EMURC E-Letter 327 17th September 2020

E-LETTER 329 - 15th October 2020

PDF Version: E-Letter 329 - 15th October 2020

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Opening Reflection by Ella Lemon
Synod Youth Representative
When I was first asked to write the opening letter, I thought, “I can give this a go.” I then thought, “I’ve never done this before, I don’t know where to start,” so I put my pen down and picked up the phone, rang my Granny and my minister for advice. Thankfully they both said something similar, they told me that usually Church or Synod have a message or key idea running through them, and that I should try to stick to that. So here is my best shot.
I then thought (for quite some time) about what my message should be: what did I want to tell people? What message could I share? I came up with different ideas but nothing really stuck or caught my attention. So I flipped the question on its head, and instead asked myself, what do I want to hear? I had many responses to that question. At the moment there are many things I want to hear. I want to know when I can see my friends and family again without the worry of putting anyone at risk. I want to know when we can go to church and sing, I want to know... I want to know.
However much I want to know the answers to these questions, I know that for the time being there is no clear path. I can also tell you that “I want doesn’t get,” but I don’t think that changing the word ‘want’ to ‘would like’ and adding ‘please’ on the end works the same way that it did when I was I a child. Instead I have to find other ways to deal with these wants.
The first thing I do, is ask myself, what do I have? What am I thankful for? Throughout this whole experience I am thankful for the community that has grown despite being far apart – the quiz nights, the Wednesday night Zoom meetings with church, or the friendships that have grown despite everything. Alongside that I pray, I ask God what he wants me to know, and look out for where he is leading me and what he is is telling me.
So, what is my message? What do I want to tell you? I want to tell you that even though at the moment when there’s a lot that we want to know but don’t have the answers, we do know that we can all still talk to God and one another to find things that we do have and be thankful for those, however big or small.


Report of the East Midlands Synod Meeting

Saturday 10 October 2020

Officially the 97th Meeting of the East Midlands Synod, this was an historic occasion as the very first in this Synod to be conducted online. The outbreak of Covid-19 had forced the cancellation of the 96th Synod Meeting in March and many restrictions on movement remain in place. Therefore, members were hosted on the LiveStorm webinar application, ably facilitated by Adam Lester (Integrity Team UK) , AJ Mills (The Soundest Guy) and Katie Lester.

This was also the first Synod Meeting chaired by our Synod Moderator the Revd Geoffrey Clarke, who broadcast from St Andrew’s URC in Chesterfield alongside Synod Clerk Helen Lidgett, Synod Administrator Chris Willis and the IT team who very effectively “brought to stage” other speakers and pre-recorded segments. Welcoming us to the meeting, Geoffrey and Helen introduced the first Resolution, which duly adopted the Standing Orders for Virtual Meetings by which all business would be run.


Opening Worship

An energising and optimistic act of Opening Worship was led by children and young people of the Synod. In introduction, the Revd Sarah Gower reminded us that however strange the times, however unfamiliar the method, we come together as a people known and loved by God, who is the same today, tomorrow and forever: “Our God of Love is a God of Hope.”


The Children Of God on a Sunday (COGS) from Abbots Road URC, Leicester contrasted the uncertainties of change with the constancy of Jesus’ love for us in their poem “Your love never changes”. Our East Midlands URC Youth Representative Ella Lemon led a prayer opposing complacency as long as poverty and injustice remain in the world, but asking, “give us hope to share, O Lord – hope that disturbs and shakes.”

By kind permission of all concerned, the Opening Worship can be enjoyed on the East Midlands Synod YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/zNhVTEFO4tA


The Moderator led us in noting, “chapters that have opened and closed, service that we mark and celebrate”. Amongst these, we gave thanks for the nine retired ministers of the Synod who have died in the past year and whose ministry between them represents an offering of 449 years.

The Revd Peter Jupp appeared on screen to receive the Synod’s warmest congratulations on the 50th anniversary of his ordination, marked by the presentation of a certificate. Resolution 2 meanwhile gave God thanks for the life and ministry of Langley Community Church over its 172 years of existence, with members of Synod encouraged to regard their votes as a prayer of thanksgiving.

