Welcome to the first of the (almost) monthly editions of News Update. It comes direct from the communications team working at Church House and will be landing in your inbox 10 times a year. We hope it will keep you up to date with much that is happening at Church House and around the denomination, and that you enjoy the read!
All material is relevant to churches and congregations across the three nations. To comment on anything in this edition, or to submit material for possible inclusion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 21 October. All material submitted is subject to editing.
Whilst we have your attention, we’d also like to let you know that Martin Hazell has moved on from his role at Church House as director of communications and has returned to local ministry. His last day in post was 27 September and he was inducted as minister of Moat United Reformed Church, East Grinstead, on 28 September. As of 1 October, Gill Nichol, known to some of you as the press and media manager, has taken on the role of interim director of communications and can be contacted by email to email@example.com.Back to top
Westminster College update
The summer months have seen several big changes at Westminster College, not least the end of the Revd Dr Susan Durber’s ministry there as principal. Dr Durber left her post during the summer to take up an exciting new post as theology coordinator for Christian Aid.
As she said her final goodbyes to the college, Dr Durber looked forward to the start of the building project which she had been so involved in. She said: “We are so grateful to God and to all those who have supported us throughout the URC and beyond, that this has become possible … I wish all the staff here, and the new principal when appointed, every good wish for the future. May the construction period be as short as promised, pain free and reveal no unexpected things beneath the floors…”
On 24 June, the builders came, bearing witness to the tremendous effort and wonderful progress of the £7 Million Appeal in 2010. Thanks to the generous support of Synods, congregations and individuals across the URC, the appeal total stands at £6,735,363. Brian Long, convener of the appeal, said: “It would be marvellous to complete the fundraising – the appeal remains open!” The builders, up to 90 of them on site at any one time, are transforming the building, making it truly fit for purpose for the years ahead. Check out their Building Blog for full details – updates are also available on facebook and twitter.
As the physical building is being transformed, the staff teams, both academic and administrative, remained at work and are also planning for the future, putting together plans for programmes and events to maximise Westminster’s renewed potential. The Revd Neil Thorogood’s job as director of pastoral studies has been altered to enable him to spend time meeting lots of people across the URC, listening to what they would like to see Westminster offer; as a result, he is helping create new courses, events and resources. If you’d like to join in the discussion please email Neil.
For all enquiries about Westminster College’s work, please email the main office or call on 01223 330633. For information about using Westminster for committee meetings, conferences and events, email Sophie Wilson.Back to top
Reform at Greenbelt
Reform was at Greenbelt festival this August, and was so well received that plans are being considered for a greater United Reformed Church presence at the festival.
The marketing coordinator, Charissa King, and editor, Stephen Tomkins, led the team at Greenbelt, introducing festivalgoers to the magazine. Stephen said: “Most people were coming across the magazine for the first time, and were impressed. People from all kinds of church backgrounds took an interest in it, and some took out subscriptions there and then. It was a great chance to let people know that it exists.”
Plans are already underway for next year’s festival. Stephen explained: “Both we and the festival organisers have a sense that there is a common spirit shared by Greenbelt and the United Reformed Church – inclusivity, activism, questioning, diversity and engagement with the world. But the URC doesn’t have a high profile there at the moment. We need to talk about what we can do at Greenbelt to show people who we are and what we’re doing.”
What kind of venue or event at Greenbelt would enable the Church to engage festivalgoers, and demonstrate who we are? Join the discussion on facebook.Back to top
Youth Assembly 2014
“Lost and Found: People in Exile” is the theme of the 2014 Youth Assembly. The history of God’s people is one of exile and renewal, a cycle of finding, then forgetting, about God. The 2014 Youth Assembly event will explore how, when and why we feel lost or found and what lessons we can learn from times in the wilderness.
Youth Assembly is for all young people with a connection to the United Reformed Church who are aged from 14 (in school year 10/S3) to 25 years old. An amazing weekend of workshops, worship, games, movies and comedy is planned – so please let the young people connected to your church know about Youth Assembly. Don’t assume someone else will tell them, or that they wouldn’t want to go – just ask them and see what they say!
The Youth Assembly will be held at Whitemoor Lakes, Lichfield, Staffordshire between 24 and 26 January 2014. For more information please email. Updates will also be posted on the children and youth facebook page.Back to top
New-look Windermere website
The Windermere Centre’s website has had a full revamp and the Windermere team is certain that the new-look site will make it much easier to find whatever it is that you’re interested in. Courses are now displayed individually, and are sortable by type or by date. There’s also a dedicated page for church holidays, and one with information about church websites and the iChurch project. The whole site has been optimised for faster loading, and is designed to be far easier to use. Check it out!Back to top
Tired of talking? Try ArtTalk
The theme of the Revd Dr Michael Jagessar’s two-year term as Moderator of General Assembly (shared initially with Mrs Val Morrison and currently with Mr John Ellis) has been “Living Conversations on the Way”, a theme that is clearly focused on the importance of church and Christians developing and maintaining meaningful and real communication with each other.
The ArtTalk project, which the Moderators of General Assembly have endorsed and encouraged, fits into this theme. As its name suggests, it’s based on the simple idea that art gives us another way of talking. ArtTalk is facilitated by the Revd Elizabeth Gray-King – an artist-theologian and United Reformed Church minister. It offers creative opportunities to facilitate church projects and activities through the use of visual arts and it’s intended to enable “living conversations” on matters of faith and faithfulness.
The project is supported by a glossy image resource pack created by Elizabeth Gray-King. The 12 images it contains are intended as conversation starters and, whilst particularly good for small groups and informal settings, it can be used in a variety of ways and contexts. The packs cost £9.50 and can be ordered by emailing Tracey Hardingham.
