One of the key events taking place within the life of the United Reformed Church this month, is our National General Assembly which this year meets in Southport, Merseyside from Friday 8th July to Monday 11 July. Delegates will gather from around the UK, and will welcome visitors from other churches as well as those representing the world wide church.
Naturally many of the reports take the opportunity to 'take stock' and identify what is good about the URC, as well as pose the question this year: 'What is the Spirit saying to the Churches?' as an encouragement to local churches and chapels to discover new ways of engaging with the communities we are called to serve.
From my initial reading I have gleaned just a few key elements that are on offer:
The URC is being courageous and controversial in that it is seeking to respond to contemporary issues, specifically the question of allowing the marriage in some of our churches of same-sex couples as well as seeking support for a new international nuclear weapons ban treaty. The latter recognises the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as well as opposing the cost of replacing Trident. The report affirms that the Church as a whole cannot have a single view of such challenging issues, but declares that the local Church Meeting holds a 'governing authority', and it is for each local church to determine its position 'in response to the guidance and prompting of the Holy Spirit' but in the belief that we are called to live in unity in the midst of our rich diversity.
We are being called to celebrate two key anniversaries this next year: the 500th Anniversary of the birth of Non-Conformity and the 100th Anniversary of the ordination of the first woman, Constance Coltman, into the Congregational Church (one of the denominations that make up the URC). They, are each a reminder of the way that the Church throughout every generation has sought to respond and adapt to changing needs and understandings, accepting that the Spirit is seeking to lead us in ever new Truths.
It seems to me that as a church we are being encouraged to discover where God is already at work in His world and follow His lead, so that we, as a people of God, might be 'fit for purpose' in the opportunities and challenges within our contemporary and increasingly secular society. I am encouraged by the emphasis of a Church that is seeking to listen to what the Spirit is saying to us, so that we might continue to play a vital part to play in today's world. As one of the Reports so telling states: 'The Spirit is leading us to trust that God holds the future even when the future appears uncertain .... And is calling us to a life of radical discipleship, directed towards God's mission in the world'.
Of this I am convinced, that with God's help and prompting, we will be equipped for the tasks ahead, so that His Name may be glorified in all that we think, say and do.
July / August 2016