News Update From the URC – July 2014

July 2014

Subscribers  2,559
GA 2014
Farewell Roberta
Same-sex marriage
Why foodbanks?
News in Brief
Moderator inducted
Copyright alert!
Diary dates
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General Assembly 2014

Moderator’s address

Mr John Ellis, moderator of the General Assembly, tackled three key themes in his address to the Assembly:

  • A relationship with God, especially through prayer, can nourish us in ways nothing else can
  • If Christians believe what they say, they should be seen to be working together
  • It is important and possible to tell the story of Jesus in a way that captivates today’s generation.

The full text of his reflection is available here.

Farewell from outgoing moderator

The Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, the now immediate past moderator of the General Assembly, reflected upon his time as moderator in a passionate and lively speech. He described his time as moderator as being “filled with surprises, joys, frustration, much learning, and mischievous moments.” The full text of his speech is available here.

New general secretary

The Revd John Proctor was formally appointed as general secretary of the United Reformed Church during Assembly.

John Ellis, moderator of the General Assembly, paid tribute to the enormous contribution that John has already made to the church through his 28 years of service at Westminster. John’s term of office will briefly overlap with that of the outgoing general secretary, the Revd Roberta Rominger, who will formally step down from the role on 31 July 2014.

Induction of the Revd David Grosch Miller

The Revd David Grosch-Miller was inducted as minister moderator of the General Assembly 2014-2016, during the opening session of the United Reformed Church General Assembly 2014 on 3 July 2014.

In his address David gave a call to the denomination to be strong and confident in looking to the future; to recognise and “celebrate difference as a strength and not a weakness”; and to remember that the URC has been groundbreaking in church life for over a hundred years – mentioning the ordination of women, pioneering family church and our commitment to social justice.

A full copy of David’s address to the General Assembly can be found here.

The future of the United Reformed Church

General Assembly discussed the future of the United Reformed Church and passed three resolutions intended to: affirm the URC’s identity as both united and Reformed; affirm its gift of conciliarity; and match a need – the lack of ministers – with the Reformed gift of eldership. It was agreed the Faith and Order committee should bring a proposal to the 2016 Assembly.

Westminster College

The Revd Neil Thorogood, principal of Westminster College, reported a number of developments at the college. He told Assembly that: Modernising building work was completed on time and at a cost 3% over budget; the fundraising appeal, launched at Assembly in 2012, raised just over £7million – exceeding its target; and, the college is continuing to build on links with its partners in the Cambridge Theological Federation – the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide and the Woolf Institute for Abrahamic Faiths. Mr Thorogood also noted the “vision, wisdom and tenacity” of the former principal of Westminster, the Revd Dr Susan Durber; and the gifts of Professor Anthony Bottoms, who recently vacated his post as a chair of governors for the College.

New clerk of the General Assembly

The Revd Michael Hopkins was appointed as clerk of the URC General Assembly. He will replace outgoing interim clerk, the Revd James Breslin, who took on the role following the resignation of Mrs Margaret Carrick Smith. Michael will start an initial six year term as clerk on 6 November, immediately after the November 2014 meeting of Mission Council.

Election of Moderators of the General Assembly

Assembly elected its two moderators for 2016-18. The Revd Kevin Watson, currently moderator of the Yorkshire Synod will be ministerial moderator and Mr Alan Yates, an accredited lay preacher, elder and former member of the Thames North synod executive committee, will be the lay moderator.

Synod resolutions

Two synod-brought resolutions were passed by Assembly: South Western Synod challenged congregations to increase contribution to the ministry and mission fund by “at least 1%”. And the Synod of Scotland asked the URC to pray for those affected by the Scotland referendum; this was resolved by consensus, after the Assembly chaplain prayed for the situation in Scotland.

Jubilee ministers

The URC General Assembly applauded its jubilee ministers, the full list of which can be found here. Please note that we worked with the information provided to us and apologise for any errors and omissions.

Ordinations and commissions

The Revd Roberta Rominger, general secretary of the URC, introduced the newly-ordained ministers and church-related community workers to the Assembly; the full list is available here.

