Category Archives: Young People

Church Of Scotland National Youth Assembly 2016

NYA2016logoAs I write this the 2016 National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland will be getting underway in Stirling. I have frequently expressed my appreciation for this event because it provides a forum for young adults (ages 17-25) to get together and discuss contemporary issues and how they interact with society and their faith. Furthermore, their discussions and conclusions are then presented to the Church of Scotland General Assembly the following May. (If you are interested in more detail, have a look at the National Youth Assembly report to the 2016 Assembly as well as their longer Supplementary report which has more detail and narrative as well as pictures.) In addition, other entities within the Kirk, like the Church of Scotland Guild and the Go For It initiative work with the NYA and its leadership.

So this year’s Assembly convenes the evening of Friday August 19 and will adjourn mid-day  on Monday August 22. It will be meeting again this year at Gartmore House in Stirlingshire.

The discussion topics this year are Gender Justice, Mental Health, and The Future of Ministry And Fresh Expressions. This is an event with a moderate profile in Scotland and the Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt MSP will address the Assembly delegates on Sunday concerning what the Scottish Government is doing to address the problem. The NYA Facebook page is one way to follow along with these discussions as well as to see links to some of the background readings that were posted in advance of the Assembly.

The new NYA Moderator is Andrew MacPherson and the Clerk will be Lyndasy Kennedy and you can read more about them in the Kirk press release from April. In addition, a new article was posted yesterday previewing the weekend and giving some of the late-breaking details.

The best way to follow along is certainly Twitter so keep an eye on the hashtag #nya2016. You should also be looking at the official NYA account (@cosy_nya) as well as the NYA Moderator Account (@nyamoderator). Also a chance you will see something on Andrew’s personal account (@StAndrewMac). The NYA will be covered by the curated account Church Scotland Voices (@churchscovoices) under the operation of Fiona Marshall for the weekend who can also be found on her personal account, @LikeWatervrDude. And we can expect an appearance of the Church of Scotland Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Russell Barr, who tweets at the official account (@churchmoderator). Might see something on the Moderator’s official Facebook page as well. Other groups include the Go For It initiative who will be there (@GoForItcofs) as well as representatives from the United Reformed Church’s Youth Assembly in January (@URC_youth). And probably worth including the official Kirk account @churchscotland. Finally, let me include two individual accounts, that of the Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt, mentioned above (@maureensnp) and the Rev.Liz Crumlish who works with, and will be representing, the CofS Path of Renewal project (@eacbug). UPDATE: And I missed Lyndasy Kennedy, the Clerk, at @GhettoSmurf90.

And so, with that, I will wish the delegates and staff of the 2016 NYA well and know that we will be praying for them this weekend. It will probably take a bit for some of their deliberations, decisions and recommendations to be processed and reported, but we look forward to hearing about those at the appropriate time. And have a wonderful weekend of fellowship, discernment and spiritual renewal.

 

2016 General Assembly Of The Church Of Scotland

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Tomorrow morning the 2016 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will convene in Edinburgh for their annual week-long meeting. While the hype in the main-stream media probably exceeds the reality – more on that in a minute – it should still be an interesting meeting with all the usual pomp, ceremony, formality and of course interesting discussion that we come to expect of this GA.

If you are interested in following along, here are some starting points to help you:

  • There will be live streaming of the proceedings and you can connect to the stream appropriate for your device from the media page.
  • Most of the Documents pertaining to the Assembly are linked from the General Assembly Publications page. This includes the Proceedings and Reports volumes, known as the Blue Book (and it is back to its blue cover this year) in several different electronic formats including the traditional PDF as well as MOBI and EPUB formats for your eReaders. There is also a separate Order of Proceedings. The Daily Papers will contain late-breaking changes are available on the Papers, minutes, letters, and speeches page. There is an option to subscribe to notifications of new documents being posted. In addition, there is a General Assembly App with versions for Apple iOS and Android.
  • Reports are also available individually from the Reports and minutes page.
  • If you need to refer to the documents about how they do this decently and in order most of those are linked from the Church Law page. Unfortunately the essential “An Introduction to Practice and Procedure” is still listed as under revision and not available.
  • A brief order of the docketed events and reports can be found on the General Assembly 2016 page.
  • And from the media page there will be regular daily updates in print, audio and video if history serves. And as always, hosted by the Rev. Douglas Aitken.

