Worship Matters 

Dear Friends,

the Church often wonders about its mission.  For years we’ve said the Church doesn’t have a mission but is God’s mission in the world – and then we struggle to articulate what that might mean for our life together!  Many churches try and discern their work using the Five Marks of Mission (but forget what they are!) and these, oddly, don’t mention worship.  Whatever else the Church does, worship is key to our life together.  Worship gives us the energy to serve our communities,  the strength to witness to our faith,  the passion we need to evangelise – or at least it should! 

The biggest changes Christians saw in the Reformation era were about worship – most Christians probably didn’t follow the theological arguments but saw the pattern of worship change; the move to the language of the people instead of Latin, congregational instead of choral singing, along with the exposition of Scripture (which itself had been read to them in their own language) in (longer) sermons and more frequent reception of Communion were startling changes – along with the physical changes to church buildings.  In the Catholic reaction to the Reformation, changes to worship were key. 

Worship matters.  Not for nothing to we name our clergy “ministers of the Word and Sacraments” and expend a large part of our resources in training and sustaining them.  Similarly we give a lot of resources to train lay preachers so that the people of God are themselves nurtured and sustained in worship.  My role was created to give tangible expression to our commitment to worship and to focus, in particular in helping resource ministers, lay preachers, elders and local churches as the new digital technology gives us opportunities not seen since the invention of the printing press in the 16th Century.  

We now provide Worship Notes which assist in the careful preparation of worship. They offer all the prayers needed (and some that might not be!), notes on the readings that could be built into a sermon, and suggestions for hymns (which might be used or might stimulate the thinking of those who lead worship).   They are used by hard pressed Elders who haven’t been trained to lead worship as well as busy Lay Preachers and ministers.  Sometimes they spark thoughts, other times they can be used in their entirety, most often selections from them are used to enhance the worship leader’s own ideas.   The notes can be found here https://urc.org.uk/your-faith/prayer-and-worship/worship-notes/  They are always produced at least a month in advance, often longer.

This week our notes have been provided by the Jenny looks at the theme of Christ the King drawing on the Biblical images of shepherding kingly leadership.  Jenny suggests a wide range of hymns and a prayer by Pope Francis.

This resource is designed to help plan worship locally. We also offer services by PowerPoint (which can be adapted) if you’d prefer to facilitate worship that way as a form of pulpit supply.  Our preachers video themselves giving the introduction, sermon, and blessing and, at least once a month, presiding at Communion.  These videos are placed into a PowerPoint file along with audio recordings of the prayers.  The words of the hymns and recordings of them are also placed into the file too.  We provide an Order of Service too.  Some churches want to change the hymns, or strip the sound file out so they can be played locally.  Others want to just use the videos and use the script we provide to lead the prayers and readings locally.  All this is possible with this resource.  Sign up here if you’d like to access those materials and drop me a line so I can send you the current set of PowerPoint material for pulpit supply along with the audio and print versions to distribute locally to those who can’t get to church and don’t have access to the Internet.

We are building up a bank of prayers that can be useful as people craft worship or wish to use in their own prayer life.  We’ve arranged the material by season on the website – click on the Your Faith tab, then Prayer and Worship, then Prayers for Church Seasons or click here.  
This resource is being expanded all the time and is another way in which the church is hoping to equip leaders of worship.  

Finally, each week we provide sample prayers of intercession.  Worship leaders for the Daily Devotion services prepare their material months in advance and so we like to also offer intercessions which reference the readings but also draw in current events.  This week’s prayers have been written by the Rev’d Dr Trevor Jamison, a minister in Newcastle.  They can be downloaded from the Worship Notes page.

I hope you find them useful – do let us know your thoughts on these resources as you use them.

with every good wish


The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Minister for Digital Worship

Join us for our Sunday service at 11:00 AM, where the Revd Jacob Bali will lead us in worship.

Our weekly gatherings are the cornerstone of our church life and community, providing a space to hear the Good News and spend time in fellowship.

 “Cleansing of the ten lepers” ( the illustration above is c.1035-1040) will be our second Bible reading from St Luke’s Gospel.

Following the Service there is an opportunity for everyone to meet friends and newcomers when coffee and tea will be available in the Old Hall.

1 Kings 8: 27–30
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive.

If we do ever think of heaven, we tend to think of heaven in the past, as the very first act of the creation, or in the future, as the very last destination of the saints. But in his dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, Solomon points to the role of heaven in the present. 

Solomon knew that the God to whom he was dedicating the Temple was not going to come and live there. Indeed, he confesses, God cannot be contained by the earth. And he also knows that God cannot be contained by heaven, not the highest heaven, either. 

Yet at the same time, Solomon tells us that heaven is the ‘dwelling place’ of God. Of course, God is present everywhere, at all times, and Scripture tells us that there is nowhere we can go that is beyond God (Psalm 139). 