German perspective on WW1 commemoration

Michael Pernt-Weigel, a minister of a church in Winnweiler within the Church of the Palatinate with which the URC has had a Covenant of Table and Pulpit since 1957, spoke movingly on the commemoration of World War One from a German perspective. His full speech is available here.

Faith in Foodbanks?

The Faith in Foodbanks? resource pack produced by the Joint Public Issues Team was unanimously commended to churches by the Assembly. The Revd Tracey Lewis, convener of the mission committee, presented the resolution, noted the increasing numbers of people having to use foodbanks, who are not “scroungers” but people, often working, who cannot make ends meet. It is presently only available online, but Assembly agreed that a print version should be produced, which the Mission Committee agreed to. To download the pack, visit here.

Mental health

The Revd Tim Meachin, convener of the children and youth work committee, and Matthew Barkley, FURY moderator, presented a resolution on mental health, committing the URC to raising awareness of mental ill health issues, providing adequate training, and working towards ending the stigma of mental ill health. The resolution was passed by consensus.

Induction service

The following people were formally inducted: Mrs Jane Baird, deputy general secretary (administration and resources); Ms Francis Brienen, deputy general secretary (mission); and the Revd John Proctor, general secretary, were inducted into the service of the United Reformed Church during Sunday worship.

Bible studies

The Bible studies during General Assembly were given by the Revd Tim Searle and the Revd Kate Gray. On Sunday morning the Revd James Church was due to give a Bible study but, because of the pressures of business he agreed not to. The scripts of all three Bible studies, together with copies of other papers delivered at Assembly, are available here.

Inclusive language

The General Assembly endorsed the consideration of inclusive and expansive language in worship. This resolution, which was built on the Assembly’s 1984 commitment to use inclusive language, was passed by agreement following an amendment to give due consideration to the use of imagery, as well as words, in worship.Back to top

Same-sex marriage

On 6 July 2014, the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, moved forward with its discussions on the marriage of same-sex couples.

The issue was considered throughout the Assembly, including a facilitation group report which was written after Assembly had heard from a wide range of speakers with varying views. On the final day, a resolution was passed which reflects the range of views expressed on the floor of General Assembly.

It honours the sense of urgency expressed by those who had hoped that this Assembly would allow same-sex marriages in their churches; it honours the wish of a majority that the celebration of same-sex marriages should be a matter for local church decision; and it honours the deeply-held convictions of those members who remain deeply opposed to the marriage of same-sex couples in church.

The resolution gives local churches a nine-month period of consultation to reflect, gather and report on the views of their members.

It also allows the November 2014 meeting of Mission Council to call a special “one issue, one day” meeting of the General Assembly without the need to wait for the next scheduled meeting of Assembly in July 2016.

The Revd Roberta Rominger, outgoing general secretary of the URC, said: “The Assembly was deeply prayerful, the level of listening was like nothing I have heard before; it provided a space in which people were able to offer profound vulnerability. I feel that God was with us. In our last vote, after much soul searching, we were fully united in agreeing a way forward which has the potential for enabling the church to journey further down the road together.”

The full news story, facilitation group report and resolution are available here.Back to top

Moderator inducted

In the opening session of General Assembly 2014, the Revd David Grosch-Miller was inducted as moderator of the General Assembly, to serve from 2014-2016.

As moderator of the General Assembly David will join Mr John Ellis, elder moderator of the URC General Assembly 2013-2016; the role of the moderators is to be the national figureheads for the denomination, representing the URC both internally and within the wider world; they chair major meetings, visit churches at home and abroad, and seek to provide worship, teaching and pastoral care.

Following his induction service, David gave thanks to the Revd Dr Michael Jagessar for his service as moderator of the General Assembly 2012-2014, saying: “Not long now and you can slip off stage and you can go back to who you were before you were inducted as moderator. But you can never go backwards in the journey of faith, it may sometimes feel like we are going round in circles, or we have missed the turning, but the journey changes us, whatever the landscape, and it has changed you.”