What we all want to know of course is how to follow along on social media and there will be no lack of that. You can begin with the Church of Scotland’s official Facebook page as well as the Facebook page for the National Youth Assembly.

On Twitter the starting point is the Kirk’s main feed at @churchscotland and the official hashtag #ga2016. There is an official account for the Moderator of the General Assembly, @churchmoderator, but during the Assembly we will have to see how much opportunity there will be to tweet. Similarly, the Church of Scotland Youth will likely be tweeting at @cosy_nya and the official account for the NYA Moderator, currently Hanna Mary Goodlad, is at @NYAModerator. The church’s official publication, Life and Work, is also a good source for information on the web, on Facebook and on their Twitter feed @cofslifeandwork. In addition, while it is a personal account, you can follow the editor, Lynne McNeil, at @LifeWorkEditor.

This year I would also suggest three semi-official accounts. The account Church Scotland Voices with weekly rotating contributors at @churchscovoices will be curated by GA commissioner Andrew Kimmitt (@akimmitt). The official photographer will be Andrew O’Brien at @AndyOBrienPhoto. And during the Assembly I. D. Campbell (@idcampbellart) will be the artist-in-residence painting people from the Poverty Truth Commission (@PTCScotland).

In suggesting personal accounts to follow, let me start with two past Moderators of the General Assembly. The first is the Very Reverend Lorna Hood who is always a good read at @revlornascot and has been very active the past few years with projects related to Srebrenica justice and remembrance (@SrebrenicaUK). The other is the Very Reverend Albert Bogle at @italker who has been getting some recent traction with the Sanctuary First ministry (@sanctuaryfirst) that is now seeking to become a completely online church. Another well-connected individual to follow is Seonag MacKinnon, the head of communications for the Kirk, who tweets on her personal account at @seonagm.

In suggesting other personal accounts let me begin with the Rev. Peter Nimmo of Inverness who is a member of the Church and Society Council (@ChurchSociety01) and always a good source of information at @peternimmo1. Others I regularly follow from the Kirk include Darren Philip (@darphilip), Alistair May (@AlistairMay) and Michael Mair (@MichaelMair). Another who will probably weigh in, whether or not he is in Edinburgh, is Glasgow theologian Douglas Gay (@DougGay). I will update with more as the Assembly gets under way.

Once again the Assembly will have its annual Heart and Soul festival on the Sunday afternoon of the Assembly week that will again be happening in Princes Street Gardens near the Assembly Hall. The theme of both the Assembly and the Heart and Soul event this year is “People of the Way.” One of the new features of Heart and Soul this year will be link-ups with concurrent local events throughout Scotland.

Concerning the business before the Assembly there is a nice summary of each report on the Life and Work site. Three items in particular have been in the news. The first is the Columba Declaration for mutual recognition between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. After the Moderator of the Kirk spoke at the CofE General Synod in February the Archbishop of Canterbury will participate in the CofS debate on the Declaration as part of the Ecumenical Relations Committee presentation on Wednesday. (I hope to post a few of my observations and thoughts on this in the next couple days.)

The big mainstream media coverage the last few days – which has even made it over here to the states – relates to the Legal Questions Committee report on Saturday and specifically item 14:

14. Instruct the Committee, jointly with the Mission and Discipleship Council and the Theological Forum, to research the implications for the Church of Scotland of the development of online church and report to the General Assembly of 2018.

