United Reformed Church Past Case Review: Phase Two
The United Reformed Church (URC) launched the second phase of its Past Case Review on 4 October 2016, with the public being invited to raise concerns formally about the behaviour, or conduct, of anyone affiliated with the URC since its formation in 1972.
The first phase ran from September 2015 to May 2016. It involved a specialist team reading the records of everyone who held ministerial office from 1972 onwards, around 2,500 files, to look for any historic incidents of inappropriate behaviour or abuse that may have been overlooked at the time. Some significant cases emerged, but the majority were found to have been handled appropriately.
Further details and resources are available from www.urc.org.uk/past-case-review . Read the website story here.
ACTCommunity in climate justice campaign
Five United Reformed Church representatives (pictured) attended a weekend aimed at developing church-led campaigning for climate justice. Hosted at Luther King House, Manchester, the event launched a year-long, pilot environmental activism programme called ACTCommunity, which is part sponsored by the URC and focuses on assisting Christians to address climate change within their local communities.
The URC participants are Charis Ollerenshaw, Les Parker, Kevin Snyman, Alban Thurston and Lauren Dempster-Edwards. They joined 25 other participants sponsored by Christian Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD and Quakers, to begin assessing what climate change activism looks like in their localities.
The URC’s Secretary for Church and Society, Grace Pengelly, said: ‘The ACTCommunity takes a fresh approach to climate change activism, encouraging people to engage in conversations with their local community about the environmental injustices on their doorstep.’ Members of the ACTCommunity will meet up on two further occasions over the next 12 months.
PokéMission in Cheshire
Bramhall URC in Stockport decided to join in with the phenomenon that swept the nation this summer: Pokémon GO! The game, played on mobile phones, involves searching for – and catching – cartoon characters (called Pokémon). Bramhall URC opened for Pokémon GO! on seven Saturdays. Linda Rayner, Fresh Expressions Co-ordinator for the URC and a member of Bramhall, said: ‘This won’t bring a whole lot of people into church on a Sunday, it’s about building relationship with a section of the community previously unreached.’ For further news, read http://urc.org.uk/media-news/2174-joining-in-with-pokemission.html
David is new Moderator
The Revd David Herbert was inducted as the United Reformed Church’s new Moderator of Northern Synod on 17 September, at St James’ United Reformed Church, Newcastle. The Revd Steven Faber, Moderator of West Midlands Synod, represented other synod moderators – and civic guests included the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear and the Sheriff of Newcastle.
The service was presided over by the Moderator of the General Assembly, Mr Alan Yates, and music was provided by St James’ and the St George’s Ceilidh band. Speaking about the challenges and opportunities of Christian ministry today, the Revd Peter Rand, encouraged the new Moderator and praised his gifts of creativity, gentle leadership and wisdom.
Worship Words: resources
A new website networks writers and worship leaders to share progressive Christian prayers, songs and liturgies. The website, Worship Words, offers free worship material which is inclusive, progressive, relevant and ready-to-use. Site creator and editor is the Revd Dr Ana Gobledale. She, and her husband Tod, are ministers in the Wessex Synod. For more information, contact Ana on email@example.com
Ruth braves the shave
The Revd Ruth Dillon, minister of Fleet United Reformed Church and Beacon Hill United Reformed Church, had two very special reasons to have her head shaved in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Ruth ‘braved the shave’ because she wanted to mark the first anniversary of the death of her mother from cancer – and to celebrate her own ‘big 60’ birthday. Her story is also on Macmillan’s Brave the Shave website. Donations are still being made via her fundraising page at https://bravetheshave.org.uk/shavers/ruth-dillon/
Joint Public Issues Team news
The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) welcomed Lucy Zwolinska (above) as its new intern at the beginning of September. Here is Lucy’s first blog post as an introduction:(http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/prayerful-living-the-complete-picture/. Rachael Varney is JPIT’s Political Advisor and Workplan co-ordinator for the next six months.
URC Synod and Assembly Moderators, and the General Secretary, joined over 200 faith leaders to call on the Prime Minister to relax immigration rules so refugees from Syria and other areas can be reunited with their families. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37328151
The URC’s Secretary for Church and Society, Grace Pengelly, went to the Labour Conference and General Assembly Moderator Alan Yates represented the URC at the Conservative Party Conference. They met with MPs and those who work in politics, in order to affirm their work and highlight issues of concern to the URC, including refugees, poverty, housing, Brexit and Islamophobia. JPIT plans to meet the Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and the Green Party at separate events later in the year.
Churches and organisations, including Churches Together in England (CTE) and across the world, are offering resources for Freedom Sunday (16 October). Visit www.cte.org.uk/ms-ht to find stories, sermon outlines, Bible studies, songs and prayers to help Christians continue to combat slavery and human trafficking.
CTE would like to hear how you celebrated Freedom Sunday 2016 – along with your commitment for the 12 months running up to Freedom Sunday 2017. To let them know, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Windermere farewell to Lawrence Moore
After 14 years’ service as Director of the Windermere Centre, Lawrence Moore celebrated his time there with friends and colleagues, including the Revd Mitchell Bunting (pictured above), before starting a new chapter; offering himself as a resource to the church on a pay-what-you-can basis – and to explore a call to non-stipendiary ministry. Rather than buying him a gift, a crowd-funding site had been set up so that anyone who wished could contribute to support Lawrence in his freelance work. Over £4000 was raised. He said: ‘Nothing could have been a more creative, off-the-wall, way-too-generous gift – and nothing more encouraging as I begin this new adventure. God bless you – and thank you!’
