It was in 1987 that I first moved from one pastorate to another. I recall thanking the people of those Stockport churches for enabling me to cut my ministerial teeth. And every time I have moved since then, I have found myself thanking people for precisely the same thing, because each context has offered and asked significantly new things.
It is no different this autumn, as I am embraced by the privileges and responsibilities of being one of the General Assembly Moderators; I am cutting my moderatorial teeth. The development of which I am particularly aware now is a renewed sense of how inescapable it is in what I say – sermons, addresses, articles, blogs, conversation – to hold in tension the pastoral and the prophetic.
The vocation of the church is to be the embodiment of something of the God we see in Jesus Christ. There are times when that is shaped by a radical love that is motivated Christ’s. W. H. Vanstone used to speak of it as ‘Love that gives, gives ever more, gives with zeal, with eager hands, spares not, keeps not, all outpours, ventures all its all expends.’ (Love’s endeavour, Love’s expense 1977 DLT page 119). Are we not most authentically and credibly The Church when our worship rejoices in that and our service echoes it? I am more than ever persuaded this is what our aspiration to be pastoral is all about.
But that is not – cannot – be all we bring to today’s world. In our era of confident atheism and self-sufficiency, which means that by definition God is off many agendas, our pastoral hallmark must surely be complemented by a commitment to speak a prophetic word. In Romans 10, Paul asks how people will believe in one of whom they have not heard, and how they will hear of one who is not proclaimed to them. So it is for our generation: on countless topics our vocation is to speak into the world’s condition a prophetic word inspired by Scripture and our faith. How will it be heard if we do not do so? Continue reading
In December, Mr Derek Estill will attend a Council of Christians and Jews event at Lambeth Palace marking the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and Kindertransport, which involved German Jews in 1938. He will also meet with Muslim primary school children at a church in Blackburn, attend a Messy Church session in Lancashire, visit Blackburn Cathedral for the collation and installation of honorary and lay
canons, and attend a Christmas tree service in support of a sports club in Blackburn. The Revd Nigel Uden will preach at Oxted (Surrey) and Wilmslow (Cheshire) United Reformed churches. Both moderators will attend a meeting of the URC Trust in London.
In January, Mr Uden will preach at: Emmanuel Methodist/URC, Eastbourne; Zion URC, Northallerton; Northern College, Manchester; Hythe URC, Southampton; and at the retirement service for the Revd Dr Elizabeth Welch. He will also attend a meeting
about Brexit with the Lutheran Council of Great Britain, and attend the Uniting Service for Cheveley and Stetchworth URCs, Cambridgeshire. Mr Derek Estill will lead worship at Westbury Gardens URC, Blackburn; attend the URC Youth Assembly in Staffordshire; attend a meeting of the church-related community work programme subcommittee in Manchester; lead worship at St Johns URC, Warrington, Cheshire; and attend a Holocaust memorial service at Blackburn Town Hall. Both moderators will meet the URC Assembly arrangements committee in London.
In November, the Revd Nigel Uden will preach at Westgate New Church (United Reformed and Methodist), Peterborough. He will also meet the Council for World Mission board of directors in Cambridge, attend a retreat at Clare Priory, Suffolk, and meet with the Church of Scotland’s Moderator, the Rt Revd Susan Brown.
Mr Derek Estill will attend a Free Churches Group reception in London; a meeting at Northern College, Manchester, and the opening of a new office for David Edwards Insurance Brokers in Birmingham. Mr Estill will represent the URC at the National Remembrance Day Service at the Cenotaph, London, and will also lead worship at Westbury Gardens URC, Blackburn, and at Holymoorside URC, Chesterfield.
Both moderators will attend Mission Council from 16 to 18 November. The Council will meet at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.