The body of the report itself focuses on new technologies and particularly their application to voting and administrative contacts. There is mention of the changing nature of membership in that section of the report and one, just one, reference to sacraments in general that says “As fewer people join up in the traditional sense and as they make choices which include ever greater interaction with the Church through online access and social media, questions arise about online membership and even about access to the sacraments while not being physically present in the congregation.” The next line begins “There are no easy answers…” It should be an interesting discussion but the report is really concerned with particular administrative items yet in looking forward does contain an invitation to start thinking more broadly about issues that will arise. However, it is nowhere near the invitation to approve online baptisms as the media reports would make you think. The Church of Scotland issued a press release to put the reports into perspective.

Finally, the Assembly Arrangements Committee report contains the results of a review of the Assembly operations and response to many suggestions that have been made. Some, like biennial assemblies or moving out of Edinburgh, are recommended against based on factors considered in the study. The committee does seek permission to further review one suggestion, moving the Assembly to the second week of June so more young adults are available following completion of university exams. This discussion will also occur on Saturday and there is a Kirk press release on this as well.

So fasten your seat belts and get ready for the full week of Presbyterian action. As always, our thoughts and prayers are with the commissioners and officers of the Assembly and we look forward to following along with your discernment process.

PCI SPUD Overnight 2015

SPUD-logo-purpleAs I hit the button to publish this post the annual SPUD Overnight of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is about to begin.

As youth input into the General Assemblies of the different Presbyterian branches go, each has its own particular flavor. In the Church of Scotland the National Youth Assembly meets a full nine months before the GA and through a multi-day deliberative process of their own they write deliverances that contain material that will be presented directly to the commissioners at the Assembly in their own report. In the case with the Young Adult Advisory Delegates of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), they do not meet beforehand but during the Assembly they gather in the evenings late at night and hear about the issues the Assembly is considering.

The PCI SPUD Overnight is a bit of both of these. While it does not directly generate business of its own to go to Assembly, it is a time of deliberative consideration of items that will be considered by the Assembly just over a month later. It is a time of discussion and providing input and feedback to the Assembly, through their representatives. The discussions are wider ranging then just the business of the Assembly and also aim to equip the attendees to work back in their home congregations. And yes, there is time for a bit of fun as well.

This year’s Overnight kicks off at 7 PM local time today, 24 April, at the Faith Mission Centre in Portadown, Northern Ireland, and runs until 9 PM the next day. Each congregation is invited to send representatives to the event.

The SPUD web page includes a short video about the event and the presenter, Helen from the SPUD working group, specifically mentions topics within the church like outreach, community, and youth leadership, as well as the wider societal issues such as “abortion, the conscience clause and sexuality.”

If you want to follow along on social media the starting points are the PCI SPUD Youth Assembly Facebook page and their Twitter feed @pciSPUD. They are promoting the hashtag #useyourvoice, but it is not exclusive to this event. Other official Twitter feeds that might be active during the event are the one for PCI YAC – the church’s Youth And Children Board of which SPUD is a part – at @PCIYAC, as well as the church’s official assembly feed at @pciassembly.

It is worth noting that SPUD is active throughout the year in many different ways, as you can see on their PCI YAC web page. In particular, their GA Fringe event was a success last year so they will be doing it again this year. And in addition to this Overnight event, they did regional events with the SPUD On Tour theme.

So as the SPUD delegates gather we wish them a good weekend of discussion and fun and look forward to their input at the Assembly in just over a month.

Moderator-Designate And Clerk Announced For The National Youth Assembly

So much I could be writing about over my lunch hour today but I have to give preference to a fellow geologist…

This morning the Church of Scotland announced that the selection committee for the Church of Scotland Youth (COSY) National Youth Assembly (NYA) has chosen Ms Hanna Mary Goodlad as the 2015 NYA Moderator and Ms Catriona Muckart as the 2015 Clerk. They will be installed at, and help run, NYA 2015 and will be part of the report of the NYA deliverance to the Church of Scotland’s 2016 General Assembly.

