Category Archives: Moderators’ blog

Being Transformed

Flames and Dove Pentecost image

Acts 2 v 1 – 4  

As we journey through Easter to Pentecost, we are concerned about what is going to happen next in regard to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing rules, and are treading carefully towards what we hope will be more normal times.  It is perhaps significant that this is happening as we approach Pentecost, when the spirit came into the world and those who had been confused, worried and anxious suddenly became able to talk of the future with new clarity, energy and certainty.

My experience during this pandemic is that I am rediscovering truths that I had forgotten and am being reminded about the importance of treating everyone equally. I have been given the opportunity to reset my focus in life making sure it is on God “unveiled”. Two Corinthians 18 tells us when we do that, we will be transformed from one degree of glory to another; as the hymn Love Divine, a favourite of mine, does when it says “changed from glory into glory till in heaven we take our place”.

The pandemic is causing deep distress and sorrow to many who have lost loved ones and their suffering is beyond description.  We honour and remember all those that have died, their loved ones left behind, and hold them all close in our thoughts and in our prayers.

This experience is changing our lives in so many ways making it clear that what is important is our relationships with one another and with Jesus, our Lord and master. Continue reading

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. 

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