Tributes Frank West Elder, Largs
Ian Munro Elder, Bellshill: St. Andrew’s
Tom Snaddon Elder, Sauchie and Fishcross
Frank West, was born 77 years ago, in Clydebank ; the youngest of a family of four, he went to school there, later becoming a journeyman joiner in John Brown’s. Frank was always troubled by one particular event. During the ferocious Clydebank blitz, Frank a g e d five, said goodnight to his we e friend. They both went off to their respective homes but Frank never saw his we e pal again. In the Blitz, 528 people died. The Lord watched over Frank that night.
It was with much sadness the congregation learned of the passing of Ian Munro on 7th March 2013 after 40 years of faithful and devoted service to the St. Andrew’s congregation. Ian’s work and attitude as a Christian man and Elder shone brightly and warmly through the many qualities he displayed.
Members of Sauchie and Fishcross UF Church were saddened by the recent passing of Tom Snaddon, who served as a n elder for over sixty years, and as Session Clerk for a total of thirty years. Tom was involved in the congregation all his life. His family recall that, over the years, he did just about everything within the congregation, and that what he did was carried out with care and attention.
Frank left John Brown’s and went to work with many prestigious firms including Lawrence the builders. Given the vagaries of the building trade, he worked at many things including being a pub manager in Renfrew. In his later years he was a General Foremen on the Irvine harbour project. Frank married Aileen and lived in Largs for 26 years and were blessed with their daughter, Rachel. In his days, Frank was a n award-winning dancer, a n all-round thespian, and had a passion for many different sports. He enjoyed reading, bird-watching and walking. Frank’s faith was a large part of his life. When the Baptist Church in Largs closed, he went to the United Free Church where he b e c a m e an elder and helped the small congregation by becoming convenor of the property committee. He was a presbytery elder and never missed the Bible Study and prayer meeting or a church function. Frank had many health issues working against him. We could see that things were getting serious when, for only a few weeks, he couldn’t attend morning worship or the Bible Study. He succumbed to his c an ce r on Saturday, 25 March, 2013. Frank will be sorely missed by the fellowship and by many in and outwith Largs.
In Church life his manner was always respectful, sensitive and loving, well reflecting His Master’s example. He was ever ready to go the second mile for others. As a time-served engineer he was a practical ‘hands-on’ man. Entering the world of education at a remarkably young a g e he b e c a m e a long-standing and effective member of the staff at Motherwell College, teaching Electrical Engineering and Mathematics for over 40 years. He was as popular with students as with the congregation. His steadfast integrity was endorsed within the community when appointed as a Justice of the Pea ce. No more fulsome comment could have been offered than that of his family in saying of Ian, “Our father, our mentor, our teacher, our c oa c h, our idol, our hero, our family’s leader, our mum’s best friends and by far the coolest guy we have ever known.” Ian always m an a ge d to make time for people whether in Church, College or Family life. For many years he served the church with great enthusiasm but in more recent times illness overtook his energies. Despite this he remained positive and uncomplaining - indeed his faith if anything increased in the f a c e of adversity as his witness throughout illness spoke to many of a de e p faith and trust in God. He died peacefully at home with his nearest and dearest around him. To his wife Margaret and the families of his children, Jason and Gaynor, we extend our heartfelt sympathy giving thanks to G o d for this true gentle man whose life commended his Master.
Tom was also involved in the former Presbytery of Alloa and Dunfermline, serving as Interim-Moderator of a number of congregations. When he was able, he also conducted services. Within the life of the denomination, he served on various General Assembly Committees an d also as Assembly Officer at the General Assembly. Tom loved singing, and as well as being a member of the local Church Choir, he was a member of the denominational Male Voice Choir. In his own words, he simply wanted to serve the Master.
THE MAGAZINE OF THE UNITED FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND
Westminster Confession of Faith Pages 2–3
Scottish nurse did exactly what God wanted Pages 5/6
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: A Christian at the Coalface Relationships: A Biblical Perspective Reflecting on the General Assembly
Tom married Ann in 1949 and they enjoyed over sixty years together. They were blessed with their two daughters, Irene and Sandra, and more recently with their four grandchildren and two greatgrandchildren. As a congregation, we remember Tom with affection and gratitude. Although he was ill for a number of years, he still m an a ge d to attend church regularly along with Ann. Tom was always meticulously dressed and had an interest in people until the very end. We thank G od for the privilege of knowing Tom and rejoice that he is now with the Lord whom he loved and served. We remember Ann, Irene, Sandra and the extended family in prayer, asking that they might know the comfort and strength of the living God.
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Westminster Confession of Faith
A Christian at the Coalfa ce
Scottish nurse did exactly what God wanted
Heard at the Assembly
"Purses that don't wear out"
Relationships: A Biblical Perspective
Stand by me
Ladies Day at Assembly
The Scottish Government Same-Sex Marriage Bill
The General Assembly
Thank You from Ministries in Botswana
Westminster Confession of Faith 11/12
If you are an elder or have been to an ordination service you will have heard the words:
Do you acknowledge the Westminster Confession of Faith as the subordinate standard of this church and do you believe the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith contained therein? Perhaps you have never dipped into the Westminster Confession. Hopefully this article will set the scene and encourage some to explore its pages.
Editorial As we approach our annual summer event at Dunblane it is a n interesting coincidence that the most famous son of the town, Andy Murray, recently a sce n ded 'new heights' at Wimbledon in what he later described as the pinnacle of his career. It was remarkable that as the final reached its climactic conclusion, Murray seemed to be carrying not only the burden of his own desire to succee d but also the potentially crushing hopes of most of Britain. Fortunately on this occasion he was able to retain his focus under this extreme pressure and go on to complete the task. This edition of Stedfast reflects on the need to stay focused as Christians under pressure in whatever walk of life we are pla ce d; making the most of every opportunity to further our deeper calling. Serving Christ in the workplace is both a challenge and an opportunity. In the interview with our Moderator the Rev Graham Brown and also in the article by Craig Richmond (Chryston), they share their personal experiences of the importance of this witness in reaching out to others. Another excellent testimony of this is presented in the article recognising 60 years ministry of the European Christian Mission in Australia and New Zealand. This was a work pioneered by our own Ruby Oliphant, who while serving as a nurse, remained focused on her greatest desire to be the 'nurse Go d wanted'! Now this, unlike being a mere Wimbledon Champion, is surely a 'pinnacle of achievement' that we c a n all in Christ reach out for?