Even so, heaven is that part of creation that is especially identified as the place where God ‘dwells’, in the present, a place ruled by God and inhabited by God now. It is not a place like other places, of course – it does not appear in any atlas or sat-nav, and you will not see any photographs of it. 

Yet heaven is a place within creation nonetheless, a dwelling-place not only for God but also for the heavenly host of angels who praise him day and night – a place of peace and joy. 

And it is a place in which God not only dwells, but – Solomon reminds us – a place from which God watches over us in his mercy, hears our cries and our prayers, and graciously forgives. 

God is not trapped outside creation; God even has a dwelling-place within creation. And from that place, he shows his never-ending compassion for us. 

All this, all the time – for us, now. 

Gracious God,

You are the one who dwells in heaven, watching over us, seeing us and hearing us, and forgiving us. 
No pain and no joy is beyond your awareness, and no fault and no sin is beyond your forgiveness. Help us to hear this good news from heaven each and every day – the glad tidings that we are never alone and that we are not left without your presence and your love in the world. 


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Monday, 20 November 2023  
Heaven 1


Genesis 1.1–5
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
In the very first verse of the very first book of the Bible, we are told that God ‘created the heavens and the earth’. And for much of the history of the Church, belief in the existence of heaven was central to the Christian life.
But in truth, many Christians do not seem to think about heaven much at all any more. It still crops up in prayers and liturgy from time to time … but we seldom seem to hear a sermon on heaven, read an article on heaven, or – times of grief and mourning aside – even take time to think much about heaven.
People from outside the Christian faith have even been very critical of heaven, accusing Christians of simply making it up, of creating heaven in their own image, of trying simply to avoid or escape the problems of this world. No wonder Paula Gooder writes that ‘Heaven has become … largely irrelevant to everyday life’.
More than this, however, Christians seem to have become sceptical about heaven. At best, it can seem irrelevant; at worst, perhaps we no longer even believe it really exists.
Certainly, there is always plenty to keep us busy and occupied here on earth, the good and the bad. Indeed, at times we can become so involved in this-worldly concerns that there is no time to think about heaven.
But the message at the heart of the Christian faith is that there is more to this life than this world. The very first thing that God created was heaven. And even the knowledge that there is a heaven, that there is this ‘more-than’ to the world God has created, can be a comfort and a consolation.
For, as we shall see, heaven is the place where God dwells and watches over us, and to which we are finally called.
Gracious God, 
You are the gracious Creator not only of this earth, but of the heavens above.
Help us to recognise that there is more to this life than this world with its trials and troubles. And let us know the comfort that this knowledge brings. May we lift our eyes to think more about heaven, and to ponder once again with our minds and our hearts its wonder and its mystery.  Amen.

Today’s writer

Professor Paul Nimmo, King’s Chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen. 

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



Dear <<First Name>>,

I hope the reflections last week from, mainly, the young people who went to Palestine and Israel earlier in the Summer have been thought provoking.  They were written long before the conflict that has erupted over the last few weeks but give, I think, more of a context for what’s going on.

We turn now to Heaven!

Over the next four weeks we’re going to start Advent a little early by looking at the four traditional Advent themes of Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgement – who said the URC lacks joy?!  I am grateful to Professor Paul Nimmo who has written this week’s reflections on Heaven.  Paul is the King’s Chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen. His own studies were undertaken in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Princeton, and Tübingen.. Paul received the John Templeton Award in 2009 for his book Being in Action: The Theological Shape of Barth’s Ethical Vision (2007), and is also the author of Barth: A Guide for the Perplexed (2016), co-Editor of The Cambridge Companion to Reformed Theology (2016), The Oxford Handbook of Karl Barth (2019), Kenosis: The Self-Emptying of Christ in Scripture and Theology (2022), and Editor of the congregational resource Learn: Understanding our Faith (2017). His current projects include works on the Lord’s Supper in the theology of Karl Barth and on the doctrine of sanctification.

Paul serves the Council of Protestant Churches in Europe in ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church where he works closely with our own John Bradbury.  He is active in the Church of Scotland where he serves as an ordained elder and is a member of Kemnay Kirk, and a lay preacher in local churches.  He is the Vice-Convenor of the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland. 

I am very grateful Paul has taken time in his busy life to write these reflections for us.

With every good wish


The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Minister for Digital Worship

Luke 4. 16-21 
When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

We are faced daily with issues of injustice, it is a reality in which we live. How often do we fail to notice those who suffer? How often do we fail to speak up? My recent trip to Israel-Palestine with Sabeel-Kairos and Sabeel Jerusalem was incredible, it evoked feelings of joy and warmth, whilst also instilling in me a deep sadness, even anger.

How far removed from present Bethlehem do the lyrics of the famous carol ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ now seem as a wall imprisons the Palestinian people, watch-towers with armed Israeli soldiers intimidate and belittle passersby, gunship helicopters loom over head the movement of their blades echoing through the valley, and frequent clashes bring bloodshed, tears and cries of pain to the streets. The picture we paint in our minds of Bethlehem at Christmas is far removed from the Bethlehem of the twenty-first century. The holy sights of Bethlehem and the surrounding areas encourage deep spiritual encounter, but this is pointless without engagement in the current crisis in the region. 

‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’; in this present moment we are called to recognise and share the liberating and life-giving love of God, and this is exactly what many Palestinians are declaring in the Middle-East whether they be Christians, Muslims, Jews, or other.  As we approach Advent, I encourage you to study further the situation, to advocate for reconciliation, justice, and peace, and to maybe even consider a witness visit for yourself with organisations such as Sabeel. 

Visiting Israel-Palestine is like living out the formation of the fifth Gospel of Christ, whilst there is darkness now, the light will come. But we, like Christ in the synagogue, are called to proclaim good news, justice, and liberation.

God of Love, help us through word and deed
to dispel the darkness of this world. 
Enable us by your Spirit, 
to live as advocates for justice and reconciliation and empower us to be bold in seeking liberty 
and release to all those who are oppressed.  
Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer. 

Join us for our Sunday service at 11:00 AM, where the Revd Jacob Bali will lead us in worship.

Our weekly gatherings are the cornerstone of our church life and community, providing a space to hear the Good News and spend time in fellowship.

Following the Service there is an opportunity for everyone to meet friends and newcomers when coffee and tea will be available in the Old Hall.

Church Meeting

Wednesday 22 November at 8pm

in the Mansel Road Centre

 For all church members
Please come along to share in the life and work of Trinity.

Revelation 4. 1-6. 

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”  At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne!  And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald.  Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads.  Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God, and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal.


When I was small, my grandfather had a glass blowing company.  Every summer, we would visit the factory. There, glassblowers held punty rods and blew into the kilns, lighting up any debris in flames.  The smell of burnt sand filled the air.  I did not expect a similar scene in central Hebron, Palestine, while visiting as part of the recent Sabeel-Kairos Young Adult Conference.  Hebron, the only city in the West Bank where settlers live within the city, is a flashpoint for the occupation – litter is thrown onto Palestinian shops and violence is regular.  In fact, the same market we visited experienced this almost as soon as our tour ended and we had journeyed back to Bethlehem – something we later realised by scrolling social media before dinner.

Thinking back to Hebronite glass blowing and looking at the turquoise jug I bought from the seller, a recognition of the defiance shown by shopkeepers in the face of occupation is needed.  Palestinians are not just victims of oppression but construct creative ways of resistance.  Glass under heat is malleable and changeable.  I pray we mould our attitudes in similar ways and that, through this, we can reach a deeper understanding of both the damaging realities and potential solutions of Hebron’s situation.  Another reminder from the act of glass blowing is that it is our breath that gives ideas shape. The Bible is full of breath, “the breath of God” appearing to Elijah in the cave, the notion of “breathing life into being.”  Under the pressurising and oppressive heat, we can blow into the fire and create something out of it.  Even though Hebron is a fiery and dangerous kiln, beauty can still be found there. A kingdom of glass, like crystal, can be created.


Dear God,
help us to see how your creation serves us in all our life and work,
how your light is transformed within us:
into acts of care and restoration in a time of fear and violence
into words of grace and wisdom, in a time of oppression and occupation.

Teach us the courage to walk in your light
and channel your light in our daily struggles.
We ask this of you, Amen.


St Luke 19:41-44

 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’


Jesus was referring to his death and resurrection offering new life to all as the visitation from God which Jerusalem didn’t recognise.  Many of the people did not recognise Jesus for who he was.  Jesus is still present in the ‘living stones’ of indigenous Palestinian Christians but they are under pressure to leave.  They too are not recognised for who they are.  They are verbally and physically assaulted in the street and their human rights to travel, work, gain a livelihood, and access health care and education are curtailed because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. 

The current situation in the Holy Land is devastating for its people and the world; it demands tears. The things that make for peace remain hidden to many regardless of faith.

Twenty one years ago the Churches of Jerusalem approached the World Council of Churches asking for a greater show of solidarity. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was born. In 2022 I was privileged to be able to serve as an Ecumenical Accompanier.  Based as part of an international team in Bethlehem for three months I monitored check points, provided a protective presence for shepherds and children going to and from school, and reported on incidents such as home demolitions. https://www.eyewitnessblogs.com/ Locals expressed how good it was to have this international solidarity back after the pandemic. 

As part of the Church we are to weep over Jerusalem now, pray for eyes to be opened, and the way to peace be seen.  
The way of Christ sees the humanity of the other rather than simply seeing the other as a terrorist or an enemy.
The way of Christ sees full life emerging from the tomb. 

The way of Christ weeps for the things of peace to be recognised.

We thank You, O God,
for weeping which purifies and purges, cleanses and heals.
As we weep for Jerusalem, the land of Israel, and occupied Palestine
grant us sight and wisdom,
to work through EAPPI and our churches, 
our governments and political processes,
our loves and our lives
to bring peace.
In the name of Christ
the Prince of Peace. Amen.