Stepping out of familiar places

By Rev Fiona Bennett (From Seeds February 2022)

The year ahead, 2022, looks to be a year of commemorative celebration.

On 30 May we will mark the fact that the congregation of Augustine United (then the North Square Chapel) is 220 years old and, on 5 October, the United Reformed Church is 50 years old.

The early story of the North Square Chapel links directly with the Haldane brothers, who are credited for being unintentional founding movers in what became the Congregational Union of Scotland.

John Aikman worked alongside the brothers. Taking a group of people from their first community, he then built the North Square Chapel. What motivated this movement was not the idea of setting up a church but a desire to see people more alive in their faith and keen to share the Gospel.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the agrarian and industrial revolutions were happening. People were moving to towns and cities, and the French Revolution was making people in power in the UK anxious of similar uprisings here. Change was in the air, which would have excited some and terrified others.

In his book The Strength to Love (1963), Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy.’

Our founding congregation will have been made up of people with a diversity of life experiences, feelings and motives, but they were people who in a time of change tried to do something different for the sake of the Gospel.

Their stepping out of familiar places and habits created a community which has evolved hugely over 200 years and yet is still, in our own context, trying to enable ourselves and
all people to be alive in our faith and to share the Gospel today.

I hope, over this commemorative year, that insights from our heritage both in AUC and the URC might equip and empower us to step out of our familiar places and habits, and to create new places of love, justice and hope in our world today.