I have just recently returned from the URC’s first ever Ministers Gathering. About 350 Ministers of Word and Sacrament from all over the UK were there. With few exceptions, all of us had come to this inspiring event, which should introduce us to the URC’s new and exciting focus on discipleship: “Walking the Way. Living the life of Jesus today.”
Yes, we are and have been a denomination in decline, like other churches, too. A colleague told me with a sigh: “When I got ordained we were 900 ministers.” So yes, it is high time for us to focus and do what we are primarily called to do: Be disciples of Jesus. The Greek word for “disciple” is mathetes, meaning: ‘one who learns as they follow’.
It’s a huge shift for the URC: away from designated programmes and targets (Vision 2020, Radical Welcome etc), towards this focus on lifelong Christian discipleship and mission, helping us to bring about change in our own lives and, ultimately, in Church culture and society.
We were helped to grapple with what discipleship might mean in our world of church decline by the three excellent and inspiring talks given to us by Rev Dr Rowan Williams. In describing the lives of three different women and their radical ways in which they followed Jesus, Rowen reminded us of the “critical fidelity” and radical hospitality the churches have always been called to.
You can watch the talks on YouTube:
Also, the Revd Dr Peggy Kabonde, General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia, gave good and vivid insight into her experience of Discipleship and its challenges in the 21rst century. Amazing how her context in Zambia actually is not too different to ours. There was a lot to be learned from her way of going “back to the roots.”
Of course, there’s nothing new about being a disciple of Christ. What is new about Walking the Way is its practical approach, with accessible good resources alongside. And the focus on everyday living, on personal development and on community-building.
The URC offers three key resources so far:
I came away from the conference inspired and hopeful, and more trusting, too. Trusting in God to work His purpose out, with or without us. For churches may come and go, but God is not going away.
In the meantime, we are called to be good learners, faithful to the truth we live for, reliable beacons in our communities, forces for the good, God’s workers in the field, in joy and in our brokenness pilgrims on the way. Let’s see what God has in store for us, when we more consciously and more intentionally walk the way with Jesus!
Yours in Christ,