The Revd Peter Stevenson at the Elephant and Castle
United Reformed Church Special Category Minister the Revd Peter Stevenson has completed six months as Site Chaplain to the Elephant Park Development in South London.
The development currently employs 500 people and this is expected to rise to 2,000 when all the phases come on stream. The developers, Lend Lease, wanted to trial a chaplaincy service to add to their well-being programmes. The chaplaincy service operates for four hours per week and has proved a great success.
Working for four hours a week as site chaplain since last October, Mr Stevenson has contact with around 350 people each time he makes a visit. He walks up and down the scaffold, wherever they are pouring cement, or driving piles. ‘I present myself as a listening ear to all faiths and none.’
The construction industry can be pretty brutal, he says. ‘The workers want to talk about many things. It’s an international workforce, so there are is a lot of dealing with immigration issues. It is remarkable how many of them talk about loneliness. Connections with people back at home are not as strong as they could be.’
New and exciting opportunities to learn and grow in Christian discipleship are to be launched throughout the United Reformed Church in 2018. In preparation there will be a phased process in which the URC’s Training for Learning and Serving (TLS) programme winds down some of what it offers and new transitional opportunities will come into place.
In the first stage of this process – the academic year beginning in September 2016 – TLS will not enrol new course members to the Foundation Course.
One year Gateway courses on worship, pastoral care, prayer, evangelism, and developing community experiences will continue and will start as usual in September 2016, with a closing date for applications of 31 May. The Prospectus provides information about these courses and how to go about enrolling on them.
Please take a look and see if there is something there for you. TLS Local Introductory Training Experiences (LITE) offers short courses for local use at any time and can be purchased through United Reformed Church Publications.
Rural Mission Sunday resources now available
The Arthur Rank Centre has produced resources for Rural Mission Sunday, 17 July, to celebrate and inspire mission in rural areas.
Many rural Christians feel in the shadow of larger urban churches, yet are often deeply involved in their communities, and their actions make a real difference. This is an opportunity for rural churches celebrate all they are doing in their communities.
The free resources contain ideas for sowing seeds in your community, along with prayers, readings and reflections, including a prayer activity from the URC’s moderator of General Assembly 2016-18 the Revd Kevin Watson.
EU referendum: think, pray, vote
Are you aware of the importance of the referendum on the Britain’s membership of the European, yet overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues and cautious about what to make of the arguments?
The United Reformed Church, with its Joint Public Issues Team partners, the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland, is producing a guide to help think through the issues in the light of the Gospel command to love your neighbour.
URC Secretary for Church and Society, Grace Pengelly, says: ‘It is vital that as Christians we are well informed as we vote. This resource will help churches navigate their way through the complex issues of the referendum debate.’
Designed as a discussion resource for churches and small groups, it tackles the key issues, such as sovereignty, economics, the environment, and free movement and migration.
Rather than provide answers, it is a tool to help explore some of the aspects of the debate to give us more clarity and confidence as we make our way to the polling booths on 23 June.
The Bible Society, HOPE and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, have produced a commemorative book The Servant Queen and the King She Serves using the Queen’s own words to draw out the central role of her trust in Jesus Christ.
The 64-page book is produced as part of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and is designed to be given as a gift and a conversation starter to people in workplaces, networks and communities. It is available for just £1.
A range of resources has been produced to help churches and schools to mark this milestone.
In her 2014 Christmas broadcast the Queen said: ‘For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing.’
Roy Crowne, HOPE’s Executive Director says, ‘The Queen describes Jesus as an anchor and role-model – as you read this book we hope you will consider how you can put your faith into words.’
URC Radcliffe flood hero honoured at No 10
United Reformed Church minister the Revd Nigel Adkinson was among the flood heroes honoured at a reception at 10 Downing Street on 21 March.
Mr Adkinson, the minister of Radcliffe, Stand and Farnworth United Reformed churches near Bury, helped to coordinate the emergency response when flood waters swept through parts of Radcliffe on Boxing Day 2015.
He says: ‘This reception was a recognition of the flooding in the town of Radcliffe. And that is important, because many in the town feel that we are overlooked. It also recognises that the churches were instrumental in coordinating community groups working together.’
