junction to join the A307 Portsmouth Road. The entrance to Sandown Park is on the right hand side.
Posted: 5th April 2012 by Lin Ball
‘Enabling Church’ – described as a Bible-based resource towards the full inclusion of disabled people – is written by Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple together with writer Lin Ball and is being commended and promoted by Churches for All. The book, published by SPCK, is for church leaders, groups and individuals who want to get to grips with what the Bible says about disability – and what the Church could do in response. You’ll find it’s packed with discussion material, prayer, worship and hands-on activities, as well as the voices of many disabled people commenting on issues of real importance.
From the middle of April you’ll be able to buy the book in standard print at your local Christian bookshop or you can get it direct from Torch. It’ll also be available soon from Torch in braille, large print and audio. The price is £7.99, post free for blind and partially sighted people. And please tell your church leader that it’s out!
We’ll be giving the new book, described by theologian Roy McCloughry as ‘a creative and timely book,’ a special launch in the Churches for All Zone at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Esher, Surrey, in May (8th-11th), supported by Marilyn Baker and Jeff Lucas.
Click book excerpt to read an excerpt from the introduction to the book.
Enabling Church by Gordon Temple and Lin Ball, published by SPCK May 2012, 112 page paperback, price £7.99. ISBN: 978 0 281 06649 0
Posted: 15th March 2012 by Lin Ball
Torch is now offering a new model of the Megavoice audio Bible – and the comments from users are very positive.
Wendy of Bristol has both old and new models. She says, ‘The new one is lighter, nice and slim with small buttons. The buttons on the old one were a bit softer, flatter. The new buttons are different but seem easier to feel even though they are a bit closer together because it’s smaller. I like that it’s chargeable via the computer. It doesn’t have a stand like the old one, which was useful. But I use it all the time – most days. I love it!’ Wendy has been a Torch contact over many years and has attended a Torch Fellowship Group since 1994.
Jeff, a lay preacher who lives in Milton Keynes, is partially sighted and generally reads giant print. When we called him he was using the Megavoice to prepare a sermon from Jonah and Mark. He’s new to Megavoice, but said, ‘It’s early days but I’m finding it easy to navigate with the three rows of buttons. The size and weight is handy, you can fit it into your pocket, and the earplugs option is very helpful.’
Meryl of Aberdeen reports, ‘It’s very similar to the old Megavoice but I like it because it’s slimmer and lighter. Because I prefer reading braille or on DAISY, I mainly use the Megavoice for travelling. Its size and lightness mean it’s amazing.’ Meryl was involved in a local Torch Fellowship Group for 36 years, including a time being chair.
The Megavoice model stocked by Torch uses the New American Standard Bible translation, weighs just 65 grams and measures about four by two and a half inches (10.4 by 5.8 cm) by about half an inch deep (1.3cm). It comes with headphones and includes rechargeable batteries – recharged via a mains adaptor, USB adaptor (for use in a computer) or, as it has a solar panel, using sunlight. With a year’s guarantee and instructions in accessible formats, the cost is £50; or £40 if the adaptor and lead are not required. It’s post free to blind and partially sighted users.
To find out more or order, call 01858 438260 or email email@example.com
Posted: 5th March 2012 by Lin Ball
The funeral takes place this week of a man of deep Christian conviction who played a significant role in the history of Torch Trust. Ray Adams died on 23rd February. There will be a thanksgiving service for his life following a family committal on Wednesday 7th March at Laburnum Road Community Church in Leicester.
‘A local businessman in the retail hardware trade, Ray and his wife Rosemary took an interest in Torch from the time it moved to Hallaton in Leicestershire in 1974,’ said Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
The couple had an early interest in blindness born out of personal tragedy. Both their young sons died from a syndrome which included sight loss.
‘Ray and Rosemary got involved as volunteers and Ray was soon on the Council that then oversaw the work of Torch,' said Gordon. 'For 25 years he served as a council member and trustee, becoming chair. When the co-founders Ron and Stella Heath moved south to Hurstpierpoint in semi-retirement, he filled many gaps and did a huge amount to keep the work running, right up to the time when I joined Torch as Chief Executive 10 years ago.'
Paying tribute to Ray’s Christian commitment, Gordon added, ‘Ray was always interested in people. He was also full of fun! Many will remember his expeditions in search of the East Pole! For 12 year, along with Carol Nokes (Franklin, then) and myself, Ray led the Torch Adventure Holidays in North Wales.
‘Ray was a great friend to me, and I learnt a lot from him. Torch owes him a great deal.’
As a consequence of dementia, Ray spent his last five years as a resident of the Pilgrim Home at Wellsborough, Warwickshire.
Posted: 29th February 2012 by Lin Ball
What’s the most common cause of sight loss in the western world? The answer is macular disease or macular degeneration. And in Torch Trust’s radio programme broadcast on Sunday March 11, chair of Torch trustees Marilyn Baker interviews Helen Jackman, CEO of the Macular Disease Society, to understand more about this widespread condition.
Macular disease, explains Helen, is the loss of central vision due to damage to the macula – a small area of the retina at the back of the eye. In the UK around 250,000 people are registered as visually impaired because of macular disease and roughly the same number is affected by it to a lesser degree.
While it can occur in younger people (from school age onwards) in the form of juvenile macular dystrophies, this is rare. It is more common in older people, from age 60 onwards. When macular disease occurs later in life it is usually called age-related macular degeneration.
Macular disease affects different people in different ways and you may not notice any change in your vision during the early stages. It does not cause any pain. Objects directly in front of you may change shape, size or colour and may seem to move or disappear. The central area of your vision may become blurry; lines may become distorted; dark spots may appear in the centre of your field of vision.
Some people with macular degeneration experience vivid hallucinations known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. Although sometimes alarming, this is a normal response to sight loss in some people and the hallucinations are not related to any form of mental illness.
In the interview on Insight, Helen stresses that it is very important to remember that people with macular degeneration do not lose all their sight or go completely blind. With the right help and advice many people with MD are able to maintain a good quality of life, stay independent and enjoy many of their regular hobbies and activities.
Torch Trust is keen to contact people as they begin to lose their sight, to make sure they are offered the support they need – not only in terms of services such as audio materials and specialist holidays but with the emotional and spiritual care from which they could benefit. If you know anyone who has a diagnosis of macular degeneration, do refer them to us.
Insight, Torch’s radio programme with a focus on faith and disability, is broadcast every Sunday at 4pm on Premier Christian Radio, available nationally on DAB, on Sky Digital 0123 and Freeview 725. Programmes are also made available on the Downloads section of this website within a few days of broadcast.
Posted: 6th February 2012 by Lin Ball
This week staff and volunteers at Torch House will spend an hour each day in specific prayer for God’s provision – and will be joined by friends of the work all over the UK and in other countries. CEO Gordon Temple said that thankfulness would be a major theme of the special times of prayer.
‘The 52-year story of Torch is a remarkable account of God’s amazing provision. We can be thankful for the ways in which the work has been enabled to grow, for a committed and capable staff team, for willing volunteers, for good premises, for a good reputation and much else.
‘So why are we praying for finances? Do we doubt that God will continue to provide for Torch? Not a bit of it. But neither should we be complacent or casual. The current challenge is not just to cover the regular expenses but to support new initiatives to reach many more blind and partially sighted people,’ said Gordon.
Monday to Friday, staff will be devoting an hour to prayer – the regular 30 minutes at 9am plus another 30 minutes each day at 1:45pm. The trustees, meeting at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre in Sussex for their annual retreat this week, will be linking their times of prayer and reflection to this same programme of prayer and using the same Bible verses as a focus.
The Torch House team has been encouraged by messages from members of the Torch Council of Reference with assurances that they, too, will pray this week for God to meet the organisation’s needs for funding as it moves forward in its five-year strategy to grow its work with blind and partially sighted people.
We’d really appreciate you praying with us this week. Click here for a list of prayer points and Bible verses for each day.
Posted: 19th January 2012 by Lin Ball
Worship which truly involves the active participation of blind and partially sighted people together with sighted people is challenging – but is possible! So says David Palmer, Torch’s Regional Leader, who helps facilitate the 100-plus Torch Fellowship Groups around the UK.
He finds that many groups want to spend part of their monthly meeting worshipping together, but coming up with appropriate activities is not easy. So Torch is making available a rich resource of worship activities – completely free online for Torch groups and churches groups in general.
‘You can use the whole programme as presented,’ explains David, ‘But you will more likely want to adapt it to your own group’s situation or take from it one or more items that appeal.’
The activities can best be described as ‘multi-sensory’ – which means they use a number of the senses to add meaning for people with sight loss. And they are appropriate not only for Torch Fellowship Groups but for church groups or other similar gatherings where a dimension of worship is wanted.
‘The aim is to encourage people to be creative in their engagement with the Gospel and fully inclusive of sighted, blind and partially sighted people, enabling everyone to participate in genuinely meaningful worship,’ explains David.
‘And we hope too that that these monthly multi-sensory themed worship ideas might stimulate groups to come up with their own ideas – which we’d love to hear about.’
Each of the themed programmes includes four core concepts: Welcome, Word, Worship and Workshop.
To find the activities, simply click here for the Multi-Sensory Worship Resources for Torch Groups.
Posted: 4th January 2012 by Lin Ball
Attention the south west! Torch Trust will be exhibiting at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Exeter this month – and we’re looking forward to seeing many of our supporters and friends from the region coming along to meet us in person on the stand.
CRE Exeter is held on January 25th (10am-5pm) and 26th (10am-4.30pm) at the Westpoint Arena. Some 150 exhibitors are expected, offering everything from puppets to clerical vestments, from church furniture to mission trips. As usual at CRE, there is also a varied programme of seminars and workshops. There is also an opportunity for you to enjoy performances from Oddments Theatre Company, comedian and magician Joe Fisher, the Michael Roberts Band, the Exeter Cathedral Choir and a Taizé worship session. For more details go to: http://www.creonline.co.uk/page.asp?pageid=106
Torch has taken Stand P3 - immediately on the left after you come through the entrance foyer. And we have some complimentary tickets to give away – normally £4 in advance or £6 at the door. If you would like free admission for yourself and your friends, http://cre.cmail2.com/t/ViewEmail/r/16581C5EA5622F37/6A5A1EBDD5E277893D3F7F9A22A6E02E is the link to click on. See you in Exeter!
Posted: 13th December 2011 by Lin Ball
Marilyn Baker, blind presenter of Torch’s weekly radio programme Insight, enters into the festive spirit for a version of Desert Island Discs that we’re calling Marilyn Marooned! The tables are well and truly turned. Instead of asking the questions, Marilyn answers them. Producer Lin Ball takes her through her life story, illustrated by her choice of four pieces of music that are significant to her.
Marilyn, who is chair of trustees for Torch Trust, has a career in singing and song writing that spans 40 years. Although not from a musical family, from the age of five Marilyn was given piano lessons and showed real talent; at 10 at boarding school she asked to play the oboe. She progressed quickly, and famous oboe player Terrence McDonagh offered to give her monthly lessons. She went on to study at the Royal College of Music.
‘Something very significant happened to change the direction of my music career at college,’ explains Marilyn. ‘I met a girl who was an amazing musician. She’d had a difficult life and had become a Christian. Her singing really moved me. I decided that, like her, I wanted to communicate God’s love through my own music. So that’s when I began writing songs. And then I met a pastor who introduced me to a recording company.’
Marilyn’s career took off, and became international. Four decades on, Marilyn is still singing – but usually at smaller events such as retreats or quiet days.
To find out Marilyn’s choice of music to take to a desert island – and the one luxury she would take with her – make a point of tuning in to Insight on Sunday January 8 at 4pm.
Marilyn will also be presenting a Christmas Insight on Sunday December 18, with seasonal music and readings, including some from fellow Christian singer songwriter Michael Card.
Insight is broadcast on Premier Christian Radio. In the London area this is on 1305, 1332 or 1413 MW. Nationally it’s available on DAB, or on Sky Digital 0123, or on Freeview 725.
To listen to recent Insight programmes, go to the Audio Downloads page on this website.
Posted: 23rd November 2011 by Lin Ball
We are thrilled to announce that from the Spring 2012 edition we are making Torch Family News – our popular quarterly supporter magazine – available to more readers in a variety of print sizes, with a choice of 17, 20, 25 or 30 point.