Speaking of the potential benefits of ArtTalk, Elizabeth Gray-King said: “This project is all about getting people to talk about some of life’s more important things – and the resource pack is there to help them do just that. People often find it so easy to discuss something – anything – other than themselves, so it’s full of conversation starters for people of all faiths and none; giving them a way to more easily move around ideas and feelings.”
Writing in a recent blog post on ArtTalk, Dr Jagessar, said: “Christians, especially those of us from Protestant traditions, can be very ‘wordy’. Yet, for many, words can be hard to find and may even hinder conversations on matters of faith. Some [people] struggle to find new and appropriate words, while others may despair at their attempts to breathe new life into over-used words in order to share their faith. As people explain what they think and feel about an image, it is ‘easier’ to share their own stories/journeys and connect these with faith. ArtTalk draws on this to enable people to share and connect their stories and faith by conversing about and around images … Art, of course, cannot save us. But, at its best, it bears witness to something ‘beyond the hills’, as the psalmist declares.”
Read more about ArtTalk in Dr Jagessar’s blog post.Back to top
Now booking: Dates for your diary
Anytime your diary allows:In the company of … In the company of … is an innovative idea from Westminster College – a study time tailored to your interests. To participate, book yourself in to stay at Westminster (you can stay for as long as you like!), or come as a day visitor. Before you arrive, tell the college who you want to learn more about (for example a Bible character, Gospel writer or theologian whose work inspires you) and the college will arrange conversations to help you focus, and ensure you have good resources – not least through its library – to assist with your learning and help take things onwards. 12 October 2013: The church related community work (CRCW) roadshow takes place at the Milton Keynes Christian Foundation. 10.30am – 3.30pm. To book your free place email Samara Andrews or call 020 7916 8653. 19 October 2013:Annual Conference of the URC Peace Fellowship United Reformed Church House, 86 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RT. 15-17 November 2013:Elders’ Weekend at the Windermere Centre. A course for all elders – new and old – to share time, stories and fellowship together and learn more about being an elder and the role of elders in the church. Led by Linda Rayner and Lawrence Moore. 25-28 November 2013:Spiritual Direction at the Windermere Centre. If you’re interested in giving or receiving spiritual direction, this is a chance to find out more and to explore the possibilities. Led by Mark Argent and David Parkin of the URC retreats group. 9-11 December 2013:Art @ Advent at Westminster College. Explore what Advent has meant across the centuries by looking at, talking about and praying with art created in response to the season and its biblical texts. Dwell upon the ways in which Advent’s story is now speaking to you and to the world. Take time to create your own art in response to Advent’s cast of characters and the Holy Spirits encouragement. Book early – only 15 places. Led by the Revd Neil Thorogood, director of pastoral studies at Westminster. 23-27 December 2013:Christmas House Party Christmas is not a time to be alone. Come and join in the fun, friendship and fellowship of the Windermere Centre’s celebrations at this popular biannual event. Led by Margie and David Jenkins. 24 and 26 January 2014:Youth Assembly, Whitemoor Lakes, Lichfield, Staffordshire. See above for full details. 7-9 February 2014: Good Work from the Christian perspective: An ecumenical world development conference held at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hertfordshire. All are welcome. For more information please email Linda Mead.Back to top
On the move?
If you’re looking for a new home you might be interested to learn that the United Reformed Church retired ministers’ housing society has a small stock of properties for sale.
The current stock comprises: A purpose-built retirement apartment in Dorchester (Reference 761) A purpose-built flat south of Wakefield, ideal for the first-time buyer (Reference 763) A three-bedroom 1930’s style semi-detached house in Exmouth (Reference 112) A three-bedroom semi-detached property in a village near Wrexham (Reference 169) A retirement apartment in Cirencester (Reference 374) A retirement apartment in Kings Norton, Birmingham (Reference 421) A ground-floor flat set in its own grounds in Goring, near Worthing (Reference 211) A bungalow in Taunton (Reference CEN)
Andy Bottomley, secretary to the retired ministers’ housing society, says: “As you would expect, all of these properties have been well maintained and many are in enviable locations. If you are thinking of moving, and one of the properties listed above has caught your eye, then do give me a call on 020 7916 8636 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”Back to top
HOPE Season of Prayer
Join more than one million UK Christians of all denominations and intercede for our nation during the HOPE Season of Prayer (from 18 October 2013 to 31 January 2014). Download the daily prayer guide, which includes a prayer for each Sunday, and start praying for change. The prayers are also available as a Word document and can be added to local prayer calendars and church magazine prayer diaries.
There are two key dates during this season of prayer: 18 October: Festival of Life – a night of prayer hosted by the Redeemed Christian Church of God in London’s Excel Centre. If you’d like to attend this event please email the HOPE office or call on 01788 542 782. 31 December: Usher in HOPE 2014 by starting the year in prayer interceding for our nation.Back to top
Roots, the provider of lectionary-based worship and learning materials for all age groups, is offering a range of sample resources to churches keen to explore the same Bible passages with everyone in their congregation.
The sample resources available all help you to explore the parable of the rich man Dives, and the beggar Lazarus, from Luke 16. With children:An accessible story and Bible reading – printed in the Roots magazine, so you don’t need to use a separate children’s Bible. With young people:A Bible study for ages 11-16, with additional leaders’ notes and activity ideas on the web. With families/all ages together: An idea for exploring the reading accessible for all ages. With adults: A range of thought-provoking sermon ideas.
All Roots resources are written by experienced ordained and lay practitioners from across the denominations. The materials can be adapted easily to fit different forms of worship, sizes of congregation and group, and ages. To find out more about Roots and the subscription packages available, visit the website.Back to top