Author Archives: urcmedia

Bernard Thorogood: His reputation, influence and legacy

The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, reflects on the work, service and reputation of an influential Church leader

Bernard Thorogood, who has died aged 92, was General Secretary – first, of what became the Council for World Mission (CWM, from 1970 to 1980), and later, of the United Reformed Church (from 1980 to 1992). Obituaries appear elsewhere. This blog is a reflection that arises from Bernard’s reputation.

I met him, but not often. I was ordained while he was at Church House. Shortly afterwards, he was greatly encouraging and supportive when I left for service in Johannesburg with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. I valued his moving capacity to be affirming and so respectful of one more than a generation his junior, sharing wisdom from his effective work in the Pacific. I also have the privilege of working alongside Neil, one of his sons, as we collaborate in the life and work of Westminster College. Neil and I often speak of Bernard, and so much I respect in the father comes from those discussions with the son. I cannot say, though, that I knew him well personally.

In a sense, that is what makes my real point. I honour Bernard Thorogood not because of our close association but because of his fine reputation, his far-reaching influence and his lasting legacy. That seems to me be even more of a tribute than one shaped by the bias of friendship. It certainly emerges in conversation with colleagues in the URC and the global Church. More, however, it emerges from reading Bernard’s valuable writings.

I served churches in South Africa during the final years of institutionalised apartheid. The Church, galvanised by the South African Council of Churches, was significant in campaigning for the end of what it described as a doctrine that was heresy and a practice that was sin. In that country at that time, the prophecy of Amos inspired and challenged me, with its withering critique of those who think keeping quiet is a prudent thing to do (5:13). Bernard Thorogood’s A Guide to the Book of Amos (SPCK, 1971) – in simple, sometimes stark, language – prodded me to take the prophet to heart: ‘Amos was not a prudent man. He could not “keep silent in such a time”, but felt compelled to speak.’ I still remember wondering whether the six-monthly renewal of my work permit was a lamentable sign that I had been too prudent. Continue reading

John 13 v 34 Love one another

In these very difficult times, for everyone here in the UK and across the world it has never been more important to hear and respond to the simple straight forward words in John 13:34. These words cannot be misunderstood. As I write this blog it is the beginning of Holy Week. Confused and difficult emotions compete in my thoughts and prayers and take me from the lowest depths to the highest of elations in a matter of days.

This year, as we approach Easter, the whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic with many thousands of people suffering and dying because of its deadly effects. We are worried, confused, anxious, bewildered and feel so vulnerable because suddenly our well-ordered lives and routines, that we have taken for granted, have been thrown into confusion as we comply with the requirements of social distancing. This really is a time of crisis. The Queen underlined this when she addressed the nation, only done on rare occasions, and commonwealth to bring us calm words of reassurance, comfort, and focus to our minds on the better days that will return.

No doubt you will have experienced wonderful acts of kindness and consideration from friends and neighbours, perhaps some of whom you may not have previously met or spoken to. We give thanks for this selfless love that is being shown to others and to all those working in the NHS, social care, and the other caring professions, irrespective of the risk to themselves of catching the virus. It really is wonderful. 

Continue reading

A message to all who are the United Reformed Church

From Derek Estill and Nigel Uden, Moderators of the General Assembly

Amid this Covid-19 shaped world, we greet you in the name of God –
by whose grace we were created,
by whose mercy and love we are sustained,
by whose love we will be held forever.

Even as we are moderators of the General Assembly, so we are immersed in local churches, and it is as your companions on the way that we wished to write to you this weekend. Our experiences mirror yours – we, too, are distancing ourselves physically from others, we too are feeling uncertain, sometimes even fearful.

Coronavirus Covid-19 has been creeping up on us. We watched its effect upon other countries and washed our hands as we sang ‘Happy birthday’. Now it is affecting us, and last Sunday Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, punctured any complacency there may have been, saying, “life should not feel normal”, and if it does, you should ask “if you are doing the right things”. It’s a new world, and we don’t always feel so brave.

How should we react? There have been essential things to do. Far from having less on our agenda, many of us have been burning the candle at both ends. And there was no alternative; stuff was happening, and we needed to deal with it. But it seems Covid-19 will shape our lives for some time to come.

Continue reading