Do you know who we are?
Richard Church introduces Feasts and Festivals, a chance to discover and celebrate the past and present of the United Reformed Church
I heard recently about a group of puritans in Dorchester in the early 17th century who set up a hospital for widows and orphans as an early job creation scheme. They were against drunkenness and lewdness but were also trying to be creative in social welfare. It was a very successful scheme, but they ran out of money, so they started a brewery which had a monopoly on brewing in Dorchester and they funded their social welfare from its profits. That speaks to me of the vision of those who went before us: an entrepreneurialism harnessed to community transformation.
Jumping into the 19th century, some of the great Congregationalist factory owners were streets ahead of their time in trying to make a better working environment for their employees. If you go to those communities today in Saltaire or Port Sunlight, it’s clear that these people saw it as their Christian duty to create happier, healthier environments for their workers. There is something to celebrate here, the fact that our tradition has always striven to realise something more of the kingdom of God here on earth. The contributing streams of the United Reformed Church have got an awful lot to shout about and we don’t shout about it enough.
This is one of the impulses behind Feasts and Festivals, a new resource to help churches who want to explore and enjoy what the URC is in the coming year. There are some major anniversaries to mark in 2017 – 500 years since Luther’s 95 Theses and the start of the Protestant Reformation, 100 years since the ordination of the pioneering female minister Constance Coltman, and 45 years since the URC came into being. It is an opportunity to celebrate – and in a sense retrieve – our identity. …
Richard Church is Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) of the United Reformed Church. For more information about Feasts and Festivals, visit www.urc.org.uk/feasts-and-festivals or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an extract from the October 2016 edition of Reform.