In recent weeks three gatherings have excited me and re-invigorated my joy and privilege to be a member of the United Reformed Church, and sensing it is also about being the body of Jesus Christ.
I have often said that I was drawn to the United Reformed Church by Eldership – and I still believe the foundation of the church – Jesus Christ – is best lived out through local spiritual leaders, ordained laity (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms?), serving congregations in their local mission. And I still believe that it is our elders who will lead the Church into renewal through Walking the Way. In Yorkshire we have taken this seriously and for a number of years, an inspiring team of elders have led synod days for training, encouragement and development. They are always well attended, well received and the fruits of inspiration taken back to our churches. Our recent one was on the subject of Prayer and the outcomes for all there have been stunning!
Walking the Way, even the survival of our denomination also vitally depends on all our ministers having their faith in Jesus Christ, rooted in the ministry to which they are called. I hoped there would be such a renewal of confidence in the URC, and a spiritual coming together in unity and love for one another when the Ministers’ Gathering was planned. The biggest thanks I can give must go to all who planned such an amazing time. First time in our history to gather all ministers might sound like 40 years too late; but no, the timing was in God’s hands, and I can trust hands that flung stars into space and to cruel nails surrendered. I saw old friendships restored, and new ones made. I heard ministers of particular theological perspectives recognising the power of God’s Spirit in other ways. I watched ministers comforting the troubled and cheering the sad. Though all the speakers and workshops could be inspiring, it was actually good to hear the honesty when people said something wasn’t for them. That’s when I knew we had got it right.
Ministers gather at Yarnfield
Once a year, moderators extend their monthly meeting to include partners, and go to exotic places like Cambridge, Bristol or this year Newcastle. Not sure Newcastle can be described as exotic – though the Saturday night wild-life certainly was (and I don’t mean the kittiwakes!) We keep saying, or being reminded that we are not a council of the church but we are a significant group as we are some of a small group who have visited every church, led worship in most, and worked alongside many other partners in our communities and synods. Not to be pious, but it was recently said in Yorkshire that with me busy as General Assembly Moderator – “How can we release our moderator to be holy?” and (after the person sitting next to me too loudly swore!) this was translated to be – releasing to pastorally care and lead us in mission. Funny, but I could say exactly the same of our elders, ministers and moderators!
Moderators gather at Newcastle, with a miraculous appearance of Nicola Furley Smith who had left early, but to return in the pulpit!