news and views from the URC's Resource Centre for Learning in Cambridge

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New Westminster College website

Welcome and thank you for visiting this blog site which shares new, views and information about the people, places and events related to LIFE@WM, the United Reformed Church’s Resource Centre for learning in Cambridge.

We are pleased to announce that Westminster College now has a new website so this blog will no longer be active from 8th July 2016

To visit the new Westminster college website please go to



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Your Kingdom Come

During August and September we’ve been pleased to welcome 126 lay preachers and worship leaders to Westminster for a series of four forty-eight hour gatherings of worship, teaching, discussion, refreshment and sharing.

The theme for this year’s series of events was “Your Kingdom Come” and as we reminded ourselves that the college is a place where we bring the soil of the world in on the soles of our feet, we grappled with serious issues of politics and religion, biblical motifs of monarchy and empire, and the ways we bring prayers of intercession with integrity as we model God’s vision of justice and peace.

This was especially poignant as many of us were only too aware of the news headlines and the increasing plight of refugees seeking a safe haven in Europe. Ann Hands wrote the following meditative prayer inspired by her time at the event held from Monday to Wednesday this week, she brought it to our final act of worship and has kindly offered it for publication here.


Your Kingdom come, O Lord
A meditative prayer by Nancy Hands

Your Kingdom come, O Lord –
Lived for, died for, longed for and prayed for.
Disturb us and challenge us; shake us and wake us, to see your glory now –
In the fellowship round your table;
In the innocence of a child,
In the humility of service,
In the grace of selfless giving,
In the love toward a stranger,
In the harmony of creation.

May Your Kingdom come, O Lord –
Pictured, dreamt about, imagined, believed,
In a gift, a banquet,
In a garden of delight, where all is wholesome and complete,
Where community is all, inclusive and real,
Where lives are fulfilled and productive, with abundance and fruitfulness,
Where there is flowing, pure, life-giving water.

May your Divine plan, O Lord, be our vision and our reality –
Plant within us the seeds of your Kingdom.
By your Holy Spirit, nurture their growth,
That our lives may be transformed to shine brightly in your world,
For Jesus’ sake,
Amen. September 2015

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Walking the World

A blog post by Jo Berry

We had a very active first day on our urban ministry experience. According to my tracking app I walked just under 5 miles yesterday, but it was totally worth it. Revd John Campbell from the Urban URC Network took us on a walking safari around Dalston, Hackney, Stoke Newington, Clapton and Tottenham. Its an ever changing landscape of colours and smells, vibrant street markets, shops, churches and the occasional extremely welcome coffee shop and cafe.

We visited the URCs at Rectory Road, Upper Clapton and Highcross. They were all quite different, but all very welcoming. All were proud of their areas and of the mix of cultures which were successfully worshipping side by side. At Highcross URC they have organised trips to both Ghana and the Caribbean to help members understand and appreciate each other’s worship cultures, and to help blend the communities. The picture below showing a row of flags at Upper Clapton URC shows just how multicultural their church family is.

Flags at Upper Clapton URC
One of the things that struck me most was the amount of hosting that goes on in the London URCs. In a city where space is at a premium a significant number of other denominations use the URC buildings for their worship; this is our ecumenical heart-in-action in a very physical way. Rectory Road church hosts two other churches and at Highcross an amazing six other churches, including the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, use the URC building to worship. Whilst these all seemed to have minor setbacks and inconveniences, the churches were proud of their relationships and seem to work hard to maintain and celebrate these relationships.
At Upper Clapton URC we met Reverend John Macaulay – 21 years in ministry there. He is still full of an inspiring enthusiasm and passion for the church, sharing with us his vision of expansion of the existing building and support for nearby Stamford Bridge URC as they grow.
All the churches had stories of growth to celebrate, and a passion and focus on youth work. All also faced the challenge of becoming increasingly gathered churches. As areas have become more fashionable with young commuters it has caused property prices to spiral (we passed a new development of one bedroom flats with a starting price of £470,000). Shifting patterns of community have brought the need for change, for different ways of doing mission and outreach. Looking at it through a student ministers eyes I can see the challenges of providing pastoral care when you have church members coming from distant urban boroughs and even Kent. This certainly is something to reflect on.

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Election Fever

Written by Nick Jones, Westminster College Student President

So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection. So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of us you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1. 21-26, NRSV).

This is a reading from Acts in which the apostles realise that, after the betrayal and death of Judas, there is a vacancy that needs to be filled. This is perhaps the only passage in the New Testament that records the process of an election. A vacancy is declared, candidates are nominated (it’s not clear if they get to make any speeches or not, or if they are interviewed), and then there is a decision, with what appears to be a two way process of discernment. They believe that God knows what is in everyone’s hearts and that through casting lots they can discern his will. Matthias gets elected, but as I understand it he isn’t mentioned again anywhere in Acts, so it’s not clear how well he got on in his new role.

Hopefully it will be clear why I’ve chosen this story. Today is the last day of campaigning ahead of tomorrow’s election. You might be like me, geekily excited by the whole thing, or thoroughly fed up with it all. Either way, I think it is true that elections can be exciting and dramatic, not least because of the actual process. If you’ve never been to a count, you’ll probably have seen them on TV. It’s an extraordinary sight. Long tables of tellers empty out the ballot boxes and then arrange the votes into neat piles of ten, one hundred, a thousand. This is work which requires great concentration, all the time being watched by party activists on the lookout for any errors being made and trying to get a sense of what’s happening. Candidates in bright rosettes, are unsure if their night will end in triumph, disaster, or somewhere in between. Finally, there’s the drama of the announcements – the candidates line up, the returning officer goes through the strict formalities, and the results are announced, to cheers from a certain section of the room and silence from the rest. I’ve stood in local elections twice, and while neither the people of Mumbles or Wilmslow selected me as their representative, it was genuinely thrilling to see ballot papers being counted which had my name on, and a cross next to it (at least on some of them).