‘This is a significant development for Torch,’ said Assistant CEO Andrew Nicholson.
‘We know that many people who are losing their sight benefit from large print – but also their needs change over time. Our IT Leader Paul Wood has been working hard in the innovative area of “print size on demand”. Being able to offer TFN in a variety of sizes is the first public step in being able to serve our readers in this way.’
Andrew is excited about the future possibilities of developing this new technology.
‘We hope this will mean us providing a much more user-led service for many of our readers,’ he said.
‘In due course we will be able to offer this service with other titles in our range of magazines.
‘We’re also looking forward to the time when we are able to go to Christian events such as Spring Harvest and the Keswick Convention and respond to individual requests for the song sheets and other materials in specific type sizes.’ Torch piloted braille and ‘large print on demand’ song sheets in two sizes at these events this year.
Torch has a large number of readers using the Library and subscribing to magazines who find large and giant print an absolute Godsend.
So here’s the offer we can now make. If you would prefer to read Torch Family News in large print please call 01858 438260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We can send samples of the different print sizes to enable you to make your choice. Please bear in mind that, as with all our large print publications, pictures will not be included. As well as standard print, Torch Family News is also now available – with pictures - as a PDF download or by email.
Posted: 8th November 2011 by Lin Ball
With the adoption of new technology by churches and Christian organisations, blind and partially sighted people are facing an additional struggle: a problem Dr Mike Townsend from Torch Trust has termed ‘web-sight loss’. Dr Townsend judged the Accessibility Award category of Premier Christian Media’s 5th Annual Christian New Media Awards which recognised websites that delivered an exemplary commitment to accessibility.
Presenting the award to Leigh Road Baptist Church of Leigh on Sea in Essex, he said, ‘Jesus was a great communicator. He communicated with all kinds of people. My judging was an interesting journey. But, some of my journeys couldn’t even get started; a real case web-sight loss!’
He continued, ‘The Leigh Road Baptist Church website was excellent. I really know what’s going on. It almost makes me want to move to Leigh-on-Sea!’
Commenting on the awards, Dr Gordon Temple, Chief Executive of Torch Trust questioned whether the Church is grasping the concept of accessibility, pressing that it ought to be second nature to do so.
He said, ‘The gospel is inclusive. Jesus was inclusive - and went out of his way to include people with disabilities.
‘We support this award because it’s important that web and media resources are accessible to all. It should be the norm for the Christian church: a Gospel for all, and a heart for all, because we don’t want to see anyone left out.’
David Elcock, Community Worker for Leigh Road Baptist Church, commenting on the award, said ‘We worked with Ecru.co.uk to create our site, which launched in April of this year. Ecru and LRBC believe the right site is crucial in encouraging people to interact with the church, and were rigorous in their approach to accommodating the real-world needs of people with disabilities.’
How do you find the Torch website? Visitors to our website have been increasing. In a typical week we can have over 500 visitors from nearly 50 countries!
Reports Andrew Nicholson, Assistant CEO, ‘Many of the visitors come from North America, Australasia and the Indian subcontinent - a truly international reach. Recently 130 visitors in one week wanted information about our Torch Holidays programme for 2012. Quite a few use the Contact Us page to email a question.’
For some, the contact has come about as they search online for resources that may help an older relative losing their sight. Sometimes teachers or ministers want Bibles for blind or partially sighted pupils and church members. And, of course, the website is accessible to visually impaired clients and supporters - some looking to browse the library catalogue; others wanting to read the prayer topics, and some looking to make a donation.
We can keep you up to date with significant items of interest in between issues of Torch Family News if you subscribe to our e-News service, which includes links to the website where you can read about topics in more depth. Over 500 people have already signed up. To subscribe please email email@example.com or call 01858 438260.
Posted: 1st November 2011 by Lin Ball
What do the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics have to do with blind and partially sighted people having a great holiday? These 2012 special events are just two of the themes being used imaginatively in next year’s programme of specialist holidays for people with sight loss run by Torch Trust.
There’s no doubt that it can be challenging for anyone with sight loss to have a good holiday. There are often difficulties in finding a venue where specific needs are understood and catered for, and where the programme is fully inclusive. But, year after year, people find Torch Holidays give them satisfaction levels that keep them coming back for more.
The 2012 programme is a good mix of popular favourites and creative new ideas.
New to the programme is a February break featuring lots of colourful stories from Africa, with guest speaker Janet Stafford, Torch’s International Leader. There’ll be a celebration houseparty in June which will revolve around the Queen’s Jubilee. The activity week at the end of June and holiday weeks in July, August and September will all have a focus on the Olympics and Paralympics.
One weekend break which has been successfully pioneered in 2011 will be repeated in both March and November 2012. That’s the Moving Forward weekend, specially designed for people at the start of the sight loss journey.
Perennially favourite holidays with a focus on gardening, London shopping and shows, books, walking, crafts and music all have a place in the 2012 programme. And, of course, learning and sharing from the Bible will feature in holidays at several points in the year, notably at Easter and Christmastime.
Nearly all the holidays take place at the beautiful Torch Holiday and Retreat Centre near Hurstpierpoint in Sussex. But the Torch team will lead two holidays next year at other venues – a stay at the Keswick Convention in the Lake District in July and a holiday in Belgium in September.
Full details are available on the Holidays section of this website. To request an accessible format programme for next year, you can telephone the holiday centre direct on 01273 832282. Or you can email (holidays@ torchtrust.org).
If you are interested in volunteering at our holiday centre, contact Patricia Douglas on 01858 438267 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Posted: 24th October 2011 by Lin Ball
What are the challenges and encouragements facing churches wanting to get alongside people with sight loss, to include them and use their gifting? And what about Torch - how well are we doing at reaching out?
Over the summer, these and many other questions came under the microscope in the national Torch church survey. Now, after a fantastic response from church leaders all over the country, we’re able to share the answers. The summary report of the survey results is now live on the Foursight for the Church Torch website.
Charlotte Temple, who co-ordinated the survey, said, ‘One of the most exciting things about the findings is just how interested people are in getting involved with the needs of blind and partially sighted people. As a result of doing this survey, we’ve made plenty of new contacts. We’ve already started getting in touch with people to start building relationships.
‘We really hope that the results will provoke thought, discussion and action in churches around the country.’
Dr Gordon Temple, Chief Executive of Torch, said, ‘This survey report is an encouraging confirmation that Torch is heading in the right direction. Our plans to develop our resources and increase how we work in local communities are really affirmed by what we see in these findings.’
Do take a minute to read through the survey summary at www.torchtrust.org/smartweb/foursight/Church%20Survey%20Results If you’d like to comment, you can email us at email@example.com
Posted: 6th October 2011 by Lin Ball
‘Blind people need both specialist support and integration – they are not alternatives.’ That was the keynote message from broadcasting personality Peter White, the President of the Talking News Federation, speaking to their annual conference of almost 200 delegates held recently in Peterborough.
Peter recalled that when the popular BBC Radio 4 disability programme ‘In Touch’ started up 50 years ago there was a lot of opposition – much of it from blind people who resisted the idea of being ‘set apart.’
But, when Peter started pursuing a career in radio, though he would have preferred to be offered mainstream programmes, he realised, ‘it was silly to reject the idea of being involved in specialist programmes for disabled people.’
‘There needs to be some ring-fenced programming for disabled people because covering disability in the mainstream programmes means not enough depth.’
Peter said that his personal confidence, which many people remark on, is largely due to the attitude of his parents. He described being the younger of two blind brothers as ‘a good deal’.
‘My parents were brave enough to let us try everything – and they practised first on my brother, who was physically very able and with a good sense of direction.’
Peter recalled some hair-raising scenes from his childhood when his brother would be cycling in the streets around home, pulling Peter on a skateboard attached by rope along behind him and creating havoc in the neighbours’ gardens.
‘When I went to special school in Worcester, I was again encouraged in risk-taking – so different to today’s risk-averse practices,’ he said. He remembered, aged 12, being run over by a lorry – and the almost casual note from the school informing his parents of his ‘brush’ with the vehicle!
The TNF chair, Mike Wood, encouraged the talking news volunteers to embrace the new technology now available. Using USB/memory sticks meant that weekly output need not be limited to 90 minutes, he said, so there was scope to open up the world to blind people. And he pointed out that there may be others in the community who would benefit from receiving a talking newspaper, such as stroke victims.
A team from Torch Trust were given a warm welcome at the conference. It was an opportunity to promote Journey, the four-minute thought for the week that the organisation has been piloting since January. This audio download is available from the downloads page of this website, free of charge, for talking newspapers, blind clubs and Torch Fellowship Groups.
Lin Ball, producer of Journey, said, ‘It was great to be at the conference with so many volunteers committed to making a difference to the lives of thousands of blind and partially sighted people around the UK. We hope that many more teams will understand the need not only to inform blind people about what’s going on in their localities, but to give them an opportunity to reflect for a few minutes on their spiritual and emotional wellbeing through listening to Journey.’
For more information about talking newspapers go to www.tnf.org.uk
Posted: 27th September 2011 by Lin Ball
When one Torch Fellowship Group’s blind guests were dwindling, they did a little lateral thinking – and came up with a new idea for a group that’s got off to a flying start. Although the Llandudno TFG in North Wales had a good number of sighted helpers, their blind and partially sighted members had dropped to a handful. How could they contact more? There’s no blind club in the town.
Then they realised that the local Belmont Hotel offered a new opportunity for growth. The Belmont, in a prime position overlooking Llandudno Bay, is owned by the Royal Blind Society and has been providing specialist holiday accommodation for visually impaired people and their families and friends for over 25 years.
The TFG, under the leadership of Roselyn Barnes, approached the hotel with the suggestion that they could run a monthly service at the hotel which would not only cater for the group members but be open to hotel guests. The hotel welcomed the idea and the first meeting got off to a good start.
‘The Belmont is just across town and has up to 40 guests each week, many of whom would be visually impaired and possibly not Christians,’ said Roselyn.
‘Perhaps here was the opportunity we were missing. We stopped our own meetings and now plan to go to Belmont once a month on a Sunday afternoon and take our own blind folk with us.
‘There were five Belmont guests there on our first Sunday and four of our own, as well as the committee and the speaker and his wife. A blessed time was had by all!’
The next meeting is planned for October 16th.
Torch Regional Leader David Palmer said, ‘This is just the kind of innovative approach we like to hear about. It’s great to hear of groups adapting to new ways of doing things to suit local circumstances and a changing world.’
Posted: 14th September 2011 by Lin Ball
Popular international Christian author, speaker and broadcaster Jeff Lucas has accepted an invitation to address TOUCHING THE WORD, a celebration of accessible Bibles being organised by Torch Trust on October 22 at St Martin-in-the Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, London.
‘It’s hugely exciting that so many talented blind people are going to be contributing to this event,’ said Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘The acclaimed young blind recitalist Victoria Oruwari will be singing. A number of other people with sight loss will be talking about the significance of accessible Bibles to them. And the Revd Helen Patten will tell the story of the Guild of Church Braillists, this year celebrating their centenary.’
Kevin Carey, chair of RNIB, will be one of a team of blind people reading the King James Bible out loud from the portico of the church to begin TOUCHING THE WORD. The event forms part of the nationwide year of thanksgiving marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible – the most significant and influential book ever printed in the English language. TOUCHING THE WORD, one of thousands of events linked with the Biblefresh initiative, will specifically celebrate the diversity of Bibles available to people with sight loss – everything from braille and large print to various audio, e-reader and online versions.
The public reading in braille from 10.30am will be followed by a service at 11.30am. The event is organised by a partnership led by Torch Trust which includes the Guild of Church Braillists, RNIB, Compass Braille and Premier Christian Radio.
All are welcome. Tickets are free and available online at www.premier.org.uk/biblecelebration or by calling 01858 438260. Tea and coffee will be available free from 1pm after the service, and a sandwich lunch can be booked in advance for a donation of £5.
Posted: 3rd August 2011 by Lin Ball
For the first time, blind and partially sighted people have a one-stop site for information about hundreds of Bibles and Bible resources in accessible media – braille, large print, audio and Internet – and for formats such as electronic braille machines and e-readers.
