Category Archives: Moderators’ blog

Sights and stories from the Holy Land

Derek Estill

Derek Estill, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, tells of his experiences in Israel/Palestine

In September, 22 United Reformed Church members, including myself, went on a ten-day educational visit to Israel/Palestine, to see and hear for ourselves about life there – particularly for Palestinians. While we visited holy sites, our visit was principally focused on Palestinians – hearing about their lives, and the challenges they face day to day.


Our trip started in Bethlehem, where we visited the Church of the Nativity, met a local Palestinian family that run an olive wood-carving business, and heard their account of tolerating deliberate provocations in light of threats from Israeli authorities. While in Bethlehem, we also met with the Revd Dr Munther Isaac, who serves as Pastor of the Lutheran Christmas Church. Dr Isaac talked about the life of Palestinians, making it clear they feel like strangers in their own historic land. He gave many examples of the physical, emotional and religious difficulties they face.

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Pray for our politics

The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, reflects on this year’s Party conference season

At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. From left to right: The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly; the Revd Dianne Watts, trustee for the Baptist Union of Great Britain); The Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference; Captain Mark Scoulding, the Salvation Army’s leader in Watford; and Grace da Costa, Public Affairs and Advocacy Manager for Quakers in Britain

My fellow Moderator, Derek Estill, and I have shared the responsibility of visiting the Conservative and Labour Party conferences – boxing and coxing to represent the United Reformed Church as part of the delegation organised by the Joint Public Issues team. Last year, I was in Birmingham, watching the then Prime Minister shimmy across the stage to Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’. This year, I was in Brighton, standing at a large TV screen alongside various Labour MPs, as Lady Hale read the judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the proroguing of Parliament on 10 September. Both were significant moments.

In Birmingham, Mrs May seemed to be on something of a high, and the warm up act from the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, was a remarkable example of the oratory characteristic of some barristers. At that time, the UK’s departure from the European Union seemed assured for 29 March 2019.

In Brighton, all but six months after that departure date had come and gone, the Labour Party conference was rapidly reorganised as prorogation was deemed unlawful. MPs leached from the conference hall to clamber aboard trains for London in time for the following day’s resumption of parliament.

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Variety is the spice of life

Since my last blog I have led worship three times, attended Greenbelt, participated in a Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) political party briefing, and prepared for a trip to Jerusalem. These occasions have brought home to me the variety we have within the URC family, which I am sure you will agree is a strength and a wonderful blessing. 

Revidge Fold URC Blackburn

My first service was at Revidge Fold United Reformed Church in Blackburn. It is an urban church, within a community that has a large Asian presence, mainly Muslims, and which is opposite a large Catholic College.  The church embraces its community in many ways and welcomes all to use its buildings and facilities. Activities such as the Guides, Brownies and Rainbows, a dementia café, a regular lunch club and social gatherings are held there. Formerly, the church was known as Four Lane Ends Congregational Church which began in 1820 as a ‘plant’ from the Chapel Street Congregational church in the centre of Blackburn that had been founded in 1778. The picture below shows the present church.

Revidge Fold URC building
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