Alastair Wright Stedfast Secretary 1
Confessions of Faith have a long history. Arguably the first and simplest confession came from the lips of the apostle Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living Go d ” (Matthew 16:16). The early church’s confession was “Jesus Christ is Lord”. However it was not long before it b e c a m e necessar y to elaborate on this confession. One reason was that there were those who began to deny that Jesus had c o me in the flesh. They taught that his human nature was “ a mere phantasm or appeara nce.” Later arguments centred on the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ. Eventually most of these issues were settled at the Council of Constantinople (AD 381) which re-affirmed the Nicene Creed. In the next century the Council of Chalcedon agreed the historic “Chalcedonian Definition” which will be referred to later in this article. The Westminster Confession of Faith that most Presbyterian churches around the world adhere to (to a greater or lesser degree) is the fruit of the explosion of theological reflection at the time of the Reformation. This explosion bega n with the famous 95 Theses that Martin Luther nailed to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517, a nd continued with The Augsburg Confession of 1530, The Scots Confession of 1560, The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563,
The 39 Articles of the Church of England of 1571, a nd The Irish Articles of 1615. All these confessions a nd catechisms (but in particular the Irish Articles) paved the way for the Assembly of Divines which convened at Westminster in 1644. The intention of the Assembly was to produce a Confession of Faith that would unite Episcopalians, Presbyterians, a n d Independents, as well as uniting the churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland. In the event it was only in Scotland that the Confession found lasting a cc e p t a n c e , although in later centuries it would b e adopted around the world by Presbyterians in America, C a n a d a , and Australia. Although the Westminster Confession of Faith is often thought of as the quintessential expression of Scottish Calvinism, the Scottish Commissioners at Westminster did not play a n outstanding role in its composition. There were over one hundred and twenty commissioners of whom eight came from Scotland, five ministers an d three elders. The best known of the Scottish commissioners was Samuel Rutherford. However some of the Scottish commissioners were rarely present. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland meeting in Edinburgh on August 27th 1647 adopted the Confession in full declaring it to be “most agreeable to the Word of God, and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of this Kirk.”
Westminster Confession of Faith (Cont.) The Confession a nd its accompanying catechisms began to be challenged in the 19th century particularly with regard to the eternal decrees of God. One writer (in a major work on the Creeds published in 1876) criticised the Confession as “starting from God’s sovereignty a nd justice rather than from God’s love and mercy.” He went on to say that “the divine-human person and work of Christ furnish the true key to the full understanding of the plan of salvation and the solid platform for the ultimate agreement of all evangelical creeds.” Thus it was that in 1879 our forebears in the United Presbyterian Church sought to explain the Confession’s position on the eternal decrees of God, an d allowed “liberty of opinion on points not entering into the substance of the faith (such) as the interpretation of the six days in the Mosaic account of the creation”. A few years later, in 1892, our forebears in the Free Church (which had been born out of the Disruption of 1843) came to similar decisions with regard to the eternal decrees. These decisions are now part of the Declarator y Acts referred to in our ordination services. These 19th century decisions were to shape Scottish church history. Those who disagreed with the Free Church decision formed a Free Presbytery in 1893 which would later b ecom e the Free Presbyterian Church. When the United Presbyterians entered into union with the Free Church in 1900 to form the United Free Church, some who disagreed with the 1892 decisions formed the Free Church continuing (known somewhat disparagingly as the Wee Frees) but now the Free Church. With this historical background you may be thinking that the Westminster Confession of Faith is only of historical interest. Certainly it c a n be read historically, a nd seen in its historic context. But it c a n also be read pastorally, theologically, a nd devotionally. It was G. K. Chesterton who famously said “the problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has not been tried”. Similarly one could say that the problem
A Christian at the Coalface of the Westminster Confession of Faith is not that it been tried and found wanting, but that it has not been tried. Nowadays you do not need to seek out a copy of the Westminster Confession bec ause the text is available online, whether the original version or one in modern English. The Assembly that met in Westminster spent three years in debate and discussion; kirk sessions a nd Bible study groups c a n do the same profitably today. You could start with chapter 1 entitled “Of the Holy Scriptures” of which Benjamin Warfield, Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary in the early part of last century said: “there is certainly in the whole mass of confessional literature no more nobly conceived or ably wrought out statement of doctrine than the chapter ‘Of the Holy Scriptures’ which the divines laid at the foundation of their system of doctrine”. However you could start with the person of Jesus Christ, and dip into chapter 8 “Of Christ the Mediator”. There we read: “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance; so that two whole perfect and distinct natures, the Go d h e a d and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very Go d and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between Go d and man.” These words from chapter 8 are taken from the Chalcedonian Definition drawn up in AD 451. They were drawn up then as they were repeated by the Westminster divines twelve hundred years later to guard against those who would pervert the Gospel. The Scots Confession of 1560 drawn up largely by John Knox was more specific and more colourful in its language. The Scots Confession said: “By our Confession we condemn the damnable and pestilent heresies of Arius, Marcion, Eutyches, Nestorius, and such others as did either deny the eternity of His Godhead , or the truth of His humanity, or confounded them, or else divided them.”
Part of the relevance of the Westminster Confession today surely lies in the fact that it connects the early church and the ancient creeds with the Reformation and with the issues of today. It helps us connect with who we are and where we have come from. It has been said that there are no new heresies, only ancient ones in modern guise. Used creatively the Westminster Confession c an be a most useful tool to help us grapple with the issues of today, and meet the contemporary challenges to the Gospel that confront us.
By Craig Richmond Treasurer at Chryston and Convener of Presbytery Finance Committee
I have been asked to give some thoughts as a Christian in the workplace. In one sense, the title of this article is inappropriate – my job is about as far away from a coalface as you ca n get. However as Christians we are all in the world as we go about our daily lives. We all have to get our hands dirty. I work as a n actuar y for a large life insurance company. My team build financial models. These are computer I have seen wonderful examples of Christians who work programs that attempt to project the expected profits that very hard but it is clear from their outlook that they h ave my company will earn in the future from the policies that ‘higher ’ priorities. I try to follow that example. our customers have taken out with us. The irony that I a m a Christian who tries to predict the future is not lost on me. I try to pray for my colleagues. Not just those that I like My d ay is taken up with meetings, answering emails and and work well with, but for those who make my life more talking to colleagues, based in both the UK and India. difficult or even downright unpleasant. That is harder. I’m praying for Kath, whose husband has to work a w a y from People know that I a m a Christian, but that took time. home. She has no church background, however her two For a while, ‘I went to church’. Not the same. The reaction, girls go to Guides a nd they love going to Sunday School. when people do find out, is rarely as ba d as your worst imagination tells you. Whether we minority or not, How we Christians behave in the workplace is important. People are watching you. It c a n be very pressured at times. We are all aware that Being different is easy when work is going well. It is harder life is fast a nd getting faster. I see that there are fewer when the pressure is on, emotions run high a nd tasks are people to do more work in less time. In these days of PCs, beyond schedule. Some watch a nd wait for you to trip up, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, work does not stop ready with a n accusing ‘you go to Church yet you…’ when you go home in the evening. The working day gets Some are just watching. longer. Stress is a n issue and I know several people who have been off sick due to work stress. People try to unwind In these pre Revival times, we are in the minority. However in various ways. There are lots of good examples of people when we are surrounded by non-Christians, that actually who are devoted to their families. Less helpfully, alcohol is gives us a daily opportunity to show in a practical wa y a common crutch. These are not people who go to pubs what it means to b e a Christian at work or school or in the and start fights. Instead, it is far more civilised than that. street. You don’t need to be a minister or elder or preacher They open a bottle of wine or have a couple of beers to do that. Is that not something worth getting up for on while watching TV. As Christians, we look to eternal things. a Monday morning?