Sheila Armstrong, who’s been blind since birth and works in braille transcription services, was enthusiastic about the new resource.‘Time was when a person with sight loss counted himself fortunate to own a whole Bible in one version,’ she recalled. ‘Audio tapes or CDs numbered over 70 for a full Bible and could easily be muddled, with passages hard to find. Giant print was lovingly hand-written and hard to replace, while braille took up around 1.5 metres of shelving. These types of Bible are still available, but oh dear! What to take when going on holiday or away for a while? It’s great that there are many more compact audio and electronic Bibles blind people can use.
‘Going onto the accessible Bibles section of the Torch Trust website, where loads of accessible Bibles in all media, shapes and sizes are listed, was an exciting experience for me. Now, there’s absolutely no excuse for not having a Bible anywhere, any time. But I won’t forget a warning a godly Christian once gave me: “The more copies of the Bible you have, the greater your responsibility.” Whether this is true or not, I’m truly thankful for all the accessible Bibles, and that Torch Trust has worked hard to group them all together in one place.Andrew Nicholson, Assistant CEO of Torch Trust, confirmed the difficulties the new listing tackles. ‘It can sometimes be difficult for people with sight loss to know where to go for Bible resources, particularly if they have just learned that they are losing their sight. That’s why Torch has put together what we believe to be the first online listing of Bible resources – resources not just from Torch but also many other providers,’ he said.
‘We’re really just signposting the huge amount of what’s now available – and though it’s early days we’ve received an enthusiastic response to the resource from many of the organisations listed.’
‘Audio Bibles and Bible resources, for example, come in a range of formats – audio CD, DAISY CD, mp3 CD and cassette – and the new listing will show what’s available in each of those.’
‘Now that we have gathered together all this information, we are able to deliver it in a format that suits the individual,’ Andrew said. ‘So that means we can print and post it, for example, to anyone without access to the internet.’
To find the new online resource, go to torchtrust.org/bibles or choose ‘Literature’ from the drop-down menu on the left of the Torch Trust homepage (torchtrust.org) and then select ‘Bibles in Accessible Media’.
Posted: 28th July 2011 by Lin Ball
When a Dartford blind group gathered for tea recently, there was a surprise visitor – the new Bishop of Rochester! Sue Stuttard, leader of the Dartford Torch Fellowship Group, describes how it happened: ‘The bishop was visiting our deanery to get to know everyone. Richard Mortimer, vicar at Christ Church where the Torch Fellowship meets, thought that because of the bishop’s visit he’d not be able to come along to us as planned – but in the end the bishop came too!‘
We were all honoured and thrilled to spend the afternoon together. At the beginning of our meeting the bishop introduced himself and he conducted our final prayer and blessing. He then joined us for tea and circulated among our members, chatting to everybody, showing us all that he really cares about all of us as individuals. It was an absolute joy.'
The Dartford group is about 30-strong, about 15 of whom are blind or partially sighted, and they meet monthly at Christ Church on the first Saturday. They are a lively bunch – 80-year-old member Jean Boyd, whose sight loss is due to macular degeneration, recently raised over £1500 for charity with a sponsored sky dive – and they’d welcome any new members.
The Dartford Torch Fellowship Group is one of over 100 such groups co-ordinated by Torch Trust, a Christian organisation for people who are blind or partially sighted. ‘People on the journey of sight loss often feel isolated and lonely,’ said Torch Trust CEO Dr Gordon Temple, ‘so these groups are a lifeline, offering friendship, understanding and acceptance.’ To find out if there’s a group in your locality, go to torchtrust.org or telephone 01858 438260.
Our photo shows Bishop James Langstaff with Jackie Robinson.
Posted: 29th June 2011 by Lin Ball
Does your church need to do more to be inclusive of blind people? And people with other disabilities? ‘Yes, Disability Sunday – usually on the first Sunday in June - has come and gone this year,’ says Torch Regional Leader David Palmer. ‘But you don’t need a special date in the diary to celebrate the diversity of the Christian family. Why don’t you work with your minister or leadership team to put on a service or series of activities which highlight the benefits of involving disabled people in church life?’
Torch Trust produces a pack of creative materials to help you do this. You can access everything from worship and sermon ideas to a poster and advice on local publicity; everything from an outline for a children’s talk to ideas to make a communion service more meaningful for blind people. There is even a five-minute DVD available of interviews with blind people talking about the difficulties encountered in the church setting.All these materials are available on the special Torch website: www.torch-foursight.org They are all completely free but you need to register to receive them. Or you can receive some of the pack items through the post by calling Torch House (01858 438260).
‘Within the Kingdom of God there’s a place of significance for every one of us,’ says Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘We are imprinted with the image of a God who himself lives in community and models relationship in perfection, and he calls us to foster Kingdom relationships that aspire to that quality. We are made to live interdependently in communities and families – in a constant interplay of giving and receiving. We need one another, and it’s only together that we can be the church, Christ’s body living on earth and engaged in the crucial work in kingdom building.’
Posted: 14th June 2011 by Lin Ball
Torch International Leader Janet Stafford has returned safely from an extended trip to oversee the ministry in Africa. As usual she has come back with many stories of the transformed lives of blind people in Malawi and heartening news of progress in distributing braille and giant print scriptures.
‘Among the highlights of this trip for me were the two overnights we held for blind people,’ reports Janet.
‘For these events, a lorry will arrive bringing a cooking team with pots, pans, dishes, food and firewood. Blind people living for miles and miles around will also be collected on lorries, some travelling hours over rough roads to reach the gathering.
‘This time one of the overnights brought together six fellowship groups and the other gathered five groups, all with the aim of providing Bible teaching and an opportunity for warm fellowship and sharing of experiences. These are always wonderful times of renewing friendships, times of spiritual renewal and, of course, of blind people coming to faith in Jesus for the first time.’
During her stay in Malawi, Janet also visited 15 other groups of blind people.
‘One group of 74 blind people were a real inspiration to be with,’ says Janet. ‘Their testimonies of appreciation for the Torch magazine and their braille Bible portions were very moving. Many also expressed their thanks for the two hymnbooks now available in braille.’
Janet also made visits to over 40 blind people and their families, often in remote and impoverished villages badly affected by the current drought and poor harvest conditions.
‘Although time-consuming, these visits to individuals are very rewarding,’ says Janet.
‘Some live in very isolated conditions. And some are in poor health and not able to travel to any fellowship group meetings – but each one needs to know that Jesus loves them and cares for them.’
‘The work remains challenging,’ concludes Janet, ‘but overall the evident growth in God in many of the blind people is really encouraging.’
After delays, there is now some progress on plans to distribute Megavoice audio Bibles in the Chichewa language. The new computer-driven braille embossers are already putting in good service, enabling the African team to respond flexibly to demand for Bible volumes. There is continuous demand for braille Bible volumes in Chichewa and a new outlet for Tumbuka language volumes, for which we praise God.
If you’d like to receive our International News for Praise and Prayer, which Janet prepares, do let us know. We also have CEO Gordon Temple’s diary of his trip to Malawi at the end of 2010, GORDON IN MALAWI, available in accessible formats.
Posted: 18th May 2011 by Lin Ball
Braille and giant print versions of the handbook for Christianity Explored have been presented by Torch Trust at the worldwide launch of the new third edition of the course.
Lucia Bellini, a blind braille transcriber who volunteers with Torch presented Craig Dyer, Training Director for Christianity Explored, with the new accessible versions at the Christian Resource Exhibition.
‘Christianity Explored lays out the Christian message in a way that is easy for a non-believer to read and think about the issues. I really enjoyed transcribing it,’ said Lucia.
Responding, Craig said, ‘We are so thrilled that you’ve done this work. All of us at Christianity Explored are absolutely committed to getting the gospel out as widely as possible and we’re so grateful to Lucia and her colleagues at Torch for producing these new versions that will help us do that.’
The Christianity Explored handbook is available in giant print and braille for £3 from Torch Trust on 01858 438260. The Leader’s Guide will be available soon.
The full range of Christianity Explored resources is available from The Good Book Company on 0333 123 0880 or at www.thegoodbook.co.uk
Posted: 27th April 2011 by Lin Ball
A unique event celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible was put on in the town centre of Market Harborough – the home of Torch House - at the start of the Easter weekend. Four local blind readers read aloud the Gospels of Matthew and John from braille in the Waterstone’s bookshop. The event attracted a great deal of interest and an estimated 60 people attended throughout the day, many staying for extended periods to listen.
‘The anniversary of this hugely important and transformational translation of the Bible is being marked across the country by several hundred events during 2011, a number of which are public readings,’ said Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple. ‘But the Evangelical Alliance has confirmed that our event is the only one they have heard of that involved blind people reading the Bible in braille.
‘The event was a great encouragement to us on many levels. Firstly, what better way to celebrate the Bible than by sharing the Good News accounts of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus at Eastertime. We were also blessed by the willingness of this town centre bookshop to host the event; by the many people who came along at this busy time of year to support us so warmly; and also by the attendance of our local MP Edward Garnier.’
Torch Publications Leader Lydia Tebbutt, one of the organising team, said, ‘It was a joy to listen to the four readers – Sheila Armstrong, Jan Turner, David Angell and Mike Townsend.’
‘Whenever longer portions of the Bible are read out loud, there is always an impact on individuals listening. The readers were so fluent and expressive that the Word of God really came alive. This is no small achievement in braille. Unlike print reading, it’s not possible to see what’s coming ahead on the next line. And the event required quite a bit of stamina. The reading of Matthew’s Gospel took over three and a half hours, and it was over two and a half hours for John.’
Reader Sheila Armstrong reported that she was ‘really shattered’ after the reading.
‘But it was a great honour to read God’s Word publicly. And I was glad to demonstrate that through braille the Bible is accessible to blind people – that you can read it with your fingers instead of your eyes!’
Torch is delighted to announce that the whole of the King James Bible is now available on DAISY audio. This transcription project has been a partnership between Torch, RNIB and Wycliffe Associates. There are 4 CDS totalling nearly 100 hours of audio, and the reading has been done by a team of British readers. The CD pack is available from Torch at £9.99 by calling 01858 438260 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 31st March 2011 by Lin Ball
Our International Leader, Janet Stafford, is on an extended trip to Malawi has a demanding schedule of meetings and tasks.
Janet’s husband Michael went ahead of her to Blantyre – where Torch Trust International (Malawi) has its headquarters – preparing accounts for the trustees’ meeting and visiting local fellowship groups.
Janet will be making many visits to individual blind people and small groups - distributing aid, running clinics and dispensing basic medicines, as well as giving encouragement. In one village, a blind man was recently stabbed to death during a robbery on his home and Janet will be seeking to encourage those who knew him. On a happier note, she will be at the wedding of a woman who has been linked to Torch for many years.
Also on the programme is Janet’s involvement in the Easter conference held at Konzere; an overnight celebration and teaching time at Rivi Rivi; and an outreach to teens.
Posted: 16th March 2011 by Lin Ball
Torch Trust will hold a unique celebration to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. There will be a public reading from the KJV in braille on Maundy Thursday, April 21, at the Waterstones bookshop in the centre of Market Harborough – the Leicestershire town where Torch has its HQ.
From 10am on the day, two local blind people will read St Matthew’s Gospel; from 2pm two more will read St John’s Gospel. Local people will be encouraged to come and go as they please during the readings. There will also be a Torch display, including large print, braille and audio Bibles; and Waterstones will have a display of Bibles and books about the KJV.
‘The King James Bible has been the most transformational text of the last four centuries,’ said Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple.
‘For almost two of those centuries the Bible has been accessible to people with sight loss through braille. Torch Trust’s public braille reading on Maundy Thursday will celebrate that accessibility to the life-changing message of the Bible - and at Eastertime when we are vividly reminded of its central story.’
The event may be repeated at other venues – watch this space!
To access our leaflet, The Bible for Blind and Partially Sighted People, click on this link:www.torchtrust.org/downloads/auto/Info%20about%20Bible%20in%20Accessible%20Formats.pdf
Posted: 2nd March 2011 by Lin Ball
Early bird bookings before the end of March will give blind guests some significant savings on Torch Holidays.
The savings apply to three special interest breaks, all based in Sussex, and to two holidays in Wales and France.
