The Revd John Proctor, general secretary of the United Reformed Church, offers readers a Christmas message:
“It was in November that the summer finally gave up. When the month began you could still admire the red and gold of autumn leaves. But as we pass into December the branches are skeletons against a pale sky, the sun is low, and the prospect of evening seems to cling to the earth, even at noon. November, the month of Remembrance, breathes out a vapour of gloom and loss.
“Yet November has also brought us into Advent, and Advent speaks to all the Novembers of our heart. Out of the chills and the mists of living, as days shorten and our spirits shiver, a light appears, far off and faint yet full with clarity and promise. Then as it draws near, it meets us with a human face. ‘God with us’ enters the shadows, to offer a lighted path through our days and years.
“The turning of the Advent calendar reminds us, year by year, of the way God deals with the world: meeting loneliness with presence; bringing light to places of sorrow; taking flesh amid the coldness and fog of our days; entering time with a word of hope; not leaving us but loving us; and finally gathering our journeys into the sure and certain joy of Jesus.
“May God be with you this Advent and Christmas.”
The moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, Mr John Ellis and the Revd David Grosch-Miller, joined URC staff from Church House, in putting together a special Christian Aid Christmas appeal video. The film will be available next week and there will be a special edition of NU with the link.
Reform magazine is also running a story on the Christian Aid Advent appeal – you can read accounts by women in Kenya of how giving birth is being transformed by the maternal healthcare projects that the Appeal will help fund. Find out more in this month’s Reform.
Help deliver hope this Christmas!
Reform Christmas edition
There is plenty of Christmas fare in Reform this month. Try out two new Christmas hymns. Find out how to make sure your giving benefits the people who need it the most, and not just friends and family. And there’s a feature on maternal healthcare in Kenya.
And, did you know the Reform team have produced a guide to using the magazine in church all the year round? Reform is a resource for prayers, sermons, reflections and discussion groups, and the guide gives you ideas on how to make the fullest use of it. To request a free copy, email email@example.com.
Carla Grosch-Miller continues her series on God and sex, this month tackling the diverse history of Christian thinking and debate on the subject, while Alan Sell offers a different approach to the subject of same sex marriage. Neil Thorogood writes his first contribution to ‘Chapter & Verse’, with a study on Joshua 4. And David Goodbourn’s last article before he died in November is a moving and powerful reflection on the theme of ‘extra time’.
If you want to give a great gift this Christmas, try a gift subscription for Reform!
In February 2015 the United Reformed Church media team will be introducing a quarterly e-newsletter My URC.
My URC will be an opportunity to share the latest news, events, projects and programmes from your church with the wider URC. If you have stories, reflections, or news about your local URC that you would like to share with the rest of the church, then please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gill Nichol, URC head of communications, said: “My URC will be a great way in which churches across the three nations can learn, encourage, support and share from and with one another, and hopefully be inspired by the great ways in which different churches are working in and amongst their community.”
You will be able to sign up to My URC in January, and begin sending in your stories from 10 December.
Archbishop keynote address
Extra tickets have been made available for those wishing to attend the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby’s, keynote address at the upcoming ‘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.
Full day general tickets for the ‘Love your neighbour: Think, Pray, Vote’ conference – to be held at Coventry Central Hall on Saturday 21 February – have now sold out, however, due to high demand, the event organisers have made extra tickets available for those wishing to attend the Archbishop’s address – which will open the conference and set the scene for a day of reflection, discussion and Bible study. The conference will focus on the ways in which churches and individual Christians can help create a more just society in the build-up to the UK’s general election on 7 May 2015. Tickets are available here!
News in Brief
Christmas starts with Christ
The ‘Christmas starts with Christ’ campaign aims to help churches get the true message of Christmas out to their communities and help make sure people come to know that Christmas starts with Christ. Free resources have been made available here and find out how your church can get involved, by holding a ‘Christmas Starts with Christ’ event here.
Social media for beginners
On Tuesday 24 March, the communications team at Church House will be running a social media for beginner’s course aimed at those who want to use social media to actively engage with their community – but are not really sure where to start!
The full day workshop will start with a very practical session helping delegates get connected – with step-by-step instructions in getting started on facebook and twitter; and will also include a look at the potential benefits of using social media, plus some top tips on how to use and how to write for it. The day is free, includes lunch, and is open to anyone who attends a United Reformed church (lay person, elder, minister). Places are limited, but to register your interest, please email email@example.com.
The communications department of the United Reformed Church have just produced a clear set of guidelines for use within the denomination available here.
URC Youth Assembly
The United Reformed Church Youth Assembly on theme of ‘Treasures: Gifts from God’ will be taking place 23 – 25 January 2015 at Whitemoor Lakes, Staffordshire.
Together ethnic and minority URC
On 22 November around 30 people gathered at High Cross URC, Tottenham, to reflect on multiple ways of reading the Bible – as part of the Together Ethnic and Minority URC (TEAMurc).
The meeting included a Bible study that was led by Zadie Orr, a URC minister in training at Northern College, and John Campbell, URC minister of High Cross, Urban URC Network facilitator, and biblical scholar. There was also much conversation about the necessity of being an inclusive church. Read the full write up by the Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, URC secretary for racial justice and multicultural ministry here.
Building a Politics of Hope
The Joint Public Issues Team, in collaboration with the William Temple Foundation and the Church Urban Fund, is hosting a conference themed, ‘Building a Politics of Hope: Exploring the role of faith-based leadership in local communities’ on 24 February 2015, 10.00 am – 6.30 pm at St Bride Foundation, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ.
The conference concludes with a public lecture delivered by the founder of the Oasis Trust, the Revd Steve Chalke MBE. You can find out more about the ‘Building a Politics of Hope’ conference here.Tickets cost £15, and are available here.
As the Ebola crisis worsens in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Christian Aid’s country manager for Sierra Leone, Jeanne Kamara, has written a reflection for the United Reformed Church, reporting on how churches and Christian Aid partners are responding to the Ebola crisis.
You can read the full report here. We ask that you keep all those affected by the Ebola crisis in your thoughts and prayers.
Last minute shopping!
Advent has arrived and Christmas shopping has begun in earnest…so why not check out the latest offers from the United Reformed Church publications store to see if you can pick up some great Christmas presents.
The 2015 Prayer Handbook, a collection of unique prayers and meditations, would make someone a great gift, as would the Revd Carla Grosch Miller’s Psalms Redux, a beautiful collection of poems and prayers.There is plenty out to check out on the URC online store.
Each month the Joint Public Issues Team will be adding to its website a prayer update comprising a short reflection and prayer on a current issue in the team’s work. Download the updates here or sign up here to receive them in your inbox, along with the regular blog posts from the team.
22-28 August 2015: URC Holiday Forum, ‘Fun, faith and fellowship’, Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire
Courses from the Windermere Centre:
26-30 January 2015: Windermere Online Festival
9-11 February 2015: Visual Bible Retreat with Elizabeth Grey-King and Lawrence Moore
11-13 February 2015: iChurch Level 2 (for people already using the iChurch system to develop their skills)
20-22 February 2015: Church Treasurers’ Weekend, with John Ellis and Lawrence Moore
23-27 February 2015: Appreciative Inquiry Advanced (for those who have already completed an introductory-level course)
6-8 March 2015: Words Which Work, with Lucy Berry
26-29 March 2015: Card Mania, with Barbara Aspinall