Needless to say, the Life and Work article got my attention when their opening line about Ms Goodlad is “Hannah Mary lives in Aberdeen and works as a Geologist for an oil company.” She received her initial training at Glasgow University and did additional work at Imperial College, London.

Hanna Mary grew up in Shetland and the article says that she has been active in the church with children’s and youth work. While in London she helped at a homeless shelter, and with her church she has traveled to Tanzania to help teach at a school for deaf children. In addition, she has been a representative from the Church of Scotland to the Scottish Youth Parliament.

In the article she is quoted in part as saying:

Growing up in a small community right on the edge of Scotland gave me a hunger for the inclusion for those who feel marginalised for whatever reason: geographically or indeed socially. My aim is to be an approachable and accessible leader for the young folk already within our Kirk but I also want to also reach out to the young people across the breadth of Scotland who want a connection with the Kirk, at whatever level that may be.

I am passionate about the Church of Scotland, passionate about the never ending good works of our Kirk and I am passionate about Christ. It is my desire to see the position of young people within the Church of Scotland grow. We are an accepting, open group of young Christians with our love of Christ and one another under pinning everything we do.

Ms Catriona Muckart, the new Clerk, hails from the village of Clashmore and is currently a member of Dornoch Cathedral. She is in her third year of school at the University of Stirling studying sociology and criminology. We are told “In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, she says perhaps with more enthusiasm than skill!”

Ms Muckart is quoted as saying:

I’m very humbled to have been selected as the next clerk of the NYA and am excited about what the role will bring. I’m looking forward to working with Hannah and the rest of the NYA during my year as clerk and journeying with them in faith.

We congratulate Heather Mary and Catriona on this honor and extend our prayers to them as they prepare for and help lead the NYA, as well as for the remainder of the year as they represent the NYA within the Kirk. And we certainly look forward to hearing more about the themes for the NYA next August. Best wishes.

UPDATE: The Church of Scotland main site has issued their announcement of the appointments.

And while the article is subscription based at least we have the great headline from The Press and Journal

Aberdeen scientist appointed to lead Kirk’s national youth assembly

2014 National Youth Assembly Of The Church Of Scotland

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National Youth Assembly 2014

It is once again the time of year for the National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This annual meeting takes the deliberative process seriously and gathers the younger members of the church, those in the 17 to 25 age range, for a weekend of discussion and deliberation as well as connecting through some fun and fellowship.

And this is a milestone year for the Assembly as it meets for the 20th time. This year’s Moderator, Rachel Hutcheson, commented on the anniversary in the Kirk news article: “This forum, over 20 years, has become the best way for young people within the Church to have their voice heard.”

This year’s overall theme is “My Father’s House” and under that there will be four topics of discussion and debate that will form the recommendations that participants will take back to their churches and presbyteries and that will make up the NYA deliverance to the 2015 General Assembly. Those discussion topics are: How do we worship? How should the church spend it’s money? How can we do ministry intergenerationally? How will we support Christians in the Middle East? The workshop streams are titled Pray, Train, Do, Bible, Church.

The Assembly gets under way this evening, Friday 15 August, at Gartmore House in Stirlingshire, and will continue until Monday morning 18 August.

Some years live streaming is available but considering the meeting facilities and that I have seen no mention of streaming I don’t think it looks promising.

As for social media, it looks like Twitter will be the primary vehicle. There is the NYA account at @cosy_nya to watch as well as the official Church of Scotland feed (@churchscotland) and the official publication Life and Work (@cofslifeandwork). The hashtag is announced as #nya14. although I am seeing #nya2014 in use as well. As for individuals, the Moderator of this year’s Assembly is Rachel Hutcheson (@rach_hutcheson) and the Clerk is John Haston (@johndhaston). It is also worth following past Moderator Lynsey Martin (@lynsey1889). We will see who else might provide some interest insights.

UPDATE: One day in I would add the Rev. Liz Crumlish who is writing about NYA on her blog Journalling and tweets at @eacbug. And the #NYA2014 hashtag seems to be getting more use.

