The United Reformed Church in South Suffolk has combined forces to establish a new ‘South Suffolk Area Partnership.’ Following this being set up, a report has been drawn up by their secretary, John Bothams. Graeme Duncan went along to St. John’s URC, Ipswich to meet him and discuss the new initiative.
Just like many Christian denominations, the United Reformed Church (URC) is facing a crisis with dwindling and largely elderly congregations and fewer ministers to supply them.
In 2017 nine churches from the Central Suffolk Area Partnership were combined with another nine from West Suffolk Area Partnership along with seven from the Ipswich & Eastern Area Partnership. This formed the ‘new’ South Suffolk Area Partnership.
The partnership was put together with no formal decision-making role or authority within the URC system but it was felt that working closer together, picking up on problems and issues, sharing good things and resources and talking together openly, would mean that the expanded partnership could become a very effective influencing part of the system.
And it has proved to be very successful. As well as being an ideal sharing-mechanism, a new website for the partnership, now in its second version, has the facility to ask others for and to offer help and technology has been used to facilitate pastoral care calls which go to the ministers simultaneously via one email. A sharing of services through live video
link is also a future possibility but this would need support and funding in order to achieve this.
The new South Suffolk Area Partnership has caused the URC to take a new look at its future in an ever-changing society. It heralds the start of a new era and new ways of doing things to grow and revitalise the church once again. It will require spiritual guidance, patience and an openness in finding new ways of sharing the Christian faith, skills and resources. But that is what Christians have always been called to do.
We would be interested in hearing your views as to how churches can move forwards to
overcome, in some measure, the lack of church ministers and increasingly elderly
congregations, not only within denominations, but also by networking with local churches of other denominations.