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."


Faith through a lens

faith-through-lensAre you interested in entering a national photography competition celebrating “Faith Through a Lens”? The Congregational & General is holding a prestigious annual photography competition which celebrates diverse representations of faith. Now in its fifth year, the contest is aimed at amateur photographers across the UK and is calling for creative photography that showcases everyday demonstrations and expressions of faith.

Time for creation

creation-timeFrom 1 September to the 4 October churches around the world will be taking time to pray for the protection of creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change.


Archbishop to deliver keynote speech at public issues conference

welbyThe Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will give the keynote address at the ‘Love your neighbour: Think, Pray, Vote’ conference organised by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. This will be the third such conference arranged by the three churches and will be held at Coventry Central Hall on Saturday 21 February 2015.

Moderator prayers for Scotland

mod-prayers-for-scotlandAs the date of the Scottish referendum draws closer and politicians from both sides continue their campaigns for a Yes or No vote, the Revd John Humphreys, moderator of the synod of Scotland, reflects on the subject of Scottish independence and how we as a church can respond:


Racial Justice Sunday 2014

racial-justice-picThe second Sunday of September is Racial Justice Sunday, an initiative of churches together in Britain and Ireland that offers an opportunity for Christians to focus their worship, prayer and action on racial justice by celebrating human diversity and rejoicing in how far God’s people have travelled together, whilst acknowledging that there is much further to go both in the Church and in the world.


Churches campaign for the abolition of Trident ahead of Peacemaking Sunday

JPIT logoAs diplomatic initiatives gather pace to build a framework for a nuclear-weapon-free world, three British Churches are reiterating their call for the abolition of Trident. The call comes in advance of Peacemaking Sunday, which falls on 21 September this year.


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.