Christ Church, URC: Another One Bites the Dust

Another United Reform Church (URC) has closed. This denomination, made up of a merger of Congregationalists and Presbyterians way back in 1972, is shrinking. To be fair, so are most, but the rapidity of this group’s decline is stark indeed. One of their most active churches in Morecambe I passed last month. It was where my school physics teacher once worshipped, and such is my custom, I went for a nosey round. Everything seemed normal, including the advert for a fitness class. Then I saw the white A4 paper Sellotaped onto the main door, giving some legal notice of closure and the sale of assets. I contacted someone in the church who, although noting the drop in numbers attending, pointed out that the denomination had closed the church against the congregation’s wishes: “The members would have kept going…but it was taken out of our hands.“ 

The URC synod is not made up of intrinsically greedy, wicked people. Yet closing down a church against its own wishes, perhaps for some greater good or financial convenience, reminds me of how wise we are not to be a part of it. Back in ’72, Salem narrowly avoided joining the URC. It offered enhanced pensions to its ministers, and all that seventies’ guff about the wonders of ecumenism must have made the promise of union dazzlingly attractive. Had the vote been won, we’d have been shut down years ago. Our chapel would now be a holiday home, or a rich man’s ‘little place in the country’. The proceeds would have been used to shore up some black hole in the pension fund or to subsidise a more promising church.

I thank God we are an Independent fellowship. One day we will be shut down; some government will consider us dangerous for believing in such extremist concepts as male and female, the sanctity of life and traditional marriage. We will not, however, be closed by some sticky-fingered denomination wishing to liquidise our assets and silence our gospel.

I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

The building’s latest occupants seem to be a fitness company: For physical exercise profiteth little.