Philip Le Fanu, a member of Beacon Hill URC, attended the URC General Assembly in Nottingham this year. He reflects here on the experience:
From Friday 6th to Monday 9th July I attended the URC General Assembly in Nottingham. Unfortunately it was a very hot weekend indeed, which made it rather stuffy to sit in a conference hall for a few days. The World Cup quarter-finals were also on. Other than these issues, however, it was overall a very positive experience. The weekend was extremely well organised, with pre-arranged breaks, great food and lovely accommodation, and there was plenty of time to sit down and chat with people you hadn’t met before from across the country. I met people of all ages, all of whom I found refreshingly upbeat in a world that at the moment seems very prone to doom and gloom. There was a group of around twenty to thirty young people aged 26 and under from the URC Youth, who were very friendly and energetic, and punched well above their weight in the debates.
The sessions this year did not have the contentious issues of some past Assemblies. Still, there was unanimous condemnation of the ‘Hostile Environment’ immigration policy, which came to light in the wake of the Windrush scandal, and an interesting Inter-faith panel, in the form of an open conversation between a vicar, a (female) Muslim inter-faith expert and a rabbi. There were also some interesting guest speakers, including the head of Christian Aid, originally from Zambia, who had recently visited Rohingya refugees.
Despite falling numbers within the church, the young people I met were very inspiring, and gave a sense of hope for the future. They were very keen on having their voices heard in the discussions, in a General Assembly that had hundreds of attendees. They were also far from novices when it came to the intricacies of how the church worked, and very much had their own well-oiled support network. As a member of the Beacon Hill congregation, it felt rather new and delightful seeing a strong youth representation within the church, and it has encouraged me to attend Youth Assembly next year.
All in all, it was great to see first hand how our church runs, particularly regarding our democratic ‘consensus’ method of deciding upon issues. It was lovely to see people from so many places and walks of life united under one banner, and able to debate issues in an accepting and appreciative environment. I would definitely consider going again.
Philip Le Fanu, Beacon Hill URC