Welcome to the April 2017 edition of the United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales eNewsletter.
Please forward this e-mail on to all those in your church who may be interested to read it. Anyone may subscribe to the eNewsletter themselves from the Synod website or via our Facebook page.
We would very much like this eNewsletter to include good news stories and details of events from local churches and chapels. Please e-mail all stories, reports, events, etc. to email@example.com.
The deadline for the receipt of material for the next eNewsletter will be Thursday 27th April.
News of People and Places
Retired Ministers, Spouses and Widows Tea
The Swansea Region held a tea for Retired Ministers, Spouses (wives in this case) and Widows at the Uniting Church, Sketty, Swansea, on Monday 7th March. The event was organised by Rosie Buxton, Synod Elder, and Pat Davies, Elder at the Uniting Church. A delicious tea was prepared by Pat Davies and Gwen Dumelow, Senior Steward, and the guests were welcomed by Leslie Noon, Minister of the Uniting Church.
Five retired ministers were present (Noel Davies, Kim Fabricius, Pamela Lewis, Ivor Rees and Alan Wilcocks) along with three wives (Pat Davies, Delyth Rees and Catherine Wilcocks). Widows present were Jean Evans, with her son, Paul, Jean Floe and Mary Jeffreys).
All expressed appreciation of a happy afternoon and look forward to the next occasion.
Christian Aid “Big Shift”
Beulah United Reformed Church in Cardiff held a Christian Aid “Big Shift” campaigning coffee morning on Saturday 18th March. They did two things:
Collected messages and petitions to take to the local banks later this month, asking them to make #TheBigShift away from investing in fossil fuels and towards more investment in green energy. To find out more about this campaign, to email your bank, and download church resources, go to: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/campaigns/climate-change/the-big-shift
Celebrated the fact that Beulah have switched to green energy with Big Church Switch and getting a saving of 15% on their current price! Can more churches explore this and make the switch to green energy? Visit: http://www.bigchurchswitch.org.uk/
Posters made by the pupils of Coedylan Primary School
We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. There is not just one planet or one star; there are galaxies of all different sorts, a plethora of animal species, different kinds of plants, and different races and ethnic groups. We are constantly being made aware of the glorious diversity that is written into the structure of the universe we inhabit, and we are helped to see that if it were otherwise, things would go awry. How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?
For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. It is this image of Godtoo that invests each single one of us — whatever our race, gender, education, and social or economic status — with infinite worth, making us precious in God’s sight.
Words there from Archbishop Desmond Tutu who, as Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches during Apartheid, knows what it is to face and fight injustice and prejudice.
From 9th - 12th March, St. David’s Uniting Church, Pontypridd was the focal point for a few days of Intercultural Celebration.
Our opening concert on Thursday night saw seven local primary schools wow us with an evening of poetry and drama, music and art which reflected the overarching theme of ‘Together. Stronger’. Compeered by Racial Justice and Intercultural Ministry advocate for the Synod of Wales, church elder and BBC radio presenter, Beverley Humphreys, with contributions from local poet and playwright Patrick Jones, laughs were shared and tears were shed as the audience were reminded of the rich diversity and unity of the human race.
On Saturday afternoon, the inaugural Intercultural 5-a-side tournament was held at the local rugby club at which teams representing ten different nationalities – from Syria to Slovakia – and a whole range of religions, ethnicities and cultures played together and socialised with one other.
The goalkeeper of the winning team, Eric Eugene Murangwa, a former Rwandan refugee whose life was saved by his teammates and who has since founded the organization ‘Football for Hope, Peace & Unity’ then introduced his film ‘Soccer: My Saviour’ – which retells his incredible story and subsequent desire to use football to promote peace and unity in communities across the UK and Rwanda – before it was screened at the church.
Following a sharing of traditional Welsh foods, a cultural showcase was enjoyed at the church at which Eisteddfod winners, Syrian schoolchildren, clog-dancers and hymn-singers shared the customs and traditions from their respective cultures.
The day ended with a traditional Welsh twmpath – an evening of folk dancing where tune and tempo transcended any language barriers and young and old swung each other around with wild abandonment.
