The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, urges prayer for the needs of our Church and society
Last month, I wrote about the value of praying with and for politicians. There have been times when people have criticised my praying for a local MP because they (the critic) did not share that parliamentarian’s philosophy and commitments. I nevertheless continue, convinced by Paul that part of the Church’s vocation is to be a community of prayer for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Current developments in parliament only confirm me in that conviction.
This month, I am in a similar vein. But I also urge prayer for the Church, and particularly for the United Reformed Church. Over the coming months, there are several processes of discernment in train: for the appointment of a General Secretary to replace the Revd John Proctor, when he retires in August next year; for a Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) to succeed the Revd Richard Church, whose retirement is just a few weeks prior to John’s; for a Principal for Westminster College, Cambridge, as the Revd Neil Thorogood’s term will be complete at the end of the Easter term next year; and for four new Moderators – for North Western, Yorkshire, East Midlands and Southern Synods – to build upon the work of the Revds Andrew Mills, Kevin Watson, Peter Meek and Nicola Furley-Smith respectively. Nicola is replacing the Revd Craig Bowman, who after 12 years is moving on from being Secretary for Ministries. Craig has accepted a call to the Cheam and Wallington churches.
Derek Estill, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, tells of how he’s put his faith into action during the appointments he had in August
Celebrating community work in Chorley
These are exciting times at Chorley United Reformed Church, Lancashire. Their long-term thinking, that has been in the development pipeline for some years, is beginning to take shape.
I have been aware of their ambition for some time – to create an upgraded church building that incorporates a comprehensive community centre with provision for vulnerable people ‘living on the edge’, those with learning disabilities and older people, all right in the heart of the town. This development has the full support of the United Reformed Church’s North Western Synod and the town council, as well as notable people like Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, and Lord Shuttleworth, Lord-Lieutenant of Lancashire. Both Sir Lindsay and Lord Shuttleworth are supporting Chorley URC’s appeal to raise the £3m needed. At present, the financial amount needed approaching halfway mark. According to the Revd Martin Whiffen, Chorley URC’s Minister, the church’s vision is to rebuild its premises in order to enable them to engage more fully with their local communities.
I visited the Chorley church as General Assembly Moderator and as a member of the church-related community work programme’s subcommittee. While there, I took part in the commissioning service and induction of Andy Littlejohn as a church-related community worker (CRCW). Mr Littlejohn will work Chorley URC to help their vision come true. CRCW ministers work with congregations, helping them build their connections with local communities and to meet local needs. It was great to see and hear about Chorley’s building project and its CRCW appointment. I am sure this significant development will be a blessing to the church, and all those being served in the town at large. The appointment is an answer to their prayers, and is an excellent example of faith in action.
Pictured (from left to right): The Revd Martin Whiffen, Chorley URC’s Minister; Derek Estill (me!), Moderator of the URC General Assembly; Fiona Hodson, Chorley URC’s secretary; Andy Littlejohn, newly-appointed CRCW; the Revd Louise Franklin, Minister of West Kirby URC and St David’s Eastham and former minister of Andy’s sending church West Orchard URC; the Revd Marion Tugwood, convenor of the URC North Western Synod’s pastoral committee; the Revd Brian Jolly, Clerk for the URC’s North Western Synod.
The Revd Nigel Uden, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, on politics, praise and prayer
A week into the administration of a new Prime Minister, it is increasingly clear that his cabinet is significantly different from the previous one. They have assumed high offices in which the responsibilities are great and the demands are unrelenting. These Members of Parliament represent us and at their best, they serve us.
Inevitably, we will not all always agree with the premier or his senior ministers. The less centrist the government, the more profound the possibility of diverging opinions. That’s politics and human nature, and they’d not always have our concurrence even if we were not immersed in the divisive business of Brexit. That said, I am disinclined only ever to criticise, belittle and condemn our politicians. Few of us seek the role they have, less still the opprobrium they so often attract. In a parliamentary democracy, isn’t the quality of the elected at least in part a reflection of the quality of the electorate? The electorate is, after all, ultimately responsible for who gets into the House of Commons, and we can also unseat them when the opportunity arises.
In all sorts of contexts, good leadership is made possible by good followership. In the workplace, a boss is often as good as their colleagues. In the Church, elders and ministers are only as effective as the partnerships of those they accompany. So it is in parliament. Those at the despatch box have many obligations to us. But I have long believed that those of us at the ballot box also have obligations – obligations not to abandon the elected as if our only role was to put them in office and then do our utmost to knock them from their pedestal. I believe the elected have a right to good quality followership, which is about so much more than either mindless support or endless criticism. As the Church claims a place in the nation’s life, what is the best followership we can model for our leaders in the Palace of Westminster? Continue reading