National News Update


Partnership success at Greenbelt festival

The URC celebrated a successful debut as an associate partner of the Greenbelt arts, faith and justice festival. Greenbelt took place in the grounds of Boughton House, Northamptonshire, over August Bank Holiday Weekend, and the packed programme featured four URC-led events on the theme of ‘Scrap the Church?’ A panel discussion took place on Saturday, considering whether the Church is what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the Kingdom of God; Cake and Debate on the same theme for young people took place the next day; and pop-up liturgy focused on discovering Jesus at the tomb, on the road to Emmaus and at the lakeside. A star-themed treasure hunt proved to be particularly popular, while an art installation featuring a scrap metal church prompted many a discussion as it changed shape over the course of the weekend! Plans are now being made for the URC’s involvement in Greenbelt 2017.

Race equality in Britain

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published the biggest ever review into race equality in Britain. The report, ‘Healing a divided Britain – the need for a comprehensive race equality strategy’, found that life has got much worse for ethnic minority groups, especially young black people, over the past five years. The study covered every aspect of people’s lives, including education, employment, housing, pay and living standards, health, criminal justice and participation.

Reflecting on the findings, the URC’s global and intercultural ministries team, said it is evident that not enough is being done to tackle the increasing racial tensions and widening inequalities in our country. ‘These inequalities are not new,’ the team added. ‘They are deep-rooted. And as Christians we have a duty to work to guarantee the fullness of life for all, a life free of racism, xenophobia, hate-crimes and structural inequalities.’

Read more

Disqualifying racism

The United Reformed Church (URC) has responded to the calls of its partner church in the US, the United Church of Christ, to share solidarity with Native American communities in addressing the racially demeaning name, mascot, and imagery of the Washington national football league (NFL) team, the “Washington Redskins” – who are scheduled to play at Wembley Stadium on 30 October.

The URC’s General Secretariat gave their backing to the campaign by writing to the directors of Wembley Stadium, BBC Sport and NFL UK. The letters call on Wembley Stadium to take into consideration its own commitment to “show the red card to racism”, and prevent any acts of racial discrimination, offensive or abusive language and imagery in sport. They urge the stadium authorities and NFL UK to reconsider their decision to host the game here.

Mission opportunity in India

Applications are now open for the Council for World Mission’s ‘Building Life-Affirming Communities’ programme, which aims to get theology students ‘face to face with the many poor and the many faiths in Asia’. Participants will explore the country, learning from the United Reformed Church’s partners in India. The trip will take place next year (from 24 February to 8 April 2017) but the deadline for applications is 15 November 2016. The programme is not open to ordained minsters. For more information, or to apply, email Eve Parker.

Infinite possibilities on Radio 4

Adrian Moore, joint church secretary at St Columba’s URC in Oxford, will host a Radio 4 series on ‘A History of the Infinite’ later this month. Broadcast every week day between Monday 19 September and Friday 30 September (1.45pm to 2pm), the series will tell the story of evolving conceptions of the infinite over the past 2,500 years. All aspects of the topic will be covered: the philosophical, the mathematical, the scientific, and the theological. Each programme will include interviews with experts in the field.

Adrian will consider questions about the age and size of the universe, about death and immortality, and about our basic urge to seek meaning for our lives in something infinitely greater than us.

Youth Assembly 2017

Booking for the URC Youth Assembly 2017 is now open for anyone between the ages of 14 and 25 (inclusive). The URCYA17 will take place from 27 to 29 January 2017 at Whitemoor Lakes, Alrewas, Staffordshire. The theme for the Assembly is ‘Feasts & Festivals’ with URC Youth adding the tagline of ‘We’re all invited!’ Record numbers are expected for 2017 so book early because the price goes up after 9 November (on or before 8 November: £100/on or after 9 November £120).

The aim of the weekend? To ‘focus on Jesus, to share in community with other young people, and to explore what it means to be church together.’

Off to Scotland

The Revd Dr David Pickering, the new moderator of the Synod of Scotland, received a wealth of personal gifts and many good wishes on his last Sunday at St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Leeds. At the special farewell service, Dr Pickering’s favourite hymns were sung and presentations were made to thank him for his 12-year service at the church. The thank-you-celebrations followed on from an evening reception when the church hall was decorated with the theme of cycling and Crystal Palace football club.

Dr Pickering used his last editorial for St Andrew’s URC newsletter to thank church members and friends for their gifts. He was subsequently inducted as Moderator of the URC’s National Synod of Scotland on 16 July. The induction service was hosted by Giffnock URC and the retiring collection from the service was donated to Eco-Congregation Scotland.

