Friday, 21 December 2012

Us – the new name for USPG

Canon Patrick Comerford with Janette O’Neill, Chief Executive Officer of Us, at the Us service in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster

The following article and these photographs appear on page 6 of in today’s edition [21 December 2012] of the Church of Ireland Gazette:

Us – the new name for USPG
every person, every community, a full life


By Linda Chambers, National Director of Us in Ireland

Canon Patrick Comerford represented the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Ireland (USPG Ireland) at a special service held recently in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London, to relaunch USPG as Us.

Speaking at the launch, Archbishop Rowan Williams praised the new name as being a “wonderfully ambiguous and non-specific title” which, he believed, was suited to a world in which boundaries constantly shifted because it is “very difficult to tell where ‘us’ stops and ‘them’ starts”.

Quandary in Ireland

All of us who love USPG – the staff, volunteers and all the supporters, have struggled with the Society’s decision of the Society to change its name.

The decision was taken in London for an agency that works primarily within the Church of England. What were we in Ireland to do? Were we to declare UDI and stay as USPG Ireland or move forward with energy and commitment to explore the good things and real opportunities that lay before us?

Over the past 50 years, the Society has been on a journey of change and development, seeking to respond faithfully to rapidly changing contexts both here and around the world.

Any major change now, therefore, is not a unique and decisive event – it is part of a process of continuing representation to be true to our primary goals and calling.

‘Every person, every community, a full life’

The strap-line – every person, every community, a full life – roots the work of the Society in Jesus’ words in John 10: 10, reflecting a belief that the Missio Dei invites participation in this journey towards human flourishing at every level.

The statement becomes a mandate for programmatic work that strengthens the Church to engage in missional activity rooted in a belief that God’s love is for all, profoundly, and inclusively. It acknowledges that our humanity is bound up in one another, as the divine identity is bound up in the life of the Holy Trinity.

A ‘together’ word

‘Us’ immediately speaks of community – of how we as human beings find our fulfilment and identity. It is a ‘together’ word in a world that has increasingly moved towards and honoured the individualistic over the societal.

It could, of course, immediately invoke the response: “and them”. In a polarised world, ‘Us’ can be become a powerful statement that there is room for everyone – that the vision is of a world that rejects compartmentalisation and the stigma and alienation that follow from it.

The ever-widening ripple circles of an ultimately loving God drive us towards a vision of ever-widening circles of embrace, especially of those who feel marginalised and excluded.

‘Us’, therefore, is not a cosy, fireside name; it is a manifesto for challenge, change and outreach and hope.

The name is wonderfully echoed in the theology of the Incarnation, ‘Emmanuel’ – ‘God with us’, with a deep message of solidarity, and a willingness to bear the cost and pain that often come with making a stand on behalf of those most vulnerable.

‘Us’ means all of us because that is the nature of the God whose love knows no boundaries or limits. ‘Us’ places serious, engaged partnership at the heart of our working culture.

We are an adventuring Society led by an adventuring God.

Us. every person, every community, a full life.

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