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 Welcome to Issue 103

14 October 2022
In this edition of the newsletter we have another of our Synod team sharing details of their role in our regular Meet the Team update.  Andrew Atkinson, Synod Trust Officer and longest serving staff member in the Synod, gives a flavour of the type of work he is involved in and his rather unusual claim to fame!  We have some safeguarding for Elders training dates for 2023 and a reflection from the URC 50th Anniversary service held at Jesmond URC last weekend from Ray Anglesea. We have details of the latest news from the URC Children and Youth Work team and the usual round up of news from our churches and further afield.  Northern Synod is hoping to recruit a part time Pioneer Youth Worker for the North West and Central Newcastle churches and further details can be found towards the end of the newsletter.  The Synod team is looking forward to welcoming many of you to the Synod Meeting tomorrow at St Andrew's URC, Monkseaton.

We are always looking for news of interest and events so, if you have any items that you would like to be included in the newsletter, please send them to or  Please remember that if you are including photographs, you need to gain the permission of the people in them for it to be shared.  If you have anything that you would like to be included, the next issue of the newsletter will be published on 28 October.  Until next time ...

Lisa and Wendy
Meet the Team
Hello, I’m Andrew.  

Many of you will know me already, as I have been the Northern Synod’s Trust Officer for 27 years.

I grew up within the congregation of St Columba’s, North Shields, where I am an Elder (currently on a very long sabbatical).

I studied law and legal practice at university, with the intention of becoming a solicitor, but God had other ideas.  I was encouraged to apply for a position with the synod, but was not at first sure whether this was what I wanted to do.  For its part, the synod was equally unsure whether a fresh-faced youngster would be the right fit for the role.  However, I grew into it, and you could say I found my vocation.

At a staff away day in 2019, we agreed a mission statement for the team.  Each of us adapted it slightly to our own roles.  Mine reads: Stimulating, sustaining and supporting life, growth and connectedness in the United Reformed Church’s Northern Synod, through advice, governance and administration.  The role of Trust Officer, as the name suggests, is primarily engaged in supporting the work of the synod’s trust company and three of its subcommittees.  This includes:
  • helping the Trust with its legal compliance
  • producing reports, writing minutes and following up action points
  • overseeing property transactions and some property management
  • collaborating with the Finance Officer on funds and payments
  • playing a part in the synod’s communications
  • giving basic advice on a wide range of subjects to local churches
Within the team, we have identified a phenomenon labelled “ask Andrew”.  I enjoy solving puzzles, organising information and helping people, and my job enables me to do all of those things.
My proudest achievement came in 2010, when I spotted that an important word was missing from a rather technical new law.  Parliament passed an amendment to insert the missing word, so I have my own law!  The Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (England) (Amendment) Order 2010 is a long name for a very short document.
Recently, I have been supporting the Manse Subcommittee in its strategic review of manses.  Other current projects include producing documentation on data protection; and digitising the synod’s paper records.
You are invited to join one of the sessions to gain vital information on your specific safeguarding role in the URC. This session is for all Serving Elders with Trustee Responsibility in their church.

Please click here to find more information and the 2023 dates.  Please email Carrie Kaunda to book your place on your preferred date.
URC Children and Youth Work
URC Children

At General Assembly 2022, the United Reformed Church launched ‘URC Children’ - which will seek to provide the support, resourcing, participation and voice for children within the URC and those who work with them, that URC Youth provides for young people aged 11-25.  It will do this in different, age-appropriate ways, and seeks to help the Church be more child-led in all areas.

But what does that mean? What benefits will we see for our local churches and work with children?  Our guest speakers are Ruth White (Children and Youth Development Officer in Wessex Synod) and Judy Harris (Children and Youth Development Officer for the National Synod of Wales).

Click here to book your free place for this online session.
Calling All Messy Church Workers! 
Monday 21st November 7 - 8.30 pm

The Five Northerly Synods have arranged another messy zoom gathering. We have listened to your suggestions and understand that the times in between special celebrations can be a challenge.

Fear not, we offer you this event in November, along with plenty of time to chat and share with volunteers just like you.

