- To share Jesus with the community and make disciples
- To deepen relationships and build community
- To nurture everyone linked to KURC in their journey of life and faith
We say these words together on some of our big public occasions and they provides a vivid snapshot of what we are about. Those with well-tuned historical antennae will be able to pick up all sorts of references to our sometimes turbulent past and to issues that are still divisive among us. For those who say these words, some commentary may be helpful, along with an invitation to enter the debates. When the deeper implications of these phrases are appreciated they become not empty words to be parroted, but spine-tingling testimony to the kind of church we are or hope to be.
Statement of the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church With the whole Christian Church the United Reformed Church believes in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The living God, the only God, ever to be praised. The life of faith to which we are called is the Spirit’s gift continually received through the Word, the Sacraments and our Christian life together. We acknowledge the gift and answer the call, giving thanks for the means of grace. The highest authority for what we believe and do is God’s Word in the Bible alive for his people today through the help of the Spirit. We respond to this Word, whose servants we are with all God’s people through the years. We accept with thanksgiving to God the witness to the catholic faith in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We acknowledge the declarations made in our own tradition by Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Churches of Christ in which they stated the faith and sought to make its implications clear. Faith alive and active: gift of an eternal source, renewed for every generation. We conduct our life together according to the Basis of Union in which we give expression to our faith in forms which we believe contain the essential elements of the Church’s life, both catholic and reformed; but we affirm our right and readiness, if the need arises, to change the Basis of Union and to make new statements of faith in ever new obedience to the Living Christ. Our crucified and risen Lord, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection. Held together in the Body of Christ through the freedom of the Spirit, we rejoice in the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts and uphold the rights of personal conviction. For the sake of faith and fellowship it shall be for the church to decide where differences of conviction hurt our unity and peace. We commit ourselves to speak the truth in love and grow together in the peace of Christ. We believe that Christ gives his Church a government distinct from the government of the state. In things that affect obedience to God the Church is not subordinate to the state, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head. Civil authorities are called to serve God’s will of justice and peace for all humankind, and to respect the rights of conscience and belief. While we ourselves are servants in the world as citizens of God’s eternal kingdom. We affirm our intention to go on praying and working, with all our fellow Christians, for the visible unity of the Church in the way Christ chooses so that people and nations may be led to love and serve God and praise him more and more for ever. Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is: to God be eternal glory.
The population of the town now stands at approximately 16,000 and continues to grow. New developments over the past few years have seen to the building of a by-pass which has removed much of the heavy lorry traffic using a very busy High Street. An increase in the availability of small factory units and some new housing has been very important to the area. Knaresborough itself depends very heavily on the tourist industry for its income and wealth. The town is served by one large Comprehensive school, King James’s, and a number of Primary schools. All the activities of the town – individual and corporate, social and commercial – are focussed on the town centre where the Church is ideally situated.
There has been Christian nonconformist worship on the site of the church for over 300 years. A new Church was built 1865 to accommodate a growing congregation and that is the present building, which has been considerably improved and refurbished through a three-phase plan over the past fifteen years, making it suitable for varied styles of worship.
We are a congregation of the United Reformed Church, which was formed in 1972 by the union of the Congregation Union and the Presbyterian Church.
Non-conformity arrived in Knaresborough during the middle part of the 1600s. Congregationalist were meeting for worship in 1645, the year after the fall of Knaresborough Castle to the Puritan army of Oliver Cromwell.
The five-mile act of 1664, which came into law after the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660, forbade dissenting ministers preaching within five miles of a town or city where they had been accustomed to preaching. So, there was a lack of meeting places in Knaresborough and the surrounding villages. Fortunately, the Congregationalists remained true to their beliefs and when the act of Toleration of 1689 arrived they were ready to have a Chapel in the town. A thatched barn on Windsor lane was made available for their use, the furnishing and the securing of the barn was down to the generosity of Lady Sarah Hewley of Hay-a-park, Knaresborough. This barn was on the same spot as the present church building. On her death she bequeathed the barn chapel and a dwelling house to Knaresborough Independents and left a legacy, which to this day can still be called upon to benefit ministers, students, widows and daughters of ministers, who are associated with Yorkshire or the other five northern counties.
The Rev William Howell played an important role in the history of this chapel. He arrived in 1778 and on his agreement to stay five years it was decided to build a new chapel. This new building was opened in 1779 and was licensed as “A new Chapel upon or near the same ground where the old chapel stood, to be used by Protestant dissenters, commonly called Presbyterians”. It was built to hold 260 persons and on this vision to fill the chapel Revd William Howell stayed not five but 57 years. His vision was completed by 1812 when records show the chapel was full both morning and evening. In 1864 it was decided that the church building was unsuitable and inadequate for the increasing congregation and the decision was taken to build a new school room but when a fundraising bazaar raise an amount far above expectations, the minister of the time, the Rev Elwin Corbold encouraged subscriptions and raised almost single handedly, £1030. This sum of money changed to idea of just a school room into the vision of a brand-new chapel. In 1865 the present church was opened, and the total cost of the whole project was £2,200. The original chapel was demolished in the 1950s and a prefabricated hall built on the site. There have been many generations who have worshipped on this site since the 17th century but they have all held firm to the vision “that the church and its people bear witness to the fact of God’s existence, and His creation of, love for, and communication with this world, ultimately in his Son” (Rev Roy Lowes March 1979). The story of Knaresborough United Reformed Church1979. Written by Rowland Wilby)