Responding to the moment

It has been a busy time in pursuit of the places where God is at work! The latest quest began in Sheffield with the 300th anniversary of worship on the site now occupied by Central URC. Anniversaries can sometimes be the excuse for nostalgia to cloud the memory and reality to take a back seat. Not in Sheffield as they prepare to bring the churches of the city together with a new look ministry designed to face the challenge of today and optimistic about IMG_9664the future.

From Sheffield to Edinburgh and a meeting with representatives of the churches in Scotland to consider the church and nation landscape post referendum. South of the border the debate might have been seen as purely about national identity but the underlying theme is what kind of Scotland do the people want to live in. The debate about what values should shape the future is as relevant in England as it is in Scotland and Wales. The list produced by the

Barrhead volunteers

Barrhead volunteers

Church of Scotland report ‘Our vision – imagining Scotland’s future’ is both challenging and informative. The top ten values distilled from the 4,000 shared were: 1. Equality 2. Fairness 3. Justice 4. Education 5. Respect 6. Honesty 7. Community 8. Opportunity 9. Compassion 10. Tolerance. As the report itself says ‘The dominance of values which focussed on the relational, rather than the personal, was overwhelming. Tackling poverty was the most frequently expressed value which had any economic content, but it was not until #53 on the list that the term “prosperity” appears, the first indication of a value that is associated with wealth and money.’

On to the Liberal Democrat Conference at Glasgow with some of the representatives of the other Free Church Group. The group representing Baptist, Methodist, Quakers, Salvation Army as well as the United Reformed Church quickly agreed on our concerns: the effects of welfare reform on the poorest and most vulnerable, NHS funding, Food Banks,

Asylum Seekers - Drumchapel

Asylum Seekers – Drumchapel

localism, the Lobbying Act. The politicians were polite and it was an opportunity to register concern about any strategy that makes the poor pay for the mistakes of the rich.

The conversation might have been more robust if I had met the politicians after hearing the stories from some of the congregations around Glasgow the following day. Barrhead URC is the distribution point for a Food bank and there I was told of clients being ‘sanctioned’ by the Job Centre for being two minutes late for an appointment, or because they had not met the target for online applications. Apparently lack of access to a computer or computer literacy or even dyslexia does not prevent benefits being stopped for eight weeks. Conveniently being sanctioned also removes you from the statistics of those unemployed. The Food Bank is a lifeline for the poorest and it is no surprise that it is the poorest communities that are the most generous in their giving. Drumchapel Partnership

Community Garden - Priesthill

Community Garden – Priesthill

supports a drop in centre for Asylum seekers and Priesthill maintains a community garden. Both are imprints of compassion in a world that often looks the other way. At Giffnock we had a robust conversation about a whole range of subjects and enjoyed laughter and singing. The family of the church does not recognise the borders of nation or need and welcomes all who want to belong.

All in all plenty of evidence that God is at work through the members of the United Reformed Church!

David Grosch-Miller

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