Celebrating 150 years of Witness

by Michael N. Jagessar

On Saturday June 22nd, I joined Central United Reformed Church in Hove (Brighton) for their R3jFEZ-UIylUOVJOwvtzat0wVCuJHMdyh7lsbook4Boservice of celebration of 150 years of ministry in Hove. Our well-attended gathering for a Saturday event included the presence of the Mayor of Brighton and Hove (Denise Cobb) and the MP for Hove and Portslade (Mike Weatherley), both of whom were attending Central United Reformed Church for the first time! Participants in the service of celebration included the Revd Alex Mabbs, Revd Brian Stone and Revd Roger Wood. I was invited to bring greetings from the United Reformed Church and to preach on the occasion.

The story of Central United Reformed Church is that of two congregations and church traditions (Cliftonville Congregational and St. Cuthbert’s Presbyterian) and the movement of God’s Spirit in the lives of the people. The story of St. Cuthbert’s started only in 1902 as an initiative of the Presbytery of London South. That of Cliftonville Congregational, however,OWpjy6qatniiL9qAq8dbxioobmR_5OE_xWXyP21wTr8 commenced earlier than 1863, with first stirrings in 1823 when a few persons connected with the congregation at Union Street Chapel (Ship Street Brighton) gathered a group of children in the Parish and village of Hove. Perhaps the habit of “uniting” has been there from the story of the beginnings of both churches. For in 1863 (August 15th), the faithful of Cliftonville who gathered there confidently declared:

“We do hereby cordially unite in Christian fellowship as a Church of Christ in this place, in order to observe and maintain the ordinances of the Gospel according to the New Testament.”

Both churches were built to accommodate the large number of people that attended. After the formation of the United Reformed Church in 1972, conversations started locally with St. Cuthbert’s URC and in July 1980 they became Central United Reformed Church.

From the history of both congregations and their witness in the Hove and Portslade pastorate, one is aware of a ministry and mission that has engaged and continue to engage in the life of the index2local community. There is a strong and cherished sense of being part of a uniting and reforming heritage that is also dissenting and non-conforming. This came across in the service of celebration, the brief history as told by two members, the historical display and the conversations that followed the service. At least both the Mayor and the local MP were asking interesting questions about the United Reformed Church and the dissenting tradition!

Central United Reformed Church has much to thank God for. They have received much over the years from that initial commitment of uniting to do ministry in Hove and surrounding areas. How to keep alight the flame of this adventure in their continuing discipleship and ministry to which God in Christ has called them, mindful of the very different landscape, is the challenge before the ‘faithful’ of Central URC. There is much from their stories of faith and faithfulness (past and present) to affirm the UiLTQL6NjhRmqpzo-LaEvMD-SwchWEat-ZNJik-_2Tgpresence and guidance of God as they face the future.

It is my hope and prayer that members of Central URC will continue to grow into maturity, to being built into a house of living stones (not a random pile of stones) – constantly being shaped and re-shaped, and become a people where the presence of God is known and seen by all, and where unconditional love and forgiveness overflow freely.

 

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