On Sunday, the morning service took the form of an Intercultural Cymanfa Ganu – a time of prayer and praise where the hymns in Welsh, English, Arabic and Zulu all reflected the theme of the weekend.
In place of the evening service, we screened a classic family film in the church – in English with Arabic subtitles – and saw families from South Wales, South Sudan and Syria enjoying an animated parable about how trust and tolerance can overcome panic and prejudice.
It was a wonderful few days that saw people from a plethora of cultures coming together in sport and art, drama and dancing, worship and Welsh cakes as we thanked God for making us one extravagantly loved people – diverse in culture and together, stronger.
And since we started with a few words from Tutu, perhaps it’s only right to end with some:
We live in a universe marked by diversity as the law of its being and our being. We are made to exist in a life that should be marked by cooperation, interdependence, sharing, caring, compassion and complementarity. We should celebrate our diversity; we should exult in our differences as making not for separation and alienation and hostility but for their glorious opposites. The law of our being is to live in solidarity, friendship, helpfulness, unselfishness, interdependence and complementarity as sisters and brothers in one family — the human family, God’s family. (God is Not a Christian, Desmond Tutu. HarperOne, 2011)
Spring 2017 Regional Synod Meetings
Enthusiastic hymn singing during the opening worship for the Regional Synod Meeting at Rhos-on-Sea United Reformed Church on Saturday 25th March. Other Regional Synod Meetings have taken place at Libanus URC on Saturday 4th March and Llanfair Penrhys on Saturday 11th March. The final meeting of this cycle will take place at Manselton URC on Saturday 1st April.
Information and Requests
Emergency Appeal for South Sudan
Famine has been declared across parts of South Sudan. 4.9 million people are in urgent need of food. This crisis comes after more than three years of conflict, which has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of 3 million people. Harvests have been disrupted, food and fuel prices have risen, and the economy has collapsed. Conflict and instability, sexual abuse, executions and other human rights abuses, continue amid severe humanitarian needs.
We need to act and pray.
Christian Aid partners on the ground urgently need more help to provide emergency aid – including food, hygiene kits, cash and vouchers and shelter. Our church partners in particular are calling for an immediate end to the violence, and working to address the root causes of conflict. By working through local partners, including the South Sudan Council of Churches, Christian Aid is able to provide exactly what the local population needs, as well as maintain our presence on the ground when other Western aid agencies have had to pull out.
How you can help:
Please hold a collection over the next few weeks: donations can be sent to us at the Cardiff office or made online. Emergency Appeal envelopes are also available from the office: firstname.lastname@example.org 029 2084 4646.
The General Assembly task group, which was set up following the 2016 General Assembly, has been asked to bring to General Assembly 2018 proposals for running the General Assembly from 2020 to 2030. To do this it needs to consult widely and is actively seeking opinions or insight from around the Church. In short, the task group wants to hear from you – and has devised a short online survey (which will not take more than ten minutes to complete) to help them more fully understand what the denomination wants from General Assembly.
The Revd John Proctor, URC General Secretary says: ‘General Assembly is the United Reformed Church’s main governing body. We want to run it as helpfully as possible. Sometimes we ask too much of it: to meet frequently, with a lot of people present and plenty of time to do business properly, in a good venue with modern presentation facilities, and all without our having to spend too much money on it all. There is no perfect solution. But we ought to make the best plans we can – and we are seeking your help to shape General Assembly for the next ten years.’
The members of the task groups are:
Val Morrison (Convenor) (Assembly Moderator 2010-2013)
Adrian Bulley (Synod Clerk in Wales)
Dick Gray (Treasurer of South Western Synod)
Michael Hopkins (Assembly Clerk)
Margaret Marshall (Synod Clerk in West Midlands)
Assisted by John Proctor (General Secretary)
The survey is now available – and will close at 12 noon on Friday 28 April. Please do participate – and encourage other members of your URC congregations to do the same. The direct link to the survey is here: http://bit.ly/gasurvey2017 Thank you!
Should you know anyone who would like to take part in this survey but does not use a computer, please download the pdf version of the survey, which can be posted to the General Secretary, again by 28 April.
