URC website update

Just a refresher on the new URC website.

Strangled granny

I’ve not received any feedback from my emailed concerns. However, Matt Stone went on the new forum there and asked why Jesus and the Gospel didn’t appear on any of the pages. The answer has come back: We are working to put up some content on “What we believe”.

URC minister Fleur Houston also commented on the forum about the lack of any reference to God. However, she did notice that there was an article about Fair Trade Bananas. In conversation with me she’s put the whole issue brilliantly, saying: “There needs to be some indication that we banana-eating enthusiasts  worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who in the power of the Holy Spirit is alive in the world today.”

Hopefully, that day isn’t far away.

PS Fleur drew my attention to the Eglise Reformee de France‘s website. Loads of good stuff on the left hand menu and quotes on the front page from a guy called Jean Calvin. Apparently, this year has some significance…


The Power of God

This month’s letter to Hall Gate. For information, we’ve been preaching through Mark’s Gospel and we’ve reached chapter 12.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1.18

In our journey through Mark’s Gospel we have come with Jesus and the disciples into the gates of Jerusalem. We’ve seen him come into conflict with the religious authorities over issues of authority, taxes and the resurrection. In all these things Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the temple system and shows how he will be the ultimate answer to their abuses.

In all these things the shadow of the cross is looming large. In the chapters leading up to his entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus predicts his death three times. The disciples misunderstand him and puzzle over his words – Peter even attempts to dissuade Jesus – but now they’re in the temple confines, surely they’re beginning to realise the possibility of their teacher being taken from them?

From the disciples onwards, many people have tried to avoid the cross and all it means. Many would like to jump straight to the resurrection and not face the reality of Jesus’ death at the hands of the Romans. For Paul it was a real stumbling block to the Jews that he was preaching to. Anyone killed on a cross was cursed by God – how could he be the Messiah?

What was Paul’s solution? Was it to let the cross vanish from his preaching? Did he change the heart of the message to accommodate his hearers’ distaste? No, he resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). He risked everything on the conviction that the cross was the place where God dealt finally with the sin of the world. It may seem like foolishness to the world but for those who believe it is the power of God.

As we move toward Easter and the cross looms ever larger, don’t avert your eyes. For without it there is no hope for us. Through the cross the wrath of God is satisfied, our sins are forgiven and our old lives are put to death. May this church be a place where we know the cross to be the power of God,

And to him alone be all the glory

God will yet build up here…

Last Sunday afternoon Hall Gate URC hosted a concert. The ground floor section of the sanctuary was packed out so I went up into the balcony, out of the way. (This also allowed me chance to put the finishing touches to the evening sermon.)

Hall Gate Sanctuary

As I listened to the music and looked around the church I thought back to the days when people would have sat up there on Sunday morning listening to the preaching of the Reverend George R. Bettis at the turn of the last century. I then had one of those moments where you realise your insignificance and your significance at the same time.

I’m the 25th minister of Hall Gate since it was established in 1798. When I stand in the pulpit I’m standing where those 24 other men have preached the Word. I’m standing on their shoulders as I continue their work of leading God’s people. It’s really humbling.

It’s also quite scary. Will people be sat in the gallery in a hundred years time wondering what things were like in the time of Rev. Phil Baiden? I realised the responsibility placed on me to “shepherd the Church of God that he obtained with his own blood.” [Acts 20:28] It was really humbling. Continue reading

Miracles do happen!

After about a million years of saying it was going to happen, The United Reformed Church has launched its new website.

First impressions:

Pro: It’s a nice, inoffensive blue.

Cons: There’s only one place on the site that tells you what the URC believes and that’s this paragraph from the About Us page:

[Reformed churches] uphold the historic Trinitarian creeds of the church universal, find the supreme authority for their lives in the Word of God in the Bible, discerned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They order their lives through councils of the church, where ministers and lay people together seek the mind of Christ.

The recommended book from the bookshop is one on Barack Obama. The lead news item is about credit unions. Another is on the Israel/Gaza issue. However, apart from the link to another website there is not one – not one – reference to Jesus. Is this a Christian denomination or The Guardian?

The What We Do page doesn’t say that we worship God and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Still, at least we’ve got Community Work and Racial Justice/Multicultural Ministry, eh?

Why’s this bloke strangling this granny?
Strangled granny



Final thoughts: A nice looking site that’s much better than its predecessor. Unfortunately it may show some of the deeper problems I think are affecting the URC as a whole. But that’s for another time.

This will be the first in what I hope will be an occasional series where I take articles from the URC website and ask the question “What’s wrong with this?” I really hope and pray I never have to add to this series. But I love the United Reformed Church, its forefathers in the faith and the saints that are still in it. I’d love for us to be United, Reformed and a Church. May God grant reformation to his church.

What’s the standard?

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Dark mornings, gloomy days and dark nights. Wintertime in the UK can be a depressing experience. One of the things I appreciated in Madagascar was the constancy of the days – the sun would rise and set at around the same time every day, regardless of the time of year. It was a real shock coming home in summertime and finding the sun shining at 9pm. It was even more of a shock to live through a British winter again. Where had the sun gone? Continue reading

On another blog

My good friend, Jon Robinson, is a Bible-teaching beardie living in New Zealand with his gorgeous family. Since starting his blog he’s been hassling me about guest contributing. I’ve finally got round to doing something for him and it fleshes out a bit of what I’m about and how Geneva, Mada and Donny have influenced me.

Jon’s beginning to be tempted by the Emerging Church so he’s used that phrase “Faith Journey” to title my post. I’ll forgive him this once.

Go over to Xenos Theology and find out more.