Looking back, and forward

In his last blog post as Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, Derek Estill looks back, and to the future, with thanks

‘Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered’
(1 Chronicles 16:12)

‘I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: … straining forward to what lies ahead’
(Philippians 3:13)

Looking back over where you have been, and forward to what might come next, is an emotional rollercoaster. At this point in my time as a General Assembly Moderator, nearing the end of my term, that emotional rollercoaster is poignant.

I know that, whatever I will be doing in the future, I will have Jesus by my side. That is a very reassuring fact.  I know too that Jesus has been with me in my past journeys and experiences. That knowledge and experience is the bedrock of the future, whatever it is to be.

As the UK tries to come out of the coronavirus lockdown that has dominated life for the last three months, there is still great uncertainty and anxiousness. Such anxiety exists even though other countries, slightly ahead of us, are tentatively opening up their societies too. In China, according to a recent news report, a second wave of the virus might be occurring, causing the country to reinstate lockdown in some areas of Beijing. We are living in very uncertain times, without previous experience of dealing with such a tenacious and pernicious virus. While all this is true, we know we have that bedrock assurance, Jesus, walking alongside us, into the future.

Looking back over the last two years, it has been a privilege to serve the United Reformed Church as a General Assembly Moderator. It has been a wonderful experience. I have met many new people, visited churches in all three nations, and made new friends – all of which has been rich and rewarding, an experience that I never for one moment expected to have in later life.

Throughout my moderatorial term, I have felt surrounded by the love and generosity of colleagues and new acquaintances who are all living out the love of God and putting their faith into action. I have been blessed to have the Revd Nigel Uden as my colleague Moderator, a man with a wealth of experience and knowledge of our Church. He has shared most generously with me in all we have been doing. When making decisions and responding to unexpected events, often at short notice, he has ensured that the voice of the United Reformed Church is heard, contributing to important issues as they arise. Thank you Nigel. I have also been blessed to have the Revd David Coaker as my chaplain, and the support of the Revd Elaine Colechin, Nigel’s chaplain. They have supported us in all we have been doing, and I have appreciated all they have done.

Looking forward, there is a new reality challenging us all to think and act differently by taking stock and refocusing our priorities. The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping our world and our lives, challenging us in all sorts of ways. Like me, you will have heard, or know, of wonderful examples of people rising to meet today’s challenges. You will know, of course, about the marvellous, dedicated, selfless response of all those working in the NHS and in care homes; we are all so grateful for their work. The need to care for each other, and God’s world, has come into sharp focus, along with the realisation that those urgent things that we ‘had to do at all costs’ often turned out to be not so urgent after all.

With all this in mind, it seems to me we are being prompted to make the love of God central in our thinking about ‘what next’. Jesus gave us that new commandment, to love one another. So simple but also so profound and challenging. That commandment is a blueprint for us to live by, as we seek to live the life of Jesus today, tomorrow and the next day.

While writing blogs each month has been interesting and a little challenging at times, I hope they have been of some interest. As this is my last one before Nigel and I step down in July, I want to say how much I have appreciated the help and expertise of our communications team, thinking particularly of Sara, Ann-Marie, Charissa and Andy. Thanks for what you all do so well.

In summary, I give thanks for all that has been and all that is to come, knowing that through everything, God is with us and nothing can separate us from his love. This is all we need to know as we move into a new reality, remembering that our mission to bring the love of God to the world remains the same.

Every blessing.

Derek Estill, June 2020