General Assembly 2012
Albert was ordained and inducted to Bo’ness St Andrew’s in 1981. For the past thirty years he has pioneered and developed a ministry which has operated at a local national and international level.
The 2012 General Assembly began on Saturday 19 May and runs until Friday 25 May
Liz Smith, convener of the Adult Education Committee at Greenock Westburn is a commissioner at the Assembly. Over the course of the week, Liz reports her experience on this page.
Saturday 19th May
Albert is the minister of St Andrew’s Bo’ness and has been there for many years. He has a strong interest in technology and how it can be used to spread the news of Jesus Christ throught the world.
The worship was just amazing. We started off with that wonderful psalm 100 – “All people that on earth do dwell”, sung unaccompanied – what a great start to the proceedings!
Pomp and ceremony over, the General Assembly got down to business after lunch. The report of the Scottish Bible Society placed emphasis on their recent project – the People’s Bible – http://www.thepeoplesbible.org
There were some very moving and interesting stories told about this wonderful endeavour.
The report for the World Mission Council concentrated on China, and in particular the Amity Project who’s motto is “love never ends”. The Amity Printing Company produced Bibles and Christian literature in China – http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/news_and_events/news/articles/moderator_visits_church_partners_in_china
We were back again in the evening for a wonderful and inspiring session. Worship was led by Ian White and was truly heartfelt and uplifting.
One of the delegates at General Assembly is Helen Zhao from the Amity Foundation who read the scriptures at this session. The text was John 3:1-16 which she read both in Chinese and English.
The Moderator’s presentation – “It’s a cause, not a vision!” was inspiring. He took as his text the iconic verse from John 3: 6 ” For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Albert emphasised the word “whosoever” and suggested that this could be a challenge for us and showed a video of what happened when he and a friend took the bread and wine onto the streets and the reactions of the people they encountered.
The retiring Moderator, David Arnott, then gave a moving and interesting account of his year as Moderator. His trip to Palestine and Israel had made a profound impact on him and it was interesting to hear about the conflicts and conditions in those countries.
Then followed the presentation of delegates and visitors from all corners of the globe. The evening finished with the hymn “Singing, we gladly worship the Lord together” (CH4 257).
It was an amazing start to what will, I am sure be a fantastic week!
Sunday 20th May
HEART & SOUL
What a day – the sun shone and the crowds gathered for Heart & Soul in Princes Street Gardens on General Assembly Sunday. http://www.heartandsoul2012.org.uk/
It was fantastic to walk through the gardens and stop off at all the interesting stalls and stands celebrating the variety of life that is the Church of Scotland.
There were entertainers and informers.
The crowds were having a wonderful time.
The highlight of the afternoon for me was the time of worship at the end. The popular worship leader, Robin Mark led much of the singing and it was truly inspiring to hear hundreds of voices raised in praise of our Lord!
Monday 21 May 2012
Presence, Peace and Power
It’s a promise, not a dream!
The worship song “King of kings, Majesty” got the morning off to a wonderful start and then came that glorious psalm “Ye gates, lift up your heads on high” which I have to admit is one of my all-time favourites, and in such a setting with so many voices raised in praise to God was incredibly moving.
Albert introduced a response which we join in before the gospel reading every day –
Listen for the gospel! Alleluia!
It is God’s way of healing us! Alleluia!
Pay attention to the Gospel! Alleluia!
It is God’s word for saving us! Alleluia!
The day’s readings were
1 Kings 19:10-18
The sacrament of holy communion was a wonderful time of peace and worship together.
Then came the business of the day. The Report of the Iona Community Board
was very interesting – well worth a read.
The Report of the Church and Society Council covered an incredible variety of subjects – sectarianism, homelessness, human trafficking and many more. You can read all the reports here –
Scroll down to Church and Society Council and the various reports are listed individually. There’s an incredible amount of research and work goes into each of these reports. We, as a congregation should remember that within our own community, and indeed in our own parish, many of these topics are extremely relevant and that we should be aware of what is happening in our local area.
In these days of economic uncertainty, the Report of the Special Commission on the Purposes of Economic Activity was of great interest –
and reminded us that Jesus directly confronted the economic inequality of his day. The report highlighted the connection between deprivation and poor health and the impact of global poverty.
It was a very busy and informative day.
Tuesday 22 May 2012
Do You Love Me More Than These?
It’s an invitation, not a question!
Worship started with Psalm 116 – “I love the Lord because he heard my voice and earnest plea”. The scripture reading was – John 21:15-25.
After the reading we joined the choir in singing the hymn “Gracious Spirit, hear our pleading” (CH4, 613), entreating the Holy Spirit to come into the Assembly and our lives.
The first report of the day was that of the Guild who are celebrating their 125th Anniversary. The Report showed the variety and scope of the work undertaken by the Guild at home and overseas, and was wonderful to hear.
Particularly of interest was finding out about their projects for the next few years –
A Heart For Art in conjunction with Crossreach, A Passage From India and many more which you can read about here –
The Guild ask for our prayerful support of these projects.
The Report of the Panel on Review and Reform was extremely interesting.
Entitled “The Church In A Changing World”, it looked at the way society is being shaped by digital technology (among other things). Mission in the digital age was discussed, as well as the challenges and opportunities afforded by social media. Another interesting topic was the research into decision-making by consensus which has been adopted by some other denominations with some degree of success.
