A Brief History of The United Reformed Church.(URC)
The URC is a union of:
the Congregational Church in England and Wales;
the Presbyterian Church of England;
the Reformed Association of Churches of Christ.
The first two united in 1972 and the third joined in 1981.
1 April 2000 saw the Congregational Church in Scotland joining the URC at a special service in Edinburgh.
The United Reformed Church was formed out of a conviction that the visible unity of the Church was an aspiration to which energy, passion and prayer could and should be committed: We affirm our intention to go on praying and working, with all our fellow Christians, for the visible unity of the Church in the way Christ chooses, so that people and nations may be led to love and serve God and praise him more and more forever.
Who is the United Reformed Church?
We are a family of Christians worshipping in the name of Jesus in about 1500 local churches from Orkney to Cornwall.
‘United’ is an important part of our story. We still work as closely as we can with Christians of all traditions and styles.
‘Reformed’ means that we delight in the Bible, we do not fear change, and we try to run our churches in ways that take everyone’s insight and contribution seriously.
We are one ‘Church’. We aim to grow through supporting one another and taking decisions together.
All our tasks and posts are open to women as fully as to men. We are an intercultural church, where people with varied ethnic roots enrich each other’s Christian living. Our people hold a range of opinions about theology and church life. In words of the denominations’ Statement of Nature, Faith and Order (1990) together we are firmly committed to ‘God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The living God, the only God, ever to be praised.’
Each local church belonging to the URC seeks:
to welcome those who come from any church background or none;
to arrange its own worship and mission;
to celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion (Eucharist).
The URC offers two routes:
- An ‘Infant Baptism’ followed by ‘Confirmation’ later in life.
- A ‘Thanksgiving, Blessing and Dedication’ Service, instead of Baptism, followed by ‘Believers Baptism’ later in life.
Each route is equal and there is no discrimination between people who take either route.
All are welcome to share in the Lord’s Supper/ Holy Communion/ Eucharist, whether you have been Baptised or not.
The interior to a URC is simple, without statues or gold fittings.
The Purpose of The United Reformed Church.
Within the one holy, catholic1, apostolic2 Church, the United Reformed Church acknowledges its responsibility under God:
- to make its life a continual offering of itself and the world to God in adoration and worship through Jesus Christ;
- to receive and express the renewing life of the Holy Spirit in each place and in its total fellowship, and there to declare the reconciling and saving power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ;
- To live out, in joyful and sacrificial service to all in their various physical and spiritual needs, that ministry of caring, forgiving and healing love which Jesus Christ brought to all whom he met;
- and to bear witness to Christ’s rule over the nations in all the variety of their organised life.
- 1 Universal, general, all inclusive.
- 2 Pertaining to or conforming to the faith, teaching or practice of the Apostles.
The Five Marks of Mission
- to proclaim the good news of the kingdom3;
- to teach, baptise and nurture new believers;
- to respond to human need by loving service;
- to seek to transform unjust structures of society;
- to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, to sustain and renew the life of the earth.
- 3 Where the crucified and risen Christ is, the kingdom is. The Church’s work is to proclaim its reality, through word and deed, in the power of the Spirit.
Constitution of The United Reformed Church
The governing body of the United Reformed Church is the General Assembly. The authority under which General Assembly acts is given by the United Reformed Church Acts 1972, 1981 and 2000. These Acts of Parliament together with the Basis, Structures and Rules of procedure of the United Reformed Church (as contained within sections A – C of the Manual of the United Reformed Church) contain the foundation documents of the Church.
Each year General Assembly appoints members to Mission Council. The purpose of Mission Council is to enable the Church, in its General Assembly, to take a more comprehensive view of the activity and policy of the Church, to decide more carefully about priorities and to encourage the outreach of the Church to the community.
The level of council below the General Assembly is that of Synod. Each Provincial Synod (of which there are 13) gives practical help to churches in legal and property matters; encourages training; discusses matters of faith and policy and links to Assembly and fosters ecumenical relations and action. Each Synod has a full-time Moderator who is a minister with a pastoral and leadership ministry within the Province.
Representatives from Synods are nominated (by the Synod) to Mission Council. The names of members of Mission Council are listed in the Book of Annual Reports to General Assembly.
Organisational Structure and Governance
The present organisational structure of the United Reformed Church is conciliar.