Covid, Exile and Resurrection:

An Address by The Revd Dr John Bradbury, General Secretary


The Synod was honoured to welcome the Revd Dr John Bradbury, our new General Secretary, who conveyed the greetings of the whole URC. In a recorded address at once bracing and inspiring, Revd Dr Bradbury recalled Jeremiah’s admonition to the Children of Israel in exile, cruelly deprived not just of territory but their entire standing in the world. Although they longed to hear that everything would soon be restored to them, Jeremiah refused them easy comfort, prophesying instead that they must endure in Babylon another 70 years and urging them to seek the welfare of the city in which God had sent them into exile.

This year’s pandemic has been a kind of exile for us, not least from our beloved places of worship – but, said Revd Dr Bradbury, this only compounds the long exile of secularisation, which has deprived our congregations of old certainties and the security of their former standing in the world. God has not placed our lives in the glory days of full churches and single pastorates, but here and now. Hastened by Covid, our response may entail laying down things which we treasure – much-loved buildings, denominational structures, ways of worship – and taking up new ones instead. This indifferent, secular world is God’s world too, and like the Children of Israel we must make our home where we are: “to build, plant, grow families and relationships and seek the welfare of the communities we live in”.

Revd Dr Bradbury’s second text was the encounter of Mary Magdalene with the resurrected Christ in John’s Gospel: “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” That Mary, of all Jesus’s disciples, does not recognise Him shows that Resurrection is anything but a return to the way things were: it is a reinvention. Thus we cannot face the future and expect to be unchanged. If we look only for the old thing, like Mary, we may miss the transformative possibilities and potentials God has in store for us in the post-Covid world. The Resurrection of the Church, he concluded, might take another 70 years, or surprise us when we least expect it. It may even make us shocked or fearful: “God turning up has that effect.”

Revd Dr Bradbury’s address can also be viewed on the Synod’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/3kQqAz-Xlf0

Participating in the Meeting live, Revd Dr Bradbury answered questions about: the pandemic’s impact on the URC’s finances; the future balance of lay and ordained ministries; our response to the Black Lives Matter movement; and what needs to die in order for Resurrection to happen.


Business of the Meeting

Having first highlighted some matters of note from the summer’s Mission Council and virtual General Assembly, Helen Lidgett took the opportunity of the Synod Clerk’s Report to record thanks to her colleagues in the Synod and Synod Office for their hard work and commitment throughout a difficult year.

Members of Synod unanimously accepted the nomination of the Revd Camilla Veitch to succeed Helen as Synod Clerk. Appointments of representatives to Mission Council, members of the Synod Trust and other appointments proceeded smoothly. Thanking both Helen and Administrator Chris Willis for their painstaking work in compiling these lists of office bearers, the Moderator noted that they constituted a fair proportion of the 500 or so positions that Dr Bradbury had observed it took just to keep the URC’s current structures operational.

Before breaking for lunch, Synod also approved the Minutes of its previous Meeting in October 2019 and ratified the decisions taken by Synod Council following cancellation of the March Meeting.


An Insight into Ministry and Mission as a Military Chaplain: 

An Address by the Revd Major Stuart Turner

A musical introduction to the afternoon’s business was followed by an absorbing address by the Revd Major Stuart Turner who serves within the East Midlands Synod as an armed forces chaplain, or Padre. He described how military chaplaincy has liberated him from the administrative aspects of ministry – from Church Meetings to fabric appeals – to concentrate on the core of his calling, which is to minister to people by offering them pastoral care and worship. His workplace and place of worship is wherever the troops are, including the parade ground and indeed the theatre of war. Such field services follow a pattern we’d recognise – involving prayers and readings, sermons and often Communion – but exemplify faith in action wherever we find ourselves: this is truly contextual theology at work.