Calling all Knitters
Can you knit or crochet? Or do you know someone who does? Perhaps you have a Knit and Natter group at your church, or maybe you’d like to start one …
As part of this year’s theme of ‘More than Welcome’, an army of knitting and crochet fans are needed to help prepare a knitted food treasure ‘trail’. This will take festival-goers to hampers dotted around the site where they will answer questions on food/feast stories from the Bible and collect various knitted food items. They will then be asked to add the fruit to an empty banqueting area so that, over the course of the weekend, the area goes from being empty to abundant.
There is a lot to knit so the more people, groups and churches involved, the better! If you do start this project, please send a photo of the group/individual doing the knitting for a display in the URC lounge.
Knitting/crocheting patterns are available but do feel free to use any you may have already. The knitted items should not be too big (so they fit in the palm of your hand). This food production needs to start as soon as possible if there is going to be enough ‘food’ in time for the August Bank Holiday.
For further details about where to send completed items, email Linda Mead and she will let you know where to take or send them. Linda would also be grateful to know of any wool that may be going spare as a large amount will also be needed for the festival.
On the last day of Greenbelt, volunteers will head out to distribute the ‘food’. An attached postcard will explain that it is a gift from the URC and it will also include a ‘food for thought’ idea or challenge.
Past Case Review
The United Reformed Church has extended its Past Case Review (PCR) deadline to 30 June 2017 and issued new resources to help churches and individuals acknowledge past abuses, show Christian love and build a stronger, safer Church community.
Review organisers have urged all within the URC to spread the word about it so that the Church can learn from the past and do better in the future. The new resources – a poster, church magazine article, and statement for churches – are now available here. The second phase of PCR, launched in October last year, sees the public being invited to raise concerns formally about the behaviour, or conduct, of anyone affiliated with the URC since its formation in 1972. Concerns may involve all forms of abuse, including sexual, financial, spiritual, psychological and emotional.
The Revd Richard Church, Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship), is responsible for the Review. He says: ‘Every church has a vital role to play in getting the message out and sharing it far and wide. The Safeguarding Advisory Group agreed to extend the PCR’s original deadline of 31 March in order to ensure that all who may wish to come forward will have opportunity to do so. This is so very important and we need your help to make sure the message gets through.’
Response to Triggering of Article 50
In response to the triggering of Article 50, a Working Party that represents Christian churches and denominations that are members of Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales has announced a list of principles which they believe should be the basis of the UK’s negotiating stance. These include protecting the status and rights of children and young people, the disabled and elderly. They say that human dights relating to the Welsh language and ethnic minorities must also be respected, as must legislation which protects the environment and the countryside – including the livelihood of those who work in rural industries.
The report – issued by Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) on behalf of the mainstream Christian denominations – adds that the deep rifts which became evident during the EU referendum must be recognised and healed.
“As leaving the European Union now becomes reality, we must support people whose lives are changed in ways that they would not have wished for,” said Dr Patrick Coyle, Chair of Cytûn, on behalf of the working party formed to prepare a Welsh Christian response to Brexit. “The dissatisfaction that the referendum exposed in communities that have not benefitted from globalisation must be understood and action taken to develop those areas. The suppressed racism and xenophobia that the referendum campaign uncovered must be confronted. The Churches will need to be there with those who who need comfort and encouragement and above all to be peacemakers, reconcilers.”
The working party, formed at the request of the Union of Welsh Independent churches last summer, has already given evidence to four Welsh and UK Select Committees on this issue. “As we enter uncharted waters, politically, culturally and economically, it’s essential that we, as Christians, contribute in a constructive and robust manner to the debate and the democratic process,” said Dr Geraint Tudur, the Union’s General Secretary.
The Revd Carol Wardman of the Church in Wales added that many people were shocked by the vote to leave the EU in Wales, which has always been an outward-looking country with close ties to many other parts of the world. “Whilst it is important that Wales is not disadvantaged by the split from the EU, and that we maintain friendship and fellowship with our European neighbours, it is also important to recognise the inequality and disaffection which caused people in especially the poorest parts of Wales to vote for Brexit. The fellowship of Christ’s Church knows no boundaries, and it is the calling of Christians to bring about reconciliation – so the churches are ideally placed to reflect upon the current situation and consider how to move forward together in love.”
