Monthly Resources

Our celebratory themes are:

January: celebrating Christian unity (45 years of the URC)
February: celebrating our intercultural Church
March: celebrating our worldwide partnerships (40 years of the Council for World Mission)
April: Easter – celebrating resurrection
May: celebrating children and youth (over 80 years of Pilots and the URC’s Big Day Out)
June: Pentecost – celebrating the Church’s birthday
July: celebrating our work for global justice (25 years of Commitment for Life)
August: celebrating pioneers (pioneers in world mission in civil rights movements and ministering to people with AIDs.)
September: celebrating women in the church (centenary of Constance Coltman’s ordination)
October: celebrating faith – 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation
November: celebrating the saints
December: Christmas – celebrating Jesus and giving thanks


January – Celebrating one Church

Big tentjpgTheme introduction
The United Reformed Church is one of a number of Christian denominations in Great Britain – but all Christian churches belong to one big Church – Jesus’ church.

‘Towards a Charter for Children in the Church’ says that the United Reformed Church will only do separately those things which cannot, in all good conscience, be done together. While in this the context of the charter it relates to children and young people it does also directly refer to how we get along with our fellow Christian denominations. And we do a LOT of things together! Street Pastors, Food Banks, asylum seeker and refugee projects are just a few examples of where Christians in different local denominations put aside their differences and work together for God’s Kingdom.

img1img2
Praying and working with other churches for the visible unity of the whole Church is second nature for the United Reformed Church. The United Reformed Church came into being in 1972 through the union of the Presbyterian Church of England and the majority of churches in the Congregational Church in England and Wales. In 1981 we joined with the Re-formed Association of the Churches of Christ and in 2000 with the Congregational Union of Scotland. We also have strong relationships with Churches and Christian organisations around the world, including the Council for World Mission (www.cwmission.org), World Communion of Reformed Churches (http://wcrc.ch/) and the World Council of Churches (https://www.oikoumene.org).

The Church worldwide marks the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity from 17 to 25 January. The six presidents of Churches Together in England have issued a call to prayer which you can find out more about here http://www.thykingdom.co.uk/

The theme ‘Reconciliation – the love of Christ compels us’ is based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-20. Materials from Christians in Germany, 500 years after the start of the Protestant Reformation, focus on the pain caused by deep divisions within the Church and invite us to take new steps towards reconciliation.

Reflect together

As a church, or in small groups, read 2 Corinthians 5:14-20

  • In what ways do you experience the love of Christ urging you on?
  • Can you tell a story about something that happened in your church that you would describe as reconciliation?
  • Where do you see the need for reconciliation in your community – and what role can the church play?

Our union over the past 45 years has taught us much about reconciliation. Rather than telling another Church what we think they need to learn from us, we are listening to hear what their tradition may have to teach us. And more and more we are celebrating the things we have in common rather than focusing on our differences. This month why not:

  • Put time and energy into marking the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Resources can be found at https://ctbi.org.uk/week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity-2017/
  • The resources and ideas here can also help you make January a Feast and Festival. They draw on the images of Epiphany (6 Jan), which reminds us not only of the place of journey and pilgrimage in our Christian life but also of those who come from different traditions and show us what God is doing.
    Sometimes we also need to remind ourselves of what pilgrimage is all about: in some traditions it is about going to a specific place; in the Celtic tradition pilgrimage is about taking a journey with God the destination of which we do not know, which reminds us even more that the journey is as important as the destination
  • Find out and support what Christians in your area are doing together, for example lunch clubs, foodbanks or Street Pastors. Celebrate it in worship!
  • Think about your relationships with churches near you and invite everyone to share something good and something concerning that is happening in their congregation now.
  • Make a priority of praying for reconciliation throughout the Church and the world.
  • Write a prayer for another church that is local to you – and send it to them. Who knows? They might pray for you, too!
  • Draw a map of your local area and mark ALL the churches on it. Pray for them (you can use this map again later in the year if you decide to invite ‘friends’ for a church meal).
  • Ask everyone at your church whether they have friends that go to a different church (the children and young people may have school friends) – draw a diagram of the relationships you already have.

Suggestions for worship

Some opening words for worship at the start of the year:
4 voices (dotted around the church if possible). 

1. Come and celebrate, as the year begins and we journey with The Giver of Life.
2. Come and celebrate, as the year begins and we journey with those we know so well.
3. Come and celebrate, as the year begins and we journey with those who are less familiar.
4. Come and celebrate, as the year begins and we journey with those we have yet to meet.

We come and celebrate with old friends and new.
We come and celebrate with memories and hopes.
We come and celebrate with wonder and expectation.
We come and celebrate with the Giver of Life!

A prayer of approach remembering God’s keeping on our journey:

Loving God,
faithful and true.
Your love is at the heart of creation
we gather now
to remember how deep that love goes.
We open our hearts to you
that we will be filled with your love.
We open our minds to you
that we will understand something of your love.
We open our whole lives to you
that we will live even a little of your love.
Strengthen us, in this time of worship for your way is not always our way,
and we know that something today will challenge us.
Strengthen us and keep us,
our risk-taking maker,
our wounded saviour,
our wild, wandering guide.
Amen.

Prayer of remembering and confessing for Epiphany:

Faithful God,
You have led us to this place
and yet we wonder if you will take us further.
Faithful God
You have called our names
and yet we fear you have forgotten us.
Faithful God
Your wisdom seems foolish,
Perhaps your way asks too much.

We forget your promises and do not wait for long enough to recall them.
We wait now, and recall your words and ways…..
Stars for wise travellers
Angels for busy shepherds
Songs by a makeshift cradle
These are stories of you we have only just heard, yet they are already slipping from us.

Silence to recall God’s ways and words…….

Merciful God,
Forgive us and renew us.
As you remind us of your ways and words plant them in our hearts
then we will cherish them there.
Merciful God,
Forgive us and renew us.
We forget that you have led us
and still you keep calling us.
Remind us of your truth,
keep us on your way.

Christ Jesus came and dwelt among us,
Walking a way of grace and truth.
To those who were lost he reached out in love.
He stopped and waited with those who had fallen.
Remind us of that grace,
That we might know we are forgiven,
We might still walk your way.
Amen, Amen, Amen.

A song for Epiphany and all year round:
“Travelling Song” A hymn of pilgrimage (for Epiphany and other times too) was written for Epiphany and was called Epiphany song, but we changed the name the “Travelling Song” so that we could use it all through the year! Click to download the music and lyrics in PDF format.

A prayer activity:
To prepare, take a walk around your local neighbourhood and take pictures of the churches you find there, being careful not to include the name/notice board of the church on the photo.
In the service: project the pictures of the churches and ask people to name them and talk about what they know is going within the life of each church. Prayer for the churches you have spoken (remembering to notice any you have missed out.)
OR….. you could do the walk as a group prayer walk or street retreat, praying for your ecumenical friends as you go along or even inviting them to join you.


February – Rejoicing in our intercultural Church

img3Theme introduction

For many years hundreds of URC members have gathered for the multicultural celebration. Every other September since 2007 Christians from England, Scotland and Wales have come together with Christians from Ghana, Korea, Jamaica, Nigeria and many others to celebrate the rich tapestry that makes up the United Reformed Church. It is a joyous gathering with lots of singing, dancing, story telling and poetry. There is a story award and an art competition. And most of all there is food, hot, tasty and plentiful.