Army chaplains minister to every rank, but what Revd Major Turner most treasures in his ministry is the pastoral encounter it offers with young people of 16 and up. Padres offer an “all souls” ministry to people of every faith and none, governed by a strict code of trust and confidentiality. While they also have welfare officers to meet their practical concerns, soldiers readily approach their chaplain to seek a listening ear and a pastoral response in their moments of greatest need. They are invariably glad when the encounter ends with the chaplain offering to pray with them; in 11 years’ service he has had this offer declined just once. In few other ministries, he said, do we enjoy the privilege of a constant stream of young people knocking on our doors to seek out our attention or advice. 

Revd Major Turner serves as an army chaplain, he said, because this is the place to which God has called him – and he serves beside his soldiers because they are where they are, up to and including the battlefield. As the season of Remembrance approaches, he asked members of Synod to think of Padres in all three armed services.

He has given permission for his full talk to be shared on the Synod’s YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/hf7JNdXeYMk.

Revd Major Turner responded to questions about the place of Mission in his ministry and about the opportunities for ministers to act as chaplain to armed forces in their locality, including the army cadet force and reservists, offering to respond personally to anyone interested in exploring such an opportunity.


Synod Environmental Policy

A major piece of business presented to this Synod Meeting was the Resolution adopting the Synod Environmental Policy brought forward by its Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation group (JPIC).

Our Green Apostle Charles Jolly was “brought to stage” to present the Policy. First shared in draft form in 2019, it has been revised in light of comments sought from churches around the Synod and both the Policy and a full Commentary are available on the Synod website: https://www.urc5.org.uk/content/justice-peace-integrity-creation-group

The East Midlands Policy has been well received at national level and puts us in good company: people and organisations across the world are already taking urgent and far-reaching action, so we are often pushing at an open door, said Charles, “or one that only creaks a little bit when you push”. Nevertheless, many of us in richer countries are only slowly waking up to the reality that our lifestyle is unsustainable and must change.

God loves all life on our planet, not our species alone, but it is our task to take good care of it – so the Policy is necessarily demanding. In giving a structure for our environmental efforts, it urges us to enjoy the natural world, forge links with like-minded groups, and support initiatives such as EcoChurch. The JPIC group commends it as a tool to help us work together, especially with young people and for the sake of young people.

The Policy was duly adopted by Resolution – although the Moderator noted that saying “yes” is the easy bit: the challenge is to take up this Policy and live our lives by it. Sending Charles with all our blessings as he relocates to Northern Synod, he thanked him for his long service amongst us and his willingness not to be a comfortable voice.

Group Reports

Convenors of the Ordained Ministry and Churches, Training & Development, Children and Youth, Lay Ministry, Mission Focus, Ecumenical, Finance, Property and Belonging to the World Church groups each came to screen to commend their reports and respond to a number of questions.

The Church as Place, People and Potential:
Closing Worship and Address by the Revd Geoffrey Clarke, Moderator



Beginning with words from a liturgy by the Revd Thom Shuman, the Moderator incorporated a Resolution recognising the collective commitment and service of all those who have stepped down from roles within the Synod in a prayer of thanksgiving: “Through them many lives have been touched. With them we give God the glory.” Synod then recognised the loss and heartache so many have suffered this year through Covid-19, sharing the Revd Michael Forster’s hymn “In Glad and Sad Remembrance”.

The Moderator’s address sprang from Philippians 2:3b-4: “… in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” A good question for any of us who dare to “be” or “do” church, he suggested is: For whose benefit is this ministry?

Three people were to be inducted into their new roles: Geoff Milnes as Synod Property Officer, the Revd Louise Gee as Pastoral Consultant for Nottinghamshire and Derek Graham as Training and Development Officer. The Moderator used these roles as signposts to affirm what the church is, even in these uncertain times.

Property acknowledges the importance of Place in our mission: our church buildings are places soaked in prayer and this year has been full of painful decisions about our worship – although the refrain, “Buildings are closed but church is not” makes a helpful distinction. Property is best seen as a resource to enable us: “base for mission, house for prayer, sanctuary for encounter with the sacred.”

