News Update December 2016/January 2017
The United Reformed Church
DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017
Wishing you all a blessed, peaceful Christmas and a joyful 2017
A Very British Nativity reflects UK’s ‘hostile environment’
.What sort of welcome would Mary and Joseph receive if they found themselves in the UK, instead of Bethlehem, this Christmas? A new film, A Very British Nativity, challenges us to rethink what we know about the nativity story, by highlighting the treatment and experiences of asylum seekers living in the UK.
The film’s release, on Friday 2 December, came the day after the publication of new figures from the government which revealed that, in September of this year, 37,958 asylum seekers in the UK were in receipt of accommodation and/or financial support of less than £6 per day.
Whilst primarily focusing on a young Mary and Joseph’s efforts to find somewhere safe to stay in the UK, the film also includes a cameo from the wise men who have ditched their trusty camels in favour of micro scooters.
The video was produced by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) and directed by Grace Pengelly, Secretary of Church and Society for the United Reformed Church. Supporters of the film are sharing it on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #averybritishnativity.
Book now for The Big Day Out at Warwick!
Open up those 2017 diaries and make a date for Saturday 20 May when the whole URC is invited to enjoy The Big Day Out, organised by Pilots, at Warwick Castle. This is festival for all ages where activities will run from 10am to 5pm in the historic and beautiful setting. Individuals and groups, with their church communities and wider family and friends, are all welcome to be part of what promises to be a day to remember.
Tickets include access to the castle and attractions where Big Day Out visitors can have a go at archery, watch birds of prey in flight, take part in worship with hundreds of others, and listen to influential and engaging speakers – including General Secretary John Proctor.
Booking forms, available from the Feasts and Festivals desk, should be returned as soon as possible, but no later than 31 March 2017. Booking packs, with advertising materials and forms, have been sent to all churches so ask your minister, or church secretary, for details.
ROC Youth Café: a place to ‘be yourself’
Friday night is ROC Youth Café night in Edgeley, near Stockport. Based in a café on the Cheshire town’s high street; its aim is to provide a safe, comfortable, sanctuary for young people aged 11 to 16 – reports Youth Assembly Moderator-Elect, and café volunteer, Dan Morrell.
The ROC Youth Café came into being just over two years ago as a result of discussions between Edgeley Community Church, the Police, ROC (Redeeming our Communities), Stockport Council and other local bodies. Over the course of two hours, the ‘regulars’ make the most of what’s on offer, including a PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, tuck shop, craft area and board games. Volunteers are predominantly drawn from Edgeley Community Church (a United Reformed Church/Methodist Local Ecumenical Partnership). Full story here.
Feasts and Festivals 2017
The Feasts and Festivals planning team are gearing up for a very busy year. As we know, 2017 marks the centenary of Constance Coltman’s ordination to ministry in the Congregational Church, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, 45 years since the URC was formed, and Commitment for Life marking its silver anniversary of 25 years. It’s also 80 years since Pilots started. Phew! See more at the Feasts and Festivals page. Resources will appear in three month sections, each including one focus per month, with material for study, prayer and action. The celebratory theme for January is Celebrating One Church, celebrating Christian unity (45 years of the URC).
Church House staff on move
Much clearing, sorting and packing is going on in preparation for the temporary move out of Church House. During the building’s major refurbishment from January to June 2017, staff teams will be dispersed across three different London sites. All telephone calls, emails and post will continue on the usual numbers and at the same addresses. Should you wish to visit any staff member during this period, arrangements will need to be made in advance. We look forward to welcoming visitors to a building that’s much more fit for purpose in 2017!
The great Church House clear-out unearthed a supply of children and youth tee-shirts left over from past Children’s and FURY Assemblies. After a call to Samaritan’s Purse, the charity delightedly picked up 110 items to send them out as part of the Operation Christmas Child shoebox scheme.
New recruit at Northern College
The Revd Dr Tim Mountain, a Baptist minister with extensive experience in pastoral ministry and in lay – and ministerial – training is now working half-time for both Northern College and North Western Synod. For the Synod, he will be undertaking a training role; for the College, he is building a completely new role. He will help existing tutors to support the students by offering pastoral support and a richer contact with the College. Tim will ‘cover’ the northern part of the country and it is hoped that the work will be complemented, in time, by a similar role for the southern synods and Wales. The other part of his role is to help develop Northern College as a resource for learning for the whole church. He will be available to respond to requests from Synods, Areas, Pastorates or individual churches to preach, or offer support or training. Find out more from Northern College principal, Rosalind Selby.
Making an impact on Inter Faith
The eighth annual Inter Faith Week drew to a close on 20 November. Communities Minister Lord Bourne announced that £250,000 of small grants funding was to be made available through The Common Good programme. This will give funding to projects that bring together diverse communities and different faiths through a range of activities from cookery classes to teaching computer coding. The Inter Faith Network has published a new booklet, Inter faith learning, dialogue and cooperation: next step, with information about different ways to get further involved with inter faith activity.
John Humphreys: service of thanksgiving
The Revd John Humphreys, Moderator of the United Reformed Church’s National Synod of Scotland until his retirement in June 2016, died peacefully at home on 17 November after a short illness.
