General Assembly 2008

URC LogoHerriot Watt main entranceThe General Assembly
of the United Reformed Church

was held over the weekend 11 - 14 July
at Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh

Here are my photographs and personal reflections
on what it was like to be at that event.
You can find more information on the national website
David Legge



 The view from the back row!

This is the view from the back row of the main auditorium at the start of our first act of worship - a traditional Church view!

The Set was colourful and exciting, as were most of the  presentations and business sessions.

Most of my photographs were taken in the first session and before the serious business began, when were were barred from taking photos.

The retiring Moderator, Revd Stephen orchard, with his chaplain and the Assembly Clerk, constituted Assembly.  The retiring moderator, Revd Stephen Orchard
Induction of New Moderator

Stephen the proceeded to induct Revd John Marsh as the new moderator of Assembly.

John brought a refreshing 'down to earth touch' to the whole assembly. Indeed, this Assembly felt less removed from the local church than others I have attended in the past.

Shortly after this induction, Stephen gave a brief but powerfully uplifting speech on what he had discovered during his year travelling around as moderator. Far from being a dead church, Stephen discovered a vibrant and dynamic fellowship poised for great things!

The Moderator's Address was based around the idea of Pilgrimage. On our pilgrimage, the URC needs to become more catholic, orthodox and reformed which he defined to be inclusive or all-embracing, rooted in life, and prepared to change. I hope the full text soon becomes available on the national website as it has in the past.

Part of John's Challenge was for us in local churches to let our current pilgrimage be defined not by what our church might have been in the past, but by what it could be in the future.

 John Marsh Speaking on Pilgrimage
 Revd Dr Jane Leach leading our Bible Study

The Revd Dr Jane Leach lead our Bible Study each day. She is Director of Pastoral Studies at Wesley House Cambridge, the Methodist part of the Cambridge Theological foundation, in which our own Westminster College participates.

The sign of the pilgrim

Her insights were profound and uplifting, as she shared with us some of her reflections and experiences walking "El Camino de Santiago" (Saint James Way) - the road (900km) from France to Santiago which pilgrims have followed from the middle.

Again I hope to see the texts of the daily studies on the national site.

 

Communion table, boots and rucksack

Pilgrim imagery was woven through the each worship session (including communion) and into the business of the Assembly. The walking stick, boots rucksack and a shell formed part of the stage decoration near the central lectern. The candle was lit during each time of worship.

 

On Sunday Communion was served to over 700 people, in two rooms. The table was laid in the main room where the service was conducted by the Moderator's Chaplain.  During distribution, she, the moderator and others took bread and wine to the 'overflow room' where nearly a third of those at assembly had been following proceedings via a TV link.

The communion was 'all age' being shared by members of Assembly, Fury Members (14-25) and members of the Children's Assembly.

The Communuion Tables, set for over 700!

 Meal time in the refectory

It is a shame that I was not able to take any photographs of the many attending the Children's Assembly - an event running alongside General Assembly in which some very lucky children were led through an exploration of some of the same issues were were considering in the main Hall.

On the last day of the Assembly they reported back to us on what they had been doing, and some of their comments would have been very useful to have heard during our debates. 

It was extremely inspiring to hear the feed back from these children who, in the midst of their fun activities, were giving serious thought to spirituality, and the future of the church and challenging the rest of us to listen to them!

The photograph left shows part of the 'Assembly' family at breakfast.

Breakfast and (evening) dinner were taken in the refectory as above. Lunch was more like a picnic, served in paper bags (right) which we could collect and eat anywhere.

Usually that was somewhere inside, but on one day it was just as warm to sit outside.

and just to prove he was there,  below right is Terry having an informal chat with some of his moderatorial colleagues.

 Lunchtime
 people eating outside  Moderators meeting
 Small Group Discussion

One of the reasons that this years' Assembly felt to me to be closer to the local church was the Mission team report. 

The Mission Committee is an Assembly task group which replaces some of the old 'departments', and which is charged with developing the overall strategy of the church. 

They have been working on a Mission Policy, which was brought before Assembly while still in a somewhat embryonic form. We broke up into small discussion groups, and were invited to dissect their suggestions and point out benefits, pitfalls, omissions and even whether the URC needed such an approach!

Here at Assembly were some ordinary people of the church being drawn early into the national decision making process!

During the last act of worship on Monday morning five Trugs containing shells appeared around the hiking boots. One shell was given to each member of assembly (including the youth and the children) as a token of our continuing Pilgrimage, and a reminder that we travel together.  Trugs of Shells

Many very important decisions were taken at Assembly, some of which will directly affect your church.
You must pay attention to the Record of Assembly and to the official reports that come via reform and via the synod.

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