Editorial: Happy birthday Reform
Last month, as few readers will have failed to notice, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Reformed Church. This month, it’s the turn of Reform to be the centre of attention and birthday shenanigans.
Reform came into being at the same time as the URC, so in theory they should share the same birthday. But of course in the mysterious ways of magazineland, the issue that is printed in October, and delivered to readers by the end of that month, is called November. (I think this is done to extend the shelf life of magazines in the shops, which doesn’t apply to Reform, but, as our ministers know, it’s hard to argue with tradition.) If the first issue of Reform had been the October 1972, it would have been printed before the creation of the URC and there wouldn’t have been a great deal to write about.
Reading that first issue is a bit of a time travel experience. It’s printed on newspaper, as it was until 1983. It is largely in black and white – black and sepia now – with a few pages of colour photos of the big day, plus the odd splash of cyan and magenta.
The magazine cost 7p. A book is advertised in it for 45p, a fortnight’s tour of Egypt for £143.
There is a half-page advert for Nestlé chocolate, to be resold at youth groups, something which you would never have seen in later years. Ads for charities have a subtly different tone than these days too: ‘Please help me to help them’, ‘If you care about lonely despairing old folk…’.
There’s a review of a new film called The Godfather (disturbingly violent but important is Reform’s verdict). And there are many names from another age, from the founding parents of the URC to Roy Jenkins and Ted Heath.
The Reform team had difficulties getting that first issue to all subscribers on time because there were so many more of them than expected. That kind of story makes an editor feel a bit wistful – the magazine operated on a rather bigger scale in those days.
Then again, there’s nothing special about Reform in that; it’s the story of Christian life in Britain. The national Churches, the local congregations, the youth groups and their tuck shops, the book sales and charity collections.
But even then, though the Editor was relieved to conclude that Reform’s short-term future was assured, he had no certainty beyond that. Many of us in the Church today would say the same about our own area of work and life.
It is natural to worry about the future; it is Christlike to say we cannot control tomorrow, but we can make the most of the today we are given. And to look back with gratitude and admiration to those whose footsteps we walk in today.
This article was published in the November 2022 edition of Reform