The Report of the National Youth Assembly was given by Amanda Philip, Moderator of the Youth Assembly. Once again this was a far-reaching report and covered a great variety of topics. Amanda also gave the Assembly an insight into how the Youth Assembly goes about its business which was extremely interesting.
The day ended with the Report of the Mission and Discipleship Council.
The Report contained a wide range of topics, excellently researched. It covers many areas – resourcing congregations and kirk sessions, Starters For Sundays, Pray Now, Church Art and Architecture and many others which you can read about in the report.
Appendix 1 is an in-depth and interesting report entitled “Believing In Marriage” and uses Biblical examples as well as current thoughts on the subject of marriage.
Another busy and interesting day came to an end.
Wednesday 23 May 2012
The Moderator’s theme today was –
The Outsider Becomes the Insider
Worship began with Psalm 9 “God shall endure for aye” and the scripture reading was Ruth 1:6-19. The theme was continued in our next hymn (CH4, 694) “Brother, sister let me serve you”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams addressed the General Assembly. It was wonderful to hear him speak. He took as his text – ‘I have set before you an open door that no-one can shut’ (Rev 3.8). You can read, hear or see a video recording of his speech here –
Dr Williams stayed to hear the Report of the Ecumenical Relations Committee.
It was interesting to hear of the different ecumenical initiatives that were taking place not just in Scotland but throughout the world.
The day ended with the Report of the Ministries Council –
Scroll down to find the individual parts of the report.
One of the phrases which appeared in the report was that we were living in a “change of age”, with communications and technological advances and the decline in confidence in the older institutions, including churches and the effect this is having on society. There can be no going backwards, therefore the church has to look to the future and how to serve God in these changed times. The value of the parish minister in all aspects of community life was affirmed. There was also discussion on the training and continuing support of ministers. The Council suggested that more needed to be done in the parishes to encourage those who feel they may have a call to ministry.
So ended another full and interesting day.
Thursday 24 May 2012
Nothing Can Separate Us
It’s a fact, not simply a feeling!
The text was Romans 8:31-39 and we sang psalm 46, “God is our refuge and our strength” and paraphrase 48, “The Saviour died, but rose again”.
Today we heard the report of the Committee on Chaplains to Her Majesty’s Forces was given. The report emphasises that chaplains work alongside the servicemen and women, sharing something of their situation and offering pastoral care and support whatever their circumstances and concerns.
The Assembly was asked to remember that it was not just those ex-servicemen and women with visible wounds who needed help, but that for many, the emotional scars were also difficult to live with and that continued support was necessary.
I found the report of the Social Care Council extremely interesting.
At church we often get information about CrossReach, and I’m afraid that I have never paid much attention to it – that will change! I had not realised what wonderful work is undertaken by this organisation. We saw video clips of people who had been helped by what CrossReach has to offer and in many cases it was very moving. The biggest problem at the moment is funding and only 1% of its income comes from The Church of Scotland’s Ministries & Mission Fund which came as a surprise to me.
The business of the day was finished by lunchtime so we got a free afternoon!!!!!! It was lovely to take advantage of the marvellous weather and explore Edinburgh (and maybe just a wee bit of shopping!).
Friday 25 May 2012
For the last day, the Moderator choose as his theme –
The Law of Love
Worship got off to a great start with the psalm 98, “Oh, sing a new song to the Lord”. The reading of the day was Matthew 22:36-40. There was a wonderfully moving rendition of “Love divine, all loves excelling” (Howard Goodall) sung by the Combined Assembly-121 Choir – beautiful!
The business of the day commenced with the Report of the General Trustees. Of interest was the Listed Places of Worship VAT Grant Scheme, the condition of manses and energy conservation and procurement and the problem of theft of metal from church roofs among other topics.
Then came an overture from the Presbytery of Dumfries and Kirkcudbright concerning church insurance. There is an article in the Herald which gives a good account of what this was about –
Another important report was that from the Safeguarding Committee –
The report highlighted the need for Kirk Sessions to comply with guidance issued by the Safeguarding Service with regard to the protection of vulnerable groups. A new Pocket Card which provides a summary of key safeguarding information has been published and is available.
The final business was finished by lunchtime.
At 3.00 we gathered for the final session.
It’s not a sprint, it’s a relay!
was the Moderator’s final theme.
“Before the throne of God above” (CH4, 466) was our first hymn and was followed by the Report anent Deceased Ministers, Missionaries and Deacons. We stood to receive this report in respect for those who had served the Lord so faithfully.
The Moderator’s address to the Assembly was extremely uplifting and encouraging as he reviewed the week’s Bible readings – chosen because they were among his favourites. Albert reminded us that in a relay race, the baton was passed between the team and our work was like that, we all had different gifts and talents, but as a team we can run the race together.
After being dissolved, the Assembly rose to sing “We sing a love that sets all people free” (CH4, 622). We then lined up outside to see the Moderator escort the Lord High Commissioner to his car.
The General Assembly was absolutely wonderful. The Moderator’s easy-going and enthusiastic personality added to the overall enjoyment of the week. The rousing cheers he received on his way back into the building, especially from the Youth Delegates is, I think, an indication of his popularity. His great interest in people and his love and enthusiasm for the Gospel of Jesus Christ will stand him in good stead for the year ahead.
So for me – home now. See you on Sunday!