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Community Project Award winners

 DSC5877This lunch time the General Assembly celebrated the work of the many community-based projects based in or linked to United Reformed Churches the length and breadth of the three nations.

At a short awards ceremony Michael Jagessar, the immediate past moderator of the General Assembly and one of the judges of the awards, made mention of the high standard of the awards and of the very difficult task the judges had faced in choosing just four winners.

The overall winner, presented with a cheque for £3,500 and a wall plaque, was Glenorchy Work Club. Based at Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth, the Work Club provides specialist help to the unemployed community following the closure of Exmouth job centre. No formal records are kept, but in the two years since the project opened, at least 110 people have found work as a direct result of help received at the Work Club.


Assembly discusses marriage of same-sex couples

Assembly-Hall-imageFollowing a discussion on the marriage of same-sex couples, General Assembly is to appoint a facilitation group to draw up a resolution on the issue, which will be debated later in the Assembly.

Before the discussion began, chaplain Nigel Uden led Assembly in prayer, asking that the “lively presence of the Holy Spirit” would not be resisted. Elizabeth Caswell, convener of the Human Sexuality Task Group, explained that the group had not wanted to steer Assembly by bringing its own resolution. Instead it wished to encourage open discussion, allowing General Assembly to “listen and listen”, trust the Holy Spirit and “see what happens next”.

A range of views and personal stories were shared in a plenary forum chaired by moderator David Grosch-Miller:


The future of the United Reformed Church

facebook banner assembly14General Assembly discussed the future of the church, and agreed to three resolutions instructing the Faith and Order committee to continue with its work on this and bring a proposal to the 2016 Assembly. Presenting the resolutions, the Revd Elizabeth Welch, said that they affirm the United Reformed Church’s identity as both united and Reformed. They affirm the URC’s gift of conciliarity while opening up conversation on how well it is working and how to develop it, she said. And they match a need - the lack of ministers - with a gift of the Reformed tradition - eldership.

Comments from delegates included the following: “The URC should be a prophetic witness to unity even if other denominations are no longer so interested.” “We need to consider how developing URC conciliarity will effect LEPs.” “Changing the role of elders should be done for theological reasons, not just to plug a gap.” Mrs Welch said the committee would look at the issues raised before presenting their 2016 proposal.



Accord faith schools debate

accordThe subject of segregation in faith schools was debated in a special interest group led by the Accord Coalition. The chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, argued that Judaism and the United Reformed Church have a common cause of fairness, which is not always what happens in admissions to faith schools. Children of all faiths should attend the same school, he said, and church schools should teach all religions, not just their own.
The second member of the panel, Revd Ian McDonald, argued that Christianity is incompatible with favouritism. He said that the present system encourages hypocrisy - going to church purely to get a school place. The third panellist, the Revd Tim Meachin, shared his experience as a teacher, that faith schools can operate fairly, giving pupils a strong sense of mission and what they can go on to achieve, but can also be highly exclusive.
It emerged in the discussion that there are both state schools and private schools operating under a URC banner, but that delegates didn’t know a lot about them as there is no central oversight. The questions were raised: Could more information be made available? Could a URC policy statement be made on fairness in school selection?