Advance coverage and information about this year’s Assembly includes the Church of Scotland article, another from their publication Life and Work, Information from the Resourcing Mission page, and the NYA 2014 flyer.

While there has been some live updates in the past on the COSY Blog, that was not active last year, but maybe it will be revived. Otherwise, we follow along on Twitter and wait for press releases, articles and next year’s Blue Book.

So our best wishes and prayers for a fun, enlightening, meaningful and productive experience for all the participants this year. And prayers for Rachel and John as they lead the body.

[Personal update: I am back from my summer vacation and getting back into the routine of writing so the blog will come alive again. I am also adjusting to the new blogging platform so if things are not as neat and orderly right away sorry about that and please bear with me.]

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PC(USA) 2013 Membership Summary — A Look At The Categories


I have to admit to being caught a bit off guard when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) released their membership numbers a couple of weeks ago. The summary numbers are typically released right around the time of the start of General Assembly in years that it meets. As for whether the early release was because they were ready or they wanted to get bad news out well before the GA I will leave to others to speculate.

Once again, I took a look at the numbers and wondered “what can I possibly say about them that is not being said by others and is worth my time?” Well, in thinking about it a bit I decided to drill down and look specifically at the categories of membership gain and loss and see if there was interesting information if we picked them apart a bit.

For the data set I use the Summary Statistics released by the Office of the Stated Clerk. While for many things the Comparative Statistics from Research Services are more detailed, for the gains and losses categories the Summary works better. Rummaging around on the web site I got summaries from 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 taking the data back to 2005.

I decided not to deal in absolute numbers but to look at gains and losses as percentages of the total membership relative to the previous year’s total membership. This will help filter out the trend and allow a better year-to-year comparison.

First let’s look at where the gains have come from for the last nine years. Gains are reported in four categories – Profession of Faith, Reaffirmation, and Restoration for those 17 and younger, the same for those 18 and over, Certificate (i.e. documented transfers) and Other.

 Year  Profess <17 Profess >18 Certificate Other Total
2005  1.04%  2.10%  1.54% 0.62% 5.29%
 2006  1.05%  2.07% 1.46% 0.53% 5.10%
 2007  0.97%  2.00%  1.33% 0.51% 4.81%
 2008  0.95%  1.98%  1.30% 0.46% 4.68%
 2009  0.96% 1.97% 1.17%  0.48% 4.57%
 2010  0.91% 1.93%  1.04% 0.45% 4.33%
 2011  0.90%  1.81% 1.00% 0.59%  4.30%
 2012  0.84%  1.61% 0.99% 0.57%  4.00%
 2013  0.81%  1.49% 0.97% 0.68% 3.95%



Here is the data in graphical terms. This is a stacked graph so for any given component its value is the distance between that symbol and the one below it. The plotted value of the top symbol (for Certificate gains) is the number in the Total column in the table above.


It is interesting that the Other category has held relatively constant – there was a bit of a dip but some recovery in recent years. The Profession of Faith for 17 and under has a bit of a drop, significant in its own right but smaller than the remaining two in both an absolute and proportional comparison. The real decreases are seen in the Profession of Faith for 18 and over and the Transfer by Certificate. So we have not just a problem retaining the youth as they grow up but getting them back to church as adults.

Turning to the categories of losses, here is the breakdown shown in corresponding table and graph form. This table also includes the percentage net change to the total membership number.

