The Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, reflects on the anniversary of the first lockdown, the debt poorer families have incurred because of Covid-19, and the campaign the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) started to highlight this issue.
At the start of the first lockdown. JPIT, along with other partners, took the opportunity that day, to challenge us to pray and take action to support those who are affected by debt because of the Covid restrictions. As Moderator of General Assembly, I was privileged to take part in an online prayer, alongside other church leaders, as well as members of Parliament from different political parties.
We prayed and reflected on the words in Isaiah which Jesus took as his own manifesto when he read them in the synagogue in Nazareth; good news for the poor, release from captivity, freedom from oppression. Isaiah was speaking to a people in exile and Jesus to people living in an occupied territory. But the words need to be heard in our context of pandemic and poverty.
On a positive note, our government has offered support in various ways, which has been a lifeline to many – though there has been questionable spending too. But there are people who are falling through the gaps. Low pay, zero hours contracts, disability – all were having negative effects well before the pandemic. Debt has become a major problem for those whose budgets already had no leeway. Continue reading
Peter Pay, Moderator of the URC General Assembly, talks about an eye-opening commemoration for persecuted Christians that he attended:
I was recently invited to represent the United Reformed Church by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Coptic Orthodox Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a distinguished panel of guests to mark Contemporary Martyrs Day on 15 February . The event was held in remembrance of the 21 Libyan martyrs and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church who lost their lives in 2015 as a result of religious persecution. Pope Francis also contributed on the day.
I have to admit, my first reaction was that I was not aware of this event, but on checking I discovered that a five-minute video had been published showing the beheading of the 21 Christian (mainly Coptic) captives by ISIS on a beach along the southern Mediterranean coast.
A caption in the video called the captives the ‘People of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church’. Few people I have mentioned this to have heard of the outrage. It leads me to wonder what else I may be unaware of. Continue reading
From 29-31 January, the Revd Clare Downing, Moderator of the United Reformed Church (URC) General Assembly, attended URC Youth (dis)ASSEMBLED.
The digital event was for URC Youth to remain connected after it was forced to cancel its Assembly because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here, Clare reflects on the event:
It was an interesting weekend. Originally, I’d planned to be in Staffordshire at URC Youth Assembly. While Reuben, URC Youth Moderator had set himself up with a virtual background of Whitemoor Lakes (where Youth Assembly is usually held) we were, of course online. The positive side of this was that it made it a bit easier for me to be ‘in’ Southern Synod, for the induction of the Southern Synod’s new Moderator, Bridget Banks as well.
We have learnt a great deal about worshipping virtually. The induction went smoothly and was accessible to many people who might have baulked at travelling to a central venue. Worship at Youth Assembly was inspiring. The music was brilliantly produced, and the reflection on ‘heroes and villains’ in the stories of David and Esther was challenging. Continue reading