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken an d one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what d a y your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:40-42)
Scottish nurse did exactly what God wanted!
Heard at the Assembly
European Christian Mission in Australia and New Zealand recently celebrated 60 years of ministry and the work was pioneered by Ruby Oliphant, a member of Pollokshaws: West UF Church in Glasgow. “Do you like going to far places?” Was the question Ganz Raud, founder of European Christian Mission, asked Ruby after he heard her addressing an audience. Ruby was taken by her parents to Pollokshaws: West UF Church in Glasgow in the 1930s. There were lots of young people in the congregation and she enjoyed events such as the UF C a m p at the Keswick Convention. After leaving school, she went to London for her nursing training at St Giles Hospital. She was in London during the Second World War and her room was bombed twice but on both occasions she was on leave. After spending some year as a nurse, she felt Go d had other plans for her and attended the Faith Mission College. She then b e c a m e involved with the European Christian Mission a nd worked in a n orphanage they had in Cannes.
She got much more than she bargained for when she answered ‘Yes’ to Ganz Raud’s question and said that she did indeed like travelling to far places. She was challenged by him to pioneer a new work for European Christian Mission on in Australia. Mr Raud helped Ruby prepare for life on the mission field in Australia. When she told her family where she was going, some of them thought they would never see her again. In April 1953 Ruby arrived in Sydney with a few contact addresses, £50 and two objectives: to reach European immigrants and to establish a n ECM base. Ruby eventually settled in Sydney, staying first at a Christian Business Girls hostel. Not long after that Ruby’s nursing credentials g a v e her the opportunity to travel throughout New South Wales preaching and teaching in tandem with the Nurses’ Christian Fellowship. “I had church meetings while my friend Ruth Ridley had meetings with the nurses,” Ruby said. “We just travelled da y and night to get to places. It was wonderful the way Go d opened up the whole of NSW to me." Warned to expect to have “many, many buckets of cold water poured on you”, the Lord led Ruby to conquer adversities and not let obstacles hinder her work. Through much prayer Ruby was put in contact with a woman who first met Ruby when she stepped from the boat a nd onto Australian soil in 1953. This woman from the Victorian Missionary Union told Ruby: “I a m going to arrange
Fellow ECM missionary Poldi Storfer joined Ruby and Go d blessed their outreach ministry. In Sydney, the mission’s special focus was on reaching Italian migrants. A vital facet of ECM being set up in Australia was motivating people to go to share Christ’s love in Europe. So a deputation ministry, which shared the spiritual needs of far-away Europe, was established. First in 1961 was Sonia Ridgeway; appointed as a missionary, she left for Italy that year. 21 years later she returned with her husband to Australia and b e c a m e the mission’s Queensland reps. Other workers followed, including Jim and Nellie Bosma, a Dutch couple who ha d been converted at the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade. They went to me”.
meetings for you from Albury in NSW all over Victoria and into South Australia”. From July 12 to August 15, 1953, Ruby had 45 meetings a nd four schools as she moved from town to town throughout Victora a nd ending in Adelaide. Soon after that Ruby returned to her base in Sydney a nd many of the people she ha d met during that hectic time of meetings, faithfully kept in touch with the mission. Ruby warmly recalls that she found Australians “most hospitable and so kind”. At a time when missionaries had great difficulty taking the gospel into countries such as Italy a nd Spain, Ruby was on the other side of the world putting the gospel into the hands of Italian and other European migrants in their own languages. Australia had b e c om e home to thousands of “New Settlers” from Europe after the Second World War and Ruby regularly visited British, Italian, Greek and Yugoslav ethnic groups, distributing Scriptures and sharing Christ’s love.
Holland in 1969, returning in 1971 to migrant work in Melbourne. Jim was appointed as general secretary for ECM Australia in 1976 and led the work for 25 years. In 2001, Romeo Dinale was appointed as director, after service in Italy. Further pioneering ECM’s presence in the Antipodes, Ruby Oliphant visited New Zealand in 1954. Later, Roger and Alison Crawshaw faithfully represented ECM there for 30 years after contact with Poldi Storfer in 1964. In 2013, ECM Australia and New Zealand celebrates 60 years of ministry, giving praise to Go d for more than 110 full-time a nd associate workers who have served in Europe and in Australia. Ruby always said it was important that immigrants be born again to b e com e witnesses among their own people in Australia a nd also go ba c k to their own country as missionaries. “It was important that the Church in Australia be a wa ke ned to see the mission field a nd to give, pray and support those who were working among the new settlers in Australia and Europe.”
When we contacted ECM about this article, Ray Busuttil, who is current Director of ECM in Australia and New Zealand responded: ‘Blessings and good to hear from you and especially for the great blessing Ruby has been amongst Australian churches and for commencing the work of European Christian Mission in Australia & New Zealand. The Lord has used her both to reach many here for Christ as well as to inspire others to be sent as cross-cultural missionaries across Europe. She still maintains her Scottish brogue and is a fierce prayer warrior!’
“These are difficult days for the UF Church, but l would not be anywhere else.” Rev Ian Lloyd, outgoing Moderator
“There is no greater plague with which man c an be afﬂicted, than the famine of the hearing of God’s Word.” Rev Robert Owens, quoting Luther
“This year there is going to be more input from Browns than Smiths.” Rev G raeme Brown
“We’ve got a lot of bored people in our churches” Elaine Duncan, Scottish Bible Society
“If we can’t talk about our faith in church, we can’t do it in the supermarket.” Elaine Duncan
“I hope you will remember that English is not my mother tongue.” Dr Donald Macdonald
“As I said to Alex Salmond earlier this year...” Rev Ian Lloyd
“If we’re not going to evangelise, we’re going to fossilize.” Rev G raeme Brown
“Purses that don’t wear out”
By Kathy Freeman
When financial trouble hits, it’s easy to feel alone. It c a n seem like no one c a n help, or that no one wants to. Debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) however has been helping hundreds of people across the UK every week that call in with uncontrollable debt.