The fully-inclusive price for the five-day Creative Cooking holiday starting on March 28 at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre in Sussex is now just £200. The cost of the Musical Melodies holiday for music lovers which runs from April 4-8 or the gardening holiday, Roots and Shoots (May 9-13), both at the Centre, is £230.
Creative Cooking is for anyone wanting to learn to create tasty meals in their own home. Holidays Leader Gail Millar has organised the holiday in response to the many compliments she gets about the delicious meals provided at the Centre. She wants to pass on her skills in ways which give blind people confidence to have a go themselves. The holiday also includes some trips out with a gastronomic theme!
Musical Melodies is a new addition to this year’s holiday programme. It’s all about enjoying music together. If you play an instrument, bring it along. There will be some surprise guests who will be giving their professional insights into songwriting and worship leading.
Roots and Shoots is a regular and popular part of the holidays programme. This year the break will include a garden party for the official opening of the newly-completed sensory garden and the new decked quiet area. As usual there will be visits out to gardens of special interest plus a talk and demonstration from a horticulturalist.
Early bird reductions are also being applied to the Wales Houseparty (May 16-20) and the France Houseparty (September 12-19).
The houseparty at the lovely Hebron Hall in Glamorgan is led by well-known blind pianist Peter Jackson. There are many opportunities on site to try different sporting activities; and in addition there will be trips out to local places of interest such as Cardiff and Barry Island. The cost for that is £260. The venue for the houseparty in France will be the beautiful Spring Harvest holiday centre, Le Pas Opton. As well as Bible teaching from big-name speakers, there will be golfing, wine-tasting, boules, tandem biking, river walks, swimming and canoeing. The cost for the week is £590, to include transport – either by road from Sussex or flights from Gatwick.
Ask too, about the special 7-night option to take part in the annual 10-day activities holiday (June 13-20) for just £380.
Torch Holidays offer specialist support for people at any stage of the sight loss journey. Not only are all activities designed to be fully accessible and researched for their suitability for blind people, but – in the words of one guest – at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre ‘here it’s normal to be blind.’ The Torch team and volunteer helpers have been trained to give support such as guiding and audio description. Although open to people of all faiths and none, the holidays programme has a strong Christian ethos, with a daily opportunity for guests to think about their spiritual wellbeing, usually under the guidance of an experienced guest speaker.
For more details about Torch Holidays and to take full advantage of the special prices, call 01273 832282.
Posted: 2nd February 2011 by Lin Ball
A bishop and a former bishop provide major titles for the Lent output of transcribed books from Torch Trust this year.
Stephen Cottrell, formerly Bishop of Reading and since last year the Bishop of Chelmsford, is the author of Rich Inheritance. This course follows the usual pattern of York Lent courses with five sessions leading up to Easter. It explores the impact of the empty tomb on Jesus’ disciples and asks what it means for his followers today.
The other major title being made available for Lent in accessible media is Lent for Everyone: Matthew by Tom Wright, a leading New Testament scholar and the former Bishop of Durham. Readings from Matthew’s Gospel are interspersed with readings from the Psalms, to align with the lectionary readings for the season, and after each passage there is a 2- or 3-page reflection by Tom Wright. The book aims to help us see what it must have been like to hear the words of Jesus and see his actions for the first time. Most of the reflections begin with a helpful illustration from modern life and end with practical applications for the Christian today.
Both these titles, though specifically aimed at Lent groups, could usefully be studied at any time of the year.
‘Whether you belong to a home group or a Lent group or neither, Lent is a really good opportunity to draw nearer to Jesus,’ says Torch Publications Leader Lydia Tebbutt.
‘Starting from Ash Wednesday you can embark on a journey with Jesus as your companion and when you arrive, just six weeks later, at Easter Sunday, it will be with a new appreciation and thankfulness for what the Lord has done for us.’
These titles will be available from the end of February. Lent for Everyone is available in braille, giant print and on DAISY CD to borrow from the Torch Library or to purchase for £7.00. Rich Inheritance can be purchased in braille, giant print or on DAISY CD for £3.50. Torch also has a number of other Lent titles, plus some wonderful Easter books, available for individual or group study. Members of the office team at Torch House are always willing to chat to anyone on the phone about their requirements. Call 01858 438260.
Posted: 18th January 2011 by Lin Ball
During January’s grey days it’s become traditional to plan the year’s summer holiday. If you are blind or partially sighted, you may feel that the options are somewhat limited. Or even that arranging a holiday will prove to be a series of difficult hurdles to be overcome. But what if you could go on a holiday specially for blind people and their carers? With a programme designed for people with sight loss and led by people with experience of working with them?
TORCH HOLIDAYS is about to release details of its holiday programme for 2011 – a total of 21 varied holidays between March and December. Most are based at our lovely Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre on the edge of the historic village of Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex, just nine miles from Brighton. There are general holidays which focus on trips out and about. There are activities holidays enabling blind people to be adventurous in tasting various sports such as horse riding, climbing, abseiling, swimming, boating and bowling. There are seasonal houseparties celebrating Easter and Christmas. There are special interest holidays focusing on gardening, computers, music, books, crafts and cookery. There are even two weekend breaks for people new to the sight loss journey.
TORCH HOLIDAYS is also hosting a handful of holidays in other places, such as the Lake District, Wales, France and Belgium.
What’s special about a Torch Holiday? Guests who return to us year after year say that it’s the warm welcome of Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre as a real ‘home from home’; and the understanding and acceptance in a place where, as one guest said, ‘it’s normal to be blind’. Another special feature of a Torch Holiday is the holistic care on offer. With its strong Christian ethos, there’s a daily opportunity for guests to take time to think about their spiritual wellbeing and welfare as well as being refreshed physically and mentally. The centre welcomes blind and partially sighted people of all faiths and none; it’s a place of peace, prayer, personal retreat and renewal.
If you would like the new brochure (shortly available in standard print, giant print, braille or audio) giving details of all the 2011 holidays, telephone 01858 438260 or email email@example.com
Posted: 7th December 2010 by Lin BallTorch has announced a publishing ‘first’ for the 2011 New Year – a daily Bible reading note publication in giant print.
Torch already produces several Bible reading notes in braille and audio, among them Every Day with Jesus and Daily Bread – but they will be joined by The Upper Room in giant print.
‘We realised there was a gap in our provision for people, particularly those at the start of the sight loss journey,’ said Publications Leader Lydia Tebbutt.
‘Reading is such a highly valued activity and losing it can be a hard blow. So we wanted to meet the needs of people who can continue to read devotional daily notes in giant print.’
Why The Upper Room?
‘We piloted half a dozen different Bible reading notes with giant print readers and this came out as the most popular,’ said Lydia.
The Upper Room is produced in the US but each day’s contribution is from a different person from around the world. The UK print edition is published by Bible Reading Fellowship.
The giant print version will be available from 1 January. As with all their Bible reading notes, Torch do not charge a subscription, but recommends a donation towards costs. For The Upper Room this is £18.50 a year.
If you are interested in receiving The Upper Room quarterly, call 01858 438260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: 17th November 2010 by Lin Ball
Torch CEO Dr Gordon Temple is having an amazing, uncomfortable, overwhelming, humbling and exceedingly hot trip to Malawi!
He is there to visit some of the thousands of blind people supported by Torch ministries and to see for himself the production centre where scriptures are produced in accessible formats for people with sight loss in several African countries.
In his daily blog Dr Temple tries to capture the vivid experiences he is having as he tours part of the Lower Shire region of the country along with Janet Stafford, Torch International Leader.
Describing the scenery, he talks of ‘colourfully-dressed pedestrians ... tiny shops and stalls selling a bizarre array of stuff ... one stall with not much more than two inverted cones of tomatoes ... hand-painted billboards ... homes made from home-made bricks, tin roofs and slender tree trunks ... crossing the Shire River with its ribbon of blues and vivid greens across the arid landscape of ochre and dull greens, with mountains beyond.’
Dr Temple has been overwhelmed by the warmth of the meetings with blind people that have been convened to hear him speak in sweltering conditions. He is being entertained royally, being served goat meat stew in enamel bowls as he sits on bamboo mats. But he is aware of the underlying poverty heightened by poor harvests caused by drought. And daily life is made a struggle by bureaucratic red tape, national shortages of fuel, water, electricity and the lack of decent transport systems.
‘In Rivi-Rivi, an agricultural community, the arrival of the Land Rover triggers a round of singing and dancing in welcome. Each of the three Torch Fellowship Groups has planned their own programme. Communal, choir, groups and solo singing were part of the mix, which also ran to a poem and some drama. This was amazing! All the actors were women, around half were blind and they played out scenes related to the issue of blindness in the home and family and in church life. It pulled no punches. It dealt with marital breakdown, the role of the church in healing and counselling. It was compellingly graphic with actual husband-wife-new partner fights!
‘The warm smiles, the mellow singing, the big-eyed little children, the appreciation of the blind people, the comments about how Torch helps them and the significance to them of the braille Bible volumes, the evidence of planning, organisation and leadership of the Groups, the worship ... there is so much to celebrate. But just under the surface lie the issues of simple survival...’
He concludes that his experiences are ‘blessing me no end ... but leave me on the edge of tears.’
You can follow Gordon’s blog in full between now and November 22 on: www.torchtrust.org/smartweb/International/Gordons%20African%20Blog
Posted: 1st November 2010 by Lin Ball
People starting out on the journey of sight loss are to be a new and added focus of Torch ministry, it was announced at the organisation’s annual Thanksgiving.
Setting out the strategy for the next five years, CEO Dr Gordon Temple said that as he and the trustees had sought God ‘to find what adventure he has planned,’ they had been ‘drawn’ to become companions to those who receive the devastating news of sight loss.
One hundred people every day in Britain are given such a diagnosis.
‘Only one in five of them have someone with them when they hear the news that no medical intervention can prevent them from going blind,’ said Dr Temple. ‘And only one in 12 are ever offered any sort of counselling.’
Torch started out by serving those who had been blind all their lives. Over the years, much of Torch ministry has grown to meet the needs of the huge group of people who have lost their sight in later life, he said. But those starting out on the sight loss journey ‘need someone to be there for them.’
‘We want to serve them in the name of Christ, to be companions on that journey: a regional work of national scope but with local delivery.’
Reflecting on the previous 12 months, Dr Temple recalled how 2009 – Torch’s fiftieth anniversary - had closed with ‘a sense of anticipation’ despite the challenging economic climate of the country.
‘We called 2010 our year of promise,’ he said. ‘We saw God’s blessing through all the difficult times and the stresses and strains. We had anticipated a big deficit but in the closing weeks of the financial year amazing things happened, so that we finished with a modest surplus, for which we give thanks to God.’
Setting out what he called the Torch ‘charter,’ Dr Temple said that the aim would be that every blind and partially sighted person might be enabled to:
Around 180 people attended the Thanksgiving at Brighton Road Baptist Church, Horsham in West Sussex, including members of 17 Torch Fellowship groups from as far afield as Southport and Bristol.
Posted: 5th October 2010 by Lin Ball
Torch Trust CEO Dr Gordon Temple will unveil the new strategy for the next five years of the organisation’s ministry when he addresses the annual Torch Thanksgiving in Sussex this month.
Staff, volunteers and friends of the work will gather at Brighton Road Baptist Church, Horsham, from 2pm on Saturday 23 October to look back with thankfulness to God at the year past and forward with excitement to new opportunities to reach people with sight loss in the name of Jesus Christ.
The theme for the afternoon will be TOUCHED BY GOD, using the well-known Bible passage from Matthew 9 of the sick woman who was healed simply by touching in faith the hem of Jesus’ cloak. The Torch Singers will be taking part, and there will be opportunities to hear about all aspects of the Torch ministry – literature, regional work, holidays and international.
The programme will also include a presentation to Liz Gould for many years of service as the Bristol Area Fieldworker. Some new faces will receive an official welcome: new Torch trustee Roger Morriss and Catriona Cumming, who has recently joined the staff as Volunteer Coordinator. And chair of trustees, blind gospel singer and songwriter Marilyn Baker will also take part.
All are warmly invited. Groups of supporters will be arriving by coach. The church will be open from 12 noon for anyone wanting to eat their packed lunches there along with the Torch staff team. Drinks will be provided. The afternoon will be concluded with tea and cakes. It will be helpful for catering if you let us know if you plan to come early or stay on, by contacting Carol Nokes or Janet Allen on 01858 438260.
