It’s been quite a season for major anniversaries. In April, the URC honoured its 50 th
anniversary with the special service in Westminster Hall. June saw the 75 th
anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks, and in July we
marked the 75 th anniversary of the National Health Service.
All these are rightly occasions of great celebration, giving thanks for lives of service
and dedication, honouring people who have done so much for our church and for our
country. But they are also times for reflection.
The URC service was a joyful occasion, with some wonderful music and inspiring
words on the theme of Jubilee. Amid the thanksgiving, though, was a Prayer of
Lament, acknowledging that the initial hopes of the URC, of being the catalyst for
further church unity, had not been fulfilled. It allowed us to mourn the churches that
have closed and the people who have died. And from this honest confession, the
prayer invited God to renew us, to give us new vision and new hope.
The Windrush celebrations honoured the Caribbean people who had answered the
call from Britain and made their lives here. The stories from those people showed
some of the difficulties they faced, from the miserable weather to some outright
hostility. It would be wonderful to think that such hostility was a thing of the past, but
recent years have shown this is far from true. People who had arrived as children,
who lived their lives here and saw themselves as British, suddenly found that the
Home Office was demanding paperwork that they didn’t have. As a result, many
were refused all rights and even deported to countries they had never seen. A true
celebration of the Windrush generation would surely mean full compensation for the
The NHS is a treasure all on its own. Many of our congregation have worked for it;
most of us have benefited from its care. I have visited a few hospitals recently and
have been deeply impressed by the kindness and wisdom of the medical teams.
Despite the huge pressures they face, especially after Covid, they treated each
patient with grace and dignity and still had time to help lost visitors like me. This
dedication deserves every moment of celebration. It’s clear, though, that the NHS is
stretched to its limits, and that this will only get worse as we all live longer, with more
chronic conditions. A proper honouring of the current workforce would include a long-
term plan, fully costed and funded, to secure the future.
Celebration with reflection gives us a springboard for moving forward in hope.
As we look to our own church future in our Vision Day on Sunday 3 rd September, we
might like to hold in mind these responses from the end of the URC service:
God of the past, together – we give you thanks.
God of the hidden future, together – we place our trust in you
God of our own time, together – we will follow where you lead.