The charity has been expanding their operations throughout Scotland and has 14 church-based centres in Dunfermline, Edinburgh (2), Kirkcaldy & Burntisland, Glasgow (3), Inverness, Kirkintilloch, Kyle of Lochalsh, Midlothian, Montrose an d Mearns, Prestwick and Wishaw. MSP Bill Kidd welcomed one of the newest centres launched this year in Parliament whilst congratulating CAP on its service, saying it should be recommended to other constituents in financial need. CAP visits people at home, negotiates with creditors and provides advice on different options to get them out of debt. The charity also runs free money management courses to help people learn to how to budget and avoid debt. They partner with churches, which not only enables them to provide a personal service but it opens doors in the local community for the church to share God’s love in a real practical way. This combination of expert debt advice from the CAP Head Office, and face-to-face support from the local church makes a lasting difference in people’s lives.
CAP knows that financial problems c a n affect people’s health, relationships and ability to provide for their families. Alarmingly, the charity found that 45 per cent of clients in Scotland said they had considered suicide before they called for help.
Brian, from Glasgow, is one of those people. Before contacting CAP, the pressure of money troubles had pushed him to his wit’s end. “I was so stressed out”, he said. “At one point I was suicidal. Creditors were calling up to six times a day.” Brian fell into debt after a n accident at work, which left him with injuries that meant he could no longer do his job. “My life was up in the air ”, he said. “I had damaged my ba c k which left me in chronic pain all the time. I was physically discharged from work and told I would be in wheelchair for two to three years.” Out of work and with a family to provide for, the loss of income m a d e ever yday things a nightmare. “We barely had enough to get through month. If something cropped up, like if something needed to be replaced in the house, that was it, I couldn’t manage it”, he recalled. “I have two small boys and they go through trousers and shoes like nobody’s business! If we had shoes to buy that would put us under.” Falling further into debt, Brian started to really feel the strain. “It put a lot of stress on the marriage. It caused arguments all the time about finances”, he said. “I also had a lot of issues medically so that added pressure.” Brian heard about CAP through friends a nd after calling the freephone number, he was visited at
home by his local CAP representative in Glasgow. “Jean was fantastic – I can’t thank her enough”, he said.
having a faith has been a real positive, “It has strengthened our relationship big style”, he said.
“She is one of these people who has such calmness and sincerity. She explained who CAP are and how they c a n help.”
Through the help of CAP, Brian b e c a m e debt free in September last year. “It was a great relief. I had been with CAP for three years”, he said. “Now, life is freedom! CAP has taken the burden from around my neck ; the ropes have been cut.”
“She took away a lot of fears.” Despite feeling strongly that Go d did not exist, Brian started to question his faith as he saw the gospel being lived out through J e a n and others from the local church. “People living out the Christian message was a revelation to me,” he said. “I was an atheist. I thought church was a man tells you what to do and how bad you are I saw with my own eyes people like Jean living out Christian life.” He went along with his family to Jean’s church to see for himself, and that’s when the truth really hit him. “I heard a reading from the Bible and the scriptures made me realise how wrong I was,” he said. “A friend read the parable about the Prodigal Son to me, and I realised it was about grace.” “That was a real light-bulb moment; from that point I started going along to church and was baptised.” Brian’s wife also b e c a m e a Christian and was baptised. Both partners
“I put my trust totally in God and my whole outlook on life has changed. “I can’t thank CAP enough!” Brian, like so many people, waited a long time before seeking help. “I had heard about CAP, but when such turmoil hits your life, things ﬂy by”, he said. “My friends sat me down to make the phone call.”
Get Involved... Every year, CAP helps over 20,000 people to get out of debt and see 500 people b e c om e Christians through our debt help work as well as 10,000 people benefiting from our CAP Money Course. Your church c a n be apar t of this by partnering with CAP. The big vision is to have a CAP Debt Centre in every town and city in the UK; a nd they are almost half way there. To find out more about how your church c a n be part of the award winning debt help service, call 01274 760580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Another option is to run the CAP Money Course, teaching people in your church how to budget, save and prevent debt. The course is open to everyone – from students to the newly retired, single people and families. We also have a n option available to schools; CAP Money Youth. Call 01274 760567 or email email@example.com
In Scotland CAP found that 67 per cent of their clients waited for more than a year before they sought help, because they thought no one could help. James Renwick, Centre Manager for the Glasgow West centre said, “We want people to know there is help out there and to get in touch sooner rather than later.” He added, “Even if you aren’t in debt, there are free courses to learn how to manage your money. Often, people are surprised at how much they c a n save by creating a budget and sticking to it. It is a great way to ensure you don’t fall into debt in the future.”
Know someone in debt? Tell them to can contact us today on 0800 328 0006 or visit www.capuk .org. There are 14 church-based centres across Scotland, e a c h with a representative who will support people right up until they are debt free. CAP can provide assistance with insolvency options (including Certificate of Sequestration, Trust Deeds, and bankruptcy) and is DAS accredited. The service is free of charge and available to anyone regardless of age, faith, gender or background.
really encompasses the whole history of God’s relationship with Israel, His people, so often spoken of in terms of Gen2/ Rev19) the intimacy of the husband/wife; a nd Israel’s idolatry as adultery. This relationship is most wonderfully laid out in the opening chapters of Hosea’s prophecy. It is a tale of love that is utterly undeserved; completely forgiving and amazingly sacrificial. It is a story of love that is bound by covenant faithfulness – a promise and commitment m a d e and held to.
All our thinking is to be moulded by that covenant relationship with God. Paul in that most famous of passages in 1 Corinthians sketches out the shape of love and it reflects God’s love for us – patient, kind, not self-seeking, no record of wrongs, protecting, trusting, persevering.
a Biblical Perspective By Rev Ian Lloyd
In the Stedfast June/July issue, Archie Ford began to raise some of the issues, difficulties and dilemmas when we cast our gaze over relationships in our present day. For many of us the relationships and marriage scene in Scotland is now unrecognisable, but before we ask how we approach this pastorally, we need to understand this area biblically. Julie Andrews when teaching the von Trapp children to sing, famously suggested, ‘Let’s start at the very beginning.’ With relationships we also need to start at the beginning – then shift rapidly to the end – then work out what’s happening in between. What do we m e a n? Both the opening chapters of Genesis, and the closing chapters of Revelation show us what we are meant for a nd to be. So they are where relationships take their true shape. This is important because, m a d e for God, it is our relationship with Him that frames and shapes our relationships with one another. When our relationship with G o d goes askew, then so does the wa y we relate and react to one another. This is nowhere more apparent than when we p lac e ourselves at the centre of our world. Then we have a tendency to view others as means to our satisfaction and well-being, rather than as important individuals in their own right.