Youth Executive meets

The URC Youth Executive met to discuss a range of topics, including its commitment to supporting Christian Aid, raising awareness about concern for the environment, and how the Church and URC Youth can better support students. The meeting also heard a report from a task group which was commissioned to research the feasibility of synod youth camps.

Sandy Nunn, the URC’s Youth Assembly Moderator, said: ‘The URC Youth Executive meeting was a huge success! We enjoyed some great times of fellowship, as well as making progress on numerous topics on the URC Youth agenda, especially the planning of Youth Assembly 2017.’ The executive will meet again from 11 to 13 November at Whitemoor Lakes. Find out more.

This month in Reform

‘A letter from Brexitville’, a Buddhist’s perspective on Jesus and a reflection on how churches can be more welcoming to transgender people – just three of the many articles in the September issue! The main interview this month is with Jonathan Bartley, who has just become joint leader of the Green Party alongside Caroline Lucas.

A subscription to Reform is just £25 for 10 issues so #jointhedebate. Go digital from £6 for three months.

Students get 50% off the full price of a year’s digital subscription. To activate this offer, students should apply the following code, STUDY50, to the basket before checking out. At 10 issues a year, the 50% offer works out at the bargain price of just 90 pence per issue.

Praying for 2018…!

Feasts and festivals, the 2017 prayer handbook is now available from the online store for just £6.50. As always, it’s filled with inspiring prayers from writers across and beyond the denomination. The 2017 prayer handbook trialled the idea of opening up submissions to prayer writers of all ages – and the editors, Richard Church and Nathan Eddy, were so pleased with the response that they are doing it all over again! As always the prayer handbook will follow the lectionary and we’ll be bringing more details of how to submit prayers to the 2018 prayer handbook later this month – so watch out for news via the website, facebook and twitter.

Black History Month

The URC’s global and intercultural ministries team will be marking Black History Month in October by sharing daily updates on facebook and twitter, including reflections, Bible studies, prayers, art work, event details, and poetry from people within the UK – and partners from around the world. Join the conversation by following them online.

Introducing Karen and Natasha

In August, two new staff members joined the communications team.

Karen Carter took up her role as the United Reformed Church Communications Officer on 8 August. Mrs Carter’s passion is stories: gathering the URC’s stories and sending the good news out. An experienced journalist, she previously worked as Press and Media Officer for Fresh Expressions. You can contact her on 020 7520 2715 or email.

And, on 9 August, Natasha Springer started in her role as Publications Coordinator. Ms Springer will be developing the work of the publication office – specifically the marketing of URC publications to a wider audience.

Oldham church seeks large print hymnbooks

Rejoice and Sing – the large print edition – is now out of print, yet some churches are actively looking for copies. The publications office at Church House is hoping to help meet a need by pairing churches looking for these special editions with churches that, for one reason or another, have one or more copies they are no longer using.

Union Street United Reformed Church in Oldham, Greater Manchester, for instance, is currently looking for 25 large print editions of Rejoice and Sing. Could your church help supply theirs?

If you have copies that are surplus to requirement, please email Natasha Springer with the details. Churches and customers who would like to acquire a copy may register their interest by emailing the same address. Please include your email address, postal address, and phone number, together with the number of copies you are looking for – and we will get in touch if we can help.

Publications Board

The communications committee is in the process of re-forming the publications board – and is looking for at least one more member to join it. We’re looking for people from every part of the denomination who have an interest in developing the URC’s publications output. The ideal member will have current or recent publishing experience in digital or traditional publishing – and be keen, able and willing to share their expertise through working as part of the board for the benefit of the wider denomination! The board will use email and virtual meetings where possible with one physical gathering per year, so location is less important. If you are interested, or would like more info, please contact the committee convenor, the Revd Heather Whyte, via Gill Nichol.

News from Global Church

Two URC ordinands are currently enjoying their intensive six week ‘International Placement Encounters’ with global church partners. Andrew Mudahara is with the Presbyterian Church of Cuba while Barnabas Shin, Northern College, is in the Pfalz, learning from the Church of the Palatinate in Germany. You can find out more about learning opportunities with the global church here.

Postgrad network

The education and learning committee is seeking to identify people in the URC who have completed post graduate studies in any discipline, with the intention of developing networks of those engaged in academic research. This is both for the purposes of peer support and as a denominational resource for the URC.

If you are interested in this project you will be sent an online questionnaire asking about dissertations, theses or other publications resulting from your research interests. For more information, please email Philippa Linton.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Simon Fairnington, Thames North Synod Clerk, is celebrating after winning first prize in a London short story competition. The story, called ‘Saturday Night Soldier’, is about a man reconnecting with his Grandad who fought in WW1’s Battle of the Somme.
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