You can find a programme for the afternoon at http://www.torchtrust.org/downloads/auto/Thanksgiving%202010%20Programme.pdf
Horsham is just off the A24 which runs between the M25 to the north and Worthing to the south. The Baptist church is on the Brighton Road (A281) coming out of Horsham to the south east.
From the north: take the M23 from the M25. At junction 11, take the A264 towards Horsham. After about four miles take the B2195 left towards Horsham. After about two and a half miles take the second exit at the roundabout, almost immediately taking the B2180 left. This road starts as Station Road and becomes Clarence Road. Continue about half a mile to the A281 T-junction. Turn right and take the fourth right into New Street, where the church and car park are on your right.
From the south: approach Horsham on the A24. About one mile south of Horsham, take a right fork onto the B2237 (Worthing Road). Follow it around Horsham until it becomes the A281 and you are south east of the town. This road becomes in turn East Street, Queen Street and then Brighton Road. Just after the Queen’s Head pub, take the fourth turning on the left into New Street. The church and car park are on your right.
Church Address:Brighton Road Baptist Church
Posted: 22nd September 2010 by Lin Ball
Posted: 8th September 2010 by Lin Ball
Torch Trust will be represented at this weekend’s Talking News Federation National Conference in Peterborough.
The Federation represents around 400 of the country’s talking newspapers across the UK – mainly run by volunteers. They record local news and information into audio format for blind and partially sight people.
Lydia Tebbutt, Torch’s Publications Leader, will be looking to learn more about the way organisations working with people with sight loss are making the transition from audio cassette to digital recordings.
‘The TNF was one of the first organisations to phase out cassettes and move to using USB or data sticks,’ said Lydia.
‘This really is a good, cost-effective change, since the USB boom box – the most popular digital playback system on the market - is available for around £30 on the high street.
‘We will be attending the conference not only to demonstrate our partnership with TNF in the Reading Through Audio group, but also to learn firsthand from other people’s experiences of moving into digital communication.’
The conference programme will include a number of personalities from the world of sight loss, including the BBC presenter Peter White and John Godber of the RNIB.
Posted: 31st August 2010 by Lin Ball
Two upcoming radio programmes from Torch Trust will focus on issues of safe travel for people with sight loss.
Lots of town centres are introducing shared surface streets, where kerbs and controlled crossing points are being taken out. The idea is that it looks more attractive and it’s become a fashionable way to rejuvenate a town centre. Pedestrians and vehicles share the same space. But this design often doesn’t work for the most vulnerable in society - children, the elderly, people with learning difficulties, or those with sight loss. This kind of design can create real hazards.
Safe Travelling is the title of the Insight programme to be broadcast on Sunday 5 September. The programme, presented by Torch chair of trustees, well-known gospel singer-songwriter Marilyn Baker, includes an interview with David Cowdrey, Campaigns Manager from Guide Dogs, discussing the issues around shared surface streets.
In Out and About the following week, Sunday 12 September, interviewer Sarah Brookman goes out onto the streets with David Angell to explore the difficulties of getting around as a blind person. David was formerly on the staff of Torch Trust and his wife Sue currently works for Torch. David, a radio interviewer and producer, has been blind and a long white cane user for many years so says the actual logistics of following familiar routes don’t cause him any anxiety. But if he goes somewhere new, such as a train station, he tries to organise assistance ahead of time where possible. He will rehearse new routes he needs to follow. David prefers a cane to a guide dog; he says a cane gives you total independence when you have built up skill using it. The cane scans the pavement left and right in front of you, and walking gets into a rhythm. David finds people are generally very considerate of a cane user.
Sarah said that going out with David to make the programme made her very aware of how cluttered pavements can be, especially on bin collection day. She noticed that cafe signs and outside seating can also be problems for those with sight loss, as can delivery vans parked on the pavement.
Insight, produced by Torch Trust, is broadcast every Sunday at 4pm on Premier Christian Radio, available on DAB. If you can’t access DAB, then the programmes are available soon after broadcast dates on this Torch website: go to ‘downloads’ and scroll down to find the Insight audio downloads. Monthly CDs of the programmes are also available.
Posted: 17th August 2010 by Lin Ball
Catriona Cumming (27), who has joined the staff of Torch Trust as their Volunteer Coordinator, has a passion for making the volunteering experience a good one.
‘I see myself as a facilitator and enabler, helping the people who work at Torch – volunteers and staff – to do the work they enjoy doing as easily as possible.’
Catriona’s first task is to get to know around 25 volunteers who regularly help out in the various ministries at Torch House, and in time to contact the others who work from their homes around the UK.
Her home town is Market Harborough in Leicestershire, where Torch is based, so she’s no stranger to the organisation. She was a student at York University, where she did a BA in Politics and a Masters in Public Policy and Administration.
‘I’ve been exploring a call to ordination,’ Catriona says. ‘If that happens, it will be in the future, so for now I’m concentrating on God’s call for me within Torch.’
Catriona was brought up as a Christian. She says her commitment ‘hasn’t been about one amazing revelatory moment, but more about God’s gentle work in my life over time.’ A member of the town’s St Dionysius Church, she sings classical music with the Leicester Philharmonic Orchestra and enjoys reading, cooking for friends, jogging and cycling.
If you can spare a few hours on a regular basis, Torch has some interesting volunteering opportunities in a number of areas of the work – mainly at Torch House in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. If you think you could help with despatch in the mail room, with administration in the office, with audio work in the recording studio, or even with gardening or maintenance, Catriona would be delighted to hear from you. Call 01858 438267 or email email@example.com
Posted: 10th August 2010 by Lin Ball
Packing a container to take advantage of every square inch of space is something of an art – but every item in this one could make a real difference to someone’s life!
A forty-foot container has just left Torch House in Leicestershire bound for Malawi. It’s laden with a huge variety of items that will improve the daily life of people with sight loss there – soaps, toiletries, towels, lightweight clothing, braille materials, a braille embosser, second hand white canes and basic medical supplies. Also on board are tables and chairs which will be used to renovate a centre for blind children.
Torch International Leader, Janet Stafford, will be in Malawi to supervise the unloading of the container at the start of a three month stay in the country.
Janet says that the situation for many people in Malawi is desperate because of several years of drought and famine. People have little to eat; there isn’t even enough grass this year to roof their huts. Blind people are particularly affected and because of their vulnerability are frequently victims of robbery of even the little that they have. She expects to travel widely, especially in the rural areas, giving support and aid as well as encouraging and teaching Christians.
Torch sends a container of aid once or twice a year to Malawi. In the capital Blantyre, Torch supports a braille production centre, supplying scriptures in a range of African languages. Torch has also placed libraries of Christian books in several countries, particularly in Africa.
One of Janet’s goals is to be able to produce more Christian books at the Blantyre centre. She has already been asked for Christian braille libraries by six other countries.
Posted: 4th August 2010 by Lin Ball
With around one fifth of the UK population experiencing some recognisable level of disability, churches are keen to make their activities inclusive – but few have a clear understanding of how to achieve that ambition.
ENABLING CHURCH, a major one-day conference being held in October, will inspire and challenge church communities to engage with disabled people wholeheartedly within the life of the church.
Torch Trust, as part of Churches for All, will be involved in resourcing this key event.
‘In our churches we realise that our old ways of thinking about disability are no longer appropriate – but the challenge is to articulate a new understanding,’ said Dr Gordon Temple, Torch CEO.
‘The church that fails to include disabled people is itself disabled. We believe ENABLING CHURCH will be a significant event in equipping church communities to make real progress in reaching out to disabled people and using their gifting for the Kingdom of God. Through it we aim to take a fresh look at a biblical view of disability and start a conversation about an appropriate Christian response.’
The conference has attracted a number of influential Christian speakers for the programme of talks and seminars. Among them are Malcolm Duncan, who serves on a number of mission groups and regularly advises government on community renewal; international preacher and Bible expositor Jonathan Lamb; the Bishop of Exeter Michael Langrish; and Roy McCloughry, author on contemporary social issues and lecturer in ethics. Christian leaders of organisations representing people across the spectrum of disability including hearing loss, sight loss and learning disabilities will be present and leading seminars. There will also be a video message from arguably the most famous disabled person in the world, the American paraplegic writer and broadcaster Joni Eareckson.
ENABLING CHURCH: DISABILITY, WHOLENESS AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY takes place on Thursday October 7 at the Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, Central London, from 9am. The day costs £25. A person accompanying a disabled person specifically to support their participation in the conference may book a free place. The whole conference will be signed in BSL. For full details and to book go to www.premier.org.uk/events/premierevents/Enabling Church.aspx or call 0207 316 1313. Brochures with booking infomation are available in braille, large print and audio CD on request. To download a brochure select your preference: Enabling Church brochure PDF or Enabling Church brochure text
Posted: 7th July 2010 by Lin Ball
Torch Trust will be exhibiting again at Sight Village in Birmingham – the event described as ‘the premier exhibition for blind and partially sighted people in the UK’ and ‘the country’s leading expo of access tech solutions’.
‘Sight Village brings together under one roof all sorts of technologies and services for blind and partially sighted people, allowing you the rare opportunity to compare one with another,’ says Sheila Armstrong of Torch’s text transcription department.
‘For example, you can see synthesised speech readers, reading machines and magnifiers. I don’t plan to buy anything this year but it’s just good to see what’s new and to keep up to date with what’s available. I usually go to one or two relevant seminars.’
Torch Literature Leader Lydia Tebbutt described Sight Village as ‘a great opportunity to meet three main audiences.’
‘There are professionals working in the field of sight loss who need to know what we can offer their contacts, the newly blind who want to know about the many resources we offer, and also our Torch friends – people who know us and want to hear the latest news about what we’re doing,’ she said.
New this year on the Torch stand will be the first-ever DAISY catalogue, available in DAISY and print – a listing of around 450 titles now available in this format. Recent additions to Torch DAISY books include classic Christian titles such as David Wilkerson’s ‘The Cross and The Switchblade’ and Jackie Pullinger’s ‘Chasing the Dragon’ through to newer bestsellers such as ‘Planetwise’ by Dave Bookless and Jonathan Lamb’s ‘Integrity’.
Admission to Sight Village is free. The venue is the New Bingley Hall in Birmingham and you can find the Torch stand in the Reading Room. The exhibition is open from 10am to 4.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, July 13-15. For more information: qac.sight village Guide dogs will be provided with water and a spending facility. Sighted guides will be available to accompany blind visitors.
Posted: 29th June 2010 by Lin Ball
It’s ‘open house’ – and you’ll be made very welcome!
Torch House, the purpose-built home of Torch Trust which is surrounded by some lovely Leicestershire countryside and sits on the edge of the charming town of Market Harborough, is throwing wide its doors for an Open Evening on Thursday July 8.
‘Come and see for yourself how the work of Torch is enabling blind and partially sighted people in the UK and around the world to realise their full potential, especially within the church community,’ says assistant CEO Andrew Nicholson.
‘You will be able to see something of every aspect of Torch work and talk to the staff who make it all happen. And if you are looking to serve the Lord in ministry to people with sight loss, we can help you identify volunteer opportunities to match your skills and availability.’
All departments of the work – from the amazing braille and giant print library and the braille production unit to the audio recording studios and displays about our UK regional and international work – will be available to tour. There will be some interactive displays and workshops and plenty of opportunity to ask questions. All ages are welcome, so it will be a real family occasion.
The Open Evening runs from 6 to 9pm but feel free to arrive when you can. A barbecue supper will be served between 6 and 8pm. There is no charge but it would be helpful to know if you are coming so that we can cater without waste.
To book your place for you and your family or church group, call 01858 438206 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 18th June 2010 by Lin Ball
Miles Hilton-Barber, who started to lose his sight in his twenties, has become a record-breaking adventurer on a grand scale. The blind 61-year-old, who was born in Zimbabwe and now lives in Derby in the UK Midlands, has flown solo from London to Sydney, driven the Malaysian Grand Prix, completed numerous desert marathons, hauled a sledge to the South Pole and climbed many mountains.
Says Miles: ‘The only barrier to achieving your dreams is not your disability but your attitude to your disability! The only limits in our lives are those we accept ourselves.’ Small wonder, then, that Miles is a motivational speaker of international repute, travelling to address corporate conferences around the globe.
