Westminster College course, July 2016
I was delighted to be supported by Northern Synod to attend the Embracing Eldership course at Westminster College. This was the first time I had been and I would highly recommend both the course and the venue. There were 40 delegates who attended from around the country, some new and some experienced Elders with a broad age profile too. There were three of us from Northern Synod and it was nice to meet local lay members. The weekend was blessed with excellent facilitators who shared with us some of their own spiritual journeys, and how they had been strengthened in faith during difficult and challenging times.
The course programme looked at the basis of Eldership today, building on the URC Manual and the currently realities of church communities. The opening session allowed the delegates to influence the programme by highlighting our hopes and aims for the weekend. From our discussions it emerged that we all share similar problems. We were also reminded very strongly that the primary role of the Elders was to lead the spiritual life of our congregations and not to be bogged down with our buildings and maintenance. Sharing together the experiences of each other was both enlightening and challenging. Most of all it helped us feel the bond of spirituality that binds us all within the URC.
There was a session on Elders working as a team, and ways to make Elders meetings feed our spiritual development as well as how we can use the Bible as a means of helping us to clarify our mission and leadership within our own churches and communities. Throughout the three days we spent time in prayer, contemplation and worship.
The final session was on nurturing faith, resourcing prayer life and spirituality. What I have taken away from the course is that as churches we are all challenged and sometimes it is easy to think that we are all individual congregations struggling alone. Coming together was uplifting and there was vibrancy and enthusiasm throughout the weekend. It was great to see what a multicultural denomination we are and how that strengthens the URC.
I would really encourage other Elders or those considering becoming Elders, to go on the course. There is finance available from Synod for training lay members meaning churches do not have to finance this training themselves.
Finally my thanks to Northern Synod for allowing me the opportunity to attend, and to the facilitators for putting together a successful weekend, we are blessed to have such talented and committed staff dedicated to helping the URC to look to the future while working on an individual basis with the laity to spread the light of Christ.
Elder, St Paul and St John, South Shields