The United Reformed Church commemorates the lives behind the names of World War One

poppy red and whiteThousands of red and white poppies have bloomed across the United Kingdom as the United Reformed Church begins a series of commemorations to mark the outbreak of World War One.

 

The United Reformed Church prays for peace in the land we call Holy

URC-Logo-Web-2014As the situation in Israel and Palestine worsens, and the number of lives lost and civilians wounded continues to rise, the United Reformed Church prays for peace and an end to the suffering. You may like to join us, using this prayer written by the Revd John Proctor, general secretary of the United Reformed Church:

 

Prayers for the people of Scotland in the run up to the referendum

scottish voteA resolution brought forward by the synod of Scotland at the United Reformed Church General Assembly last month, called for the URC to pray for the people of Scotland before, during and following the independence referendum to be held on 18 September 2014. The resolution stated: "These prayers should be for all, regardless of conviction, recognising how important the peoples of these islands are to each other."

 

The Windermere Centre offers radical generosity – not raised prices

Windermere CentreThe Windermere Centre – one of the United Reformed Church’s resource centres for learning – has taken the radical decision of abandoning its policy of charging set fees for guests attending courses and events or simply using the centre as a base for a holiday in the Lake District.

 

The United Reformed Church offers statement of solidarity on crisis in Iraq and Syria

iraq crisisModerator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, the Revd David Grosch-Miller, offers the following statement of solidarity as the crisis continues to unfold in Syria and communities in northern Iraq continue to face unrelenting persecution for their religious beliefs:

“As we witness hundreds of thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and members of other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities being forced from their homes, displaced, persecuted and murdered in northern Iraq and eastern Syria, we call for prayer and acts of solidarity. 

“The atrocities committed by the so-called 'Islamic State' militants have led to the massacre of thousands of men, women and children belonging to religious minority groups. The violence has displaced approximately 1.2million people in Iraq alone including followers of Islam. The thousands of Yazidis who were trapped on Mount Sinjar with no access to food or water, have now escaped into northern Iraq – searching for refuge anywhere possible. Yazidi villages in Iraq are reportedly being taken over by Islamic State militants who are rounding up and executing the men and taking the women to undisclosed locations. Thousands of Christians in the region are now in exile, as communities flee for their lives to take refuge in Kurdish cities.

Community Project Awards 2014

Community-project-playlist-videosOn 6 July the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church celebrated the work of the many community-based projects based in or linked to United Reformed Churches with the Congregational and General sponsored Community Project Awards.

Four projects won awards – the overall winner was Glenorchy Work Club based at Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth and the three runners up were Chapelfield Grow Your Own; Hope Restored, and Messy Church SEND.  Short films of all four projects are available here.

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“Get on with it, get on with it, get on with it.” The words of one of the General Synod representatives echoed round the hall, encouraging General Synod to move on with their relations with the United Reformed Church.

This tone was echoed by other speakers, particularly those speakers involved in URC/Church of England Local Ecumenical Partnerships. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, spoke in favour of the report and praised the work of URC minister the Revd Dr John Morgans, in Penrhys (1989 – 2004) as a shining example of what the creativity of the URC has achieved. Others spoke similarly about the experience of URC creativity and ecumenical enthusiasm.

Last night – Monday 11 July – the General Synod of the Church of England debated and voted on the proposal that the Church of England and the United Reformed Church should continue their work to move the two denominations closer together.

General Synod had set aside one and a half hours for the debate, and even that was not long enough to hear all those who had asked to speak. Anglican representatives demonstrated high levels of knowledge of the URC, with many speaking positively of their experience of the United Reformed Church, locally and regionally. Many stories were heard of specific, successful, local initiatives such as Lent courses, pre-school activities and sharing of buildings.  There was strong affirmation of the URC’s ecumenical commitment, and the question asked: “Has not the time come to agree the goal of full visible unity?”

The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, opened the debate by referring to 1662, a date that resonates for both churches, in radically different ways. For the Church of England, it was the time of a breakthrough taking them forward peacefully out of a turbulent period. For the United Reformed Church, it was the year of the Great Ejection, when clergy were evicted from their parishes.  Bishop Christopher invited us to look at what the two denominations can hold in common, for example, reclaiming ecumenical heroes such as Richard Baxter.

The Revd Graham Maskery, URC representative on General Synod, drew attention to the issue of the difference of size between the two churches, and the need to hold this within an international context. He pointed out that the URC, through its membership of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, is part of an international body of a similar size to the Anglican Communion.

Appreciation was expressed of the proposal to hold a joint service in Westminster Abbey in February 2012, including an act of penitence and prayer for the healing of memories, as well as a commitment to move forward further together.  Archbishop Rowan suggested looking at the way in which conscientious suffering can be a gift to the whole body of Christ, to be received by different traditions which have been involved in making martyrs.

Reference was made to significant issues which still need addressing, such as theology of Holy Communion, personal episcopacy and financial and structural issues.

At the end of a powerful and moving debate, General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of the two resolutions being put – to hold a joint service in Westminster Abbey and to continue the discussion of outstanding issues between the two churches. There were no votes against, only warm encouragement to move closer together.

The acceptance of both resolutions by General Synod follows the acceptance of the same proposals by the URC’s Mission Council which met in May.