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Downing Place United Reformed Church
John Bradbury.jpg
Downing Place United Reformed Church
UK News

United Reformed Church's new general secretary on starting the job in lockdown and the opportunities and challenges ahead

by Marcus Jones

Starting a new job can be difficult at the best of times, let alone starting during lockdown. So spare a thought for Rev Dr John Bradbury who this week took up his role as the new general secretary of the United Reformed Church.

"It's been a little bit surreal that everybody is like a character in a soap opera who I'm meeting for the first time," he tells Premier as he describes engaging with new colleagues via video call.

Bradbury who was born in Cumbria, studied in Edinburgh and ordained in Liverpool will soon move to London - home to the URC headquarters. But with social distancing expected to remain in place for a little while longer, he may not physically be able to meet colleagues for some time.

When his name was put forward for the role, Rev Nigel Uden, one of the moderators of the URC General Assembly said that Bradbury was "a person with the combination of gifts and graces the United Reformed Church requires in these changing times".

As the Church works its way through the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that skillset will be needed more than expected.

Speaking to Premier about the difficulty facing all denominations, the 43-year-old said: "I think the Church generally faces many challenges at the minute, but with those challenges come enormous opportunities. 

"I think we've just seen so much of that, in the way in which churches have responded to the current situation, showing us that all sorts of things are possible that we never thought possible."

Bradbury thinks it's an opportunity for the Church to offer something more optimistic during this time of negative news.

"It would be wonderful if the church could be known as the place that lived out some sense of hope," he said. "That it didn't just get caught up in responding to the here and now - but looked at the wider horizon and helped people understand that this won't go on forever, that this actually shouldn't become normal, won't become normal and that we will once again meet and gather.

He's also grappling with the question of how this pandemic will affect the Church in the long term.

"It's kind of like one of those kairos moments that you can grasp, when things might be radically different at the other end of it, but the pull of the ordinary and the everyday and the things we know is very strong. 

"We may look back on it and think, that was a fleeting moment, and we got pulled back to all our old ways and all the things that we knew beforehand."

Asked how Christians can be praying for him, Bradbury asked that he might be granted "wisdom, peace and calm to keep my wits about me and a sense of humour in the middle of all of this".

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