We also acknowledge that we need to do more than celebrate our multicultural church, the URC maintains that justice and love must be at the centre of all our intercultural ministry, in order to challenge all that opposes the fullness of life in Christ. Enabling racial justice advocates, supporting and enabling ethnic minority lay and ordained ministers, and becoming better host churches – are just some of the ways in which we have been living out our commitment to rejoice in the gifts of our members and show that the love of God is radical and inclusive.

We therefore continue to find new ways, models and tools to rejoice and embrace the diversity of humanity, and we invite you to journey with us, step outside of your cultural comfort zone and reflect on what it means to be a truly inclusive church...

Reflect together

As a church, or as small groups, read Luke 10:25-37

  • Ask ourselves who do we identify with in the text and discuss with each other the social and religious barriers that are apparent in this narrative.
  • What are the barriers before us that limit our ability as churches to be embracing of all groups – particularly those who have been marginalised throughout history?
  • How can we engage in truly mutual relationships that embody and express the full range of voices and gifts present in the URC and wider communities?
  • Do we have the systems in place to invite and welcome people – especially those on the margins of society – to ensure that all are welcome, and all gifts and perspectives are heard, visible and valued in our congregations, ministries and structures?

Things to do

Suggestions for worship

20,000 welcomes: a Vigil for Refugees by the Churches Refugee Network http://www.urc.org.uk/images/mission/at_home_strange/Vigil_for_Refugees_-_outline.pdf

Day of intercession in memory of those who have lost their lives at the borders of the EU Information, Intercessions and Ideas published by Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum http://www.urc.org.uk/images/mission/at_home_strange/Intercession_day_June_2016.pdf

Racial Justice Sunday Resources, Worship and Liturgy https://www.urc.org.uk/images/mission/racial/RACIAL_JUSTICE_SUNDAY_2014.pdf

Continuing to reflect

Feasts and Festivals are important in the Bible. They are the focus of community life from the very beginning. Anything important that happens seems to have a feast or a festival. When a battle is won there is a feast. When God does something the community wants to remember and celebrate there is a festival, and that involves eating too. Here are some ideas to help us start exploring the eating and celebrating in the Old Testament.

When Abraham and Sarah receive three strange guests at the Oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18) Abraham seems to know it is the LORD. He makes them welcome and lays on a feast. The best flour is baked and a tender calf is cooked. After the eating and drinking Sarah who, like Abraham, is by now very old, overhears one of the visitors telling Abraham that she will have a son.

Being attentive to God is important and eating together is one way to do that. When we gather around a table we practice (in both senses of the word) hospitality and openness, compassion and gratitude, love and care.

Food, dancing and music are central to the life of the Jewish people. The central act of Jewish faith is the Passover Feast, where they remember God freeing the Hebrew slaves from Egypt. For Christians this meal is also important because during it Jesus took bread and wine and gave them new meaning. We call this feast Communion or the Eucharist.

As the newly freed Hebrews wandered in the wilderness they ran out of food but God provided all that they needed (Exodus 16:2-20). Manna, bread from heaven, appeared for every day each morning. It had to be used or it would go bad. We pray for ‘our daily bread’ in the Lord’s Prayer. Like those wilderness wanderers we learn that God provides food for the journey.

Psalm 23 speaks of a table groaning with food prepared in front of all our foes and a cup overflowing with goodness and mercy. Psalm 150 encourages us to sing and dance and play music to praise God. This month you could:

  • think about how you welcome and entertain uninvited guests
  • look ahead in your church diary and plan a special meal
  • think about including those who never usually get invited

Our multi-cultural heritage

There’s a rich tradition in the URC of multi culturalism, particularly in songs for worship, so this month we encourage you to sing something each Sunday that reflects this mix. You’ll find some in Rejoice and Sing (i.e. 555 We are Marching and 402 Ubi Caritas;) and the Iona Community have produced a books of songs from the world church: http://www.ionabooks.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=world+church+songs). You may even find some songs among your own congregation, so take some time to ask about and learn the songs that people bring with them.

You might also be able to find a rare resource that was produced in 2013 by Thames North and Southern Synods Urban Churches Network and the national Racial Justice and Multicultural Ministry: it’s a book and CD of songs from around the world that grew out of the celebration day in June that year called 'A Rainbow of Spiritualties'. As there was a limited number of these books produced there are a bit like gold dust, but if you ask around you might find one or two in circulation, or you can always contact Anne Sardeson (training@urcthamesnorth.org.uk) to see if she can find a few left over copies.


March – celebrating our worldwide partnerships

img4Theme introduction

John & Mary Williams were missionaries in the South Seas sent there by the London Missionary Society (LMS). Although John was attacked and killed in the New Hebrides in 1839, their work continued through the John Williams ships operated by the LMS. The LMS had a series of small missionary ships, which transported missionaries and supplies through the mission fields, mostly in the Pacific. In the mid-20th century children from Sunday Schools in the UK, New Zealand and Australia raised money for the ships, collecting ship half-pennies (there was a picture a bit like one of the John Williams ships on the reverse of the coin).

The London Missionary Society was one of the societies which were replaced in the 1960s by churches taking on more responsibility for mission and developing ecumenical partnerships. Following the publication of 'Sharing in One World Mission', the new structure of the Council for World Mission based on equal partnership and mutuality came into being in 1977. It supports member churches in mission, through the sharing of people, resources and learning. The United Reformed Church played an important role in its formation. This year we will celebrate 40 years of CWM and being in mutual and equal partnership with its many members in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific and the Caribbean.

Reflect together

Acts 16:6–10

  • ‘Dare to dream’ was one of the first appeals by CWM. Here a dream
    or vision leads to a change of direction. Have you ever changed your plans in response to God’s prompting?
  • Partnership is what Paul is invited to share in with the Macedonian Christians. Think of the partnerships you have made both locally and further afield.
  • What qualities do Paul and his companions demonstrate that either challenge you or encourage you?

Things to do

  • Find out whether your Synod has a global partner and give details of that church in your newsletter.
  • If your town is twinned, think about making contact with the churches in the place with which you are twinned.
  • Many places now have congregations from other parts of the world. Sometimes we share premises with them. Make contact with one of these congregations to discover whether you can share in mission together.

Suggestions for worship

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of partnership through the Council for World Mission (CWM)

Introduction and background
The Council for World Mission (CWM) created its structure of equal partnership in 1977 incorporating the churches which had arisen from the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS), the Commonwealth Missionary Society (CMS) and the English Presbyterian Board of Mission. 

Those early mission organisations were all established against a backdrop of religious awakening, which motivated people to share the good news. Mission fields were established in far flung places.

As the approach to mission has changed over time, CWM has evolved into an organisation which is committed to sharing resources, people and learning equally.

There are now 32 member churches in 41 countries working in partnership with churches in mission and the structure seeks to support reflection, research, discernment and communication. CWM has a strategy which they are working to:

  • Equipping young people for mission
  • Building capabilities in member churches
  • Developing missional congregations
  • Sharing people in mission

In celebration of the ‘cloud of witness’ which has gone ahead of us let us worship….