P stands also for People and church, ekklesia, is an assembly of people. However glorious the chapel, it is the oversight by people, of people, with people that matters most in the work of a Pastoral Consultant and in the life of our fellowship. “Social distancing” has strained our sense of connection, yet the health crisis has also led to a joyful rediscovery of our pastoral care for one another. To quote Bill Hybels, “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right … “Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.”

Hybels adds, “the potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp,” and Potential is an apt word for the role of Training & Development in nurturing and enabling the potential in each of us. Where God’s grace combines with our openness to being used – however inadequate we might believe ourselves – then church may be the place in which we discover and rejoice in our own worth and potential, even as we affirm the worth and potential of others.

Church as place, people and potential – so “For whose benefit is this ministry?” The Moderator replied: “The answer is, of course, for God.  And, for the good of the church – and of any and all who wouldn’t even consider going anywhere near one.”


The three Inductions followed, with Synod Clerk Helen Lidgett and Treasurer David Greatorex reading the Statement of the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church and helping to welcome Geoff, Louise and Derek into their roles on behalf of all the Synod.
Worship concluded with the prayer, “Disturb us, Lord” (commonly attributed to Sir Francis Drake) and the hymn, “Have you heard God’s Voice”. We were invited to join in saying the blessing together in all our various locations, as the day’s proceedings drew to a close.


Situations Vacant

The Role Description, Person Specification and Application Form are available at: https://www.urc5.org.uk/content/advert-synod-safeguarding-officer-east-midlands-synod


Director – Dr Williams’s  Library

Dr Williams’s Trust is seeking a self-motivated and enthusiastic Director to work with staff and trustees in managing the future development of the charity.  Established in 1716 on the death of Dr Daniel Williams, the Trust’s original purpose was to assist in the provision of an educated Protestant Dissenting Ministry, for which aim Dr Williams also bequeathed his personal library.  In recent times, Dr Williams’s Library has become the more prominent part of the Trust’s work and houses a significant and distinguished collection of books and artefacts relating to Protestant non-conformity.
Full details of this vacancy, whose closing date is Monday 9 November 2020, are available on the charity’s website: http://dwl.ac.uk/view.php?page=385

Children and Youth


Creating Space with children is an opportunity to explore, learn and reflect with others on how ministry with children, in both peer and intergenerational settings, can nurture the spirituality and faith formation of all involved. The URC is a key partner in this ecumenical learning journey for anyone working with children.. 
The project will take place over Zoom on four dates this winter and spring but you can come to the first on Wednesday 21 October at 7.30pm to find out more, without committing to the remaining sessions.
You can register to join the Zoom meeting by clicking here:  Register to Join the Zoom meeting here


Advent Hope and Joy Christmas Boxes

URC Communications and Children and Youth Work have been beavering away to produce an exciting new resource for churches to give to households and families to spread a little hope and joy this most difficult of Christmases. Priced £4.00, their Advent Hope & Joy Christmas Boxes are now available to order from the URC Online Store: https://urcshop.co.uk/christmas?product_id=379



Personal News

It is with sadness that we announce that the Revd Peter R Mackenzie died on Thursday 1 October 2020.

Peter served at: Carluke Congregational Church 1960-69; Saughtonhall Congregational Church 1969-91; and Livingston Ecumenical Parish 1991-96.
Funeral arrangements were not known at time of publication. We pray for all those who held Peter dear.
The sad news has also been announced that the Revd Michael J Davies passed away on the Monday 5 October.

Michael served at: St Andrew's, Rustington 1959-65; Egremont, Wallasey 1965-70; Help The Aged 1970-72; Youth Secretary 1972-78; as Moderator, Thames North Province 1978-90; Assistant General Secretary, WCC 1990-97; and WCC Representative in Britain & Ireland 1979-99. Into retirement, Michael remained very active, preaching and sitting as convenor on a number of committees.