This offers a great chance to gather, listen, share, and support each other. A warm welcome awaits you all.
For further information please email Hannah Middleton, Northern Synod Children’s Work Advisor.
Christmas Resource Pack for Churches

Click here to find out more about the Christmas Resource Pack, Sprinkles and Sparkles.  You can email Hannah Middleton, Northern Synod Children’s Work Advisor to request the resources.
Activities for Young People

First Steps Tours - Getting started in connecting with children, young people & families.
We are planning 4 events around the Synod to support you with practical ideas about how to take the ‘First Steps’ in working with children, young people & families. Click
here to find out more.  Full of practical ideas to inspire you and help you to gain confidence as we move forward after the pandemic.  The evenings will begin with puddings from 6.30pm and run from 7-9pm
· Billingham URC: date to be confirmed.
· Longframlington URC: Tuesday 18 October
· Chester-le-Street URC: Thursday 3 November:
· High Heaton URC: Saturday 5 November

Breakthrough is a fantastic holiday organized by reNEw NE for all those in years 9 and above, from Friday 30 December 2022 - Monday 2 January 2023.  We are based at the York Diocesan Centre at Wydale Hall near Scarborough with great facilities and beautiful grounds, fantastic food and the chance to celebrate and start the New Year with friends and with God. 
The cost is £150 not including travel which is organized at an extra cost.  Please note that the Synod will give a £50 grant to anyone connected with a URC congregation who wants to attend and the policy of reNEw NE is to ask people only to pay what they can – just ask for details.  For further details and to book click
Breakthrough! 4 days, 3 nights, 2 years & 1 Awesome God.
Northern Synod News
URC Northern Synod at 50: 'Power, Nourishment and Abundance
Members, friends, clergy and synod staff came together on Sunday 9th October 2022 at 3pm to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the United Reformed Church.  The service was held in the beautifully refurbished Jesmond United Reformed Church (Grade II Listed), Newcastle upon Tyne and led by the General Assembly Moderator Revd Fiona Bennett together with the  Northern Synod Moderator, Revd Dave Herbert and the Minister of Jesmond URC, the Revd Ryan Sirmons

It was at the former Jesmond Presbyterian Church, Newcastle over 50 years ago that the Presbyterian Church of England came together to formally declare their decision to unite and form the United Reformed Church. Present at that historic meeting and at today’s anniversary service was the now retired Minister Revd Alistair Pratt and his wife Sheila who also attended on the 5th October 1972 at Westminster Central Hall, London the meeting of Annual Assembly of the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. It was at this meeting that the 2 churches agreed to formally dissolve themselves to form the United Reformed Church. In the afternoon Alistair and Sheila with friends of the new United Reformed Church filled Westminster Abbey for a service broadcast by the BBC. In 1981 the Churches of Christ joined the URC followed by the Scottish Congregationalists in 2000.

The Synod's 50th Anniversary service, led by the General Assembly Moderator took as its theme Halleluya! God is with us! The Moderator led three creative and interactive reflections based on the story of the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6, 1-14). The first refection was entitled, ‘The power of the few,’ the second ‘Nourishment’ and the third ‘Abundance to Share.’ In-between each reflection the Synod scratch choir led by Dr. Alison Shiel sang the lovely
South African response: -
!Halleluya! We sing your praises,
All our hearts are filled with gladness 
Halleluya! We sing your praises 
All our hearts are filled with gladness 
Flower pedestal by Jean Degenhardt

The congregation, sitting in groups around tables on which were placed Lego pieces were invited, following each reflection, to create in their imagination an individual model of where they saw the church in the past, by joining the individual models with others around the table of where they thought the church was today, and at the end of the reflections all the group models were brought to the communion table to represent and symbolise the church for the future, the creations blessed later by the Revd Ryan Sirmons 
Beautiful crafted prayers of intercession were led by the synod clerk, Melanie Campbell followed by an Act of Commitment led by the Revds. Sirmons and Herbert. The service concluded with a delicious and sumptuous afternoon tea in the church hall 

A very big thank you to the Revd Ryan Sirmons and his team at Jesmond URC for hosting a memorable and enjoyable afternoon
A retiring offertory was taken for our partner church, the Presbyterian Church of Mozambique

Revd Ray Anglesea
Morning Prayers    

Everyone is invited to join the Northern Synod morning prayers. Join at 9 am for 15-20 minutes, Monday to Friday, through Zoom or by phone.
More details and joining instructions here.

person sitting while reading book
Northern Synod 2022 Prayer Diary Available Here
News of Churches around the Synod
Jesmond URC, Burdon Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne

I AM MARK - Friday 4 November, 6.30 pm for 7.10 pm FREE

Come along to The Greatest Show on Earth (literally) - I AM MARK, a daring new word for word dramatisation of The Gospel of Mark at Jesmond United Reformed Church, Burdon Terrace, Jesmond NE2 3AE, 4th November, 6.30pm for 7.10pm. Archbishop Rowan Williams says it’s like “hearing the Bible for the first time.” Experience the very word of God coming to life before your eyes in all its raw power. Marvel at the extraordinary richness of this ancient form of storytelling which is as relevant and revolutionary today as it ever was. And don’t keep it to yourself: bring your friends and family along as well!

Free wine, fruit, and cheese reception at 6.30pm. Performance at 7.10pm. 