Miles was recently interviewed by Torch Trust and his story features in two radio programmes to be broadcast on Premier Christian Radio (DAB) at 4pm on Sunday June 27 and Sunday July 18.
Miles’ father was the director of civil aviation in Zimbabwe and so the young Miles was fascinated by planes. His desire was to be a pilot. But starting to lose his sight around the age of 21 through retinitis pigmentosa put paid to that ambition. At first Miles was in denial of his condition. He had become a Christian in his late teens and he thought God might heal him. But God showed him that more would be achieved for the kingdom if he could live a happy and fulfilled life as a blind man.
At the age of 50, Miles was inspired by the solo sailing achievements of his brother, who had also become blind through the same inherited condition. Miles realised that his own problem was not his blindness but his attitude to his blindness. His brother challenged him to realise his ambition to fly. Using speech output technology, Miles did learn to fly, using a microlight, flying from London to Sydney. Since then he’s flown lots of other kinds of aircraft, some of them supersonic. He’s also set an impressive number of sporting records for extreme sports such as scuba diving, mountaineering and desert marathons.
When asked about which of his adventures means the most to him, Miles says that flying to Australia was very special because of his childhood dream to be a pilot. He particularly recalls flying over Lebanon in a terrible snowstorm, being thrown around in the sky like a ‘demented leaf’. Even though it was quite frightening, he was touched to be flying over places of significance in the Holy Land and felt keenly aware that God was close to him. This storm was only one of a number of tight corners he got into.
If you would like to learn more about Miles, you can visit his website: www.mileshilton-barber.com
Posted: 11th June 2010 by Lin Ball
In a first-time venture, blind and partially sighted people from local Torch Fellowship Groups launched the 6th Gower Walking Festival by walking along the beautiful Swansea Bay coast earlier this month.
The walk was organised by Torch regional coordinator Verena Walder, and followed on immediately after the official opening of the Festival by Welsh Assembly member Mrs Edwina Hart.
‘The day was just for fun and we took the walk in a very leisurely way because several members had other disabilities,’ reports Verena, who is partially sighted and will be 60 in November.
‘But it was a great success. Twenty-seven blind and partially sighted people took part, along with friends and families. Two children of six and nine did the walk, there was one baby in arms and there were people in their late 70s. A number of people we met along the way joined in with us.’
Verena says the Torch walkers are planning to take part in the Festival again next year, perhaps walking a different stretch of coast.
‘Through the walk we made a number of new contacts, such as the Swansea Bowls for the Blind Association, who saw that we were taking part and came along to chat to us.’
The Swansea TFG is a thriving group of about 60 members with a strong committee, says Verena. There are four other TFGs in South Wales - based at Bridgend, Ammanford, Pontypridd and Llanelli – which between them have a further 120 members. And a prayer group of 12 to 15 people has begun in Barry, in advance of the formation of a new group there.
Verena moved to the Mumbles area over four years ago from Bromley in Kent, and for the past two years has been the hugely enthusiastic regional coordinator of Torch work.
‘I meet such lovely people doing this work!’ she says.
‘I’ve been a Christian since 1967 and a Torch Library borrower of Giant Print books since 1974.
‘Since moving here and having some revolutionary lens exchange treatment for my rather specialist cornea disease, the vision I have has been maximised and so I felt I could take the Torch work on.’
Verena is a reader in the Anglican Church and she finds this gives her many opportunities for speaking engagements about Torch across a number of denominations.
Posted: 3rd June 2010 by Lin BallWhat about doing some treasure hunting this Sunday?
Actually, any Sunday will do. But this Sunday, June 6, is the official date of Disability Sunday 2010.
David Coffey, President of the Baptist World Alliance, has said, ‘The life of a local church is enriched when it takes positive steps to encourage the gifted contributions of disabled people. I encourage you to release the hidden treasures in your congregation.’
From a recent survey carried out by the Premier Media Group and ComRes, 66 per cent of churches said they needed ideas for how to include disabled people in church activities. Perhaps your church is in this significant majority?
If you need ideas for holding a creative and inclusive service this Sunday – or any time of the year – here are a couple of places to go:
· Churches for All, of which Torch Trust is a member, is offering a free pack, Finding Hidden Treasure, at www.churchesforall.org.uk
· Torch Trust has a special website www.torchfoursight.org where you can register for a free pack of materials – from worship and sermon ideas to an outline for a children’s talk, from a poster to a draft press release and advice on other kinds of publicity. Also available is a five-minute DVD of interviews with people with sight loss which powerfully demonstrates the difficulties they face in churchgoing.
Posted: 25th May 2010 by Lin Ball
Championing the publishing of books in accessible formats is one of the key aims of Torch Trust. Our own lending library contains over three and a half thousand Christian titles in braille, giant print and audio formats – but we know that so much more could be done. With 1.8 million people in Britain living with sight loss, many people are denied access to much of the wealth of Christian publishing. With that in mind, we presented the first ever Christian Resources Award for the Best Accessible Product 2010 at the annual Christian Resources Exhibition held this month in Esher, Surrey. Fifteen awards were presented across the range of print publishing, audio and video for adults and children – but this was the first time that an award was given for an accessible format title. We made the award to Cambridge University Press for their large print King James Version Bible, a hardback in good, clear large type which is still comfortable to hold. We wanted to celebrate the efforts made by Cambridge to include people with sight loss. We hope that making this award an annual event will encourage publishers to think more about accessible versions of their products for this often overlooked audience.
PHOTO: The award presented by Gordon Temple is received by a member of the Lion Hudson team on behalf of Cambridge University Press at the Christian Resources Awards. Photo taken by Dave Lock of Manna Christian Centre, Streatham.
Posted: 29th April 2010 by Lin Ball
Did you know that this year Disability Sunday has been moved from October to June 6?
Of course, you can choose to mark this day at any point in your church calendar that makes sense for you. But, whatever day you decide on, Torch Trust has produced a pack of materials to help you plan for it. We want to support you as you put on a creative and inclusive service that draws attention to the needs of people with disability and the mutual benefits of involving them more in church life.
In the pack you’ll find worship and sermon ideas as well as an outline for a children’s talk. There’s even a poster and advice on local publicity, including a draft press release for your local newspaper. You can also request a five-minute DVD of interviews with people with sight loss which powerfully demonstrates the difficulties they face in the church context. This DVD is included with our Foursight for the Church pack to anyone who registers for it. For a preview of this DVD, go to YouTube and search with ‘Torch Trust blind people in church’.
All these materials are available on the special Torch website (www.torchfoursight.org). You will need to register to be sent the free pack. If you have already registered, simply use the email address you registered with as your password.
Posted: 21st March 2010 by Gordon Temple
Once again, Torch will be exhibiting at the massive Christian Resources exhibition at Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher, Surrey from Tuesday 11th to Friday 14th May. We have a number of complimentary tickets available – just let us know at Torch House (contact us) and we’ll put one (or more) in the post to you. The only ‘catch’ is that we’d love you to come and see us on the Torch Stand in the Surrey Hall. This year is the biggest yet in the 25 year+ history of CRE – over 400 exhibitors plus more than 100 practical workshops. When you receive the ticket you can then ‘register’ online if you wish to fast track your entry to the event when you arrive. Last year Torch celebrated its 50th anniversary. This year we are part of a new feature at CRE – the ‘Churches for All’ zone. Churches for All is a partnership of UK Christian disability organisations and the zone will include interactive activities, seminars and workshops, as well as the stands of the partner organisations. If you have not been to CRE before, the venue is within the M25 and you can park for free at the racecourse (postcode KT10 9AJ). Alternatively trains to Esher station run from London Waterloo and Clapham Junction approximately every 20 minutes and the journey time is 25 minutes. Esher station is approximately 10 minutes flat walk from the main entrance (or there is usually a free CRE courtesy bus). Full details at www.creonline.co.uk
Posted: 5th January 2010 by Dr Gordon Temple
Never have we known such an appetite for what Torch does among blind and partially sighted people and among the organisations that serve and support them – with growing interest in our Fellowship Groups, our specialist holidays and, of course, our Christian literature in a range of formats. We are welcomed at exhibitions, events and conferences run by ‘blindness’ organisations of all kinds. We are encouraged by the UK Vision Strategy published by Vision 2020 and the RNIB in 2009, particularly in that it identifies the emotional support needs of people experiencing sight loss – an issue which Torch has long recognised and to which we respond through several aspects of our work.
We enter the New Year with a sense of expectation – despite the financial challenges of the present time, to which Torch is not immune. Looking back over the past 50 years we have seen God’s faithfulness and we are encouraged in our faith as we grasp the opportunities before us. The seeds of good things are evident in every area of our work:
In Luke 14 we read Jesus’ story of a great celebration. Invitations went out to those who expected to be invited but their response was indifference. With the banquet ready but an absence of guests, the host sends his servants out onto the streets to those who would never expect a party invitation – blind people among them – to invite them personally. Torch has a global vision for its work – but it’s realised in a myriad of personal encounters. So much now depends on each of us – the Master’s servants – to bring the personal touch. A Happy New Year to all our friends and supporters! Please pray with us that 2010 will be for Torch a Year of Promise fulfilled!
God bless you, Gordon
Posted: 16th December 2009 by Torch Trust
A dozen leading Christians have contributed comments on their favourite Bible verses to a devotional book of 50 Bible readings just published to mark the 50th anniversary of Torch Trust.
Posted: 30th November 2009 by Lin Ball
Well over 400 people attended the thanksgiving service at the Harborough Leisure Centre on Saturday 28 November. Representatives came from local churches; groups of blind people came from all over the UK and from several European countries. The music for the afternoon was led by Torch chair of trustees Marilyn Baker and the Torch Singers. Presentations were made by the four leaders of the different aspects of Torch work – Janet Stafford for the international ministry, David Palmer for the regional fellowship groups; Gail Millar for the holidays for blind people; and Lydia Tebbutt for the literature work, the transcribing of Bibles and Christian literatures into braille, giant print and audio formats. Gordon Temple presented Torch ambitions for the future – that no blind or partially sighted person should be denied the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel message, to grow in their faith, or to become a fully valued member of a local church community. Tributes were also paid to the co-founder of Torch, Stella Heath, who died recently.
Before and after the service, Torch House was open and hundreds of people visited to see the displays and buy materials for those with sight loss. About 90 people stayed at nearby Hothorpe Hall for a full weekend programme of anniversary events.
‘There was a great sense of reunion throughout the whole weekend,’ said Gordon Temple. ‘People who had been associated with Torch throughout its half century came together to reinvigorate old friendships and make new ones.’
Posted: 26th November 2009 by Lin BallTorch is celebrating 50 years since its foundation as a charitable trust. We will be thanking God for our history and praying for his blessing and direction for the future in a wonderful weekend programme of events.Central to the weekend is a SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING and THIS IS YOUR INVITATION TO JOIN US!When: Saturday November 28 from 2.30pm.Where: Harborough Leisure Centre, Northampton Road, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 9HF.What: A lively 90-minute programme of celebration in song, prayer, special guests and memories, concluding with the cutting of an anniversary cake and sharing in refreshments. Additionally, Torch House, adjacent to the leisure centre, will be open from 12 noon to 2.30pm and from 4pm to 6pm with special displays, sales and refreshments.WE’D BE DELIGHTED TO SEE YOU!
Posted: 17th November 2009 by Gordon Temple
Fifty years ago, on 8 June 1959, Ron and Stella Heath formally took on the trust formed by the elderly Trench sisters and The Torch magazine which the sisters had started in 1931. The Torch Trust was born. Today Torch Trust, still proifty years ago, on 8 June 1959, Ron and Stella Heath formally took on the trust formed by the elderly Trench sisters and The Toviding Christian literature and fellowship for blind and partially sighted people, has around 40 staff supported by more than a thousand volunteers. Seven magazine titles serve a readership of over 14,000 spread through almost 100 countries. Up to 200 Christian book titles a year are transcribed into braille, giant print and audio to make them accessible to those with sight loss. Almost 1,900 borrowers use the Torch Library, one of the largest Christian lending libraries for blind people in the world, with about a hundred books a day being exchanged. Torch runs over 20 specialist holidays and houseparties for blind people every year. It supports over 120 Torch Fellowship Groups around the UK.