Welcome
Designated event to mark the Anniversary or it may be with a regular Sunday morning worship, Welcome could include, offering background on CWM and revisiting the outcomes of the recent Assembly 2016 at Jeju Island, South Korea. The theme of the 2016 Assembly was Healing: Hope in Action

The worship could take many forms as one of the main aims of CWM is to equip young people for mission, the service could be an Inclusive Worship event. It could also be a Café style worship to raise funds for CWM.

Hymns

Great is thy faithfulness (MP) (R&S)
Christ be our light (MP)
He has the whole world in his hands (MP)
I the Lord of sea and sky (MP)
Go tell it on the mountain (MP) (R&S)
Brother, sister let me serve you (R&S)
It only takes a spark (MP)

Reflection
There are a number of ideas/questions on the CWM website which are useful for reflection. Other ideas could include individual or corporate reflection on Scripture reading:
Micah 6:6-8
Amos 5:24

Consider choosing one of the regions which CWM are partners with and celebrate an event which is significant to that region, for example, Independence Day.

Prayers
We come into the presence of God who calls or commission ordinary people to fulfil the great mission to love the earth and all who dwell on it. We acknowledge his power and authority over us. We praise You for your saving grace. We commit this time of worship and ask that the Holy Spirit dwells in all we do and say. God of the journey ... walk with us every step of the way.

Prayers can also be shared over the year that one country is prayed for each week.

See resource: for prayers themed around Mission, working together, prayers of Intercession

Let us bring healing where it is needed
Friendship in loneliness
Love where there is hatred
Peace to the broken places.

Resources
Sunday with CWM (2016) – Walking with God
Sundays with CWM (2017) – Journeying with God
– this could be used for Sunday worship or Bible study or sacred conversations.

The links with the URC can be found through the Global Intercultural Ministries.

Affirmations – moving beyond accommodation to affirmation & advocacy with and for persons with a disability

Bible Studies available from the Assembly

Pagopago to Jeju – CWM’s journey of Hope

www.cwmission.org 


April: Celebrating Easter – a community uprising

Theme introduction

Easter is the season in which we are reminded that the true power of the Church lies in the resurrection of Christ. The symbols of Easter eggs, rabbits, spring flowers are all signs of new life. From the hiddenness of the egg springs the chick, from the dark earth emerges the shoots and blossoms of the plant. You could say that Easter is a subversive season in that Christ’ coming to life contradicts appearances.

In the turbulence of the past year, there have been so many deaths. We have grown accustomed to the barbarities of Isis, to the continuing exodus of refugees fleeing Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and often dying in the process of seeking sanctuary.

It is into a world dominated by Greek culture and under the sway of Roman Imperial power that Jesus came and taught and acted and was executed. Yet unexpectedly, just when the hopes of even his closest friends were extinguished there was rumours of new life and his friends were filled with a new confidence and drew on a new power. It amounted to a community uprising which was to challenge the authorities and help men and women discover a new purpose in life.

Reflect together

As a church or in small groups, read 1 Corinthians 15.

  • Why does Paul refer to the first witnesses to the resurrection as men when the Gospels make clear they were women?
  • How does the resurrection of Jesus affect the life of your congregation today?
  • What images does Paul give for communicating the transformation which new life brings?

Things to do

  • In a group of people of mixed ages prepare a television news report on the events of Easter Day.
  • Make hot cross buns and find a place in which they can be given away freely with a short simple explanation of the difference Easter makes to us.
  • There are many prisoners of conscience. Contact Amnesty international and consider writing on their behalf and remembering them in prayer at your Easter services.
  • What local actions could you take to be an uprising community in relation to indifference and despair?

Suggestions for worship


May – Celebrating children and youth

Introduction

It takes a whole church to raise a child. Well, the original quote was a ‘village’ but it’s still true. Everybody in a local church community is caring for everybody else – and takes responsibility for their well-being and development.

Bible

Jesus at the temple (Luke 2:41-52)

Reflection

  • Share a time when a child or young person helped you develop your relationship with God
  • When was the last time you talked with children/young people about God?
  • What opportunities are there for conversations with children and young people?
  • Think about how children and young people can be involved in delivering meaningful worship

Action

  • Rewrite the 'towards a charter for children' - with children and young people having input
  • Draw a timetable of when children and young people are on the premises - and visit them and take them a celebration gift from the church (e.g. A cake)
  • Any questions – arrange a panel that covers the spectrum of age ranges in the church and invite members of the congregation to ask questions. They can be about church “what’s your favourite Hymn?” or about ‘life (“What was your favourite toy when you were 6?) The more questions there are; the more you will all get to learn about each other.
  • Could church members volunteer to lead assemblies, listening to children read, etc at a local school? Could younger members help with a dementia group or other community group (sometimes just having a conversation is a blessing)

Worship idea

Link to liturgy from Greenbelt “And A Little Child Shall Lead Them…”
http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/communion-service/

Church Anniversary / Pentecost Birthday Party
Lots of churches celebrate their birthday each year or celebrate the birthday of the church on Pentecost Sunday. Why not throw a party for the whole community? Put up some decorations, play some games with everyone joining in and eat some cake.

Create a festival in a day
Festival of … what would your church celebrate? A talent? A sport? The gifts of your community? Christmas Trees? Flowers? Fashion? Art?

Who could take part? Make sure whatever you do can be done by anyone of any ages and abilities.

Joining in
Lots of places have music festivals, arts festivals, science festivals or gala days.

What is happening in your community? How can the church join in? What could you provide for your local festival or events?

How would you link with different organisations or religions. Can we interact with others? How about an Interfaith Ramadan?

Reclaim lent?
Lent has fasts and feast days! Every Sunday in Lent is a feast. How can you host a different feast each Sunday? What themes could you have? Different foods?

Summer Celebrations
Remember when churches went on picnic? Try it. You might like it! Take some sandwiches, find a park, play some games… Invite the people in the park to join in!

Reflect together

What do children teach us about our faith/Faith?
How do we enable them to challenge us about our faith/Faith?
How do we enable them to participate in the life of our local church/congregation?

Isaiah 6 v 1-8 

The call of Isaiah
The call of Samuel
The call of Mary
John Williams (PILOTS)
Malala Yousafzai

Things to do

Discover who the local children “leaders/heroes” are in your geographical area and celebrate what they have done.
What are children doing in your local church/congregation? How do you mark that?

 


June – Celebrating your Church’s birthday

Introduction

Pentecost is the festival of the windy, fiery Spirit of God, perhaps the most imaginative of all the Christian festivals. On the 50th day after Easter (in Greek Pentecost) we remember that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles. And filled with the Spirit they began to speak in many languages and shared with others the great things God had done. And that is how the church was born, because many believed and started to meet for prayer and teaching, for sharing life together and breaking bread.

So Pentecost is the birthday of the church and that is worth celebrating. Why not make that the focus of your celebrations this month? But not only that: Pentecost is also the feast where we remember what the church is for. In many churches and traditions this is the time when we remind ourselves that the church is called to mission, to sharing with others the good news of Jesus Christ – in word and in deed.

So as summer gets under way, why not get outside the walls of the church and build links with your community? And if you already do, why not celebrate together and give thanks for all the good things happening around you. God is at work through the Holy Spirit and continues to draw us into mission and into proclaiming that God’s reign will come.

