What is the United Reformed Church in the UK up to? What is the added value that we give to church in general? One of the challenging things, in my view, is that it is fairly clear that, if in the period leading up to the formation of the original URC in 1972, it had been known that we would still be in existence today we, almost certainly, would never have happened. [Of course, something else might have happened - who knows?] People were prepared to compromise because they thought it was only temporary. The fascinating mix of Congregationalism and Presbyterianism (as we originally were) would probably have proved impossible if they had known it would last. The fruit of that is largely seen in our governance – and that frustratingly wonderful conciliar system that sometimes puts Church Meeting in the driving seat, on other occasions, though probably less often, the Synod Meeting and certainly, on other occasions, the General Assembly. Of course, we do still struggle with how we do our conciliarity, though that’s nothing new. This year's General Assembly received a paper from the Faith and Order Committee, entitled 'Affirming the URC's Future'. That paper commented on how we do our Church Meetings – “The Church Meeting is an indispensable part of the church’s life. … But in many of our churches it has ceased to be a living force and is maintained, often only by a few faithful people, out of respect for a tradition which no one understands very clearly any longer.” That was actually a quote of a quote – and it serves to illustrate that all our problems are not new. It could be a contemporary quote, but it was actually said by Daniel Jenkins in 1944.
But back to where we are. If life begins at 40, then that happened a couple of years ago, and as for coming of age at 21, that is in the dim and distance past of 1993. The paper, to which I have referred, begins: “The United Reformed Church is here to live and not to die.” … It goes on, in that first paragraph, to say that we are “not about dying, but about living more fruitfully, prophetically and adventurously, being re-energised by the power of the Holy Spirit in faithfulness to Jesus Christ.” So we are here and we believe we have a role.