From the steelworks of Stocksbridge to the English Riviera at Torquay the United Reformed Church is alive and well and making a difference in the communities we serve. The opportunity to contribute to a guest blog comes at the end of a week when I have taken part in the dedication of a new community hub and the fortieth anniversary of a Local Ecumenical Partnership.
The challenge to all of us is not to linger over what has been but to get excited about what might be. It is easy during periods of rapid change, such as are sweeping through western church and culture now, to get stuck in defending the institution and forgetting what the church is for. It takes courage to let go of what is comfortable and familiar in order to grasp the opportunity to do something different. Changing the culture of the church can be a slow and frustrating business. We need to put much more energy into imagining the future and getting excited about the story of our faith and how it might shape the world we live in.
In Stocksbridge the small congregation, through a community audit, identified loneliness as an acute need in the community. Through perseverance and hard work they have raised the money and found willing partners to build a new church hall not to serve the congregation alone but the whole community. Whatever their age profile church groups can become so concerned about their own needs that they become deaf to the needs of others. We can forget that structures and buildings are there to enable us to hear and to serve the needs of others and not become the drain on energy and resources that prevent us from being faithful witnesses to Good News.
In times of change the fear of losing control can become an overwhelming force in both church and culture. We are witnessing the same phenomenon in the debate about British membership of the European Union. We need to worry less about keeping control and more about working together to imagine the future. The past is gone, we can learn from it but we can’t repeat it. God is in the future beckoning us on challenging us to take risks and to make a difference.
Moderator of General Assembly