Reflect together

As a church or in small groups read together Acts 2:1-21

  • How can you see the Spirit at work in your life?
  • Think together about who and what has shaped the story of your church. What and who would you want to celebrate and give thanks to God for?
  • How can you share the great things God has done in ways that others can hear?
  • What are some of the dreams of your church for the community?

Things to do

For Pentecost

  • Celebrate the life of your church with an exhibition: delve in your archives, gather people’s photographs and memories, read your old minutes and church magazines, and see what treasures you will discover to share with others and to thank God for.

  • Lots of churches celebrate their birthday each year or celebrate the birthday of the church on Pentecost Sunday. Why not throw a party for the whole community? Put up some decorations, play some games with everyone joining in and eat some cake.

  • Encourage your church members to go out in the community with a camera or a smart phone and take pictures. What examples do they see of the creative spirit at work in the community? Where do they see spirituality in every day life? Come together to share and talk about each other’s pictures.

For the summer

  • Lots of places have music festivals, arts festivals, science festivals or gala days. What is happening in your community? How can the church join in? What could you provide for your local festival or events?

  • Or organise a festival yourself. What would your church celebrate? A talent? A sport? The gifts of your community? Flowers? Fashion? Art? Who could take part? Make sure whatever you do can be done by anyone of any ages and abilities.

  • The Big Lunch is an idea that originates from the Eden Project, the pioneering environmental centre in Cornwall. It aims to get as many people as possible to have lunch with their neighbours each June in the name of community, friendship and fun. This initiative rests on the belief that we are better placed to tackle the major challenges facing our world when we do so together. The 2017 Big Lunch is on Sunday 12 June. If there is a Big Lunch planned for your area then ask if you can join it. If not, visit the web site for how to organise one. http://www.thebiglunch.com.

  • Sometimes the best way to build relationships is by accepting invitations to special events laid on by people of other faiths. They often love to invite us to share their joyful feasts and festivals – and usually do these magnificently. Watch out particularly for invitations from Muslims to share fast-breaking (Iftar) during Ramadan (around 27 May till 25 June). Many mosques offer a special invitation to a Big Community Iftar with conversation and lots of food at sunset. If you are nervous about dress code or other aspects of how to behave, just ask! Your hosts won’t expect you to know and will be delighted to tell you and to explain the significance of what is going on.

  • There is no need to wait to be invited to visit another faith community. It is all right to ask when would be a good time to pay a call. Just as we love people to visit our churches, so people of other faiths feel honoured and affirmed when we show interest in who they are, and what they believe and do. This summer why not:
    • find out where the nearest place of worship of another faith is for your church and ask if you can visit them;
    • prepare some clear, simple information about your church building, and what happens in a typical service, to give to a visitor from another faith.
    • Remember when churches went on picnic? Try it. You might like it! Take some sandwiches, find a park, play some games… Invite the people in the park to join in!
  • HOPE provides a lot of resources for community outreach. The book HOPE, the heartbeat of mission lists 50 ideas to start with. Your church may have a copy, but if not, a free one can be ordered from HOPE (all you pay is p&p) at www.hopetogether.org.uk. You will also find more stories and ideas on the HOPE website.

Resources for worship

For Pentecost prayer stations go to: http://www.vision4life.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Prayer-Stations-Pentecost-setup.pdf

dove crossPentecost Fire

As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the apostles and we celebrate the birth of the church.

Reflections on Act 2:1-11
As we share our stories of old we note that it is in God’s nature to warn (through prophets) us of something that is coming up and that we need to pay some attention to. The apostles waited as they were instructed, prayerfully and watchfully.

Do we really want to be filled with the Spirit? Is that something which happens to other people?

Suggestions for hymns
Holy Spirit we welcome you (MP 241)
Spirit of the living God (SF 510)
Breathe on me (R&S 295)
Loving Spirit, loving spirit (R&S 326)
Come, Holy Spirit (SF 689)
This is the day (MP 691)

* MP= Mission Praise / SF= Songs of Fellowship / R&R= Rejoice and Sing

As the Spirit leads, we pray for our leaders, our church, the world and areas of conflict, those in need. Spirit of the living god fall afresh on all those places and people. Fill our lives and may we overflow so that others may see the joy the spirit brings.

Think about:
Reflect on a place which unlike where you live which is linked to the theme of Lent, Holy Week, Easter or Pentecost. For example, Easter Island which is a small volcanic island famous for its large statues. No one knows why the statues were built and why so many of them … there are nearly 900 statues).

The island is someway off the coast of Chile, which governs and has made the islanders Chilean citizens. The island got its name in 1722 when the first Dutch sea captain landed on Easter Sunday. The Spanish name is Isla de Pascula (which originates from the Paschal candle which is used to light the other candles at Easter time.)
In 1995 the island became a World Heritage site and at times has been described as a small version of our plant. This was based on the changes on the island as a result of its history of constant warfare between the tribes, lack of resources, over population and the excessive use and waste of resources. Despite all this the island is describes as beautiful, isolated and mysterious.

The story of Acts shows that there is no need for division, caused by languages or tribes. The Holy Spirit comes and opens up the possibility of living as how God intended with all the resources and in harmony with our Creator.
Let us pray for the people of Easter Island, that they will use their resources wisely and to care for God’s creation.

God, we come to you singing your praises
Glorying in your wonderful Creation
Remembering your grace and mercies
And rejoicing in your goodness to us, always. Amen


pentecost 1Pentecost Pick and Mix

Welcome to the Pentecost Pick and Mix. This resource is aimed at all members of the local church and community. The list of resources can be used as a single act of worship or as part of a programme to celebrate Pentecost.

Contents:
What is Pentecost?
Whit Walk
Ideas for a quiz
Ideas for Meditation, e.g., creating an acronym
Prayers
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What is Pentecost?

Pentecost is when the church rejoices in the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-21)

When does Pentecost occur?
There is no clear agreement as to when Pentecost took place. For the Jewish people Pentecost marked the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. They also saw the festival as a celebration to mark when the Torah (law) was given out on Mount Sinai.

Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter. It is also called Whitsun…. but does not necessarily coincide with the Whitsun Bank Holiday. The Sunday is usually referred to as Whitsunday.

For the congregation: Encourage the congregation to wear something red/yellow.


What does Pentecost mean?
Pentecost is the Greek word meaning fiftieth 

For the Jews it is a festival which occurred 50 days after the Passover.
Pentecost was also a time to when people got baptised Most people wore white to be baptised and it could be that one of the reasons why this Sunday was known as white Sunday

For the congregation: As this is the time when baptisms take place it is also an opportunity to remain in contact with those who were baptised and invite them to church.

Why the festival is called Pentecost?
This celebration is 50 days after Easter. It is taken from the Greek word (πεντηκοστή)
pentekoste which means fiftieth.

Some of the things which represent Pentecost
Wind and breath – without the wind some things tend to be lifeless. Leaves are given life with the wind, another example is a yacht.

Fire – warmth and light. Flames are like tongues of fire – purification.

Dove – Beauty, gentleness, sincerity and peace

For the congregation: Think about things which can get blown around by the wind. As an activity the young people could be asked to produce a collage or a windmill.

Discussion about the images of Pentecost.

Both young people and adults can be involved in lighting candles in the shape of a dove using the colours which make up a flame.

