A Cross at Banbury

By John Ellis

After Mission Council had worked hard for three days at Swanwick, we left the Synod Moderators there for their monthly two-day meeting. Some of them hardly reached home before it was time for the last minute preparations for their Autumn Synod meetings.

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Southern Synod in discussion on Discipleship

I was pleased to be invited to join my home Synod having a Southern Synod Together day at the URC’s Caterham School. Smiling boarders helped Synod members to find their way around their widespread campus. The theme for the day was Growing Disciples, which fitted well with some of what I said in my address to the General Assembly in July. After the interactive session I led, the Synod formally resolved to adopt a Resolution of the Synod Council to make this theme the centrepiece of their future work.

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S Mary’s Church, Banbury

From there I travelled to the furthest northern outpost of the Wessex Synod ready for the elaborate town celebrations of Remembrance Sunday in Banbury. Unmissable at the centre of the town is St Mary’s Church, a very large and elegant Georgian Church, which on a typical Sunday hosts an Anglican service followed by a URC one. But for Remembrance Linda the Vicar and Lynda the URC minister combine with the Royal British Legion and the Town Council in the organising of an ecumenical act of worship. Around 800 attended and I had the privilege to reflect with them on the experience of representing the United Reformed Church at the Cenotaph in Whitehall last year in the light of Jesus’ promise that Blessed are the Peacemakers.

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Revd Lynda Spokes at the War Memorial

Afterwards the huge congregation processed to the town War Memorial and wreaths were laid there on behalf of all sections of the community. I was particularly pleased that for the first time this year a wreath was laid on behalf of the Street Pastors. In Banbury, as in so many other towns, this work is an ecumenical venture drawing on people from nine different churches. Street Pastors so often defuse situations that if allowed to develop might not lead to a World War but could easily generate violence. We may not be able to solve Syria or Afghanistan on our own, but we can honour those who made sacrifices for peace by supporting that special sort of salt and light that Street Pastors represent in our local communities.

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The Street Pastors’ Wreath

For blessed are the peacemakers.

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