That highlights a key issue, because as fallen people none of us c a n be the true an d full means of fulfilment in another. We will always fail, or let
down; or simply not c om e up to expectation – and then the whole relationship turns sour or falls apart. It is no coincidence that the loss of Christian thinking in our culture is followed by the kinds of issues raised in the last article. There is nothing new in any of those issues, but reflects the loss of biblical patterns in our society. We often forget the wa y in which our culture has been shaped by Christian thought. But let’s start at the very beginning. Mankind is m a d e in the image of God. That is not simply to say that somehow we reflect Him; but that we are m a d e for face-to-face relationship with Him. And in that image lies the truth that we are m a d e for relationship with others. In Genesis 2, the only ‘not good’ is no-one in Adam’s image to share with him. But note, not identical. The male/female face-to-face pattern is right there. Different, but like. So we are not surprised to find that pattern in who G o d is. He is Trinity. Different persons; one God. At the very heart of who G o d is, is relationship; Father with Son with Holy Spirit. And that relationship is mutually self-giving. The Father loves to honour the Son; the Son loves to
honour the Father; the Spirit to exalt the Son a nd to prepare our hearts for the father to dwell. And that tells us that Go d has lovingly willed that we should be partakers of the relationship of love within the Trinity. This is most apparent if we he a d to the end. The picture Revelation paints for us is a marriage feast for Christ a nd His people. The most intimate of relationships established in Genesis 2, is set in the ultimate purpose that Go d has for us. What we see then, is that not only does the Bible provide a goal; it must provide for us the model of how we are to think in relating, first to God, and then to one another. An example of this is in Ephesians 3 where Paul speaks of God as the Father from whom all fatherhood takes its name. That is that we don’t look at earthly fatherhood and project that image onto God. Rather God’s fatherhood provides the model for human fatherhood played out in what we see of the character a nd deeds of God. That is why we shouldn’t be afraid of speaking of Go d as Father in situations of e.g. family abuse. The Bible shows us the father we c a n actually trust and lean on. In the same way in Ephesians 5, how we are to think of the dynamics in a marriage relationship is governed by the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to His church. Our relationships are to be patterned by God’s with us. These are not just isolated passages. It
If all our relationship were of that nature; if we lived in a culture where relationships were like that, we would have none of the issues we actually face. But we live in a world that is fallen. And it is the entry of sin into the world that corrupts and mars all relationships to one degree or another. Genesis 3 introduces us to the blame game. Where earlier Adam delighted in Eve as God’s gift, we hear the distancing language of “Her! You g a v e me.” We find the battle of the sexes begun where the phrase “Your desire will be for your husband” mirrors God’s warning to Cain that “sin desires to
have you”. But the central sin that mars is the one that fractured our relationship with God. The devil’s allurement a nd lie – you c a n be your own god. Self is placed at the centre that Go d alone should occupy. And every interaction now struggles with that perspective. And sin has consequences. Every issue raised in the introductory article finds its source in the fracturing and God-un-centring sin brings. What we are experiencing is what flows out from that. Now, as we’ve said, there are always problems; always have been. There has never been a n a g e when all relationships have been wonderful. But the more Christian thinking has seeped from our culture, the worse these elements be come. Self is placed at the centre, so that men and women b e c om e objects to satisfy the self. At its extreme pornography is both the fulfiller as well as driver of that attitude of mind. But in less extreme ways self-satisfaction; self-fulfilment; self-esteem occupy the p l ac e in relationships that ought to be occupied by self-giving. Martin Luther described our position without Christ’s saving work as incurvatus in se. We are cur ved in on ourselves. Yet we find that we are not sufficient to bear the weight of that, so we look for others to do so. And becaus e others are also fallen sinners they cannot satisfy the yearning. The boyfriend; the partner; the baby cannot fill the God-shaped g a p in our souls.
The biblical message runs utterly counter to the way we naturally think. The Bible tells us we need to die to self, if we are to truly live. It also tells us that we gain the courage to truly love in that self-giving way by knowing how truly a nd amazingly loved we are. That love and obedience hang beautifully together. We live in a time when men, women and children desperately need converted. That is literally turned around. There are urgent pastoral issues raised that we do need to face; but we need to face the point that attitudes are not renewed without minds being remade in Christ. In the meantime married Christians seeking to live out Ephesians 5 are a great testimony to Christ and the destiny of His church; single Christians living faithfully and celibately for the sake of the kingdom are a great testimony to the power of Christ’s life. The grace of Christians to those whose relationships are in a mess is a testimony to God’s grace to us while we were still sinners. Very simply, our country, like our church, needs Jesus.
Moderator’s Swansong On 12th May, determined to be able to do this unique task, the present Moderator (as was) presented the past Moderator (George McRobb) with his 40 years as an elder, long service certificate. 10
One such family is that of Na Da Shay, who moved to a small village in Kachin State in Burma in 2002 to work as a school teacher. It was a tense and unstable a rea but her need for employment outweighed the danger. While she was living in Kachin State she met a nd married her husband, but she lived in fear for his safety as he was forced to join the Kachin army. They had a family of three boys and a girl but in June 2012, while the children were still young, Na Da Shay’s husband was killed in action.
In hiding Na Da Shay was alone and terrified her children would b e enrolled as child soldiers, as so many others are. As the Burmese army descended into her village, burning and destroying it, she fled to a n isolated area where she hid for six months until she could return to her native village. On return she found that her parents had passed a w a y so she went to stay with her sister, who was also living in very poor conditions.
Burma: The violence exposed We would like to thank everyone involved in the Easter campaign for the United Free Church of Scotland, we cannot thank you enough for the love you have shown towards the orphaned and ‘at risk’ children in Burma. Your generous donation of £9,705.78 will help to change children’s lives and we are extremely touched by your kindness. Our ‘Snug as a Bug’ goodnight packs, which include a mattress, a blanket, pillow a nd mosquito net, will ensure our children enjoy a healthy, comfortable night’s sleep free from malaria, and with your kind donation, we will be able to provide this for over 385 children. Our work in Burma is vast, we have projects all across the country and it is a real challenge for us to cater for the complex needs of the 1,500 children in our care. With your help, we are able to improve the standard of living for these children and on their behalf, we would like to thank you.
Why Burma? Civil unrest and political oppression have plagued Burma (Myanmar) for many d e c a de s and despite reports of positive progress in the media, the reality for ethnic minorities living there today is very different. Burma is a country ruled by a military junta, where the persecution of minority groups and the violation of human rights have resulted in extreme poverty, child prostitution and thousands of orphaned children. In response to this, today we are providing a n education for over 1,500 children across eight schools and running 20 children’s homes offering 400 children love, shelter a nd security.
In March this year, Na Da Shay approached Stand by Me a nd pleaded with us to look after her three eldest children. We welcomed Nan Ra, Naw San a nd Branja into our Yangon Children’s Village and after the first week , Na Da Shay came to see them in their new home. When she saw the care that her children were receiving, tears rolled down her face. She was overjoyed they were living in such a happy environment, she returned home with a joyful heart.