Jesmond URC, Organ Meditations, Fridays at 1 pm

Jesmond URC are holding a series of Organ Meditations on Fridays at 1pm.  Further details can be found by clicking here
Warm Space at Billingham URC, from 18th October

St Columba’s URC, Billingham - starting 18th October, they will be hosting a warm space twice a week. Every Tuesday and Friday 11 am until 3 pm - a warm place to sit, a warm welcome, a bowl of hot home made soup and a cuppa. There is no charge and everyone is welcome.
Stockton Road URC, Sunderland
To mark the 50th anniversary of the URC, Stockton Road will be open to the public for eight days from Saturday 29th October. There will be a series of displays and events focussing on the history of the Church and on the life of Margaret Dryburgh, missionary in the Far East, who is commemorated in Stockton Road. The celebrations, which will involve groups using the building, will close with a special service on Sunday 6th November.
Further details of the events can be found by clicking here.
 National URC News
URC Buildings Forum Online Event: two Synod Moderators’ experiences of church development!
If you want to hear more about this, please look out for further details of the next URC Buildings Forum Conference which is to take place on Tuesday 15th November 2022 from 7.30pm until 9.00pm. This online event will focus upon stories about church buildings being used for mission and how local churches can be guided in facing this challenge as we come into the ‘New Reality’ after the pandemic. There will be an opportunity to hear about the experiences of developing a church building, its life and its mission, and learn of some of the joys and pitfalls of following that path, with the Revd. Ruth Whitehead and the Revd. Steve Faber as guest contributors.  There will also be time during the conference for a conversation about the Environmental Policy agreed at General Assembly. As usual, there will be time in small groups to talk about your own experiences, opportunities and challenges.
To register, please email 
by 31st October 2022, with your name, email address, and details of which church or organisation you are representing.  Login details will be sent a few days before the meeting.

Cost of living crisis: how churches can respond

The cost of living is rising for everyone, but it is rising fastest for the least well-off.  The coming weeks and months are likely to be very difficult for many people.

There are many ways in which churches may be able to offer practical support within their local communities.  Click here to find out more from the national URC website.

Photo by Sarah Agnew on Unsplash

Grants & funding opportunities

Find out more about the grants and funding opportunities the United Reformed Church offers churches, community groups and individuals.  For more details click here.

 News from other places
Discover the Quran
Saturday 15th October 2022

Newcastle based charity the Islamic Diversity Centre, invite you to their upcoming exhibition: "Discover the Quran".  The exhibition will take place at Newcastle City Library Bewick Hall (33 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AX) from 11am until 4pm on Saturday 15th October 2022. 
The exhibition is free, and includes stunning visual displays and artefacts, free refreshments, free Arabic calligraphy, and free henna art.
No booking is necessary, but if you reply to confirm your attendance the Islamic Diversity Centre would be very grateful.  To confirm your attendance please 
email IDC directly.

Faraday Institute, Cambridge

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion is a Cambridge-based interdisciplinary research institute improving public understanding of religious beliefs in relation to the sciences.  The Faraday Institute has some upcoming workshops especially for church members:

Living with Chronic Pain: A Christian response

November 5th, Westminster College, Cambridge and online

This one-day workshop will be an opportunity to develop understanding and think through a Christian response to living with chronic pain.

Click here for more details

Faith and Science in the Local Church – A Workshop for Christian Leaders

January 13 – 14, 2023, Cambridge and online

Join us for this interactive two-day workshop designed for Christian leaders – whether ordained, lay, or active and experienced members of a local church.  Participants will be equipped to engage with scientific issues in the day-to-day life of their ministry context.

This workshop will cover contemporary topics in the dialogue between Science and the Christian Faith, including Artificial Intelligence, Bioethics, Evolution, and Miracles.

Open to all church leaders – no scientific background required.

Click here for more details

Further information can be found on the Faraday Institute website, including registration details:

Charity Fraud Awareness

Prevent Charity Fraud is a joint venture between the Charity Commission (England and Wales) and the Fraud Advisory Panel which is an independent charity mainly supported by accountancy firms.

Charity Fraud Awareness Week runs from 17 – 21 October
Prevent Charity Fraud has provided some resources, some of which may be useful for churches.  Further details can be found

Northern Synod Pioneer Worker - Children, Families and Young People

Part time - 20 hours per week, fixed term initially 2 years.

Please click here for more details.  Closing date 26th October.
National URC vacancies
Church House in London are currently recruiting for a Chief Operating Officer and a Repairs and Maintenance Surveyor. 

Please click
here for more details.
Click here for the Latest URC News
URC 50th Anniversary
Click here for URC 50th Anniversary News
We would love to hear from you!

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