Addressing both Michael and his wife, the Revd Leonora Jagessar-Visser’t Hooft, minister of Trinity, Bricket Wood and Harpenden URCs, David said: “Thank you for being the special people you are and for being willing to share this journey with us.”

You can read the full story of David’s call to ministry and expectations for his role as Moderator of the General Assembly in a recent interview in Reform available here.

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The winners of this year’s community project awards, sponsored by the Congregational and General insurance company, were announced at General Assembly.

The overall winner was Glenorchy Work Club, whose organisers were presented with a cheque for £3,500 and a wall plaque. Based at Glenorchy United Reformed Church in Exmouth, the Work Club aims to support and build the confidence of unemployed people within the Exmouth area. This covers every aspect of their job search, including help preparing CV’s, offering basic computer training for those who need it, as well as advertising local job vacancies. The full news story is available here.

The three equal runners-up, each awarded £2000, were Messy Church SEND, a project which aims to make families with disabled children feel welcome, accepted and loved regardless of their condition, which is run from Adeyfield Free Church in Hemel Hempstead; Chapelfield Grow Your Own, a scheme established by Stand URC in Manchester, that uses church land, local residents’ gardens and other unused spaces provided by a local housing association, Six Counties Housing, to grow organic fruit and vegetables distributed to people locally; and Hope Restored, a support project where homeless people can get a warm welcome, a hot meal and help with getting their lives back on track, operating from Gloddaeth United Church in Llandudno.

Short films of the community project award winners can be seen here. We are grateful to the filmmaker, URC minister the Revd Dr Kevin Snyman, who generously gave of his time and talents.Back to top

Why foodbanks?

The United Reformed Church and the Trussell Trust, Wales, challenged the growing crisis of food poverty in Wales by hosting a “Breadline Question Time” event on Friday 4 July, at City URC, Cardiff. Panellists included MPs and charity executives who debated the increasing rise of foodbank usage and the impact of food poverty on families in Wales.

Members of the General Assembly and general public gathered to discuss the tens of thousands of people who are living below the poverty line in Wales, relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and their families. On the panel (pictured from left to right) was Tony Graham, Trussell Trust foodbank network manager, Wales; Kirsty Davies, head of Oxfam Cymru; Julie Jarman, programme manager, Church Action on Poverty; and Stephen Doughty, Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth.

The discussion highlighted that, in Wales in the 2013-2014 financial year 51,148 adults and 27,901 children relied on Trussell Trust foodbanks. Housing benefit cuts and changes to council tax support has, according to research undertaken by Oxfam and the New Policy Institute, left 1.75 million of the poorest families in the UK significantly worse off.

Kirsty Davies, Oxfam, said: “We should not have food banks in the seventh richest country in the world. If we have, it’s because the government is failing. The welfare bill could be paid many times over by the tax that is legally avoided.”

“Many Tories give generously to charity and support food banks” added Stephen Doughty MP, “the difference is that they are not questioning the system that causes their poverty. Charity is not enough – we need justice.”

The event included the sharing of a very personal and emotional narrative of a woman who was left with no choice but to turn to food banks, and that made Julie Jarman’s call for “people to challenge the views that stigmatise people in need”  a central message at the Breadline Question Time event.

Find out more about how the URC has been tackling the issue of food banks here.

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Copyright alert!

In recent months Church House has become aware of two occasions where unintentional copyright infringements have resulted in local churches being faced with legal action. On both occasions the infringement centred on a short poem: The Dash by Linda Ellis – being published without permission in church newsletters and/or church websites.

Please take great care in all that you publish – and never publish items that you don’t have permission to publish (e.g. poems, prose extracts, song/hymn lyrics).  If you do want to publish something that’s protected by copyright, please seek written (or emailed) permission from the copyright holder before you print it in your newsletter or post it on your church website.

We also recommend that churches check their insurance cover to ensure that appropriate insurance cover is in place in the event that a claim for breach of copyright is made.