A brighter future It is children such as Nan Ra, Naw San an d Branja who will receive ‘Goodnight Packs’ to help them sleep soundly at night, thanks to your generous donation. Since being in the home the children have m a d e excellent progress. Nan Ra loves to da nce, her brother Naw San loves to play football a nd Branja is a quiet, obedient little boy. Nan Ra dreams of being a teacher when she is older, just like her mum, a nd Stand by Me will do everything possible to make this dream a reality. Never has our help for orphaned and aba ndoned children been more need ed in Burma than it is today. Burma is one of eleven countries around the world where Stand by Me is caring for children who are orphaned, abandoned, abused, are victims of war or disease or are living in extreme poverty. As we show them God’s love we offer them hope – the same hope that allowed Jesus to see not only people’s suffering a nd sadness, but also their potential. We aim to make lasting improvements to children’s lives caring for them as Jesus would, by restoring their dignity and giving them a sense of self worth. We want every child entrusted to us to feel loved a nd to reach their full potential.
We would love to c om e and share more of the work of Stand by Me with you an d your church. If you would like us to visit your church a nd be involved in your service, or you would like to find out how you c a n bec om e involved individually in our child sponsorship programme, please call us on 0845 604 5543 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We would love to hear from you!
The state of Kachin is one of three states in Burma most recently affected by unrest. In June 2011 the official ceasefire between the government army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) exploded once again a nd intense fighting and bloodshed has engulfed the state. This fighting has led thousands of refugees to flee, many heading for overcrowded refugee camps near the Chinese border. These camps are located in rebelcontrolled areas and are designated off-limits by the government, so international aid has not been able to reach them. Such fierce fighting is leaving hundreds of widows and orphaned children in its wake. We have recently taken eight children from the Shan a nd Kachin states into our Yangon Children’s Village in the south of Burma and they are settling well into their new surroundings. We anticipate that many more orphaned children who need a loving home will be discovered in the days to come. 12
INTERVIEW W I T H THE
Rev Graham C. Brown M O D E R ATO R
Interviewer: Alastair Wright
C a n you firstly tell us a little about your
Coming to faith as teenager was there a sense
of God’s calling on your life at this time?
I was born a nd brought up in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, the elder of two children. From my earliest years, I was taken along to church with my parents, an d there I attended Sunday School regularly a nd then Bible Class until my early teens. When I think ba c k to those days, though, I have to say that I knew very little about the Christian faith. I may have been familiar with “church”, but I did not know the Lord.
Fairly soon after coming to faith, I did feel a call to the “ministry”. I was aware, however, that I would have to mature in faith a nd also as an individual before that would be possible. There was also a sense in which, like Jonah, I wanted to run a w a y from what I thought might be God’s will for my life.
My earliest recollection of being challenged regarding the Christian faith was when a friend, who had been on a Scripture Union C amp , told me that he ha d b e com e a Christian a nd asked me if I was a Christian. Over the next few months, I noticed a big difference in his life, and I eventually g a v e in to his persistence a nd agreed to go along with him to the Scripture Union group which met in Kilmarnock Academy, where I was a pupil. Sadly, I could not really comprehend what was being spoken about and I stopped attending. A few years afterwards, I was challenged by another friend to go ba c k to the Scripture Union in the school. The group was thriving by this time, with a fair number of my year group in attendance. Suddenly, it seems, I realised the truth that we have all sinned against God, that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our salvation, and that I n eed ed to turn from my sin and trust in Jesus for myself. One night, in my bedroom at home, I simply came before Go d in prayer a nd put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. When I awoke the next morning, I knew that my life was now in Christ’s hands. I now had faith. My Christian life had begun a nd life, for me, would never b e quite the same again.
Go d had a lot of work to do with me before I would, in a way, be fit to serve Him in this capacity. I have to say that I believe that the Christian’s life and walk with God, wherever that walk might lead, is of great importance. Faith in Christ ought also to develop and grow with the passing of the years. When I came to faith, I had only a very basic knowledge of the things of God. I may have had faith in Christ, but that faith ha d never really been tested. I had to learn some very important lessons, sometimes the hard way, in order that I might begin to mature in the faith. I initially need ed the milk of God’s Word which was provided, initially through Glasgow University Christian Union, where I studied for a B.Sc. in Maths and Statistics; and also through my participation in the life of a church fellowship in Kilmarnock. Commitment to Christ was stressed in that congregation, where a good number of people of all ages professed faith, and where opportunities were given for spiritual growth and service. My own personal walk with Go d at that time might, however, be said to have been two steps forward a nd one step back . I didn’t always seek God’s leading! In 1980, I moved to Cumbernauld to work in Burroughs Machines. Whilst there, I joined a church in Kilsyth where the Word of Go d was preached faithfully and where I was given great encouragement as regards future Christian service. I also had the opportunity to attend some night classes at the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow.
While understanding that, for you personally, God’s
In your address you bas ed your hope for the United
deeper call on your life was for full time ministry, how
Free Church of Scotland on us being a people
would you describe your experience as a Christian
in the workplace?
The need to challenge one another to be a people who rely wholly on God is a requirement that ought to underlie what takes p l a c e in ever y congregation a n d amongst all a g e groups. There is a great need for every believer to pray for the other believers within their own church fellowship, a nd also beyond it. Such faithfulness would, I believe, bring totally unity a n d purpose, which must surely be God’s will for His people.
In many ways, I struggled to be a positive witness for Christ, especially in my early years in Burroughs when I found personal witness pretty difficult. Feeling like the only Christian in that situation, where the whole ethos was fairly worldly, I struggled to be different from the majority. However there c a n be great opportunities for witness and it still concerns me that, although there were a number of other Christians in Burroughs, we never really presented any kind of united witness to our colleagues. A great encouragement, though, was when a former boss came to faith in Christ through witness of another colleague. He is now, as far as I am aware, a very committed Christian who is very much involved in Christian witness a nd service. My experience all those years a g o is a reminder to me of the challenge facing the Christian church to support believers who struggle in the workplace. I am interested in the recent developments concerning Workplace Chaplains, a nd wonder whether they might be a support a nd encouragement to Christians in such environments. Moving on to your entry into ministry tells us about your early experiences as a developing minister? The task of having to preach every Sunday, a nd to bring a message which is fresh a nd relevant to the congregation was, for me, at the outset a challenging one. It was only by God’s gr ace that I was able to continue and, I trust, develop. As I commented in my Moderator’s Address, I b e g a n my ministry preaching the Gospel, but probably failing to provide very much teaching for believers. With the passing of the years, I trust that I have combined both aspects together. Lessons which I learned, thanks to the support a nd advice of friends in two particular congregations, one in Kilmarnock a nd the other in Kilsyth, were I hope put into practice. In your address you spoke of the need for Christians to witness and to seek to become better disciples? I believe that one of the main purposes of preaching is to build believers up in the things of God, that they might be fully equipped as the people of God. It is the putting of God’s Word into practice which is of vital importance. I certainly believe that every Christian is called to be a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the local church context, opportunities for Bible Study a nd Prayer ought to be a means to share our struggles together a nd to build one another up in the things of God. We must pray for one another, that we might have the courage to speak the truth of God’s Word. There is a need for boldness as well as for humility as we seek to be faithful in making the good news of the Gospel clear to people around us who do not know Jesus Christ as their Saviour a nd Lord. Our lives must also prove that we are whom we claim to be. In other words, Jesus must be seen in us.