There’s a quote, sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, that democracy is the worst of all systems of government – except for all the others. It’s certainly true that our system is far from perfect, but we are where we are. Engagement with politics, and voting in elections, are one way that we as citizens and Christians can seek to shape the society we live in. Deciding how to vote is not always easy, we need to weigh up different factors and as Christians our decision will be partly guided by faith.

Here is a prayer for all who will be involved in the election process over the next few days.


Dear Lord, as we reach a day of

great decision and significance

across the whole of the United Kingdom,

we pray for all of those involved in the election process,

for polling station workers, returning officers,

tellers who count the votes

and all others who work to

make the process possible

we pray you will help them carry out their work

diligently, efficiently and accurately,

and strengthen them on what may be

a long and difficult day.


We pray also for all candidates,

that they might be magnanimous in victory,

and gracious in defeat,

and that those who find themselves elected

as members of parliament or as local councillors

will remember that they represents all their constituents,

and will serve with honesty and humility,

putting the needs of others above their own interests.


And we pray, of course, for the whole electorate,

whether they are enthused, or apathetic,

whether they are partisan, or still at this late stage undecided

and we pray that they will make an informed decision

about how to use their vote.


And we give thanks that,

while we should not be complacent

about our imperfect democracy

we are in a country where it is possible

to express political ideas

and to oppose those in power,

without the risk of violence or repression,

and where expressing our Christian beliefs

will not lead to danger

and we pray that you will help us engage with politics,

to best represent and put into action your values

into our lives, and the life of our nation.

All this we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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The need for rest

Blog for March 2015 from Neil


Incredibly, we again find ourselves at the term’s end. One thing about being at Westminster and so dominated by the ticking days of the academic year is that time seems to be constantly able to outpace us. I’m aware of how tired I am and get plenty of hints of how tired others are.

But this isn’t a uniquely Cambridge or even university predicament. Across a host of careers and in countless situations people are chased by time; we feel it relentlessly catch us out. We can’t quite believe that yesterday’s toddler is today’s towering teenager. We see our plans plunging headlong into deadlines that surely can’t already have arrived. We miss the opportunity to do something differently, or to unpick an argument, because time has passed and the moment has slipped away.

A teaching year and its timetable make me acutely aware of time. We ration it, fill it, try to avoid making it too full and seem never to have found the way to save enough of it. I’ve ended up writing this late at night having missed the deadline!

Is this what God gives us time for?

The teaching about Sabbath and rest suggest there’s more here to learn and live: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.” (Exodus 20:11). Woven in to creation itself, an inextricable part of the passing of time, comes the time for rest.

But I discover, more and more, that I need help to make such rest really possible. I need others around me who will encourage me to go slower. I need colleagues and friends who will understand my need to stop as much as they need my understanding. There is a mutuality in this Sabbath call; me with God, me with my neighbour.

As I begin a sabbatical I know how much being able to take this rest is possible only because others will take responsibility and burden from me, creating space. I give deep thanks, and know that I will be called upon to do the same so that someone else can also go slower, and be blessed with time as gift and not as pursuer.

(We hope that God grants you rest and recuperation, Neil, and look forward to having you back amongst us at the end of the summer! Blog ed.)


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Pancake Praise



This morning the Westminster community has been celebrating Shrove Tuesday

with praise, prayer, psalm, party poppers and…pancakes.

However you’re spending the day we hope that you’ll enjoy giving thanks to God.

Here’s a prayer written by Gillian Thompson, a third year student here at Westminster,

she led our worship in chapel this morning.


Paternal and Maternal God of all creation                                                                                                    Pancake Party photo

Always your love permeates, protects and provides.

Nurtures us and nourishes us every new day. Accept our

Continuous praise and worship for

All you have done for us in and through Jesus Christ.

Keep us in step with the ways of your love so we might reflect it

Everywhere we go and to everyone we meet. We

Shout our Alleluias now to your great name. Alleluia. Amen!




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New Year reflection by the College Principal

Blog post Jan 20 , 2015

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris recently we joined in with the prayers of people across the URC and around the world. We remembered the victims and all who are caught up in these events. Our college community has links to Paris, and we shared the fear and sadness. We could connect with the anger.

I was, as often in these past years, thankful for our growing relationship with the Woolf Institute and their work in dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims. They continue to progress towards a new building on our site and, together, we plan for a greater collaboration and mutual support of our institutions and their communities. Paris reminds us that contemporary western society is never going to be immune to terror. Our love of freedoms, so hard won, mean we will never create societies of such iron control and surveillance that no one can ever bring an attack to our streets.

But terror can be met by forces other than the ever higher wall and ever deeper fear. We can, instead, refuse the journey into hatred in God’s name. We can build bridges by getting to know others and by understanding more of difference and of diversity. We can foster hope by encouraging appreciation and generosity.

Westminster wants to be both place and community that fosters such goodness and that keeps on kindling such hospitality. Sharing with our sisters and brothers in the Woolf Institute will sharpen and grow that spirit. And in this is our faithful response to Christ’s call that we seek to build peace, rather than to craft chaos or sink into despair.