The Revd Denzil John, of Baptist Union of Wales, said that the working party had been a vehicle for the different denominations to find a common voice in their reaction to the changes that will happen in Wales following Brexit. “This is an opportunity for us to come to grips with some of the basic issues that challenge us as a nation, and to understand them in a European and global context.”
“In a period of uncertainty, the church has an important role to play by offering stability. As so many divisions appear and deepen in society, with the feeling of alienation from others becoming obvious, faith communities have a responsibility to serve and reconcile,” said Professor Noel Lloyd, of the Presbyterian Church of Wales.
News of Events
By asking people to come together for street parties, picnics and bake-offs, we hope to create the biggest street party since the Jubilee, and send a message to everyone. That there is more that unites than divides us.
The aim of this ecumenical event is to encourage and motivate churches to be part of the housing solution in North Wales and to work in partnership with others.
The recent Welsh Rough sleeper count conducted by the Welsh government identified particular challenges around homelessness in North Wales and Wrexham, this roadshow will be an opportunity to share good practice and discuss how working together can bring real change to communities and hear how churches are using surplus land and buildings to provide homes for people in housing need.
Across the nation, homelessness and lack of decent housing have a devastating impact on lives. The introduction of welfare benefit reform has made this situation worse for many families and single people.
Come and hear about the great work churches are already doing across Wales, and be inspired to make a difference.
£40. Need to hire a tent? Add £5 for tent hire
Crossfire Camp is an exciting event for young people aged 12+. We meet each May to explore more about faith through small groups, teaching, worship and a whole range of fun activities. Join us in 2017 for a great weekend of fun, meeting new people & exploring the gospel.
Where can I find out more?
Visit our website for more information including FAQ's, poster and paper booking form.
The United Reformed Church, and the Congregational Federation, will mark the centenary of Constance Coltman’s ordination in September – and all are invited to attend a very special thanksgiving service. The service will take place on Sunday 17th September 2017, at the American International Church, Tottenham Court Road, London, the preacher will be the Revd Susan Durber. The service will start at 3pm followed by refreshments. All are welcome to attend, if you’re hoping to come, please get in touch with Tracey Hardingham.
Can’t get to London but would like to share in the celebrations? Organisers are planning to live stream the service so that everyone can be involved. There will also be a global gathering of women pioneers in the run up to the Thanksgiving service and a public lecture - open to all, on 16th September. Watch this space for more details!
News of Resources
Appreciating Church: Book and Website Launch
How can local churches, congregations and communities use their strengths to spark transformation and growth?
That is the question at the heart of a new Appreciating Church website and book written by Fiona Thomas, United Reformed Church Secretary of Education and Learning, and Tim Slack, founder and co-director of the Appreciating People organisation. They worked as part of a group of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) practitioners drawn from ecumenical partners, advised and supported by Appreciating People.
The resources draw together – for the first time – the ways in which a range of denominations are using the process of AI to draw on the strengths and energies of local church communities as the catalyst for transformation.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) begins by identifying the positive core of an organisation and builds from there. Appreciating Church is designed to be a user-friendly, accessible and practical resource with theological underpinning and pointers for worship, integrated with AI theory and practice. It includes case studies from UK churches which have used AI, among them the United Reformed Church, Methodist Church, Quakers, Congregational Federation and the Liverpool Diocese of the Church of England.
Speaking at the London launch in the chapel at Methodist Central Hall, Fiona Thomas said, ‘All churches do something really well, and they all have great strengths, however small; Appreciating Church starts by discovering these and building from there. It also takes seriously the life-giving force of the Holy Spirit and the possibility of newness coming from surprising places when a church draws on its strengths.’
Tim Slack – the son of the Revd Kenneth Slack, an early leader within the United Reformed Church – added, ‘The aim is to create a self-sustaining community of AI practice across the Churches and so much has already happened. The Quakers have been using AI for about 10 years, and the Methodists and the Congregational Federation have also made a particular impact in supporting this. The book and website are part of that ongoing story and training process.’