* Lawrence has already experienced further (very happy) change in his own family following the birth of granddaughter, Emilia Beatrice Rose! To contact Lawrence in future: email@example.com
Presbyterian Church of Ghana
The URC is building bridges of friendship with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, which has about 16 congregations in England. The General Secretary of the URC, the Revd John Proctor, recently visited their church in Milton Keynes. He is seen here with the minister and elders.
Pen a prayer for 2018 handbook
Could you write for the United Reformed Church’s (URC) prayer handbook? In the past, prayers were commissioned for the popular collection of lectionary-based prayers and meditations – but a new approach was adopted for the 2017 handbook by including non-commissioned prayers for the first time. And the same will happen for the 2018 edition.
Prayers are needed from people of all ages, nationalities and Christian traditions. For further details, and guidelines for non-commissioned prayers, visit here.
The deadline for submissions is 28 November 2016. The 2017 prayer handbook, Feasts and festivals, is available now from the URC’s online store.
Inter Faith Week sign-up
A reminder from the Revd David Tatem, the URC’s Secretary for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations…If you’re organising an event, project, or other activity for Inter Faith Week 2016 (13 to 20 November), please take a few minutes to register it for it to be displayed on an interactive Inter Faith Week map. The event submission form is now live here.
This year, Inter Faith Week runs across eight days. It begins on Remembrance Sunday, and many will wish to hold events linked to that. The additional Sunday enables other weekend events to take place. Inter Faith Week is taking place on the same dates and the website will also carry information on Scottish events for the first time this year.
This month in Reform…
‘Don’t lose Reform. If it brings into your life some of the good conversation, wisdom and inspiration – perhaps even laughter – of a friend, please help to make it last.’ That’s the call to action from Reform’s editor, Stephen Tomkins, in this month’s editorial. Sign up here and #jointhedebate. The digital version costs £5.99 for three months access; the paper version is just £25 for 10 issues. If you already subscribe, persuade your friends! Don’t take Reform for granted. Subscribe today!
Did you go to Greenbelt festival and take part in activities surrounding the United Reformed Church’s theme: Scrap the Church? This month we reveal what people want to keep, and say goodbye to, in church life. Other highlights include a reflection giving a Hindu perspective on Jesus, four responses to: ‘Do all faiths lead to God?’, a comment piece on how society might tackle the root causes of food poverty and an interview addressing the problems with white theology – one of the issues highlighted by the priest and #BlackLivesMatter campaigner, Broderick Greer.
PS: In case you missed it, Reform interviewed one of the new Green Party leaders, Jonathan Bartley, last month. The interview is now up in full on our website (congratulations Mr Bartley!) along with a mix of classic articles in full, and extracts from the current edition of the magazine.
Lizzie’s Armitstead says ‘I do’
The Bridge URC in Otley, Yorkshire, hosted the wedding of World and Commonwealth champion cyclist Lizzie Armitstead on 17 September. Otley girl Lizzie married fellow cyclist Philip Deignan from Ireland, who rides for the Sky team. The wedding was conducted by the church’s minister, the Revd Jason McCullagh. The church’s own ‘Singing for Fun’ group were invited by Lizzie to take part in the service. Lizzie grew up in the church, being part of its Junior Church and uniformed organisations. Her grandfather, the Revd Jeff Armitstead, is a retired URC minister.
Diary of events
9 to 15 October, www.prisonsweek.org
One World Week,
23 to 30 October, www.oneworldweek.org
United Nations Day,
24 October, www.un.org/en/events/unday
Big Day Out 2017
The date for your diary is 20 May 2017 and the venue is Drayton Manor Theme Park and Zoo near Tamworth, Staffordshire. It’s for everyone in the URC, including all churches, Pilots, Brigades, Guides and Scouts. What’s on offer? Zoo, theme park, the Big Picnic, and many great guest speakers. To whet your appetite, here’s a taster from the 2015 Big Day Out extravaganza: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ChOJj9zjfk.
iChurch tip of the month
Be the church that you are, online. A site that is an authentic reflection of the church that you are is more engaging to new visitors than one that’s built to make you look good, but doesn’t reflect reality. An authentic site gives an impression of integrity and transparency, which is very appealing. To find out more, visit here.
URC Peace Fellowship
The URC Peace Fellowship Conference takes place from 11am to 3.30pm on 29 October at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, London. The joint event, with the Baptist Peace Fellowship, welcomes the Revd Stephen Keyworth (Faith and Society Team Leader for the Baptist Union of Great Britain) to speak on ‘Exploring the peace legacy of Martin Luther King and its global message for today.’ Download a booking form here.
New Clerk in Scotland
The Clerk of the URC National Synod of Scotland is now Bill Robson.
Bill said: ‘Though an émigré from England, I have know my predecessor, Jim Merrilees, for a number of years. I am starting a new learning curve as I do not presume that the task is the same as south of the border. I relish the challenge and feel God is calling me to the second stage of administration as Synod Clerk within the United Reformed Church.’
The URC is looking for an experienced therapeutic counsellor to serve on the steering group for the Churches Ministerial Counselling Service. CMCS is an ecumenical co-operative venture seeking to provide short-term counselling for ministers and adult members of their households. More information from Craig Bowman, Secretary for Ministries, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Suggestions of who might be approached should also be made to Craig.
Everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask about…Reformation anniversary plans. Find all the answers in a new website recently launched by the Council of Lutheran Churches. The site includes an online programme of events for next year’s anniversary to mark 500 years since the Reformation.
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