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David PickeringThe Revd Dr David Pickering, currently serving as minister of St Andrews Roundhay in Leeds, has been nominated as the next moderator of the United Reformed Church's National Synod of Scotland. His appointment will be formally ratified when the URC's Mission Council meets later this month and David will take up his post in July 2016, following the retirement of the current incumbent, the Revd John Humphreys.

David trained for the ministry at Mansfield College. Since his ordination in 1990 he has served in three roles – at the North Teesside group of United Reformed churches (1990 to 1999); developing and managing the ecumenical Eco-Congregation Project as an employee of the Tidy Britain Group (1999 to 2004) and, most recently, as minister of St Andrew's from 2004.  Throughout his career David has worked on environmental issues for the denomination, including five years as Chair of Operation Noah – the climate change charity, between 2005 and 2010.

Read more: New moderator for the National Synod of Scotland

We've followed the news in helpless horror as it has tracked the journeys of refugees fleeing from conflict. Desperate people leave Syria to its neighbours, across North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea, to Italy and the Greek islands, Hungary, Germany, and Calais.

Long after each crisis moment fades from the headlines, there remains a complicated set of problems surrounding how best to welcome people in great need, and how to match their needs with those of the established communities they enter.

Read more: Finding a better way for sanctuary seekers

  • GPs increasingly witness suffering caused by the sanctions system
  • DWP refuses independent review

A coalition of national Churches and charities has criticised the Department for Work and Pensions over its refusal to undertake a full review of the benefit sanctions system. The DWP has issued its overdue response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions, but has failed to commit to a review as recommended.

The Select Committee, the Government's own advisors, the Social Security Advisory Committee, charities and Churches have all called for a full independent review of the regime. These groups have highlighted the extreme hardship caused, the inconsistent and unjust application of sanctions and the lack of evidence that they encourage people into work.

Read more: DWP 'stubbornly ignoring' calls for sanctions review

hopeinactionHere’s the latest poem, written for us, from Lucy Berry – URC minister and poet. Each month we’ll be featuring a new poem from Lucy on the URC’s website and social media channels. This month’s poem is called Attachment Theory, which, says Lucy: "is about the difficulty many people face believing in, trusting in – and acting upon – both human love and love from God".

Read more: Attachment Theory - Lucy Berry

It was a wonderful moment in the year 2000 when 189 of the world's leaders joined in signing up to the UN's millennium development goals. There were eight goals:

  1. to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. to achieve universal primary education
  3. to promote gender equality
  4. to reduce child mortality
  5. to improve maternal health
  6. to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. to ensure environmental sustainability
  8. to develop a global partnership for development

Women by roadside in IndiaGlobally, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015
© 2011, Gonzalo Bell for International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)

With millennium enthusiasm running high, many of us hoped for enormous progress by 2015, the deadline for the goals; and indeed, much has been achieved.

Read more: UN Day: Sustaining development