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Whit Walk

If you are planning an outdoor event such as a Whit Walk, Prayers for Pentecost, perhaps with an ecumenical element, please contact the local council as there may be issues of health and safety which they would be able to offer support and advice. Other outdoor event may need permission from the Planning and Highways Department.

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Pentecost Quiz

We had suggested a quiz which could be played out along the lines of Blockbusters using the letters of the word Pentecost.

P – By what other word is the Holy Spirit sometimes known?
E – What sacrament is usually shared during Holy week?
N – Jesus commanded that we go and make disciples of all these.
T – What is the word which is used to describe the flames?
E – A group that through the power of the Spirit heard in their native language.
C – What is sometimes renewed during the festival of Pentecost?
O – Gifts made in response to God’s love for us.
S – The apostle Peter’s other name.
T – What is the name for the Sunday which follows Pentecost?

Answers:  Paraclete; Eucharist; Nations; Tongues; Elamites; Commitment; Offering; Simon; Trinity

 

Or developing an acronym for example,

Proclaiming Easter Now That Every Christian has an Opportunity for Special
Thanksgiving.
This just for starters.


Thanksgiving Prayers for Pentecost

Living and powerful God, we thank you at this time of Pentecost that your Spirit continues to energise and envision the church. Filling it with energy and cleansing it with tongues of flames. Life giving and cleansing Spirit continue to hold us together in community with one another.

May the power of your Spirit drive our mission, to see you in the lives of each other. May we share your love for us with one another and build up your church to be a reflection of the life of your Son Jesus Christ. May your life giving Spirit mould and shape the church helping it to build community in the dark places, where your light can shine, your love shown and your compassion recognised by those of faith and no faith.

As we build community, may your Spirit be at the heart of all we do, use the power of the wind to energise, create and refresh our relationships, so that we may continue to transform your world, honour your creation and redeem your streets.

May the energy of the Pentecost flames, cleanse, and renew all that is broken in our lives, that from the ashes may come the beauty of resurrection, where we are made whole and humanity and creation are woven together as one.

We thank you Lord that since the beginning of time you have always been bringing people together. When we look at the stories in our history, and reflect upon our own lives and those of our families, we see the way in which you have called us to share with and support one another. We thank God, for the rich diversity which we have in our congregation.

At this time of Pentecost we thank you for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. We pray that the Holy Spirit will bring us peace and unity throughout the world. As we gather to receive the touch of the flame on our lives, may it come to rest on our hearts and transform us as we believe that God is doing something out of the ordinary and we look forward to the touch on our lives?

Help us to remember that we are stronger together than we are apart and that every one of us has a responsibility for each other. Help us to aware of your Spirit within us and to be the kind of people who are willing to be changed and inspired by you so that we can change and affect the many people who know us and those whom we meet.

Dear Lord in the world of much self-centeredness and selfishness, help us to remember that we are all part of many communities living alongside and sharing with many people.

A Pentecost Prayer for the Lonely, Lost and Fearful

Living God, in lives overshadowed by sadness, loneliness and fear, may the gentle breeze of your Spirit stir our hearts to awaken your presence within the hearts of all people. Through the breeze that bears your grace and compassion, touch hearts that they may feel the warmth and power of the flames of your Spirit.

Loving and life giving God,
May that spirit be an awakening Spirit.
May that spirit beckon with love, the beauty of humanity made in your image.
May that spirit bring healing, wholeness and new beginnings, where sadness, loneliness and fear are replaced with hope, joy and love, as your spirit remakes and renews us, restores and reclaims us as your children….

In your name we pray, Amen.

Students from Northern College

 


25 Years CfL logo for web
Ju
ly – Celebrating Commitment for Life’s work for Global Justice over 25 years

Introduction

Commitment for Life is the United Reformed Church’s main development programme through which the Church carries forward its work for justice throughout the world. It links particularly to statements 8, 9 and10 of Vision 2020, the framework for mission of the URC. We believe that the support we give is carried out in response to what we believe that God has given to the world in Jesus Christ. Jesus promised good news to the poor and freedom for the oppressed. His actions spoke as loudly as his words and we must do the same.

In 1973 General Assembly adopted a resolution on a World Development Programme incorporating the 1% Appeal or ‘a penny in the pound of disposable income’.

In 1991 The 1% Appeal was renamed Commitment for Life. It focused on 3 core partners: India, Middle East, Zimbabwe. Most funding went to the partners but also included monies for promotional and information resources for the supporting churches. However, many did not understand the programme, so in 1992 CforL was successfully relaunched at General Assembly in York.

25 years on we are still giving voice to the injustices in this world. There are now four partner countries/regions: Bangladesh, Central America (Honduras, Guatemala. Nicaragua and El Salvador), Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and Zimbabwe which are supported by committed giving, prayer and solidarity. We are the recommended way for local United Reformed Churches and local ecumenical partnerships to support Christian Aid and Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement.)

Bible Passage: Isaiah 58

Reflect Together

Early on in the history of God’s people there comes a call to be a people marked by justice who show a particular concern for the poor and marginalised. Isaiah 58 shows how this should be part of worship. When you realise that this passage is speaking directly to YOU it becomes a real challenge. It calls on people of faith to move from being inwardly to outwardly focussed and in doing so we are called to reflect God’s character of love and justice.

Isaiah declares God’s anger at the sort of worship his people think will win his approval. This passage starts with God rejecting his people’s piety because of their exploitation of others. God sees it as hypocrisy and is not happy about that. They are trying to win God’s favour by being, as many of us are, busy, busy, busy.

Isaiah does not mean that spiritual contemplation or religious acts of worship are a waste of time. What he is saying is that personal acts of worship are self-indulgent and misguided if they do not inspire us to seek justice in the wider community.

God requires us to be active for justice. It should be how we live out our lives. Fasting leading to action (Matthew 25) whilst care for the hungry and oppressed is an essential part and expression of worship.

Verses 6-7 are about being in solidarity with the people who need everything. By giving and acting with Commitment for Life we are giving Christian Aid and Global Justice Now the opportunity to do that.

Because God loves all people, God cannot bear to see some limited by injustice. God commands us to create just societies where people can flourish. That means standing with those who are oppressed by systems that keep people poor and changing our lifestyles to live more simply.
If we fast for the right reasons God will say, “You are like a well-watered garden” isn’t that a great image.

Through fasting we deny ourselves, but in return our lives will be turned around. It will bring us closer to God and acting in the way he would want us to do.

It is hard to do something about injustice but this passage actively commands us to do so. We are part of the problem but also part of the solution. Being a Commitment for Life church is just a small part of the bigger picture. We need to challenge injustice wherever we see it. Poverty and injustice continue to destroy the lives of many in this world and their voices go unheard. As Christians we want them to have more than just existence, we want them to have a just life and a chance to know the hope and peace of God.

To be human is to seek – to need – justice. Justice can clear the air, heal the past, afford a future. With 30,000 children dying every day because of poverty, when the world’s most impoverished countries are forced to pay over $90 million every day to the rich world in debt repayments, and the poorest are already affected by changes in climate, it is time to act justly as God would have us do.


