A guest blog from associate partners, The United Reformed Church …
Church Related Community Work (CRCW) ministry in the United Reformed Church is about working collectively to bring about transformation in local neighbourhoods and churches for the Common Good. Tackling the big issues which affect people’s lives locally is central to that work; issues which include the impact of unemployment, poverty, health, the environment and community cohesion.
Promoting that all important community cohesion often involves bringing people together for a festival with food. CRCW minister Simon Loveitt so enjoyed being part of one such event –Extravaganza, in Eccleshill, Bradford – that he ended up organising it. Originally established to raise funds for neighbourhood Christmas lights, the day of fun, food and music has grown year on year, with thousands now attending. Simon has also been involved in two other community events in Sheffield – ‘Everyone’s Festival’ with stalls, music, food and an outdoor cinema and the very popular Bonfire, Firework and Food evening.
The United Reformed Church’s theme of ‘More than Welcome’ at Greenbelt this year will explore issues around who is, or isn’t, welcome in our communities and churches and what generous welcome can look like in practice. It will draw on 35 years of experience in the UK from the URC’s Church Related Community Work professional ministry, as well as from many other parts of the URC. It links with the denomination’s Feasts & Festivals celebrations in 2017, which will – among other things – mark the centenary of the first woman to be ordained by a British mainstream denomination, Constance Coltman, and the 500th anniversary of The Reformation. The URC at Greenbelt theme also offers the opportunity to listen to those who are missing from ‘The Great Banquet’ (Luke 14:15-24) and from our conversations, communities and churches.
This year we have an exciting menu of URC activities, including:
- Storytelling, Yarn-blanketing and conversations in the URC lounge in the Greenbelt Takeaway Area, where people can come and relax, meet with others, listen to stories, learn how to knit, attend workshops and discuss key issues around the theme.
- ‘Intentional conversations’ at picnic tables near the URC lounge.
- A ‘More than Welcome’ banqueting table and shelter art installation by artist Nic Walters
- The popular URC ‘treasure hunt’ will involve searching around the site for hidden picnic hampers, answering questions on food and feast stories from the Bible and collecting knitted food to bring back to our banqueting table so that it gradually becomes ‘abundant’ over the weekend.
- ‘Waiters table’ street theatre
- ‘Cake & debate’ festivities as part of the youth programme.
- Pop-up picnic liturgy on a Christmas festival theme!
- A main session panel discussion on the theme.
On the final day, festival-goers will be invited to take an item of knitted food back home as a gift from the URC, along with an action card encouraging them to identify and build relationships with those who feel less-than-welcome in their communities and churches.
We look forward to (hopefully!) making you More than Welcome!
Written by Steve Summers, URC at Greenbelt project coordinator and Development Worker for Church Related Community Work in the United Reformed Church.
Pictured: The URC team at Greenbelt last year.