Torch is also very active internationally, fostering partnerships to reach out to blind and partially sighted people around the globe. There are around 80 fellowship groups to support people with sight loss in Malawi and others in surrounding countries, and Torch’s braille production centre in Malawi has been turning out African language scripture portions for nearly 10 years. It’s particularly good to extend a warm welcome to some of our overseas friends who are with us this weekend.So there is much to thank God for. Indeed, we have spent this whole year celebrating what, through his grace, has been achieved. To mark the golden jubilee of Torch we have organised or been present at a significant number of special events this year:
· We celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of the extraordinary Louis Braille with a unique and moving non-denominational service of thanksgiving at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London.
· We have raised awareness of the world of blind and partially sighted people with some highly original interactive displays and seminars for thousands of Christians who attended Spring Harvest at Skegness and Minehead at Eastertime, the Christian Resources Exhibition in May and at other events through the year.
· We launched the new DAISY complete Bible – the most accessible audio Bible ever for blind and partially sighted people.
· We held a Day of Prayer at Torch House and at Torch Holiday & Retreat Centre on 8 June, the actual anniversary date of the birth of the Torch Trust and planted trees at both centres to mark the occasion.
The joy that we experience in looking back gives us great confidence in looking forward. We know that the same God who has provided for Torch in dedicated staff and volunteers and in funding for our work will continue to bless and equip for all he plans for us to do.
Though much has been achieved there is much more to be done. Though we serve thousands of people with sight loss there are many thousands more who know nothing of what is available to them through Torch – people who need the touch of Jesus on their lives. And too often Christians who lose their sight go for years before they discover Torch and the resources that can support a fulfilling Christian life of worship and service. There are too many places without a Torch Fellowship Group, too many books never published in accessible formats, too many living lonely lives who could be blessed by a Torch Holiday, and too many places across the world where blind and partially sighted people are without Scriptures and trapped in poverty.
Pray for us as we seek God’s direction and the resources to respond ever more effectively to the needs before us.
Posted: 30th September 2009 by Lin Ball
The loss has been announced of ‘a very down-to-earth visionary’ who left behind a lasting legacy which has touched the lives of thousands of people with sight loss in the UK and around the world.
Stella Heath died on September 29, aged 89, in the fiftieth anniversary year of the Christian charity of which she was a key founder – Torch Trust for the Blind.
Stella, together with her husband Ron who died 10 years ago, opened their Surrey home in the 1950s to young blind people from a nearby training centre. When one young woman responded to their Friday night gospel epilogues by deciding to follow Christ, Stella and Ron became concerned by the lack of Christian reading material for those with sight loss. They learned braille and recruited volunteers to make braille and giant print books, and later audio recordings. In the words of Dr Gordon Temple, current CEO of Torch Trust, ‘their God-given vocation began to crystallise.’ Their call came from the challenge of Jesus to the disciples before the feeding of the five thousand: ‘You give them something to eat.’
‘Some fifty years later, not five thousand but tens of thousands of blind people have been impacted for good,’ said Gordon Temple.
‘Over that time, I have never known Stella’s passion dulled or commitment waver, even in the aftermath of a stroke in 2006.’
Stella was a homemaker. The work with blind people took over her home and when it was outgrown she searched not for an office but for a larger home, and then one larger still. The family ethos of Torch has remained and is still nurtured.
Gordon Temple describes the Torch work from the time he first encountered it as ‘living witness to vibrant and authentic Christianity.’
‘Here was faith at work. It was a daily adventure in trusting God, praying and expecting answers - at the same time demanding and joyful.
‘Into the Heaths’ homes came many fragile and broken lives, young and old, often lonely, with the self-esteem crushed out of them, many of them blind and partially sighted. Each was made to feel significant. Stella was always able to capture the imagination of others and engage them in the work she found so compelling and indescribably worthwhile. Her homely straightforwardness belied her underlying strength as a great leader. And she opened the door to salvation in Christ for many, many people.
‘Stella’s focus was always on the individual. A blind person in need – whether those needs were practical or spiritual – was always her chief concern. Torch was built on a myriad of personal encounters.
‘Stella was a very down-to-earth visionary. She and Ron, with whom she had an extraordinary partnership, never worked at long term plans – not even an annual budget for Torch. They tackled each day as it came, eagerly seeking the clues to God’s leading for them and the work.’
From such humble origins, Torch today operates a large Christian lending library for those with sight loss from its Market Harborough headquarters, transcribing up to 200 Christian titles a year into accessible media. It sends out magazines to blind people in 100 countries, supports 120 fellowship groups and runs over 20 specialist holidays and houseparties a year. Forty years ago, Stella Heath launched the Torch work in Africa, where now there’s a production centre in Malawi transcribing braille and giant print scriptures and eighty fellowship groups giving a variety of support to blind people in several African countries. This international ministry remained close to Stella’s heart throughout her life.
A service of thanksgiving for Stella Heath’s life was held on October 16 at St Mary’s Church, Pulborough in West Sussex.
Just published is 50 STEPS FORWARD, a 128-page book of Bible readings, comments and prayers from 50 contributors – including Stella Heath and a number of well-known Christian names – produced to celebrate Torch’s fiftieth anniversary. It’s available from Torch Trust at £5 plus postage. www.torchtrust.org
This picture of Stella 'Mum' Heath was taken in August 2009.
Posted: 22nd September 2009 by Gordon Temple
Premier Christian Radio has launched its national DAB radio service and so Torch's Insight programme goes national. Tune in at 4pm each Sunday afternoon to hear a welcome from Marilyn Baker and to listen to interviews, testimonies and more - all with a disability dimension.
Premier Christian Radio is also available on the internet via the Links page
Posted: 10th September 2009 by Gordon Temple
Torch has produced a video for use in churches to bring home the challenges that blind and partially sighted people often experience in church life - and to introduce Torch's Foursight for the Church initiative that offers churches helpful guidance and resources. Why not request a copy of the DVD to show to your church or group - and register at www.torch-foursight.org to get a copy of the Foursight church pack. The video can be previewed on YouTube.
Posted: 6th July 2009 by Lin BallWhy shouldn't people with sight loss be able to borrow or buy books as easily, as cheaply and with as much choice as everyone else?
Torch Trust is passionate about giving blind and partially sighted people access to the Christian literature they need to find faith, grow in their Christian lives, develop their gifts and participate fully in church life.
To find out about Torch's membership of The Right to Read Alliance which campaigns for these rights, go to the Right to Read in the Literature area of the website.
Posted: 6th June 2009 by Gordon TempleChristian charity Mind & Soul is running a conference with the title A Beautiful Mind: Emotional Health and Christian Theology on 26th March 2010 at Holy Trinity Brompton. This conference offers to help you understand where emotional stress comes from, see how it relates to a person's faith and learn how to offer practical help. Download the brochure (PDF 1.5Mbyte)
Posted: 1st June 2009 by Lin Ball
Torch Trust, a Christian organisation serving blind and partially sighted people, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month (June 2009).
The story began when Stella and Ron Heath opened their home to blind young men and women from a training school in Surrey. They were confronted with how difficult it was for blind people to be included in church life and to have access to the Bible and other Christian books. The Heaths learned braille and recruited volunteers to help them in the work of transcribing, later moving into making audio recordings. On June 8, 1959, they formally took over a magazine for blind people called The Torch and the formative trust behind it.
Under their pioneering and inspirational leadership, the work grew amazingly. Twenty years ago they expanded the work into Africa, setting up a braille production centre for African scriptures in Malawi. Today Torch Trust provides Christian literature for thousands of blind people and reaches into 100 countries. It also runs the largest Christian lending library in the UK for those with sight loss, with over 3,500 titles in a mix of braille, giant print and audio formats. Torch also supports over 120 fellowship groups for blind and partially sighted people around the UK, and puts on a programme of specialised holidays every year from its own holiday and retreat centre in Sussex.
A series of celebratory events throughout the year marks the 50th anniversary. These began in March with a thanksgiving service for the bicentenary of the birth of Louis Braille at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London and continued at Eastertime with interactive display stands and workshops at Spring Harvest.
On the actual anniversary date of June 8, Torch staff, volunteers and supporters will gather for a Day of Prayer at Torch House in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.
Torch’s Chief Executive Dr Gordon Temple said, ‘The day will be one of thanksgiving to God for 50 years of growth and blessing – but it’s also about the future. There’s much to be done to fulfil Torch’s aims to reach more people with sight loss. In this country alone, 100 people every day learn that they are losing their sight.’
The organisation will continue its raised profile with presence at more Christian and secular conferences and events over the summer. And in November there will be an Anniversary Weekend.
Marilyn Baker, well known as a singer and songwriter and now Chair of Torch Trust said, ‘Torch has been so important to my own Christian journey. It’s not just the access to books and magazines in braille or audio formats, it’s about being accepted as a person and as a Christian. The love and pastoral help given to me by the Heaths, the Torch founders, gave me the confidence to embark on my own ministry. I want to see everyone with sight loss not only accepted within the Church but becoming truly part of it and enabled to lead a fulfilling Christian life.’
Posted: 1st June 2009 by Lin Ball
From this month (June 2009) the complete Bible is available for blind people on DAISY CD – the most advanced and flexible audio format there is.
The new product revolutionises Bible reading and study for people with sight loss – making it possible for any single verse in the Bible to be accessed within seconds.
This mammoth project has been a truly collaborative effort. Torch Trust, a Christian charity serving blind and partially sighted people, has worked with the encouragement of publishers Hodder & Stoughton, together with assistance from Wycliffe Associates volunteers and production support from RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People).
The new Today’s New International Version of the Bible is contained on just four DAISY CDs in a single DVD case, totalling 75 hours of audio reading. DAISY – or Digital Accessible Information System – allows a very flexible approach to searching the text. On a standard cassette or CD, it’s just not possible to hunt down and isolate a particular Bible verse – but it’s very simple using the DAISY player.
Torch Trust’s Chief Executive Dr Gordon Temple said, ‘DAISY is the perfect medium for the Bible. The Bible is not the sort of book that is read from cover to cover. Occasionally we might read a whole book of the Bible, but usually we dip into it. We look up a verse or passage and read that, then another. But that can’t be done with the usual audio Bibles that can be purchased in bookshops.
‘That’s what makes the DAISY Bible so extraordinary. Now someone whose sight loss has denied them access to print but who cannot read braille can really read the Bible as a sighted person does – going directly to a passage or verse and finding a reference as quickly as a sighted person using a print Bible.’
As well as its easy search facility, the DAISY system allows the reader to add bookmarks and also retains a memory of the place last read even after the disc is removed. Another intriguing facility is that the recording can be speeded up or slowed down – without altering the pitch of the voice.
Exclusively for the use of blind and partially sighted people, the DAISY edition of the entire Bible is available from Torch Trust or RNIB at £15.99.
As well as the Bible, Torch Trust has transcribed over 250 Christian books from their lending library – the largest Christian library for blind people in the UK – into DAISY format, and about a dozen new titles are added to that every month.
Based in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, Torch Trust is a non-denominational Christian organisation supported by donations. The charity’s aim is to overcome sight loss as a barrier to finding a personal faith in Christ and living a fulfilled Christian life. Torch Trust produces Christian literature in braille, giant print and audio formats; and promotes Christian fellowship among blind and partially sighted people across the UK and around the world. (www.torchtrust.org or email email@example.com)
RNIB is the leading charity working in the UK offering practical support, advice and information for anyone with sight difficulties. If you, or someone you know, have a sight problem, RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 (or visit www.rnib.org.uk).
Posted: 20th May 2009 by Lin Ball
The Torch Trust stand, with its eye-catching ‘pods’ – freestanding booths offering a range of interactive experiences conveying the challenges of sight loss – proved a great attraction at Spring Harvest over Easter and at the Christian Resources Exhibition in May.
‘Being at Spring Harvest for our fiftieth anniversary year was a fantastic opportunity to promote Torch, meet supporters and make new friends,’ says Torch Chief Executive Dr Gordon Temple.
‘Up to 20,000 heard the Torch presentation in the Big Top meetings – not to mention hundreds more who viewed it on their chalet TVs. Many came to the stand to talk and look at our resources and over 600 attended our Come to your senses! workshops.’
