Scottish Dances

By John Ellis


John Knox makes a point

It was easy to feel at home on a return visit to the Church of Scotland Assembly in Edinburgh, accompanied by my Chaplain Nigel Uden. We experienced generous hospitality, warm welcomes and renewed friendships. Much of the Assembly business was also strikingly familiar, whether the subject was a marked downward trend in the number of ministers, how to respond to climate change or the challenge of balancing the central budget.


Baron Hope KT, Lord High Commissioner, arrives at the Assembly Hall





Historically and visually, a key difference is that the United Reformed Church does not see itself as “the national Church”. Seated above the Moderator as he presided in Edinburgh, there was often the Lord High Commissioner, present as the Queen’s personal representative, supported by the Dean of the Chapel Royal. When His Grace was not present in the Assembly Hall, he was visiting Church of Scotland projects around the country, accompanied by his wife, his Chaplain, the Pursebearer, two ladies-in-waiting and three military ADCs.

Being the national Church became a key point in discussion about the Columba Declaration, an agreement between the Anglican Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland which the Assembly was asked to endorse. The argument for excluding the Anglican Scottish Episcopal Church and the United Reformed Church from this was that only the Churches of Scotland and England shared the characteristic of being national Churches. Some people found this easier to accept than others but after a public apology to the Scottish Episcopal Church from a guest of the Lord High Commissioner, who happens also to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Assembly accepted the Declaration with acclaim.


Procession of former Moderators

The URC reps were assured publically and privately that this renewed enthusiasm for working with the CofE would not diminish the Church of Scotland’s commitment to working with the URC, eg through their membership of the Joint Public Issues Team.

Nonetheless it seems a sad feature of the English ecumenical landscape that at the same time as the Church of England reduces the energy and resources it is willing to put into multilateral ecumenical work, such as Churches Together in England, bilateral deals that exclude traditional partners are worked on and welcomed.


The Moderator, Russell Barr, celebrates the end of Assembly by persuading his wife to dance

2 thoughts on “Scottish Dances

  1. Sue Macbeth

    Thank you for the final paragraph John.
    Reduction of resources, reduction of vision and having a vision document which calls on the Church of England to be THE church in a county is evident in my county.

  2. Maureen Tulloch

    This was interesting to me- as a Scot, and originally baptised into the Church of Scotland. Glad you & Nigel enjoyed Edinburgh! Hope that working with the Anglican church does NOT diminish the work that could be done with the URC. We’re both Presbyterian after all….
    Incidentally my brother ( James/Jim Smith) is to be made Moderator of the Jedburgh Presbytery of the Church of Scotland in September- so now we know two Moderators!!

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