Fresh Expression vision days inspire pioneer mission
Vision Day in Sleaford, March 2016
United Reformed Church synods and local churches are benefitting from vision events provided by the Fresh Expressions team and associates.
These dynamic training events are designed to introduce participants to the concept of new expressions of church, helping to change mindsets through story-sharing, discussion and questions.
Vision events can be part of a Synod mission strategy, or they can be for individual churches. They consider what it really means to be Church in the 21st century, and how we might share the love of Jesus with generations who have not seen a Bible.
They can be full days, morning, afternoon or evening sessions, or shorter seminar slots, and are ideal for anyone who is interested in mission.
The URC National Synod of Wales has been accredited as a living wage employer.
From January 2016 all employees of United Reformed Church (Wales) Trust are guaranteed to be paid the living wage, £8.25 an hour.
The voluntary living wage is not to be confused with the ‘national living wage’ – or minimum wage premium – announced by the Government. From April 2016, all workers aged 25 and over are legally entitled to at least £7.20 per hour.
The living wage campaign, launched by Citizens UK in 2001, has won over £210m of additional wages, lifting over 70,000 families out of working poverty. The calculation takes into account a basket of essential goods and services and provides the amount a worker should earn to give their family a basic but acceptable standard of living.
Look out for Old grey prayers – a new collection of poetry, reflections and prayer that explores life and faith in old age from former URC General Secretary the Revd Bernard Thorogood.
Now in his late eighties, Mr Thorogood deals with the experience of aging with insight, honesty and generosity. Says the Revd Susan Kirkbride: ‘They are heartfelt and come from lived experience – and are perfect for anyone reflecting on their own long life or for those who are involved in ministry with older people.’
Can you help? The URC’s communications department is expanding its pool of volunteer editors and writers.
There is a wide range of projects, with varying levels of commitment. If you have experience of communications work, and would be able to help with editing manuscripts or writing denominational information booklets, please email Gill Nichol.
Towards the end of last year, churches were invited to contribute to the fund to support the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon in its work of providing schooling for Syrian refugee children in camps in Lebanon.
The appeal has since been widened to include supporting displaced families in Syria with food, rent and medical supplies.
More than £4,000 has been raised so far. If your church would like to make a donation, please send a cheque (made payable to the URC Trust, and marked ‘Syria’ on the back) to Global and Intercultural Ministries, United Reformed Church, 86 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RT.
The closing date for the appeal is 30 June 2016.
Church finder volunteers sought
The URC’s ministries office is looking for volunteers to help pinpoint each of the 1,447 United Reformed churches on digital maps.
Training to record each church’s latitude and longitude coordinates will be given, and volunteers can do this task from home.
If you have access to a PC and the internet and can give us some time over the next four months (the task has to be completed by the end of July), please contact Gillian Jones for more information.
vision2020 grants available
If your mission project needs financial help, don’t forget it is available from the United Reformed Church’s Mission Grants Programme. Whether your church is preparing a one-off event or programme, or working on a longer-term plan, there are funds available to help.
Closing dates for small grants for one-off mission projects, such as a holiday club or a week of mission, are 30 June, 30 September and 31 December.
The next closing date for larger three-year development grants is 30 September.
Church-Related Community Work on the road
The first Church-Related Community Work (CRCW) roadshow of 2016 will be held in Birmingham on Saturday 4 June.
CRCW roadshows are designed to show how community initiatives are making an impact in congregations and communities. Like all the best events, this one will include good food, conversation and storytelling.
The roadshow will be held at Bishop Latimer United Church, Winson Green in Birmingham on Saturday 4 June, 2016 from 10.30 to 3.30.
For more information on the programme, and to book your free place, email CRCW Programme Administrator Samara Andrews or phone 020 7916 8653.
Remembering John Arthur
Revd John Arthur died on 5 April 2016. As General Secretary of the Congregational Union of Scotland from 1995 he was tireless in his efforts to make the long-hoped for CUS/ URC union a reality.
In 2000 he was called to be the Synod Moderator of the newly-created United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland which he served with love and energy.
The Revd John Humphreys, Moderator, of the Synod of Scotland said: ‘John thought and questioned deeply, and listened with care and perception. A man of deep principles, he will be deeply missed’.