Michael's funeral will take place at 12.45pm on Monday 19 October, at the Surrey and Sussex Crematorium. Current restrictions dictate that this will be limited to family/invitations only, but it is intended that it will be livestreamed. Please keep Michael’s wife, Rosemary, and family in your prayers. 

A full account of Michael’s long and dedicated service is available on the national URC website: https://urc.org.uk/latest-news/3607-michael-j-davies-minister-of-the-pce-urc-and-wcc-1933-2020.html
This also includes links to hear one of his sermons and to watch him share in reading the Statement of the Nature, Faith and Order of the URC, as recorded for this year’s online General Assembly.


Remembering the Revd Michael Davies

To complement the article on the URC website, the Revd James Breslin has written for us this personal appreciation:
I knew of Michael Davies long before I knew Michael Davies. Growing up in the 1960s I was aware of him as one of the group of young Presbyterian Ministers who led the national youth work of the Church through activities like “Adventure Camp”, and when in the 1970s I was a student at Westminster College the billiard table in the common room was always referred to as “Michael Davies’ fathers table”. 
Following my ordination I would see him in his role as Thames North Moderator introducing newly ordained ministers at the General Assembly and in later years I would tease him by commenting that in those days his habit of wearing “Safari Jackets” led to comments about inappropriate dress while in recent years those same jackets led to his being one of the most formally dressed.
Where I got to know him best was in the Assembly Arrangements Committee.  In the 1990s, after an Assembly had gone spectacularly over budget, Michael was asked by the then General Secretary, Tony Burnham, to “help out”. Nearly thirty years later he was still helping out, if by helping out one means acting as minute secretary, keeping a close eye on budget, sharing in the negotiations with venues and suppliers, writing the programme that went to every Assembly Member and turning his hand to any of the thousand and one jobs that need to be done in the Assembly Office while the Assembly is sitting.
Only a few members ever find the Assembly office: it is usually tucked away in a corner of the place where the Assembly is meeting and this often means up stairs and along long corridors. Without fail, Michael would be there despite increasing ill health. In years when he was a member of the Assembly he alternated between the floor and the office. In other years he was mostly just in the office helping with the vast amount of documentation the Assembly consumes. Until very recently the minutes, the order paper and the notices were all printed overnight, which placed a very real time constraint on the office staff. More recently only the young peoples’ daily paper has been printed in that way, but it still had to be checked before it could go to be printed. Michael was part of the team that helped with all of this and as a former URC Youth Secretary could be relied upon to help when, as occasionally happened, something in that sheet had to be withdrawn. 
Michael attended 51 Presbyterian and then URC Assemblies. Without him recent Assemblies would have been much more difficult than they were. He will be greatly missed.


Around the East Midlands


To enter, www.themeadcentre.co.uk/our-goals and make a suggested donation of £10 and then email jenny.mills@urcnewportpagnell.org by Friday 23 October to register to receive the Zoom link.


News from Mission Committee

The following items are amongst those highlighted by the General Assembly Mission Committee in its September meeting:

New resources from Walking the Way, living the life of Jesus today

The latest versions of the Walking the Way resource map and synod/local church recommended resources are now available. New materials have been published for use around Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday, thinking about how whole-of-life disciples of Jesus can remember those who have lost their lives in conflict: https://urc.org.uk/images/WalkingtheWay/documents/Remembrance_for_whole-of-life_disciples.pdf

Fresh Expressions and pioneering

A new app has been developed for those interested in developing new Christian communities where they are: https://www.fxresourcing.org/godsend/contents/

Rural Mission

Farming has had a very tough year. The weather is, once again, proving to be problematic for many farmers and it is predicted that the wheat harvest will be the lowest for about 40 years. Alongside this there are great concerns about the effect of any trade deal on farming standards. There is also concern about a lack of a trade deal with the EU, which could affect exports. We are asked to pray for members of the farming community and those who work to support them.
The change in work patterns as a result of the pandemic is also affecting rural communities. Many villages are home to groups of commuters who are now working from home. The National Rural Officer would like to hear from anyone who has observed this dynamic in their own community: how has your church responded to this new opportunity? Contact Elizabeth Clark at Elizabeth.Clark@arthurrankcentre.org.uk 

Action for Children

Action for Children is a national charity that seeks to end childhood crisis and ensure that children have a safe and happy childhood. It was founded by a Methodist minister, the Revd Thomas Bowman Stephenson, and is widely supported not only by numerous Methodist churches but many URC congregations too, especially those that are in a unified church partnership with Methodist partners.