I believe that, for a number of reasons, church life in Scotland is in a state of flux. Perhaps God might use our own denomination to be the catalyst, to act as a kind of bridge, which could bring evangelical presbyterian churches from differing theological perspectives together. We must surely pray that there might be a coming together of fellowships where the Gospel is preached a nd believed, especially within the presbyterian family. Looking a h e a d to your moderatorial year, what are the challenges you foresee and are there any particular aspects that you are looking forward to? Many of the challenges during the coming year will relate to the need to combine the work in the congregation in Sauchie with visitations to congregations within the denomination. I look forward to visiting other congregations, a n d trust that I will be led to bring people a relevant message from God’s Word. That is always a challenge, but I believe that God is abl e to inspire when He is allowed to lead a n d direct. Christine a nd I are particularly looking forward to visiting congregations which are unknown to us. Personally, I also look forward to representing the United Free Church at the annual meetings of other denominations. It is always good to experience how other branches of the Christian church do things. I am sure that we need to learn from one another. As mentioned earlier we held a Gift Day on the Saturday. As God had been faithful to us over some quite difficult times in the recent past we felt it was time for us to give something ba c k to people who had a greater need than ourselves. One of our members, Mr Andrew Prentice, works with OM and he told us of the plight of the Dalit people in India. It was decided that we would try and raise £5000 through a Gift Day so that we could provide a basic church for the Good Shepherd Community Church in India. God has really blessed this project and to date the total raised stands at the sum of over £10,000.
at Assembly 2013 By Mrs Moira Patterson It was a bright a n d dry morning when we arrived at the Salutation Hotel in Perth for Ladies Day. As the ladies, representing our congregations from all over Scotland arrived there was a real spirit of friendship a n d a looking forward to the blessing of the Lord on the whole day. The meetings were ably chaired by our new Convener, Mrs Janette Neil who welcomed ever yone a nd announced the opening praise “At the n a m e of Jesus”. Miss Jacqueline Ramsay, Vice Convener read the Scriptures a n d Mrs J e a n Armstrong led in prayer. Secretary, Mrs J e a n Baguley carried through the business a n d thanked all the Women’s Associations for their help a nd support through the year. Mrs Rita Jackson then paid tribute to the life a n d work of Miss Reta Robertson, former missionary in South Africa, a n d originally a member of Ebenezer UF Church. This was followed by a presentation to a representative of Christians Against Poverty, the recipients of our winter project, amounting to £2,250. Their aim is to help individuals a n d families m a n a g e their money a nd not to live beyond their means. The special gift this year was for Scripture Union Cam ps who do a tremendous work amo ng young people both through school groups a nd camps, challenging them with the gospel a nd the claims of Christ on their lives. A cheq ue for £4,860
was later presented to Mrs Elizabeth McDowall who is Prayer Group Secretary for S.U. Our theme for 2013/2014, prepared by Mrs Lottie MacDonald is “Fit for purpose, fit for God’s purpose” taken from Ephesians 2 v10. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in a d v a nc e for us to do.” The speaker, Rev Willie Black , took up this theme a nd related it to the life of Esther who was prepared in a d va nc e to do a great work for God. She was a n example of God’s workmanship, beautiful, winsome, of good character a nd submissive to God. She believed in the power of prayer a n d whatever the cost said, “If I perish, I perish.” God is always a h e a d of the devil a nd through her obedience, Esther b e c a m e Queen a n d the deliverer of her people from the wicked Haman who ha d plotted their destruction. On a personal level we were challenged to b e fit for purpose, fit for God’s purpose. Our soloist in the morning was Miss Lesley Buchan. Her two songs were “As the dear pants for the water” a nd “I am a poor wayfaring stranger”. Her beautiful singing was a real blessing. Prior to the afternoon meeting community singing was led by our guest singers, “Simply Worship”. Mrs Janette Neil welcomed ever yone ba c k a nd we b e g a n with the hymn “Jesus is the na m e we honour”.
Rev Martin Keane, Clerk to Assembly, led us in prayer. The Convener then welcomed a nd introduced the representatives from the other churches a nd presented them with a reminder of their visit. The Moderator, Rev Ian Lloyd, brought the greetings of the General Assembly. Our guest singers Simply Worship blessed us with their lovely singing in harmony. The guest speaker for the afternoon was Ms Fiona MacDonald from the Scottish Bible Society who also took up this year ’s theme from Ephesians. She reminded us that we are God’s masterpiece a nd precious to Him. She spoke of the need of broken humanity for God ; people lost a nd without hope or purpose in their lives for whom Christ is the only answer. If we are willing, He is abl e to use us to fulfil His purpose a nd reach others with the Good News of salvation. Mrs Neil thanked the speaker a nd we closed with the hymn “Lord for the years, Your love has kept a nd guided”. Rev Martin Keane then pronounced the benediction.
We give thanks to God for a wonderful day of rich blessing for the ongoing faithfulness and generosity of our womenfolk, the offerings for the day amounted to almost £1,000 making a grand total of £8,110.
Scottish Government Introduces Bill to Legalise Same-Sex Marriage By Rev John Fulton
The Scottish Government published ‘The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill’ at the end of June. If approved by the Scottish Parliament, this Bill would allow Same Sex Marriages to take p l a c e in Scotland and ceremonies could be either civil or religious. There is a consultation period on the proposed Bill till 23rd August during which individuals a nd groups c a n make submissions to the Parliament. It is also a n opportunity to make your views known to your local MSPs as they will all ha ve the opportunity to take part in the debate when the Bill comes before the Parliament in the autumn.
Gui dance and suggestions on responding to this consultation will be sent to congregations from Church Office during July. The Scottish Government has m a d e it clear that they are interested in the ‘quality’ of responses a nd not the ‘quantity’. This means they tend to discount responses m a d e by preprinted postcards a nd petitions a nd are more ready to listen to those who take the trouble to make a written response by email or letter a nd to set out reasons for their position. It is important that people also contact MSPs as with a n earlier consultation, many MSPs came to the conclusion that people were not interested in the issue be cause so few people contacted them.
