The Revd Alistair Smeaton, Convenor of the United Reformed Church’s Cumbria Area, brings an update on how churches are responding to the aftermath of the floods caused by Storm Desmond and appeals for prayers and practical support.
“Thank you very much for your concern for the people of Cumbria and the United Reformed Church congregations within the county. It feels a bit like all the extreme weather events of the last 11 years have all come at once.
“Between the United Reformed Churches in the county we have a dozen or more households flooded out in Carlisle, Penrith, Cockermouth, Kendal and Workington. Others, although not flooded, are now very isolated. Many more have had some water ingress into their house or had their car written off.”
The Revd Steve Faber, the Revd Dr Helen Wordsworth from Parish Nursing UK, Sandra Anthony and the Revd David Walton
Sutton Coldfield United Reformed Church has paved the way for better whole-person healthcare by commissioning the first parish nurse to work with the URC.
Parish nursing is an innovative way for churches to support people and communities. Fully qualified nurses work as a link between people in the community and the health and care services. They ensure that people use the health services appropriately, and understand their medication, care and condition.
Sandra Anthony was commissioned as Parish Nurse on 17 November during the regular weekly service of prayers for healing and wholeness.
The Revd David Walton, minister of Sutton Coldfield URC, said: “Our congregation has been working on this project for just over two years and we are delighted that Sandra felt called to this exciting ministry. Sandra has many years’ experience in community nursing and brings a deep faith into this new role.”
The commissioning was presided over by the Revd Steve Faber, moderator of West Midlands Synod and the Revd Dr Helen Wordsworth, from Parish Nursing UK, preached.
Military action in Syria: pursuing peace
The Revd John Proctor, the United Reformed Church’s General Secretary, asks how to respond to the UK’s military action in Syria.
“Times are tense. Parliament has voted for bombing in Syria and these operations have begun. What is a Christian response? What do we do?
“We can and we will pray for peace and for the people who live with war, in Syria and in many other parts of the world.”
Churches and individuals up and down the country are raising funds for Christian Aid’s Christmas Campaign. The campaign is match-funded by the UK government, so for every pound raised an extra pound will be given to help combat malaria in Nigeria.
We’re looking for churches that have found innovative and inspiring ways to engage with their communities. Does that describe your church? If it does, enter the Community Project Awards, and help us celebrate the very best community projects within the United Reformed Church.
The award is open to all projects run in the UK by members of the congregation of a United Reformed Church or by a local ecumenical project where the URC is present.
The total prize fund is £10,000, with a first prize of up to £4,000 and up to three further prizes awarded to the runners-up. The amounts awarded are at the discretion of the judges.
We had a great response to the first phase of our call for prayers for the 2017 Prayer Handbook. Thank you to everybody who has responded. Phase two is now under way, and we’ve a second round of entries that closes on 15 January 2016, so there is still a chance to send us a prayer.
Please read and follow the the guidelines carefully before you put pen to paper. Only submissions that meet the criteria will be included.
A United Reformed Church event in November gathered people from around the URC who are engaged in mission projects that just work. It turned out to be pretty life-changing for all involved!
Participants at the conference, hosted at the Windermere Centre, shared stories from local churches that are engaged in mission. They emphasised stories of action that are manageable, effective, and that have made an impact on the church and on the community.
Says deputy general secretary (mission), Francis Brienen: “The real outcome is the creation of a resource bank of stories and ideas so that others can find them and read and be inspired.”
UK churches are encouraging people to add Iain Duncan Smith, secretary of state for work and pensions, to their Christmas card list and include a personal greeting asking the minister to ensure that every family and child has enough this Christmas.
Paul Morrison, policy advisor for the Methodist Church, said: “We hope that the One More Card Campaign will show care both for the families affected by the changes to the benefit system and also towards those who run the system reflecting the important job they do.
“No-one should grow up in a family that does not have enough to afford the basics of life. It is a message that has particular resonance at Christmas and I am sure shared by people in and out of churches.”
What is the Spirit saying to the churches? Two prayer meetings – open to all – are organised by the Group for Evangelism and Renewal (GEAR) within the United Reformed Church.
15 January 7 to 9pm Bolton Villas URC, Livingstone Rd, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD2 1PZ. (The church and cafe will be open for refreshments and prayer from 5pm) For more details email the Revd Sally Willett or call on 01925 487 851.
30 January 2 to 4pm at City Temple, Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2DE.
For more details email the Revd John Hardaker or call on 01462 646 326.
There is still time to book for Youth Assembly 2016. Young people come from all over the country to spend time together worshipping Jesus, unpacking God’s word and listening to how the Holy Spirit is moving.
Youth Assembly is all about being inspired in returning to the local communities you’ve come from.