At CRE in Esher, Surrey, the Torch stand also attracted a lot of interest, with many signing up for the Foursight for the Church pack which promotes ways in which the local church can become more accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
Meanwhile, upstairs at the parallel CBC event (Christian Booksellers’ Convention), Torch was offering several new products, including the most accessible audio Bible ever for blind people. Although the DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) New Testament has been available since 2006, this was an opportunity to launch the new complete Bible.
The project – work done in partnership with RNIB (principal supplier of DAISY players), publisher Hodder & Stoughton and Wycliffe Associates - revolutionises Bible reading and study for people with sight loss. On a standard cassette or CD, it’s just not possible to hunt down and isolate a particular Bible verse – but the simple operation of four large buttons on the DAISY machine makes that level of selection a reality. The four DAISY CDs for the whole Bible run to 75 hours.
Exclusively for the use of blind and partially sighted people, the DAISY Bible is available from Torch Trust at £15.99. Also available is the Old Testament at £12.99 or the re-mastered New Testament at £4.99.
The actual 50th anniversary date of Monday June 8 will be marked by a Day of Prayer at Torch House in Market Harborough, with others joining in from their homes, individually and in groups, around the country. If you want to join in, please request Gordon Temple’s prayer letter which includes a programme for the day.
Posted: 23rd March 2009 by Lin Ball
Under the banner ‘Come to your senses’, the Torch Trust will be unveiling an innovative interactive experience at Spring Harvest this Easter to celebrate 50 years of Christian ministry with blind people.
‘Our exhibition is a really hands-on and novel way of giving people insights into engaging Spring Harvesters with the challenging experiences of blind people – both in their practical, everyday life and in their spiritual lives,’ says Torch Trust chief executive Dr Gordon Temple.
The exhibition, together with seminars, will encourage people to think in fresh ways about how they label people.
‘Blind people often feel defined by their sensory loss,’ says Abi Watkin.
Abi (30), with a background in creative writing and education, has been working as a consultant to Torch Trust in preparing the exhibition and seminars.
‘An example of the challenges facing blind people is the issue of socialisation. Because they can’t see facial expression, don’t know when new people have come into a room or where they are standing, blind people will often exclude themselves from social situations for fear of getting things wrong,’ says Abi.
‘Such withdrawal means that the church, for example, is leaving the many amazing gifts of blind people untapped.
‘We want people to go away from the Torch Trust stand with a fresh approach to how they assess people – making sure they are defined by who they are rather than what they can or can’t do,’ says Abi.
‘And the multi-sensory worship seminar on the theme of Creation, will give them an exciting new experience of worship using all the senses.’
Torch Trust will also be giving a short Big Top presentation at Spring Harvest and launching several new titles in braille and giant print which will be available on the Wesley Owen bookstall.
Posted: 27th February 2009 by James Brookman
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth a special church service is being held in St Martin in the Fields, London at 12 noon 21st March 2009 - please let us know if you would like to attend.
Details of the event are on this link: Acrobat pdf
Posted: 2nd February 2009 by James Brookman
On Sunday 1st February Martin Heath from Radio Northampton broadcast a series of interviews he made recently on a visit to Torch House.
Posted: 27th January 2009 by Lin Ball
Members of Market Harborough Baptist Church in Leicestershire became extras when a film crew came to town on Sunday (January 25).
The church offered to be the venue for the filming of a short video which will be shown at Spring Harvest to launch the 50th anniversary of Torch Trust – the Christian ministry to blind and partially sighted which has its HQ in Market Harborough.
The film crew sat in on the usual morning communion service led by Market Harborough’s pastor Nick Cook. Then the lights and cameras were set up and the congregation were invited to stay behind to re-create some key moments from the service, including some sermon snippets and singing.
Torch Trust CEO Gordon Temple explained that the purpose of the video was to show how difficult churchgoing can be for blind and partially sighted people.
‘Market Harborough Baptist Church is something of an exception,’ he said.
‘They have a number of people with sight loss in the congregation and have thought carefully about how to be inclusive and make life easier for them. One of the church elders is blind, as are several people in the worship group. The fellowship understands how to make them welcome and provides large print bulletins and so on.
‘But many churches have never really considered the needs of blind and partially sighted people. Our campaign for churches, called Foursight, is aimed at educating and equipping churches to be accessible places for those with sight loss. And since 2009 is our fiftieth anniversary we are holding several celebratory events – not least of which is the video which we will be showing in the Big Top at Spring Harvest. Our stand and seminar programme at Spring Harvest will be very unusual – a sensory adventure that will give sighted people real understanding of the difficulties faced by blind people.’
Posted: 12th January 2009 by Gordon Temple
Over 70 people went on the Christmas Houseparty held for the first time at High Leigh, including 40 blind and partially sighted people, most of whom would otherwise have spent Christmas alone.
Running from 23rd to 27th December, the Christmas houseparty included a last minute shopping trip to nearby Hoddesdon on Christmas Eve, a turkey banquet on Christmas Day, and Boxing Day outing and evening dinner. Mike Townsend and Peter Jackson led times of fellowship and worship and everyone enjoyed the concert evening.
At first a few felt it was all too big and busy but by the time we had to leave they were asking "Can we come back here next year?" Well, it's in the Torch 2009 Holiday Brochure! Email Torch Holidays for information or call 01273 832282.
Posted: 12th January 2009 by Gordon Temple
These open days are a great opportunity for professionals to learn more about services offered to blind and partially sighted people by Torch Trust. There will be a chance to look around, meet the staff and find out what we do. A buffet lunch will be provided at both venues.
For more information and to book a place please email Pat Lower or call 01858 438260.
Posted: 26th September 2008 by Gordon Temple
Come to our new look Thanksgiving Celebration in Worcester - easily reached from the M5. There’s a lot going on, something to really engage anyone involved with the various aspects of Torch’s work.
After coffee at 11am there’s an informal time of singing, news and chat hosted by blind pianist Peter Jackson. Running in parallel are three workshop sessions: one for Torch Fellowship Group leaders with David Palmer, one for anyone interested in finding out what's involved in producing our audio literature with Lydia Tebbutt, and one for those who get involved with our international outreach led by Janet Stafford.
A light lunch will be provided at 12:30pm.
At 2pm we shall all get together to give thanks to God for His goodness to us over this, our 49th year. This time will include testimonies, music from the Torch singers, and a look ahead into 2009. We finish with tea and cakes at 3:30pm.
Directions to St Peter's Baptist Church, Worcester, WR5 3TZ: exit M5 at Junction 7 towards Worcester. Left at first roundabout onto A4440 named Crookbarrow Way. At next roundabout turn right into St Peter’s Drive. Follow the road round until you see St Peter’s church on your left. [If you find problems locating the address with a Sat Nav, try WR5 3TA or WR5 3TY.]
If you plan to bring a group please let us know for catering purposes. Phone 01858 438260 or email Beth Goddard
Posted: 20th April 2008 by Gordon Temple
At Spring Harvest in Skegness, Torch launched its Foursight for the Church initiative. It's a four step programme that's intended to raise awareness of people with sight loss in church and to help churches to fully include them. To find our more visit the new website: www.torch-foursight.org.
Visitors to our striking new exhibtion stand at Skegness were able to register for the Church Pack there and then. 116 people representing 104 churches did. How about you and your church?
Posted: 1st April 2008 by Gordon Temple
Churches for All or CfA is a partnership of Christian disability organisations. Torch Trust is an active partner.
CfA has launched a new website. It's a unique resource for churches seeking to be more inclusive of disabled people, including blind and partially sighted people. Instead of starting with the disablity, this website starts with the type of activity to be undertaken by the church or leader and then raises the issues that arise for disabled people.
Visit the new website: www.churchesforall.org
Posted: 30th March 2008 by Gordon Temple
Andew Nicholson has joined Torch Trust as Assistant Chief Executive, working with Torch's Chief Executive Gordon Temple. Andrew brings strong financial and administrative leadership skills. Andrew previously worked with FIEC where he organised the Cheltenham Bible Festival in 2007.
Andrew is married to Meryl and they have two children. They live in Market Harborough and are involved in the life of Market Harborough Baptist Church.
Posted: 30th March 2008 by Gordon Temple
Torch welcomes a new chair for its trustee board. Marilyn Baker took on this responsibility at the beginning of the year, following on from Rev. Ron Wells who has been chair for 10 years. Marilyn is supported in her role by the appointment of a vice chair, Dr Clive Dilloway.
Marilyn, who has been blind from birth, is well known as a singer and songwriter. She formed Marilyn Baker Ministries 25 years ago and now has a diverse ministry that includes running rest and renewal breaks that are a blessing to many, including quite a few blind people. Marilyn says, “It is a privilege to serve the Lord in this way. I was helped so much by Torch in earlier years”. Looking ahead Marilyn enthuses, “It’s an exciting period, with next year being Torch’s 50th. We plan to use this opportunity to raise awareness, not just of the work of Torch, but also of the needs of blind and partially sighted people who sometimes feel a bit left out at church.” Marilyn presents Torch’s weekly radio programme on Premier Radio at 9pm each Saturday.
Clive enjoyed a long and successful career with BP, from which he is now retired. For a number of years he served as a trustee and then chair of the Bible Society and now chairs the Chichester Diocesan Board of Finance. His wife, Kate, is one of Torch’s most prolific volunteer braille transcribers.
Posted: 4th January 2008 by James Bookman
Reading Through Audio is an initiative set up by Torch and other groups who provide audio for people with print disabilities to raise awareness about what's available in audio and how modern technology is providing alternatives to the cassette tape.
The initiative is aimed primarily at Rehabilitation Workers but will be of interest to anyone who likes to access audio material.
For more information visit the Reading Through Audio website.
Posted: 15th October 2007 by James Brookman
Torch's annual Thanksgiving will be held in Tonbridge Baptist Church, Kent at 2.30pm. A highlight will be a visit from the Watoto Children's choir from Uganda. All are welcome to join us for an afternoon of praise and thanksgiving.
The church's address is Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, TN10 3HZ
Posted: 6th October 2007 by Gordon Temple
Listen to INSIGHT with Marilyn Baker at 4pm each Sunday afternoon: in the Greater London area on 1305, 1332, 1413 MW, or DAB and elsewhere in the UK on Sky Digital 0123, Virgin Media 698, Freeview 725. Or go to www.premier.org.uk and click "Listen Now".
Posted: 20th August 2007 by James Brookman
Here's an opportunity to encourage your church to think about the needs of blind, partially sighted and other disabled people.
Posted: 4th August 2007 by James Brookman
The Federation of International Evangelical Churches (FIEC) is holding their annual Bible festival at Cheltenham Race Course.
Come and visit Torch at their stand in the Global Village marquee and, if you're there on the Saturday, come and join the special Torch Fellowship Group Meeting starting at 4pm - in the Tote Sport room!
Posted: 12th June 2007 by James Brookman
To try and attract different people we have decided to try something new this year. Instead of having the Open Day, scheduled for Saturday 16th June, we are planning two summer-time evening "Open House" events at Torch.
Join us for a bar-be-que and fellowship on the evenings of either Wednesday 25th July or Friday 31st August, between 6pm and 9pm.
Posted: 4th February 2007 by Anon
DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information Sytem. It's audio with structure and navigation. Using special DAISY players, books on DAISY CD become truely accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
Torch first used DAISY for Every Day with Jesus - daily Bible readings from CWR. It was the world's first periodical in this format. Using the simple controls on the DAISY player the reader could skip from day to day and navigate the daily content of Bible reading, commentary, prayer and further reading.
Now Torch has completed an audio New Testament in the DAISY format, fully indexed to verse level. It has been a massive task but the results are exciting. First select book, then chapter, then paragraph and finally verse - in around the time it would take a sighted person to find the reference in a print Bible.
The DAISY New Testament is the result of a major collaborative effort. Hodder and Stoughton, publishers of Today's New International Version (TNIV), provided the actor-read digital recording, Torch staff and volunteers structured the audio to add navigation to verse level with all the necessary announcements, and the RNIB produced the disc and packaging.
The DAISY New Testament is available to bona fide blind and partially sighted people in the UK (and elsewhere subject to copyright) from both Torch and the RNIB for £3.99, around the cost of a standard print New Testament.
To order email Torch firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01858 438260.