 Year Death Certificate Other Total Total Net Change
2005  1.53%  1.21% 4.60%  7.34% -2.05%
 2006  1.50% 1.21% 4.41%  7.12%  -2.01%
 2007  1.48%  1.34% 4.53%  7.35%  -2.54%
 2008  1.54%  1.55% 4.73%  7.82% -3.14%
 2009  1.53% 1.30%  4.68% 7.52% -2.94%
 2010  1.56%  1.44% 4.27% 7.27%  -2.94%
 2011  1.58% 1.14% 4.74% 7.46% -3.16%
 2012  1.53% 2.67% 5.07% 9.27% -5.27%
 2013  1.55% 2.71% 4.47%  8.73% -4.79%



It is interesting here that losses from Death are fairly stable and the losses by Other show some greater variability but do seem to fall into a bit of a range. To no surprise the spike is in losses by Certificate from churches being dismissed and their membership being transferred to the new denomination. And, as usual, the largest source of loss is the Other category – members walking out the door.

Bottom Line? Not only is the PC(USA) losing members – accelerated in the last couple of years by dismissals – but the gains are decreasing on a percentage basis each year as well. Without an increase in gains there is no way to offset the losses.

So how do we explain this? While a number of explanations come to mind let me discuss four possibilities. And let me emphasize that these explanations are not exclusive from one another and that this data set alone is probably not sufficient to clearly distinguish between them – more work would have to be done.

1. The departing churches were the biggest contributors to growth. For many this is a temping explanation and there is a hint that this may be a contributor. It does appear that as the dismissals have accelerated over the last two or three years that the gains in membership by profession of faith have an accelerated decrease. A quick plot, not shown here, did show a suggestive correlation, but the data are clustered to the point that interpolating between the clusters would be problematic.

This is an easy explanation to fall back on since building churches and making disciples are part of the mission statement of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians and so you could argue that churches drawn to ECO would be more growth-focused. The problem is that the trend has persisted for longer than ECO has been in existence so this could be only a partial and recent contributor, recognizing that there was an earlier exodus to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

2. Fatigue or Distraction: Another thing that comes to mind is that the PC(USA) is falling behind in making disciples because it is tired or it is distracted. Maybe we are tired out or distracted by our internal discussions about various issues (fill in the blank yourself or see what bubbles to the surface at GA next week). Or maybe, with an aging population we are losing the energy and drive to reach out to bring others into the church or distracted by the work of keeping the church, both people and building, going.

3. Public Relations Problems: In a similar vain, rather than our internal discussions only distracting us, maybe it presents a public relations problem for the church. Are we presenting to those that we are tying to reach an image that is not appealing, one that does not resonate with the culture today? And this may not be just a result of the ongoing discussions in the church but could include those other issues that are brought up like worship style and music as well as building style or conditions.

4. Counting the Wrong Thing: Maybe, just maybe, we are counting the wrong thing. We are frequently told that younger generations are not joiners. We have an ecclesiastical theology of the Body of Christ and a covenant body that sees joining as a statement about being called by God belonging to Christ. That may work in our theology but does not necessarily work with current culture. I would not advocate giving up that ecclesiology, but for statistical purposes recognize that our worshiping communities may not all reflect that view. There is the drive to form 1001 New Worshiping Communities and at the present time their structure and activity is not reflected in the annual statistics as they are currently collected and reported. So can we hold onto our covenant theology but for statistical purposes recognize some who are part of us but see the joining through the eyes of modern culture and our outreach?

Just a few thoughts I have, you probably have a few of your own.

The take-away for me from this exercise is that our losses are just one part of the equation and that our decreasing gains are a significant issue that also must be addressed if the PC(USA) is to consider itself a vital denomination.

2014 General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church In Ireland

Just as the Assembly in Canada is wrapping up we shift our sights eastward again to Belfast and the 2014 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The Assembly convenes at 7:00 PM local time today, 2 June, and runs through Thursday 5 June.  Some items to help you follow along.

There are plenty of social media contact points for the Assembly, beginning with the official Twitter account @PCIAssembly which in the past has provided a very helpful and comprehensive news feed on the actions of the Assembly. The outgoing Moderator, Rev. Dr. Rob Craig, has been tweeting at @PCIModerator. We will see if the new Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Michael Barry, assumes the account. (And look for Mr. Craig on his personal account @RobCraig54) The official hashtag for the Assembly is #pciga14 but the church has been promoting the hashtag #lifeinpci for dialogue and sharing about the life and work of the church.