In the event that you do receive a threat of legal action we suggest that you take legal advice, but, in the first instance, please do contact Gill Nichol, the URC’s interim’s director of communication, for initial advice before responding.

The CCLI website is an excellent source of information on copyright law.

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Farewell Roberta

During Assembly a “liturgy of letting go” was delivered by the Revd David Grosch-Miller, for the farewell of the Revd Roberta Rominger, whose term as general secretary of the United Reformed Church ends on 31 July 2014.

David gave a heartfelt speech, saying: “Roberta, you have touched lives and changed them for the better. You have been a courageous and inspirational general secretary; you have given without reserve… you are a woman with rare gifts and abilities; there is no more inspirational speaker than you.”

Roberta said: “Ministry is all one; there are different spheres of service… I love the church with all my heart… it has been the most awesome and amazing privilege, thank you!”

On 10 July Church House said goodbye to Roberta over a farewell lunch which included speeches, laughter, tears and cake!  During the lunch Krystyna Pullen, who had worked as Roberta’s PA during the six years Roberta has served as general secretary, read out a poem she’d written in honour of Roberta.

It’s been six years of work well done
Some of which was even fun
Emails never ceased arriving
And there was never time for skiving.

Problem solving all the time
All of this to earn a dime
Now it’s the time to have a rest
And do whatever’s best.

Meetings, people, everywhere
Never a phrase like “I don’t care”
Phone calls, emails, letters, Skype
All were done without the hype.

Roberta loves to play the cello
Guaranteed to make one mellow
When life gets busy and/or boring
Cello is sanity-restoring.

The time has come to say cheerio
It’s sad to see Roberta go
But whatever it is that life will bring
She is surely wished the Lord’s Blessing.

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News in Brief

New URC media app!

The URC has launched a free media app which makes keeping up with all URC news and data easier than ever. The app keeps its users up-to-date with all URC news stories and also links to the denomination’s facebook and twitter pages, Reform magazine and our online Yearbook and church directory.

The app is for use on all android mobile devices – with an iPhone specific version coming later in the year. Download the official URC media app for here, or from Amazon (search for urc media app) and Google Play (search for urcmedia ).

New national rural officer

The Revd Elizabeth Clark, has been appointed as the new national rural officer for the Methodist Church and United Reformed Church. Ms Clark will be known to many from her service as rural officer for Yorkshire and Hull.

CRCW Roadshow

The URC’s church related community work (crcw) department is going on the road again this year with two exciting events, designed to show the ways in which the crcw projects are making an impact among particular congregations and communities. There will be good food, conversation and storytelling – what more could anyone want?

The roadshow will take place on Saturday 4 October at Bishop Latimer United Church, Birmingham, 10.30 – 3.30pm. It’s free, but those wishing to attend must book their place by emailing the crcw office. Any churches considering an application for a crcw project, please contact one of the crcw development workers, Steve Summers or Suzanne Adofo, before 15 October 15 2014.

Lost and found

The children’s and youth department will be holding a Voyagers and Navigators (V&N) event within the Pilots organisation, available to all Pilots 11-18 year olds. Following the children’s and youth work annual theme of Lost and Found, V&N will prepare young people for and going on a journey, through games, activities, challenges, crafts, music and worship.

Karen Morrison, the denomination’s head of children’s and youth work, said: “It is an excellent opportunity for Pilots to make friends, experience the wider Pilots family and share something of their own Pilots experience, in a fun and friendly environment.”

The event will take place at Kintbury, 4 August – 7 August, find out more here.

Secretary of the Methodist Conference vacancy

The Methodist Church is seeking to discern a presbyter in full connexion with the British Methodist Conference who has the vision, experience and knowledge to be the secretary of the Methodist Conference from 1 September 2015. For further details, please see here.Back to top

Diary dates

Courses from the Windermere Centre:

18-22 August: Older Folks’ Fellowship

19-21 September: Being Connected: New Media Weekend

From the Arthur Rank Centre:

11 October: Germinate: growing and equipping rural mission

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