Celebrating 50 together
The United Reformed Church celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. Francis Brienen and Andy Jackson, Convenors of the anniversary planning group, look ahead
No one thought in 1972 that the URC would reach its silver jubilee, let alone golden. It is an unexpected anniversary, but one which we will celebrate next year while giving thanks for the life and work of the Church, past, present and future.
The 50th offers a chance to focus on all that is good in our own story and to reflect on what really matters to us, and it helps us to plan for the future. Marking such a significant milestone also offers us opportunities to connect with ecumenical friends and with the communities we serve.
It is important to mark this jubilee in ways which are accessible, useful and beneficial to as many people as possible across the length and breadth of the denomination’s reach. Local churches and synods will mark this jubilee in different ways, which is truly exciting.
With this in mind, the planning group’s priority is to organise events and resources which will complement these celebrations to enable everyone to join together in shared experiences and opportunities. So here are some things to watch out for:
Thanksgiving service, 1 October 2022
A Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration is being planned for the afternoon of Saturday, 1 October 2022 between 3pm and 5pm, in Methodist Central Hall Westminster, (pictured right) where the Uniting Assembly of the URC took place in October 1972. It is hoped that as many people as possible from across the denomination and beyond will attend. The service will also be live streamed.
Earlier that day, from 10am to 1pm, there will be an Open Church House event at 86 Tavistock Place and surrounding venues, with a range of activities and workshops engaging with the story of our 50 years. These include a People Library, which allows people to volunteer as ‘books’ so they can interact with ‘readers’ who have the chance to have conversations with them.
In between Open Church House and the Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration, there will be a Walk from Church House to Methodist Central Hall, following a guide which will point out places and buildings with significance to the URC and the wider Church.
Parliamentary service, 21 June 2022
On 21 June 2022, the 50th anniversary of the debate of the United Reformed Church bill in Parliament, we hope a service in the Palace of Westminster will take place. Further details to be released soon.
A free pack of materials for local churches, to encourage and support local celebrations of this milestone, will be sent to all churches later this year and will also be available to download from the URC website, www.urc.org.uk/50.
A worship resources competition will enable people of all ages and abilities from across the denomination to share their creative skills in four categories: traditional hymn/song, contemporary hymn/song, rap, poem. Contributions to this competition will be shared across various media to allow as many people as possible to view, use and benefit from this content, and prizes will be given at next year’s General Assembly.
An intergenerational picture book is also being published to open up the URC’s story in accessible and engaging ways. It has been illustrated by Mark Beech, a professional book illustrator. This book will be free for all members and friends of the URC, and included in the pack.
Books and other publications for the jubilee include history texts, a book on hymnody and a joint publication with the Congregational Federation in recognition of our shared 50th anniversary. Progress has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly through the restriction of library access, but work continues on these works which are now due for publication at various points throughout 2022.
Branding and merchandise, both free and for purchase, will be made available for individuals to use in marking the celebrations, as well as some offered to local churches wholesale to enable them to raise funds. More details can be found at www.urcshop.co.uk/50.
More information about all of these events and resources will be available from the URC website, www.urc.org.uk/50, and the URC Bookshop, www.urcshop.co.uk/50
We hope you will join us in marking this anniversary and giving thanks for what has been, and what has yet to be.
Francis Brienen is the URC’s Deputy General Secretary (Mission) and Andy Jackson is Head of Communications
This article was published in the October 2021 edition of Reform