The Scottish Government has pledged that if the bill is passed, no church or religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages if they do not agree with them. However they have had talks with the UK Government be cause Ministers at Holyrood believe a n amendment is neede d to UK equalities legislation to protect individual celebrants who do not want to conduct same-sex ceremonies in situations where their denomination supports them. The position of the United Free Church was outlined in a statement from the Church & Society Committee some time ago: We believe the proposed legislation would change marriage irretrievably. Marriage has been universally embraced by societies and cultures from the beginning of the human race as the union between a man and a woman which has proved to be beneficial both to the individuals in the union and to society as a whole. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights has affirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Scottish Government’s proposals would fundamentally change our understanding of marriage in our Scottish society as an institution with defined functions and social purposes to merely being an individual’s right or entitlement. Once this precedent was established, marriage would then be subject to reappraisal, review and further change as minority groups seek “equality” for their own views and positions. The United Free Church of Scotland has consistently opposed persecution or discrimination against any religious or secular group. We strongly disapprove and condemn unfair treatment or violence directed against anyone on account of their
sexual orientation. Accordingly we a c c e p t the right of same sex couples to enter into partnerships recognised by the state. However the extension of that right to include marriage imposes changes on the rest of society. The Committee does not regard same sex marriage as a n equality issue as the existing Civil Partnership legislation bestows on same sex couples all the existing rights extended to married couples. At our recent General Assembly, concern was expressed over the impact the proposed legislation could have on Christians who are teachers, social workers etc and the following paragraph was agreed: The General Assembly urge the Scottish Government to recognise the deeply held religious commitments on the issue of same-sex marriage and therefore to guarantee an adequate protection for freedom of speech and belief to protect the religious conscience of those particularly in teaching and social work with regard to local authorities; and more generally, so that people should not be disciplined for simply expressing their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. Please pray for the MSPs as they consider the legislation at Holyrood over the coming months.
General Assembly 2013: Some Personal Reflections By Helen Hood
Helen is a lay theologian and church worker, is Ecumenical Officer at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh and Vice Convener of Action of Churches Together in Scotland. Committed to working for social justice and eradication of poverty. Helen has been a member of Church Action on Poverty since the 1980s and a trustee since 2006. As soon as I arrived at the Salutation Hotel in Perth for the General Assembly I knew I was amongst Christian friends. The welcome I received could not have been warmer, a nd throughout the three days various different folk would stop for a chat, invite me to join them at a meal table, always in some way or other ensuring that I felt ‘at home’. For all this I thank you most heartily.
Indeed throughout the time there was an atmosphere of warmth and friendliness, and the formalities of meeting in General Assembly were carried out correctly but without a trace of stiffness. There was a similar tone at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church (of which I a m a member) when it met the following week , surely a feature of smaller Churches where delegates are likely to know e a c h other and many have probably attended in previous years.
I was grateful for the Assembly worship, that the whole endeavour from beginning to end was held in prayer, and was sorry not to be able to stay for the Friday evening closing service. It was a great joy to find that I knew the tunes to most of the hymns - you will no doubt be aware that Presbyterians and Episcopalians worshipping together often struggle to find hymns where both traditions sing the same words to the same tune! And as one of the ecumenical guests, I particularly appreciated sharing in the Sacrament of Communion.
I found the book of Reports most interesting, a nd the amount of work detailed on such a wide range of issues very impressive. It was clear both from the written reports and their presentations a nd discussion that despite reducing numbers and the inevitable concerns that this brings, the United Free Church of Scotland is not inward-looking or self-absorbed. The thread of outward facing missionary activity in the broadest sense runs through everything, e.g. in youth work, supporting the Flying Mission in southern Africa, engaging with the Scottish Parliament, training future ministers. It was evidenced too in the reception given to guest speakers from Christian Aid, the Scottish Bible Society and More Than Gold.
Of particular interest to me, having worked for the World Council of Churches on the issue of Overcoming Violence Against Women, was the thoughtful and well-argued response to Rhoda Grant MSPs consultation on a Bill to criminalise the purchase and sale of sex; and I shared your disappointment that she ha d not been able to gain sufficient support from other MSPs to take it forward.
Two things about the General Assembly I found surprising. The first is that so few women rose to speak at the microphone. After all, the United Free Church was the first Scottish Presbyterian church to ordain a female minister, there were plenty of women Elders and, I think, Ministers at the Assembly, and indeed the important Overseas Committee is convened by and was reported on by a woman. The use of a discussion group format for the evening session encouraged everyone present, women and men, to express views on the Church’s overseas work. I also wonder whether women might have more confidence to speak out in the Assembly itself if they had a n opportunity beforehand to share information, to support a nd encourage e a c h other, as happens for instance at the Women’s PreAssembly of the World Council of Churches. Could there b e any role here for the Women’s Home and Overseas Committee? The other thing I was not expecting was unanimity on most topics discussed, but particularly on the issue of same-sex relationships where within my own tradition I would be
more used to quite differing deeply held views being expressed, including profound disagreements about how to read the Bible. Admittedly, Assemblies a nd Synods are not good contexts for nuanced, sensitive speaking – and listening – but churches do need to find ways of handling the subtleties of this issue which has caused such distress to individual Christians and church communities on all sides. I personally hope some of this listening might be done as churches together, that even as we disagree we c a n learn to understand a nd support e a c h other, and perhaps Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) could assist by offering an ‘ecumenical safe space’ in which this c a n happen. However, throughout the Assembly the United Free Church was true to itself as Presbyterian and Evangelical, proclaiming quite clearly, to quote from the Trustees’ Annual Report (pp.8-9), the ‘wholehearted faith and trust in God’ which is ‘its surest hope’. I c a m e away hopeful and encouraged. Thank you.
‘Thank You’ from the
Flying Mission C a re Ministries, Botswana
Some months ago, Mary Macintyre (from Candlish Wynd) sent off to Flying Mission in Botswana two large packages containing over 100 cardigans and other knitted goods which had been donated by ladies from the UF Church. The packages also included books, pencils an d other educational materials. The boxes arrived safely and were just in time for their winter coming on. All was received with much appreciation. She received a note to say: ‘Those at Flying Mission responsible for the preschool Rerotlhe Project would like to thank all the ladies who knitted or gave garments or preschool educational material such as books, pencils, crayons, puzzles games etc for these vulnerable and needy children. It was all gratefully received.’ Mary says: ‘I would like to add my own appreciation to all those who responded to the request either with hand knitting or other items.’ In a further note from Flying Mission they say: ‘The children from both of Rerotlhe and Old Naledi Day Care send their love and gratitude for the warm winter clothing they received that was sent in a parcel in February 2013.’
“Rea leboga thata! Midomo a le segofatse” (Thank you very much, G o d Bless)