I normally use my page in the July issue of Praxis to tell you what happened at our June Synod Ministers’ Summer School – but this year something different has happened. Instead of each Synod arranging its own spring or summer school for its own ministers, we pooled resources and held a gathering at the beginning of May which was open to all the serving ministers in the whole of the URC. The outcome of this was that almost 350 ministers and Church Related Community Workers met for four days at Yarnfield Park in Staffordshire and were treated to a good mix of worship, speakers and workshop-based activities, all with the URC’s ‘Walking the Way, Living the Life of Jesus Today’ theme in mind.
The highlight for me and for many others were the three sessions led by Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. He talked about active, radical discipleship by telling the stories of three remarkable women – Maria Skobtsova, Dorothy Day and Madeleine Delbrêl, all of whom suffered hardship in their lives and faced huge challenges from the establishment but went on to make significant contributions to the lives of those they served. These stories set the scene for thinking about our own life of discipleship, the lives of others, and how the church often has to be subversive if it is to be faithful to the Gospel.
I was also very taken with a workshop led by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, or LICC for short. LICC recognise that only about 2% of Christians in the UK are in the paid employment of the church, and that for the other 98%, church activities take up only a very small proportion of their time. So their focus is not so much on equipping the church to do ‘churchy’ things but empowering Christians to make a difference where they are – on their own frontlines, wherever that may be. They offer resources and practical ideas to help with this, and ways for the church to support and encourage faithful Christian living for all.
For me, this linked very well with the stories told by Rowan Williams, stories of ordinary, sometimes vulnerable people doing extraordinary things and making a difference for the sake of Christ.
Through all this it was good to be reminded that the church does not exist for the sake of itself but to join in with God’s mission in the world. As the Body of Christ, we are called to be salt and light out there – wherever ‘there’ might be, and that being disciples of Jesus is not a coat that we take on and off but something we are clothed with by virtue of our calling as Christians. So, where is your ‘frontline’, how can you make a difference, and how can the church ‘gathered’ equip you better to Walk the Way and live the life of Jesus, today, and tomorrow?
Rowan Williams’ three talks are available on YouTube – https://youtu.be/iGILm6QyxWY