Yes the Church of Scotland General Assembly certainly started the way it means to go on – second line of the opening hymn at this morning’s worship.
It’s really interesting to be here. The Assembly is an impressive, meticulously-prepared event – the public face of a strong and self-confident church. But the underlying reality is that the Church of Scotland faces real challenges right across Scotland and is struggling with local reorganisation. On the other hand, it does some amazing things – the Church without Walls Project for one.
Interesting things today? The church said its thanks to the outgoing Moderator, Sheila Kesting – the second woman to have filled this role and she did so with a particular grace and dignity. No woman bishop yet in Scotland or Ireland? Several of the main speakers have been lay women and the standard of all the speakers has been impressively high.
The church-state interplay is fascinating. The C of S guards jealously its ‘established church’ status in Scotland but doesn’t wear it like a glove as does the C of E. However that relationship produced a magnificent speech from George Reid, as the Queen’s representative – Lord High Commissioner. The Chairing is much more ‘hands on’ than at the SEC General Synod – but that same ‘hands on’ style makes possible an extraordinarily high level of participation. I think there must have been 10-12 contributions to one of the debates.
A lot of detail goes by. I couldn’t help noticing a report on the appointment of ministers. I’ve been trying to develop some new patterns in this area myself. So I was amused to find recommendations that panels might do more than just interview – we’ve been trying social events with a wider representation of congregational leadership – the so-called ‘trial by fork’. They also suggested that, while interview questions might be put by a small group, a larger group might be in the room to hear what happens. Yes indeed. I’ve won that battle sometimes and lost it others. I await the clouds of elation.