Meeting this year at Whitemoor Lakes in Staffordshire from 22 to 24 January, the assembly will explore the theme ‘Roots and Foundations: Growing in Faith’ through workshops, seminars and keynote addresses.
The weekend will also include times of business as significant decisions are made by the URC Youth, and current issues are raised and discussed by those present.
Reform Christmas issue out now!
This month’s double issue of Reform is a feast of creative ways to help people in need this
festive season. Highlighting eight charities, Reform offers practical ideas on how individuals and churches can incorporate giving into their Christmas traditions.
The magazine also features the real-life stories of women in Kenya who are affected by malaria; Reform reports on one of the lifesaving schemes that the Christian Aid Christmas campaign is promoting, with the support of the United Reformed Church.
And there’s more: A feature interview with Joanna Jepson – the Anglican priest made famous by her campaigning against late abortion for cleft palate, four people answer ‘A good question: Is there an unforgiveable sin?’ and – acknowledging that this isn’t ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ for everyone – our ‘Christian activist’ column explores loneliness at Christmas.
An annual subscription to the paper version of Reform (10 issues per year) costs £25. The digital edition (for tablets, smartphones and computers) costs just £18. You can also subscribe to both paper and digital editions for £31.
Remember, Reform is for Christmas, not just for life! Gift subscriptions are available here so do support the URC’s acclaimed magazine and give friends and relatives a valuable resource for Christian living, thinking and mission.
Diary of events
3 January 2016 HOPE day of prayer Pray that 2016 may be a year of proclaiming the gospel in word and deed
22 to 24 January 2016 Youth Assembly Roots and Foundations: Growing in Faith at Whitmoor Lakes, Alrewas, Staffordshire
19 to 21 February GEAR Swanwick Conference Seasons of Invitation with Back to Church Sunday co-founder Michael Harvey. Swanwick Conference Centre, Derbyshire
At the end of the year Church House says goodbye to Tina King (née Yardley), printer and print estimator. She cannot be accused of rushing in to the decision to leave – she began working with the URC as a temporary worker 18 years ago!
Tina says: “I am looking forward to pastures new, but will be very sad to leave. Church House has been the most rewarding and enjoyable place to work.”
Grace Pengelly will begin as the URC’s secretary for church & society on 4 January. She has previously worked in advocacy for Christian Solidarity Worldwide and for David Lammy MP.
Cassi Wright will start work as the URC’s safeguarding officer at the beginning of January. Cassi’s background has been in the youth justice system and most recently she has been the safeguarding lead for the Academy of Central Bedfordshire.
Programme officer global and intercultural ministries: An exciting new role based at Church House in London, developing, enabling and equipping local churches to build global relationships and partnerships.
From the left: John Proctor (URC), Meirion Morris (Presbyterian Church of Wales), Trevor Gribben (Presbyterian Church in Ireland) and John Chalmers (Church of Scotland)
URC Church House was the venue for this year’s meeting of the ‘Four Clerks’; when Presbyterian colleagues from Scotland, Ireland and Wales joined our own general secretary for a day of business and mutual support.
John Proctor, United Reformed Church general secretary, said: “Our four churches and four nations face quite different needs and opportunities. Yet as we share in a common Reformed Christian heritage, we have much to offer one another by way of insight and encouragement.”
New podcasts on the URC website feature conversations with poet and minister Lucy Berry, fresh expression coordinator Linda Rayner, and David Grosch-Miller talking about his recent visit to Papua New Guinea.
Reform will be recruiting new magazine distributors in 2016. Could you be the person for this vital task? Distributors promote Reform within the church, encourage subscriptions, give out magazines to subscribers each month and collect subscription payments.
If this sounds like you, please email Reform for more information.
Nomination for treasurer
Mr Ian Hardie CBE, from Witham, Essex, has the support of Mission Council to take up the voluntary role of URC treasurer to start in July 2017, when current treasurer Mr John Ellis steps down.
Mr Hardie’s name will go to General Assembly in July 2016.
A pilgrim’s progress to Paris
Shropshire URC member Howard Hutchings talks to Tomilola Ajayi, Christian Aid press officer, about what inspired him to walk from London to Paris, and why climate justice is an issue very dear to his heart.
On 27 November, retired geography teacher Howard Hutchings completed a journey of a lifetime: a ‘climate pilgrimage’ that spanned two weeks, two countries and 200 miles, entirely on foot.
Church House will be closed over the Christmas period, lunchtime on Christmas Eve to 4 January 2016.
Online Store Orders placed on the URC online store between 23 December 2015 and 6 January 2016 will not be processed until 7 January 2016. Orders placed on or before 15 December will be dispatched before Christmas.
We wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
The United Reformed Church, 86 Tavistock Place London WC1H 9RT