Mr Humphreys was the only person to have been moderator of two URC synods, having served in Wales from 1989 to 2001, as well as in Scotland from 2005. He also served as Training Officer for the Mersey Synod and as a minister in the Reformed Church of Hungary. John is mourned by his civil partner, John Parry and his family; by his mother, Dorothy, sister Gweno and family; and by the many people touched by his life.
A service of thanksgiving for his life will take place at St John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, on Tuesday 13 December at 2pm.
The service is due to be live streamed. This will be a free version of Livestream which may include adverts. Livestream requires users to enter an email address in order to log in to view a stream. Give yourself time to go through the log in process. Alternatively, you can join using your Facebook ID. The scheduled link will go live at around 13:45 (GMT) on 13 December.
Crossway on the move
Crossway United Reformed Church, South East London, is preparing for a very happy Christmas in a new home. Based for many years on the Heygate Estate; Crossway is moving to Newington Estate where a new building has been developed. Its first services will be on Christmas Eve at 11.30pm and Christmas Day (10.30am).
A first for Fife and Tayside
The Revd Alan McGougan was inducted by the National Synod of Scotland Moderator, Revd Dr David Pickering, to the Fife and Tayside Pastorate on 26 November. As Churches look to new patterns of Ministry in Scotland, they are – where possible – forming ‘clusters’. Fife and Tayside is the first cluster to form and also the first to call a minister. Alan said: ‘This is not spreading ministry thinner between Churches, although the Pastorate is scoped at 100% there is no fixed scoping for the individual Churches. This allows the needs of each Church to be supported as required.’
New Director for Windermere
Officer action by the General Secretariat of the United Reformed Church has resulted in the appointment of the Revd Mitchell Bunting as part-time Transitional Director of the Windermere Centre from 1 December 2016 to 31 May 2017.
Mr Bunting, widely known as Bungie, will also continue his role as Ecumenical Officer for the National Synod of Scotland on a part-time basis during the period of the appointment. This will cover up to, and beyond, the meeting of the next Mission Council which will make decisions about the future of the Centre. Thanks are expressed to Rebecca Gudgeon, who willingly stood in during the absence of a Director. Mr Bunting has been serving the centre as the convenor of the Windermere management committee since July 2014. The Revd John Smith, most recent past convenor of the education and learning committee, has agreed to act as transitional convenor for the same period. A number of suggestions have already been received about ways in which the Centre’s work could be sustained by the United Reformed Church. Any proposals for the way forward should be sent to the Secretary for Education and Learning by Monday 12 December. Proposals need to be clear and realistic, but do not have to be worked out in fine detail at this stage. The education and learning committee next meets on 19 December 2016. Read more.
Appreciative Inquiry is a process for engaging people in building the kinds of organisations they want to be involved in. How can you plan for change without getting despondent about all the things that must be changed? AI begins by asking questions about the strengths that a community already has, and builds from there. Now, a user-friendly, accessible and practical resource has been developed, called Appreciating Church. With theological underpinning and pointers for worship, Appreciating Church includes case studies from UK churches which have used AI, among them the United Reformed Church. Publication is planned for early 2017.
The Star of Monkseaton…
Barbara Burgess, and the craft group at St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Monkseaton, have been busy making an American traditional patchwork banner of ‘The Star of Bethlehem’. It has 128 pieces of gold coloured diamond shapes of varying textured material, with a purple backing. The Star is now hanging above a control desk for the church’s recently updated sound system.
Latest from Publications
Looking for gift ideas for family, friends, colleagues? The URC online bookstore is the perfect place to browse for a wide range of publications, including the 2017 Prayer Handbook. Following the recent meeting of the newly-formed Publications Board, we are very much looking forward to offering new merchandise and resources in future!
Natasha Springer, Publications Co-ordinator, wants to know more about what you would like to see in the URC book store. Please email or call Natasha on 0207 916 2020 on Tuesdays and Fridays with your ideas.
Look out for Charcoal Gospel at an introductory price of £7.99 until 31 January 2017. Written and Illustrated by Neil Thorogood, this interactive worship resource with DVD and accompanying booklet, provides material for 16 major moments in the Christian liturgical year, starting with Advent.
Also popular are the URC logo crosses, as worn by URC Moderators Alan Yates and the Revd Kevin Watson during 2016’s General Assembly. The crosses are now available for everyone to buy and own.
Coming soon is the new Year Book and Celebrated Lives for 2017. Both can be pre-ordered from 22 December, ready to be despatched when the offices re-open on Tuesday 3 January.
URC diaries for 2017 are still available in midnight blue (hardback), and in cobalt blue and flame red (softback). Prayer handbooks are also on offer. For guaranteed delivery before Christmas please get your orders in before 16 December 2016.
Do you have a book you are burning to write? And are you thinking that that URC publications office might be interested in publishing it? Check out the new publications policy for the detail on both the types of books we’d consider publishing – and how to get your idea in front of the right people.
Happy Reform Christmas!
Reform’s unique combination of news, comment, inspiration and debate provides a perfect gift for Christmas and 2017. Giving a whole year’s worth of Reform magazine costs just £18 for digital copies, and £28 for paper copies. Remember, we need your support. Read it… Give it… Don’t lose Reform!