Category Archives: Moderators’ blog

Family, friends and new beginnings

Derek Estill, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, on how to bring new, better ways of being into this new year

The festive season usually gives us an opportunity to come together with family and friends, no matter how distant they may be from us and from each other during the rest of the year. If we can’t physically come together, we can feel closer through the exchange of cards, letters, phone calls, emails, Skype, WhatsApp etc, which gives me the feeling that our world is becoming smaller. The great distances that some of us have grown up thinking about and have struggled with over the years, are now, it seems, much easier to come to terms with.

One thing is for sure, at this special time of year, and that is that there is a real feeling of the need to connect, particularly as we think about the holy family and their trials and tribulations. They must have had great difficulty getting about, not to mention finding somewhere to stay, and then having to hot foot it to Egypt!

Now that the excitement of Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve has passed, I have begun to look back and take stock. I’ve asked myself: Have I been able to make a difference by bridging physical or emotional gaps in my life? 

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Queuing for hope

The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, reflects on the nature of hope in this New Year, and explains why it’s Christian to queue…

image of queue outside a church

What’s on your bucket list – the things you hope to do in your lifetime? The year 2019 enabled me to tick off two very special ones from my own. In June, while visiting First Nations people with the United Church of Canada, a free evening made it possible to nip down the highway to the Niagara Falls. And in November, an overnight stay in Berlin enabled me to go to a concert in the Philharmonie – the world famous concert hall of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. It wasn’t performing, but a fine chamber ensemble, visiting from the US, offered a sparkling programme of Beethoven and Mendelssohn.

At 7.15am on Christmas Eve, I was walking through Cambridge and saw how the queue for that afternoon’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Chapel was already well down King’s Parade. I stopped for a chat with the person who was first in the queue. He’d started his annual wait on 21 December, as he has done almost every year since he was a choral scholar himself there in the 1970s. He was soaked after heavy night time rainfall, but eager in his anticipation of the first such service to be conducted by King’s new Director of Music, Daniel Hyde.  

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Jesus Light of the World

Towards the end of the year our thoughts turn to Advent and Christmas.

Everything seems to be going much faster when what we really need to do is to slow down to give time to quietly reflect on the huge importance of Christmas.

Like everyone, I too am caught up in this rush to do many things in what seems to be less and less time. I think Antony Newley, an English actor, singer and songwriter¸ got it right when he sang about stopping the world so he could get off in his 1961 play Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. We could do better at finding time to step to one side for a while to give ourselves the opportunity to think more deeply about the wonderful significance of Christmas.

I have been able to do a little of this, firstly by remembering the work done by Mal Breeze, a United Reformed Church Related Community Worker (CRCW) based at the North and East Blackburn Group, and the three church communities he works with building community relationships and starting new ones that puts them at the centre of life so important and central to Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today, the United Reformed Church’s (URC) focus on lifelong missional discipleship. 

Close on the heels of celebrating CRCW work came Remembrance Day. This year I had the privilege of taking part in marking remembrance near to where I live.  In addition to the normal service I was able to participate in the launch /commissioning of a unique sculpture that illustrates the futility of war and the huge human sacrifices made by so many on behalf of others both during the conflict and then afterwards. Civilian life can be hard for those who made such significant sacrifices in the first place. 

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