This weekend the United Reformed Church celebrates the 50th Anniversary since its formation, with a special service of celebration which will be held in Central Hall, Westminster. The service was due to take place last Autumn but was postponed. The United Reformed Church commitment to peace is vitally important to me on many different levels.
On a personal level, I believe that Jesus offers each of us a ‘peace that passes all understanding’ by which I mean that through our individual relationship with Christ, we can know a deep sense of God’s peaceful presence and an inner peace that is both mysterious and beyond our full comprehension. At the heart of Jesus’ gospel is a desire to see a work in which peace is not just given a chance, but a world in which peace is the norm.
When we consider a church congregation level, I believe that Jesus desires us to work together, to seek peace as a community of believers and to continually extend that welcome to the wider community. In doing so, we can allow the God of peace to allow others to experience a true welcome into a community of peace and justice, of compassion and joy. In order to be a people of peace, we need to constantly renew our commitment to embracing diversity, acknowledging our differences and celebrating each other’s strengths.
At a Christian denominational level, we were born out of a desire to see Christians of all backgrounds come together, to worship and work together for the glory of God. The union of Congregationalists and Presbyterians was just the start in 1972. The union grew to include the Churches of Christ in 1981 and the Congregational Church of Scotland in 2000. We may not be bringing together denominations, but we have a long commitment to working ecumenically at a local level – working for peace alongside Christians of all traditions and backgrounds. My heart sings with joy, when we witness together and when we share in mission together – whether that is in serving the vulnerable in our own communities or when we speak out for those caught up in conflict and war.
Globally, the United Reformed Church plays its part in working for peace through its involvement in organisations such as the World Council of Churches and peace organisations such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Finding peace in the world is not a one dimensional issue, for me our commitment to peace is integral to our understanding of all that we do: as an individual, as a church community, as a denomination and as part of the global community. Jesus offers each of us a peace that passes all understanding, but Jesus also challenges us not to be receivers of peace but to play our part in working for peace, locally and globally.Robert Weston was recently a Trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He has served as a United Reformed Church Minister for 20 years, currently serving three small churches in Tavistock, Bideford and Muddiford. Robert is also one of the Directors of a small Christian Retreat Centre in West Devon, providing space for quiet days and peaceful retreat