Introducing Broxbourne United Reformed Church
Our two friendly local denominations cooperate happily, having occasional joint services and particularly sharing staff and premises to run the very popular annual Holiday Club for local youngsters in the first week of the summer holidays.
This is followed up with a party for the young funsters to get together in January and discover the theme for the next event.
The Christian churches in England share very much the same basic ideals. Looking around, your choice is more in the way they are governed. I give you three options:
a) The Roman Catholic church under rule of the Pope in Rome, through the Archbishop of Westminster down to local Priests.
b) The Church of England under the protection of our Monarch and led by the Archbishop of Canterbury with area Bishops, local Vicars, Curates, and having an annual gathering for important decisions, the Synod.
and c) the Free Churches, for instance the Baptists, Methodists and United Reformed. These generally operate more democratically. The clergy, who may be men or women, are called Ministers.
The word Reformed comes from the days when there were protests at the ways of the church of Rome at that time, hence ‘Protestants’. They decided not to conform, hence ‘Nonconformists’, and they re-formed their ways of worship, hence the ‘Reformed’ church.
A particular plank of the Protestant platform is that we have direct access to God. There is no need for a priest to mediate between God and Mankind. This is called ‘The Priesthood of All Believers’.
In parallel, The Bible, with understanding, is central to belief and conduct. To symbolise this in the URC the bible is ceremoniously carried in by an Elder and placed centrally to signal the start of each service of worship. Thereupon they read an appropriate verse or two from it as the Call To Worship.
The United Reformed Church, (not the United Reform Church! ), you will be astonished to learn, is the result of churches of the Reformed tradition which united.
The Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church of England were two Free Churches with similar democratic methods and parallel beliefs, so in an effort to gather churches into one they united in 1972, were soon joined also by the smaller Reformed Churches of Christ, and, more recently, by the Congregational Church of Scotland. Not Bad!
Blending the ways of these traditions, decisions involving each premises and its conduct are made by all the church members at the important Church Meeting, perhaps monthly .
Certain are set apart, with the Minister, as Elders to have spiritual care of their groups of members and also to conduct the regular business. They meet in the Elders Meeting.
Representatives from Elders Meetings attend an area Synod, and on to the, now bi-annual, General Assembly, led by two Moderators (one Minister and one lay person) chosen for each two years.
But to unite doesn’t immediately produce standardisation. As with any wide-spread organisation, there is always a certain amount of local variation between premises due to the folk involved.
Before the Union, Broxbourne was a Congregational church, and as these were individually self supporting there was a tendency towards a family atmosphere in the conduct of the church which it will be found still lingers here.
The Presbyterian denomination, having Scottish links, was more restrained in conduct, and no doubt you will still find this amongst elderly members and Ministers who grew up in premises elsewhere which were Presbyterian in origin.
After all, according to the records it took Moses the regulation 40 years in the Wilderness to get the Israelites to overcome being slaves in Egypt. It put years on him. Having seen pictures of the current Wilderness I can understand why they were not best pleased. Ten minutes would be enough for me, five even better.
Our new building at Broxbourne was opened in April 1969, shortly before the Union, having moved from the previous Congregational church building, dated 1846, shown, in the middle of Hoddesdon to allow entry there through to a new shopping precinct (since demolished).
Our architect introduced the idea of having the hall downstairs and the sanctuary above in the tent-shaped roof. Interestingly, the sloping walls avoid any echo, which is great for the Hoddesdon Music Club who organise concerts by top-flight classical musicians.
Originally access to the upper floor was by an outside ramp but in time this was considered too steep. Problem: How to incorporate a lift into this novel-shaped construction?
Answer: Construct the lift outside on the garden and then build a new frontage around it!
And that is what you see now.
In fact it brought with it the addition of a couple of much-used meeting rooms upstairs with their own facilities. Many societies hire all our halls, from bird watchers to weight watchers. There are birthday parties, but, from experience, no stag nights! We regret that we are unable to take Sunday bookings, because of use by the Church.
Looking inside upstairs, above the projection screen in the sanctuary is our particular feature of interest , the Cross of Crosses, designed uniquely for this church by a talented local artist.
More recently, for the extension, a nearby glass-worker donated engravings of this logo on the new glass front doors.
To visit, and perhaps settle in a particular local church there is a degree of acquired taste needed. For any first experience it always helps to know what to expect.
Our lively Minister, Rev David Bradburn has wholeheartedly adopted the PowerPoint Age, so the first thing you will see on entering before 10.30 am on a Sunday is the projection screen which, apart from pictures, shows the words of the hymns and notes during the sermon. At the entrance, in addition to receiving a bible with two book-marks and an Order of Service, hymn books are offered ‘If You Can’t Read The Screen’. Apart from other benefits of PowerPoint to help with organising the Service, the ‘heads up’ posture benefits the singing.
On arrival in good time, (Offertory basket at the entrance), don’t aim to sit in the back rows in case the Regulars crowd you out. Be more adventurous; move forward. After an arrival moment of prayer, look in the Order of Service for the page numbers of the bible readings and insert the book-marks for reference when required later.
You may have to close your ears to chatter during the nominal ‘Quiet Contemplation’. Likewise close your eyes to fiddling with microphone switches and laptops. Keep thinking ‘Reverence’.
Stand when the Minister enters.
At least one hymn or song, probably with a tune not designed for the organ, may be sung to a Band consisting of such musicians as are present.
Thereafter, as explained elsewhere, some services are ‘Traditional’ with a sermon, possibly with monthly Communion, some are lighter for ‘All Ages’.
Communion, or Holy Communion to be more specific, is nothing to be scared of. (That’s bad grammar).
Followers of Jesus the Christ ( ’Jesus’ was a common name) share together a token meal of bread and wine, remembering that at the Last Supper Jesus related these to His body and blood. He was about to allow these to be shed by crucifixion as a sacrifice for all the sins of his followers, once and for ever.
In the URC, at larger gatherings, the Elders serve small pieces of bread on plates to the congregation in their seats.
In our case, all wait until all are served and then eat together.
Next, similarly with a mini glass of non-alcoholic (!) wine.
If this idea doesn’t suit you, just let them pass. No Problem.
After Communion there is a gratitude Offertory at the door for a chosen Good Cause, currently food for the food bank or, of course a cash alternative.
After every Sunday morning Service, be bold enough to go into the hall downstairs and look around for a friendly chat over a cup of something.
To negotiate the rest of the week you will need an interpretation of our local obfuscations, (meaning titles which are not directly explanatory), which have been acquired gradually. The names may be unusual but the people are not.
Kings Kids: Children at Sunday Service.
Hitchhikers: Ages 11 to 18, on Sunday evenings.
COMET: Come On Mondays, Enjoy Togetherness.
After Eights: Ladies monthly evening meeting,
Touching Base: Midweek brief morning Service.
Oasis: The Quiet Room, upstairs.
ETF: Exploring The Faith
Regent Regale: Retired Gents Luncheon.
Xstream: Ages 7 to 11, Wednesdays after school.
CTH: Churches Together in Hoddesdon, Broxbourne, and Wormley.
Now, as they say on the TV programme for house-hunters, ‘Off you go and have a good look around. Take your time and I’ll see you again later’ .