……….. gales and debates and discussions and worship and celebration of lay leadership in Scotland.
From Sunday 22nd May to Friday 27th May I have been representing the United Reformed Church at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. On Sunday we moved from a grand and formal service in St Giles Cathedral
to a party in Princes Gardens offering a wonderful witness to the people in Edinburgh on that day. I overheard one group remark ‘these are all Christian people and they have some interesting things to say’ – I hope they stayed long enough to hear some of them!
It was interesting to be part of this important event in the life of a related denomination, one which is the national church of the nation in which it is placed and which therefore includes elements of the civic, judicial and government context in Scotland. Debates are conducted in a more formal way than we have become used to but similarities were to be found in the concerns of the denomination. Here was a church grappling with same-sex relationships and ministry, with structures which will enable the denomination to witness to God’s love in the communities it serves and matters relating to the role of ministers and elders. We heard too about the huge amount of social care work which is undertaken under the auspices of CrossReach and the Social Care Council and the particular work of a number of Forces Chaplains working in all three services and facing the tensions which working in that environment brings. It was a particular delight and privilege to meet and talk with people from other denominations and other countries and to enjoy the welcome extended by the Church of Scotland throughout the week.
From Edinburgh I travelled to Barrhead just south west of Glasgow. I had agreed with Connie Bonner the URC Synod of Scotland’s Lay Preaching Advocatethat I would lead a day for lay preachers and worship leaders. It was a day to celebrate the work which this committed group of people undertake, a time to share experiences and expertise and time to reflect a little on our personal relationship with God and how we might strengthen that relationship. Ten churches were represented at this day including some from the Church of Scotland and everyone got involved in discussion, bible study and sharing. I hope everyone went away with some new insight and the knowledge that their witness to God’s love was valued where ever they worked.
On Sunday morning I led worship at Barrhead United Reformed Church – a somewhat expanded congregation due to the presence of members of other United Reformed Church and Church of Scotland congregations. Some of the people were from churches thinking about how they may work more closely together and the day’s reading from Acts chapter 17 led me to reflect on the context in which we witness in the 21st century and how we might help those we encounter to meet the God who is so important to each one of us.
This had been a good week and an opportunity to spend time learning more about the joys and concerns of people living and working in one part of these islands with its own unique culture, history and tradition.