Things to Do

Find out about Christian Aid or Global Justice Now’s latest campaign. www.christian-aid www.globaljusticenow.org.uk

Try to change one item of shopping to one with a Fairtrade logo www.fairtradefoundation.org.uk

Become a Commitment for Life church and become informed and active on campaigning www.cforl.org.uk


Ideas for Worship

Each year Commitment for Life produces a service outline that can be used by churches for their CforL Sunday. This year the theme has been ‘Commitment Changes Lives.’ It has been written by Revd Dr Susan Durber and includes sermon notes, PowerPoints and hymn suggestions, as well as a full service outline. This can be found under the Worship tab on the CforL website.

A prayer of Commitment from the Service outline.

In answer to the call of Christ,
we give a life’s commitment.

In response to those who are in poverty
we will go on giving.

In light of the world’s need
we will speak and act for justice.

In faith and love
we offer commitment for life.

A prayer for all churches

Give us, O Lord, churches that will be more courageous than cautious;
that will not merely "comfort the afflicted" but "afflict the comfortable";
that will not only love the world but also demand justice;
that will not remain silent when people are calling for a voice;
that will not pass by on the other side when wounded humanity is waiting to be healed;
that will not only call us to worship but also send us out to witness;
that will follow Christ even when the way points to a Cross.
To this end we offer ourselves in the name of him who loved us and gave himself for us.
Amen

© Christian Conference of Asia

 


August – celebrating pioneers

Introduction

Pioneers are people who inhabit the edges – they are the ones who push forward into unknown territory, the ones with a ‘can-do’ attitude, who relish challenge when the rest of us hold back.

In the URC and in many other denominations, we celebrate pioneer ministers – lay and ordained - who explore the ‘unknown territory’ that is Western society in the 21st century, sharing the love of Jesus in a way that is relevant to that society.

Pioneer ministers need time to understand their environment; immersing themselves into the local culture, becoming like Jesus – loving, serving, non-judgemental and able to relate at every level.

Many URC pioneers would not identify themselves as ‘pioneers’, because what they are doing comes naturally to them – bringing new disciples to Jesus – and if that means some non-conformity and dissent, well…it’s in our DNA! Eventually they might set up a new form of church, which is specifically for those local people who don’t come to traditional church – maybe café church, or Messy Church, or church for a specific interest group.

These new types of church run alongside the traditional church in a ‘mixed economy’, reaching out to people who are otherwise not reached.

Life as a pioneer can be exciting and uncomfortable, and it’s sometimes lonely when the rest of the church can’t share the vision, however, we celebrate our pioneers as they challenge our churches and encourage us to share the love of Jesus with those who don’t come to church.

“When the church engages at the fringes, it almost always brings life to the centre” (Alan Hirsch The Forgotten Ways Reactivating the Missional Church).

Bible Passage

Numbers 13: 1-3 and 17-30 (from The Message paraphrase)
1 God spoke to Moses:
2 "Send men to scout out the country of Canaan that I am giving to the People of Israel. Send one man from each ancestral tribe, each one a tried-and-true leader in the tribe."
3 So Moses sent them off from the Wilderness of Paran at the command of God. All of them were leaders in Israel, one from each tribe.

17 When Moses sent them off to scout out Canaan, he said, "Go up through the Negev and then into the hill country.
18 Look the land over, see what it is like. Assess the people: Are they strong or weak? Are there few or many?
19 Observe the land: Is it pleasant or harsh? Describe the towns where they live: Are they open camps or fortified with walls?
20 And the soil: Is it fertile or barren? Are there forests? And try to bring back a sample of the produce that grows there - this is the season for the first ripe grapes."
21 With that they were on their way. They scouted out the land from the Wilderness of Zin as far as Rehob toward Lebo Hamath.
22 Their route went through the Negev Desert to the town of Hebron. Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, descendants of the giant Anak, lived there. Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.
23 When they arrived at the Eshcol Valley they cut off a branch with a single cluster of grapes - it took two men to carry it - slung on a pole. They also picked some pomegranates and figs.
24 They named the place Eshcol Valley (Grape-Cluster-Valley) because of the huge cluster of grapes they had cut down there.
25 After forty days of scouting out the land, they returned home.
26 They presented themselves before Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the People of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran at Kadesh. They reported to the whole congregation and showed them the fruit of the land.
27 Then they told the story of their trip:
28 The only thing is that the people who live there are fierce, their cities are huge and well-fortified. Worse yet, we saw descendants of the giant Anak.
29 Amalekites are spread out in the Negev; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites hold the hill country; and the Canaanites are established on the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan."
30 Caleb interrupted, called for silence before Moses and said, "Let's go up and take the land - now. We can do it."


Reflect Together

On the edge of the Promised Land, Moses and the people of Israel sent twelve scouts to explore the land, answer some specific questions and carry out some specific instructions:

“What is the land like?”, “Are the people there strong or weak and are there few or many?”, “What are the towns like?”, “Is the land rich or poor?”, “Are there any trees?” and so on… They were also instructed to bring back some fruit.

It’s classic pioneer stuff – explore the area, look for opportunities and check-out the resources that are already here in this uncharted territory.

The scouts completed the mission, brought back some fruit as requested, and answered the questions, but it was their interpretation of what they had seen that set two of them aside.

They all agreed that the land was good and that the people were big and intimidating.

Ten were overwhelmed by what they saw, and felt that they couldn’t go on, but two of them – Joshua and Caleb – knew that God had promised them the land, so however intimidating the opposition may have seemed, they believed they could continue.

Can we face the challenges along the way?

Do we rely on our faith like Joshua and Caleb – trusting 100% that God will see us through?

Think about what happened to Joshua later in his life, as he became leader of the Israelites; is there a message for us today?

Things to Do

Jesus’ challenge to each of us – as individuals and as church - is to make new disciples of all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Below is an apparently light-hearted exercise, which has a serious message for church groups.

As a group, talk about the location of your church and answer these questions:

  • How well do you know your community?
  • Think about your own community and answer the questions that Moses’ scouts were asked: “What is the land like?”, “Are the people there strong or weak and are there few or many?”, “What are the towns like?”, “Is the land rich or poor?”, “Are there any trees?” and so on…
  • Where are the main ‘hubs’ in your community? Places where people go for information? (This is often a shop or café, not the official sources like the library)
  • How can our church be like Jesus in your community?
  • How can we each be more like Jesus when we’re with our friends and colleagues?

Go for a Prayer Walk – as a small group, take a gentle, slow walk around your neighbourhood. Notice things that you wouldn’t normally notice. Pray about these things as you walk, and bring them together in prayer groups later.

Make a large-scale map of your area and note the places that you know least about. Then go out and find out about those places.

Ideas for Worship

Look at Paul’s time in Ephesus (Acts 19) and work your service around the way that he changed his presentation style and content, though not his message, depending upon the prior understanding of his audience:

  • The house group, new Christians who knew nothing of the Holy Spirit
  • The Jews in the Synagogue, who would have been knowledgeable, but not in agreement with him (he left after an argument)
  • The school or lecture hall in Tyrannus, where Gentiles would gather for discussion and debate.