Periodically, the charity shares useful information about its work with the Church and currently draws our attention to:

Parent Talk, a free online hub for parents providing advice and resources:

Build Sound Minds, a free online space which supports parents, carers and others responsible for supporting children and young people to build better mental and emotional wellbeing: https://minds.actionforchildren.org.uk/


Two New Talks from Belief

Belief, a Christian adult education charity based at St Andrew’s Church Centre in Bedford, share details of two new talks, open to everyone on Zoom and priced at £10 per person.

"Religion and Belief in the UK Today - The Landscape Today and in the Future" is a talk by Simon Perfect of Theos, taking place on Saturday 31 October at 10am.

Simon Perfect is a Researcher at Theos, the religion and society thinktank, and an Associate Tutor at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where he leads courses exploring Muslim communities in Britain and other minority settings. He writes on subjects such as faith and belief student societies in universities, freedom of speech in universities, and church responses to economic inequality in the UK.

To obtain the Zoom link, places need to be booked by Friday 30 October on Eventbrite: 


Then, on Saturday 21 November at 10am, the Revd Simon Woodman will talk about the Gospel according to St Mark. Minister of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London’s West End and the Free Church Chaplain at King's College London, Revd Woodman has degrees in Biblical Studies from Sheffield, Bristol, and Cardiff Universities.

Also priced £10, this should be booked on Eventbrite by Friday 21 November:

New Materials from York Courses

York Courses have published a brand new ecumenical resource in four sessions, designed for Advent or any time.

Written by novelist and lecturer Catherine Fox, Living in Hope is a chance to have a think about what it means to live well. It helps discussion groups or individuals look back to the Bible to see where we’ve come from, and look forward in hope to what lies ahead.

Also launched is Caring for Creation, a five-week course for Lent 2021 written by Brian Davis and confronting the challenge of climate change.

Further details are available on the York Courses website: www.yorkcourses.co.uk


Find us Online

The East Midlands Synod website remains the one-stop shop for all essential information: https://www.urc5.org.uk/


Our East Midlands Synod Facebook Page continues to host the Evening Prayers led by our Moderator the Revd Geoffrey Clarke during the health crisis. If you are a Facebook user, please consider Liking and Sharing this Page and its posts: https://www.facebook.com/URC-East-Midlands-Synod-102279281444717/

Similarly the Synod Youth and Children's Facebook Page shares news and ideas related to our work with young people: https://www.facebook.com/URCEastmidlandsYouth/

   These have recently been joined by a dedicated YouTube channel, where the synod will share special events, training videos, worship and more. Please subscribe:


Contacting East Midlands Synod

Owing to the current government recommendation to avoid office working where possible, the East Midlands Synod Office is presently closed. All members of staff continue to work from home: please email them in the usual way. The office number 0115 960 9241 is answered from Monday to Thursday, 9.00am-3.00pm and calls will be forwarded as necessary. Please continue to monitor our website for updates: www.urc5.org.uk

This E-letter is produced on behalf of:
The URC East Midlands Synod, 1 Edwards Lane, Sherwood, Nottingham, NG5 3AA.
Telephone: 0115 960 9241

Free-to-use images sourced on Unsplash.com: “Gesture of humility” by Ben White
Next edition: Thursday 29 October 2020
Please send all material for this E-Letter to both: modpa@urc5.org.uk and training@urc5.org.uk
Copy date for next edition: 12 noon on Tuesday 27 October 2020

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