Appreciating Church, and its accompanying website offering supplementary exercises and content, come as a resource for existing and aspiring AI practitioners within churches and the communities connected with them. Appreciating Church will be applicable throughout the UK and there has already been interest from churches and church-based organisations in other English speaking countries. The practical examples in the book include community involvement by a Pentecostal church in Manchester, and the work of St Bride’s, Liverpool with its commitment to being creative, progressive and inclusive.
Local Election Resource: Explore Faith & Politics
On 4th May people across Wales will go the ballot box and vote for candidates in local council elections.
Over the last four years we have seen a referendum, Welsh Government elections and a General Election, and in the midst of all of this it is easy to disengage from local politics.
And yet local democracy remains a vital part of our communities, the decisions that are made have a direct impact on congregations, church members, their friends and their families. This is an opportunity to focus on the local.
May 6th is polling day for this year’s local elections
In the run up to this election, the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) and the Joint Public issues Team (JPIT) have produced “Explore” - a resource to help congregations engage with these elections and to explore some of the issues within their communities.
While conventional hustings bring communities together to listen to candidates, “Explore” is based on the idea that the community can gather to hear from some of those in greatest need, enable them to share their stories and allow the candidates to respond directly. This is an opportunity to do politics differently and to move to a more conversational politics, where people rather than parties are at the centre of the decision making process.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and let us know what you organise!
Every morning a reading, reflection, and prayer is sent out by email from the URC. They are written by a team of around 100 people from different places and perspectives and provide inspiration in our inboxes! The devotions are designed to help enrich our discipleship and, whilst designed for personal use, have been found helpful for Bible Study groups, service preparation and devotions at the start of meetings. You can read them all by going to http://devotions.urc.org.uk where you can also sign up to receive them yourself using the link on the bottom left of the screen.
Let's Talk is a new resource aimed at young people. It is a series of short films aimed at encouraging conversations about key mental health topics that increase awareness, understanding and communication about these issues, helping to break down stigmas and encourage young people to access support. Each film creatively touches on a subject and is intended as a conversation starter. There are FREE education packs available for each film containing resources that can equip people to continue the conversation. Don't forget to register your interest if you would like to receive these accompanying materials.
URC at Greenbelt
Follow the links below to four short films about the United Reformed Church and Greenbelt. They are all relatively short (maximum 2mins 28); some of the sound quality is affected by it being an ‘outside broadcast’ but they give a good ‘feel’ of the festival and the excitement of being there.
The first two (Why go to Greenbelt? and Looking back at Greenbelt 2016) are the most useful for use as promotional material for URC at the 2017 event because the other 2 look back at (a) last year’s theme of Scrap the Church? and (b) how artist Nic Walters built the scrap church installation.
In the Welshpool area we have a very active Welshpool Churches Together group, holding joint services, prayer meetings etc. Each year during Lent we have evening meetings in New Street United Church, with a different discussion each Wednesday, led by the different denominations. This year we have taken as our theme the Praying the Statues book prepared by the Diocese of Bangor, and have found this excellent as a discussion/debate forum. It is of course aimed at Lent, but could form a focus for any group within a large congregation, or congregations within an area, letting different viewpoints be heard. We have had the evenings in our coffee room, which is modern, and they have been attended by in all seven different denominations, including two independent chapels. If you have not already come across this book, it is well worth a good read.
Together in Prayer
Perhaps you might invite those who lead the prayers of intercession week by week in your church to incorporate this prayer calendar into their prayers. A single document containing the prayer calendar for the whole of 2017 is available by e-mail.
Pray for Hebron United Reformed Church, Mostyn and Templeton United Reformed Church, Narberth
Pray for Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore
Pray for Rivertown United Reformed Church and Shotton Tabernacle United Reformed Church, Pembroke
Pray for East Timor, Indonesia and Philippines
Pray for Libanus with Barham United Reformed Church, Ebbw Vale and St. John’s Methodist/ United Reformed Church, Tenby
Pray for Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan
Pray for Tabernacle United Reformed Church, Newport and St. David’s Presbyterian Church of Wales/ United Reformed Church, Aberystwyth
Pray for Djibouti and Somalia
Pray for St. David’s United Reformed Church/Church in Wales, Newport and Cefnybedd Cilmery United Reformed Church
Pray for Eritrea and Ethiopia