Paul was the ultimate pioneer, exploring the land and building relationships. In 1 Corinthians 9, he says (NRSV):

“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law) so that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”

Suggested hymns and worship songs:

  • Christ be our light – Bernadette Farrell 
  • Go tell everyone – Hubert J Richards (Rejoice & Sing 576)
  • For everyone born a place at the table – Shirley Erena Murray
  • Let there be love shared among us – Dave Bilbrough (Rejoice & Sing 477)
  • What kind of love is this – Bryn and Sally Haworth
  • Beauty for brokenness – Graham Kendrick

Talk about perseverance and read ‘The frog who wouldn’t give up’ from 100 Wisdom Stories from around the world, by Margaret Silf. There’s a comedy children’s version here: 

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A reflection about knowing your community (from the Fresh Expressions team)
Hand out Revels sweets, ensure that you mention that anyone with nut or dairy allergies, or diabetes should not take the sweet, but can listen.

Now lead the following:
Hold your Revel in the palm of your hand and look at it.
It’s shiny and attractive.
Maybe a bit lumpy.
But do you really know what’s inside?
Maybe it’s a Malteser.
Maybe it’s orange.
Or a raisin.
Or solid chocolate all the way through.

Now think about our community.
How well do we really know it?
Do we make judgements on appearance?
How do we respond to the ones we are unsure about?
What about the ones we know we don’t like – have we been close enough to get to know them?

Lead a short prayer asking God to help us to get to know our community, to be non-judgemental and to love and serve even the people we are unsure about.
Finally, ask if you excluded anyone…You excluded the people with allergies.
It’s very easy to be accidentally exclusive – alienating ourselves from our community.

A reflection about going out from our churches to be like Jesus in the community.
You will need to hand out cockle, or scallop shells, (alternatively, have an image of a shell on the screen and alter the words accordingly)

Read the following:
Take a cockle (scallop) shell and hold it in your hand.
Feel the chalkiness.
Feel the grooves radiating out – like our pioneers, going out from the centre to the edges.
Run your finger along the edge…it’s a bit sharp… a bit uncomfortable…especially where it’s chipped or broken.
Look at the whiteness, look closely - there are patterns inside. You wouldn’t always notice those patterns, yet they have their own beauty.
Maybe it’s cracked or flawed…does the crack or flaw make it less beautiful?
Hold the shell in your hands and in a few minutes of peace
bring your prayers to God.
Pray for the church, moving on.
Pray for your church – are you radiating out like those grooves on the shell?

 


September – celebrating women in the Church


Theme introduction

One great change in the last century was the growth of women’s ordained ministry. The United Reformed Church is an heir – along with the Congregational Federation – of a pioneering part of that story. This month we celebrate the centenary of the ordination of Constance Coltman.

On 17 September 1917, in the King’s Weigh House Church near Oxford Street in London, Constance Todd and Claud Coltman, her fiancé, were ordained to ministry in an East End mission. The minister who ordained them, Dr W. E. Orchard, was outstanding and unusual with strong pacifist views, which were highly controversial during World War One. 

Constance was the first woman to be ordained to lead a congregation within a Trinitarian denomination in these islands. Gertrude von Petzold had served a Unitarian congregation in Leicester from 1904-08. Some women had been serving as lay pastors already, and women had been ordained in the United States since the 1850s, but this was still a ‘first’.

On the next day Claud and Constance were married. At the time women were expected to give up work after marriage. By becoming ‘Reverend’ before she was ‘Mrs’, Constance demonstrated the importance of her call to ministry, regardless of her marital status. It took until December 1917 for her ordination to be recognised. Her later experiences in ministry were not always smooth.

Women’s ordination grew slowly. By 1939 only 20 women had been ordained in the Congregational Union of England and Wales. By the end of the 20th century the number of women and men in United Reformed Church ministerial training were broadly equal. Though many challenges remain we can rightly celebrate our part in the story of women’s ordained history.

Reflect together

As a church or in small groups, read Matthew 14:13-21.

  • The number who ate after Jesus blessed and broke the loaves does not include women and children. Why do you think this is the case?
  • Are parts of your church life ‘men only’ or ‘women only’ and if so why?
  • Who are the people in our church life who are not counted, in your view?
  • How would our church life and leadership be enriched if they were included? 

Things to do

  • Find and retell stories of the ‘foremothers’ in your family and church.

  • View Constance – a short film about Constance Coltman’s call to ministry available on Youtube – and discuss the questions it raises. You may do so over a meal or drinks. For guidance on how to use the film as a creative resource in your church, please click here.

  • Celebrate the leadership of women in your/the church in a special service, using the worship resources below.

  • Attend the public lecture to mark the centenary of Constance Coltman on Saturday 16 September 2017 at 1.00pm at the Dr Williams Library in Gordon Square, London (near Euston station). Further details will be made available soon on the URC website. All are warmly invited. To attend the lecture, please register your interest with Dr Eve Parker (eve.parker@urc.org.uk).

  • Attend the thanksgiving service to mark the Centenary on Sunday 17 September 2017 at 3.00pm at the American International Church, 79a Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TD. The preacher will be Revd Dr Susan Durber and taking part will be international guests from the wider family of the Council for World Mission. All are warmly invited. Contact Tracey Hardingham (tracey.hardingham@urc.org.uk) to register your interest and for further details. 

Suggestions for worship


October – Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation

Introducing theme

One of the great treasures we share as part of the Reformed and Protestant family is a common heritage in the Protestant Reformation. This year (2017) many across this heritage is remembering 500 years of the Reformation. Ever since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, that dramatic event marked the beginning of a movement of reformation in the churches and set forth a spirit of reform that is at the heart of the gospel. At the same time, lest we forget, some in our family will relate to even earlier Reformed movements (such as the Waldensians and the Czech Brethren), who date the reform impulses that gave rise to their churches to an even earlier time in history. The underlying impulse though is that most of the Reformed tradition would identify that the source of the ‘reforming’ impulses go back to the early New Testament Church.

Here is a great opportunity for the URC to consider with greater seriousness a heritage or strap line of the Reformation - ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda – simply translated as ‘a church reformed and always being reformed’ especially in the context of the challenges of our life and witness today. Looking back at the theological impulses and insights articulated by the Reformers almost 500 years ago, offers a chance to look differently into the present and beyond. Why not consider our current Walking the Way emphasis as drawing on this tradition of renewal and reforming in our remembering and celebrating? How can we re-read and draw on the key emphases of faith alone, grace alone, scripture alone, and Christ alone to re-ignite our covenanted life together today?

Bible Readings and Reflection

Isaiah 55:1-2; Ephesians 2:4-10 and John 8:31-36

  • As you read these texts: consider a key word from each that ‘grabbed you’. Allow the key word to guide you through the passage.
  • What thoughts does this key word open-up?
  • What is problematic or difficult about the text?
  • What do the selected texts say about a reforming tradition and imagination?
  • What does it mean to be made free through God’s grace and love?

With the children

  • Consider facilitating a series of conversations with children and youths in your congregation as what (in their own words) would they wish to see change in their church and why. Explore where and to whom these suggestions can be sent to result into action points.

More suggested activities

Consider and reflect on the following words from various commentators and the implications for walking the Jesus way:

  • “Reformation invites us both to open to scripture, and to open ourselves to change—for Jesus’ sake, for the gospel’s sake, and for the sake of the world God loves.” [The Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church]
  • “The five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation serves to remind us of the continuing need to be faithful to Jesus Christ, as revealed through the Scriptures, and to have the vision and courage to critique our prevailing culture and “the powers that be” in the light of this.” [The Revd Lynne Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union in Great Britain]
  • “…what happened then is a useful paradigm for the world of today: reflecting on the Reformation will give us the chance to work out how to live well in the pluralistic and secularized Europe of the twenty-first century.” [Professor Rebecca Giselbrecht, University of Zurich]

Prayers

Dear God, thank you for the church and for all the people over the years who have helped to make it the kind of loving place you want it to be. Especially as we remember 500 years of the Protestant Reformation, we give thanks for both the men and women reformers of long ago and those who continue to make our life together as people of the way a reflection of way of Jesus. In his name we pray. Amen.

