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 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:

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.

 

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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Civil partnership debateThis afternoon the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church turned its attention to same-sex relationships, specifically whether or not to allow civil partnerships to be registered in United Reformed Church premises. During an hour-long debate both sides of the argument were heard, but the Assembly agreed the resolution (that local churches were able to take a decision on whether to allow registrations to take place in there buildings) and in so doing has become the first mainstream Christian denomination to allow same-sex partners to register their civil partnership in church.

This resolution takes effect immediately and enables local United Reformed Churches in England and Wales to consider whether they wish to allow civil partnerships to be registered on their premises (i.e. for the legal formalities, as well as the religious ceremony, to take place in church).  Once a church has decided to take this step, it will need to ask its trustees to apply to the superintendent registrar of the relevant local authority to become registered as an approved venue.

The decision about applying to register as a legal place for civil partnerships will be in the hands of each local church meeting; the denomination cannot estimate how many of its churches will take advantage of this resolution. However, several of its churches have made it known that they will be seeking registration and are expected to be amongst the first wave of early adopters.
 
One such is City United Reformed Church in Cardiff; its minister, The Revd Adrian Bulley said: “For many years this church has been hosting services of blessing for those who have entered a civil partnership.  How sad that these couples have had to go through two ceremonies to enable their union to be blessed by God in the context of prayer and worship.  How wonderful that General Assembly has now opened the door and enabled those local churches that wish to do so, to register their premises in order that same-sex couples may have a single ceremony – both religious and legal – to mark their commitment to each other. This is a very welcome decision, finally enabling the Church to offer to same sex-couples what heterosexual couples have for so long taken for granted.”
 
The Revd Steve Faber, URC minister at Riverside Church in Sleaford, said: “This is a difficult issue but what is important to me is that we continue to work together, as we seek the mind of Christ over this issue. I’m saddened that we have taken this step before we have finished these conversations. Some of our ecumenical partners, who won’t support our move, will feel that we have reached a conclusion on the matter, when as a denomination; we are far from that place. We need to keep talking, not stop the conversation, through precipitate action by a few local churches.  It is not about drawing battle lines, this is absolutely a conversation that I’m keen to continue.”

The Revd Kirsty Thorpe, immediate past moderator of the United Reformed Church, added: “We have a long way to go in terms of recognising and supporting those people in our churches who are in lasting, loving, mature same-sex relationships. This resolution could help those congregations who are already on this journey to reach a new stage in their understanding of how best to support and relate to such couples. There are other congregations in the United Reformed Church for whom the possible recognition in church of same-sex relationships would be a total contradiction of their theological understanding and identity. I hope and pray that we can continue to respect one another’s diversity on this matter, as we do in positive ways for other issues in our denominational life where we don’t all share the same views.”