Derek Estill, one of the Moderators of the United Reformed Church (URC) General Assembly, reflects on his duties as Moderator as 2018 came to an end
November was the month when we remembered the sacrifices made during all conflict and war and it is right and proper that we pay homage to those who gave all to keep us safe.
I had the great privilege of representing our church at the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph then the service in Westminster Abbey to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
The service in Westminster Abbey was both moving and memorable and those of us representing different faiths had a privileged position close to the High Altar on the north side of the Central Nave.
As faith leaders we were about four rows from the front facing close to where the Queen and other members of the Royal family were seated.
I was invited by the Revd Dr Hugh Osgood, the Free Churches Moderator, and Antony Cotterill, the Salvation Army’s Territorial Commander, along with other free church leaders, to a reception in Free Churches House in London.
Lord Bourne, the Minister for Faith, at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, was the special guest and we were able to meet and speak with him emphasising the positive contribution that faith groups make to all communities. I met Lord Bourne again at Blackburn Cathedral where he was launching an initiative to build up Integrated Communities and again, faith leaders were able to remind him of the vital contribution Faith Communities make.
Going for brokers
I attended the opening of Edwards Insurance Brokers’ new head office and was pleased to meet leaders from other churches, including the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who opened the building helped by Sandy and David Edwards.
Many of our churches use the services of Edwards Insurance Brokers.
I was also invited to lead worship at Holymoorside United Reformed Church in Derbyshire where it was good to meet fellow Christians to hear what they are doing, walking the way as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Early in December I took part in marking the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and Kinder Transport at Lambeth Palace. This had been arranged by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) who had invited representatives from different faiths to come together to remember this event which happened on the November 9, 1938.
Kristallnacht was an outpouring of hatred and vandalism against Jews where dozens were killed and expressed by the smashing the windows of buildings and businesses owned by Jewish people.
Soon afterwards, the Kinder Transport was arranged where Jewish children were rescued and taken to safety, 10,000 of whom came to Britain.
The service of remembrance was led by the Most Revd Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, both of whom addressed the gathering.
They reminded us how important it is for us to love one another and to be aware that evil forces are still at work in our society today, in particular l thinking of the increase in antisemitism and the attacks on Christians in various countries around the world and the rise in hate crime.
The reason for the season
In the final few days of the year I had the privilege of being able talk with children about Christmas and all that it means.
The first occasion was part of a Messy Church session at a local junior school. Soon after that local Christians hosted 90 Muslim primary school children who visited the URC I attend to find out about Christian worship.
A few days later I was invited to go and tell 250 Muslim primary school children about Christmas and all that it means for us as Christians.
I also took part in a carol service for 40-50 young people who use our church for judo. This is an annual event and the group of young people now feel that it is their carol service and we are delighted that they feel this way.
The end of 2018 was a busy time with much to think about. I hope that 2019 will be a good year giving us all opportunities to live out our discipleship in ways that shows faith in action.