The District Council layer of administration was removed by General Assembly resolution July 2007.
Local Churches form Clusters for the purpose of fellowship, support and action.
The Church Meeting which is open to all members of the congregation is the Governing Body of the local Church. Adherents are welcome to attend and contribute to discussion but do not have voting rights
The Church Meeting is assembled in order that the Spirit of Christ may direct its members in all things concerning the work of God. There is also an Annual General Church Meeting.
A member of a URC congregation is someone who has made a public commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the local congregation through which service to God is given.
An adherent is someone who regularly worships with the congregation and shares in the life of the church but who has not yet made that public commitment.
Elders are elected from among the members of the church, and are ordained by the local church to share with the Minister in the pastoral oversight, organisation and leadership of the church. Elders serve on the Elders’ Meeting for three years at a time after which they must stand for re-election if they wish to continue. Having been nominated by church members Elders are elected at the Church Annual General Meeting.
The serving Elders are the Managing Trustees of the local church. The Elders may receive training from the Minister and the Synod Training Team.
Worship is the centre of the community life of a church. It is here where we most easily meet our Lord and Master, where we feed on him, and give ourselves anew into his service and to each other and enjoy fellowship together. The climax of worship is Holy Communion. All who seek the love of Jesus may share in our Communion Service.
The URC empowers its local churches to conduct marriages of same-sex couples.
The General Assembly of the United Reformed Church (URC) on 9 July 2016 voted in favour of allowing its local churches to conduct and register marriages for same-sex couples.
This means that the URC is now the largest UK denomination to freely permit the celebration and registration of marriages of same-sex couple in its churches.
Assembly voted in favour of the resolution by 240 votes to 21 votes. United Reformed churches in England and Wales wishing to register their buildings for the marriage of same-sex couples are now able to start that process immediately.
The United Reformed Church issues Daily Devotions, a reading, reflection and prayer, to help with our discipleship of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The Daily Devotions are embedded to this website and appear below the Navigation Menu on the left hand side if you would like to read some.
If you would like to read an article about how the Daily Devotions started please go to Inspiration in your inbox.
A team of 100 or so people with different perspectives and from different places in our denomination collaborate to create this useful resource. People read them on their phones as they undertake their daily commute, on their computers at work, or with a coffee at home on a tablet.
The Daily Devotions are sent out daily at 6.00am by email to individuals who have signed up to receive them. They may also be accessed by logging onto the URC Devotion Archive site. To sign up to receive the Devotions, simply go to devotions.urc.org.uk
The Daily Devotions also appear on Facebook and can be accessed here.
From 5 December 2017, if you use Twitter, you can also keep up with Daily Devotions using our identity @URCDevotions.
Reform is a fresh and challenging magazine exploring theology, ethics, personal spirituality and Christian perspectives on social and current affairs.
The magazine is for thinking people who enjoy reading about Christian ideas from a range of viewpoints. It features writing from journalists, academics, politicians, campaigners, scientists and religious leaders.
As well as high-profile interviews, in-depth features and book, music and film reviews, Reform carries letters and a regular light-hearted column.
The magazine is published 10 times a year by the United Reformed Church but has readers from all Christian denominations, as well as readers from other faiths and from no faith tradition.
Read here a topic covered in February 2018 edition of Reform.
At a lower cost than the printed version, Reform is now available digitally and can be delivered straight to your tablet, smartphone or computer, allowing videos, audio and images to be browsed as well as searching a catalogue of back issues.
To order the printed version of Reform magazine or to download the Reform app and subscribe to the digital magazine, visit www.reform-magazine.co.uk/subscribe and follow the instructions.
Galloway’s Society for the Blind
Audio recordings of the Reform magazine are available free of charge on CD for anyone who is blind or visually impaired.
The Logo of The United Reformed Church
The Cross is a reminder
- of the way in which Jesus died the Roman death penalty
- of the sacrifice of Jesus’ life as an offering for the wrong-doings of all humanity
- of the resurrection from death to life at Easter – the cross is empty!
The fish is an early symbol used by Christians
- the Greek word for fish is ichthus – the ‘ichthus’ letters in the Greek language spell out the first letters of the words: Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour.
Safeguarding in the United Reformed Church
Read the report ‘safeguarding requires collective effort’ here.