United Reformed Church asks: ‘Are you really welcome?’

warning sign 554x415The Revd Craig Muir writes the latest URC blog for Greenbelt. As an Associate Partner of the festival, the URC will this year focus on a theme of More than Welcome.

‘All Welcome’ say church signs. Yet many will have stories of being ignored, barred, dismissed, dismayed. What can we learn from each other? How can we improve the welcome we offer? How can shared experience create communities filled with people who know what it is to belong to a culture of welcome? 

This is a year of Feasts and Festivals for the United Reformed Church:

  • 500 years since Luther asked awkward questions
  • 100 years since a woman was ordained into one of the denominations from which we emerged and a century of men and women ministering together
  • 40 years since the creation of the Council for World Mission - no longer mother and daughter churches but partner churches working together on God’s mission
  • 30 Years since the United Reformed Church set up the ministry of Church-Related Community Work, recognising the importance of community development within neighbourhoods.

We have learnt much and still get things wrong. But one of the things we have got right is our involvement in Greenbelt as Associate Partners – with our own space and programme at the 2017 festival where our theme is ‘More than Welcome’.

UnReCognised are connected through Greenbelt and the URC. The group began in order to create worship for Greenbelt that grew from our Reformed tradition. We were named for a denomination often misnamed, overlooked, misunderstood. Eating, praying, and reading the Bible together, our aim is to create conversational spaces that challenge and reshape Church.

This Greenbelt, UnReCognised are creating a series of ‘Intentional Conversations’ at the URC’s Banqueting Table Art Installation to explore a story Jesus told: ‘A banquet was being given, invitations were sent out but one after the other made their excuses and snubbed the host. So, out went the servant into the streets and alleys to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Still there was room for more, so out went the servant again spreading the welcome ever wider until the house was full.’ We will explore what it means to be ‘More than Welcome’ and imagine the banquet hosted by a variety of hosts – such as those who have never been in a church, live with dementia, seek asylum or manage obvious/ hidden disabilities.

So, we invite you to join us around The Banqueting Table to celebrate the many ways in which people are welcomed. We’ll look at the nagging questions that still remain: ‘Who is missing? Who remains unrecognised?’ And for all of us, what does it really mean to say: ‘You are more than welcome’?

The Revd Craig Muir is a Minister of the United Reformed Church, convenes Coventry City of Sanctuary, contributes to Greenbelt through UnReCognised and volunteers as part of the venue manager team. 

  • Greenbelt takes place at Boughton House, near Kettering, Northamptonshire, from 25 to 28 August 2017. This blog post first appeared on the Greenbelt website.