Resources to consider

Reform Theses
Kindly hyperlinked from Reform magazine
New95 part one_Reform JulyAug17.pdf
New95 part two_Reform Sept17.pdf

BAME Theses
Kindly hyperlinked from the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Network of the URC
Theses from BAME Gathering - FINAL.pdf

Resources from the World Communion of Reformed Churches
http://wcrc.ch/

Resources - Churches Together in England
http://www.cte.org.uk/Groups/276196/Home/Resources/500th_anniversary_of/500th_anniversary_of.aspx

Protestants of France remembering the Protestant Reformation
https://www.eglise-protestante-unie.fr/actualite/feter-les-500-ans-de-la-reforme-10779

Liberated by God’s Grace
https://2017.lutheranworld.org/sites/default/files/documents/DTPW-2017_Booklet_Liberated_by_Gods_Grace.pdf

Salvation not for Sale
https://2017.lutheranworld.org/sites/default/files/documents/DTPW-2017_Booklet_Salvation.pdf

It’s still all about Jesus (Reformation)
https://lutheranreformation.org/

Reformation Road Map (Remembering)
https://r2017.org/en/european-roadmap/

Luther Exhibition
http://www.here-i-stand.com/en#header

Luther since 2017 (consider a tour)
http://www.germany.travel/en/specials/luther/luther.html


 

November – Celebrating Saints

Introducing theme

imagex 554x415"Celebrating Saints" is both an opportunity and invitation to consider and reflect on the story of Church (past and present) through the lives who people who commit to walking the ‘Jesus way’. Through the lives of faithful witnesses, we continue to lean on and be encouraged by the variety of ways that the love of God in Christ has been made manifest across history, time, events, places and people. Often referred to as a ‘cloud of witnesses’ the array of lives and voices include martyrs, monks, musicians and through peasants, poets, and politicians.

Saints are more than the colourful and pleasing icons on stained glass windows. These are living, breathing, committed and flawed human beings - just like us. And whether intentional or not – what is uniting about their lives is that God’s grace found (continue to find) ways to work in and through them to bring light, hope and love at those moments when much conspired to deny life in all its fullness for all. Saint and saintliness has nothing to do with being ‘set apart’ or canonised. It was and is about being faithful – no matter what.

Can you name one such person? Who are these saints you have encountered? We mean those who have inspired you to walk the way of Jesus, trying to witness to the God news of abundant life for all in Christ. As you reflect on and consider the example of the saint or saints you know, may you come to know Jesus more deeply.

Bible Readings and Reflection

Hebrews 12:1-2; Revelation 7:9-17 and Matthew 5:1-12

  • Reflect on moments when it is easier to despair and give up hope for ourselves and the world. Consider a few examples of the lives of saints to draw insights from.
  • Consider how grace and hope work when we feel at our most low and in the light of Jesus’ sermon on the mountain-side. Consider, especially the importance of being named as ‘blessed’.
  • What is your response to this statement: “being a saint today means being counter-cultural”? 
  • Who would you identify as a saint from the rank and file of your daily life?

With the children

At worship: why not commence by inviting the children and adults to the font and having them dip their fingers into the water and touch their foreheads. Talk about the place of baptism as a symbolic act of marking that we are part of God’s family. During the opening hymn, you may use evergreen branches to dip and gently splash water from the font on the congregation.

More suggested activities

  • Why not play around with the imagery of ‘cloud’ from “a great cloud of witnesses”? For instance: use a large cloud paper mural and invite those walking by your church or users of your church building (during the week) to either name someone they consider a living saint or write something on the mural or post a picture. 

  • With the same idea (or another) create a facebook or tweet focus for the month on encountering, engaging or connecting with ‘saints’.

  • Consider developing a service or a conversation within the singing of a few hymns appropriate to All Saints Sunday. 

  • Screening Saints: there are movies that can be viewed to celebrate and reflect on saints (for an evening gathering as one example). How about considering the film I, Daniel Blake? There are, of course, more obvious films on saints such as Restless Heart: the Confessions of Augustine; Constance; Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen; or Romero

  • And to celebrate: throw a party for ‘saints and sinners’!

Prayers

We give thanks, generous God, for the courage and commitment of all who walk your way of abundant life for all. God of forever and ever lead us, we pray, to those thin places where we may sense their presence anew. May their witness of faith and faithfulness in trying times, encourage and propel us to become living testimonies of your way of love, given for the whole world though Christ. Amen.

imagexx 554x415Resources to consider

You may wish to consider the URC’s collection of Celebrated Lives 2017 and previous years. This is an excellent resource from the URC bookshop.

 

Suggestions for worship

 


 
December 
– Celebrating Jesus and giving thanks

Introducing the theme

In this, the last of the Feasts & Festivals monthly resources of 2017, we look forward with Christians everywhere to the birth of a little boy born to Mary at Bethlehem, a town some six miles south of Jerusalem. In every parent, there is curiosity about how their child will develop and grow. Joseph and Mary must have shared that anticipation in the light of the words that had been spoken to them and the first visitors to celebrate the birth.

We cannot erase all the traditions that have grown up around this birth, but we may be able to share some of the curiosity and astonishment that has greeted Mary’s child. Jesus’ meaning (God who saves) went on to live up to his name, by turning upside down everyone’s expectation, as to how the coming deliverer would behave and how deliverance would come. He was a friend of strangers and outcasts, a scourge of religious and political authorities, and grew up offering forgiveness and hope to those who thought that they had no right to it.

In the United Reformed Church, we have adopted an emphasis known as Walking the Way - living the life of Jesus today. During the season of expectation, there will be some suggestions given on the Walking the Way web pages as to how this new emphasis might be marked by a candle lighting liturgy.

Reflect Together

Luke 2, 11 – 14

In groups or on your own here are some thoughts to ponder as you read these familiar verses.

  1. In Luke’s Gospel, the revealing of John’s birth comes to an old priest who is sceptical and loses the ability to speak. The revelation of Jesus’s birth comes to a young woman who believes and gives voice to her joy. What do you make of this contrast?
  2. In our reading, shepherds are the first to receive news of the birth. Think about who gets told first when there is a birth in the family. Why were the shepherds told first?
  3. What is it about this birth which makes it news of great joy for all the world?

Things to do

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/262194009531921177/ contains craft ideas to do with younger children.

Christmas through the Ages is accessible here.

Suggestions for Worship

As well as candle lighting liturgy linked above, visit the other resources pages of feasts and festivals and look at the worship and other services section for ideas for Advent and Christmas.

Thank you for visiting these Feasts and festivals resources. No further material will be added here and you are advised to look at the Walking the Way web pages.

A prayer for Walking the Way:

 

Lord of all,

As you walked this earth sharing love grace and mercy,

We pray that we will put our footsteps in yours

and walk where you lead

as we live out your life in our daily living,

for Jesus’ sake.

Amen.