Thought for the Month (June 2008)

Dear Friends,

The Tunbridge Wells Church has recently carried through a United Reformed Church TRIO campaign. (No, please don't stop reading if you are part of the Hawkenbury or Rusthall congregations, because this letter applies to you also). TRIO is an acronym for 'The responsibility is ours'. It is a financial campaign aimed at increasing a congregation's monetary support of their Church to a level of economic self-sufficiency.

"But I thought Tunbridge Wells was a wealthy Church," you say! Well, maybe it was in the past, but not any more. As are many of our Churches throughout the land, the Tunbridge Wells Church is faced with the same problem of an ageing, poorer 'pensioner' congregation. This means that as a group of Churches we are becoming more and more dependant on the URC's central 'Maintenance of the Ministry Fund' (the MMF) to pay our Minister's salary and running expenses, and this in turn means that the MMF is becoming more and more dependant on fewer and fewer Churches that can afford to pay more into it than they take out.

This is not a healthy situation for the URC as a whole and cannot continue, (See for instance, ongoing discussions from the 2006 'Deployment of Ministers' debate), but that is no more than an introduction to the point of this letter. It was not just the financial aspect of the TRIO acronym which struck me, but the fact that, for every aspect of our Christian life, The Responsibility Is Ours!

The responsibility is ours whether we grow and progress, or stagnate and backslide. The responsibility is ours whether we take the 'great commissions' given to every Christian seriously or not. Do we in fact visit the sick and constantly pray for healing? Do we do all we can to work to set the prisoners of all manner of human injustices free? And do we do all we can to 'go and make disciples of all nations' including the people next-door? Well, I know I don't fulfil any of these commands. I get tired and dispirited just the same as you, BUT there is help at hand! Thank God for His Holy Spirit, the helper, the 'comforter' con fortere - to make strong, whom Jesus promises us at Pentecost.

When faced with the problems in the 'world outside' and the thought that 'the responsibility is ours', our task looks immense, and so it is if we try to do everything on our own and in our own strength. But God never asks us to do anything which is beyond our abilities provided we rely on the inspiration, help, and support of His Holy Spirit. Remember that the 'great commission' given to us by Jesus at His ascension ends with the phrase 'And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age'

Rather than being passive and discouraged by the size of the tasks facing us, may we all claim the promise of God's Holy Spirit made to us at Pentecost and joyfully shoulder the responsibility of being a Christian in today's needy world.

Bob Webb

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church