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23 Nov 2017

Moderator of General Assembly at Sherwood

Mr Alan Yates, Moderator of General Assembly
At the meal after worship 1
At the meal after worship 2

Moderator of General Assembly, Mr Alan Yates, lead Morning Worship at Sherwood United Reformed Church on Sunday 6 Nov. We were joined by the congregation of Gregory Boulevard URC (The Bridge) and one or two people from other churches.

The United Reformed Church has two Moderators of General Assembly, one a Minister of the URC (currently Revd Kevin Watson) and one an Elder of the URC- Alan. Elected to serve for two years, they chair the biennial General Assembly and its Mission Council which meets in between.  These meetings oversee the work of the church nationally. The Moderators are also the URC's figureheads, chairing major meetings and representing the denomination internally, at home and abroad.

Alan's theme was "People of the Way", the Moderators theme for the URC as a while over their two years and one of the earliest names applies to Christians. We are People of the Way, people who try to take their lead from Jesus in the way they live their lives in today's world. The name appears in the famous passage in Acts 9:1-6 where Saul is seeking to arrest any Followers of the Way - instead he became a follower himself!

Moving on to John 21:1-14, where the disciples caught 153 fish under the direction of Jesus. Alan used this passage to explore the purpose of the church. It is to embrace the whole world and all the people in it, it is to be an inclusive church, a model of the Kingdom of God - that is the meaning of the number 153. One of the strengths of our denomination is the way we succeed in holding together in a positive way differences that could easily tear the church apart - theological, intellectual, social, racial and sexual. That is part of our identity. Sometimes, we might not agree with each other, but we will and do positively encourage each other, we do not seek to pull down those with different views, we will continue to love them.

Alan then summarized some of the other aspects of our identity.

  1. We are People of the Way
     
    • loved by God and committed to the Way of Jesus,
       
    • people growing to accept 'I am loveable because I am loved by God'
       
  2. We are a Protestant and a Reformed church.
     
    • So we believe in "the Priesthood of all believers."
      Ministers (Reverends) in the URC are not referred to as a priest - every member is a priest.
      We do not need the services of any one human being for access to God.
       
    • We accept Biblical Authority
      - "The highest authority for what we believe and do is God's Word in the Bible alive for his people today through the help of the Spirit. We respond to this Word, whose servants we are with all God's people through the years."
       
    • We believe in "Justification by faith alone".
      We do not gain 'brownie points' from God by 'doing good'. Rather we accept the free gift of God's forgiveness given to all through Jesus.  Any 'good works' we might do, are done in response to Gods love for us, and are inspired by that same love. God loves us first.
       
  3. We are a "Free Church".
     
    • "We believe that Christ gives his Church a government distinct from the government of the state.
      In things that affect obedience to God the Church is not subordinate to the state, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head."
       
    • God is the head of the church, and not any person.
      The Moderators may appear to be in a 'top position' in the church, but they have very little if any personal authority. Their role is the chair the committees of the church. 
       
    • So the URC is a conciliar church - a church governed by councils or committees.
      Authority resides in our committees, from the local Church Meeting to the national General Assembly. In contrast to many other denominations,  the local church has the final say in many areas through it's Church Meeting. (for example: the form of its local worship, who will be its minister, whether it will register its premises for Same sex Marriages) Every member of the church is a member of the church meeting.

After the service there was an informal time for discussion over a cuppa and biscuit. Then we moved into the Main Hall for a catered Sunday Dinner