Others to watch for interesting and useful updates include Alan in Belfast (@alaninbelfast), William Crawley (@williamcrawley) of the BBC Northern Ireland and I will add Rebecca McConnell (@PurpleRainPR). If you want an account with a little more, shall I say, bight, you can find some humor, satire and parody mixed with a bit of serious commentary at Presbyterian Ireland (@pres_church). UPDATE: Missed the announcement of the end of this account – see their announcement or Alan in Belfast for more.

Finally, I want to highlight PCI SPUD (@pcispud), the Youth Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. In addition to their report to the Assembly, they will have a SPUD Space in the Assembly building where they will be hosing their Fringe Event. In addition to being a conversation space, it will include events on Wednesday and Thursday and prayer space and prayer boards. I will be watching their Facebook page for updates and to see how this new initiative develops.

So our prayers are with the Assembly this week and Moderator Barry. Best wishes in your discussions and discernment.

2014 General Assembly Of The Church Of Scotland


Tomorrow afternoon the 2014 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will convene in Edinburgh and will meet for the following week. This promises to be an interesting Assembly with issues important to the church and to Scotland on the docket.

Here is helpful information to follow along with this assembly.

  • There will be live streaming of the proceedings and you can connect to the stream appropriate for your device from the media page.
  • Most of the Documents pertaining to the Assembly are linked from the General Assembly Publications page. This includes the three Reports volumes, known as the Blue Book but with a nice graphic cover this year. In addition to the traditional PDF the reports are also available in MOBI and EPUB formats for your eReaders. There is also an Order of Proceedings as well as the Daily Papers which will contain late-breaking changes. And there is an option to subscribe to notifications of new documents being posted. In addition, there is a General Assembly App with versions for Apple iOS and Android.
  • If you need to refer to the documents about how they do this decently and in order most of those are linked from the Church Law page.
  • A brief order of the docketed events and reports can be found on the General Assembly 2014 page.Also note that sessions start 15 minutes earlier than in past years so those of us on the other side of the world will have to adjust.

What we all want to know of course is how to follow along on social media. You can begin with the Church of Scotland’s official Facebook page.

On Twitter the starting point is the Kirk’s main feed at @churchscotland and the hashtag #ga2014. The church’s official publication, Life and Work, is also a good source for information on the web, on Facebook and on their Twitter feed @cofslifeandwork. In addition, while it is a personal account, you can follow the editor, Lynne McNeil, at @LifeWorkEditor. Similarly, the Church of Scotland Youth will be tweeting at @cosy_nya and you also might want to follow along with their incoming clerk, John Haston (@johndhaston).

UPDATED 18 May: In suggesting personal accounts to follow, let me start with three individual accounts that are probably worth watching as the Assembly gets rolling. The first is the outgoing Moderator of the Assembly, the (soon to be) Very Reverend Lorna Hood who has just switched from an official to a personal account @revlornascot. We can only hope that the incoming moderator has as great of a change in heart as she had and begins tweeting, but don’t look for that this week. The second person is Seonag MacKinnon, the head of communications for the Kirk, who tweets for herself at @seonagm. Finally, even though he may not actually be at the Assembly in person, the Rev. Peter Nimmo of Inverness is at the Assembly and is a good source of information at @peternimmo1. I will expand this list as the week progresses.

UPDATED 18 May: If you are now checking after the opening weekend I would suggest you can get caught up with the daily updates from the Church of Scotland website as well as updates from Life and Work on their General Assembly page. In addition, the Photo Gallery on the Kirk website is now active.

Two less-business related highlights of the Assembly caught my attention. The first is the annual festival, Heart and Soul, that the Kirk sponsors on the Sunday afternoon of the Assembly week that will again be happening in Princes Street Gardens near the Assembly Hall. For those of us not in Edinburgh we look forward to seeing pictures, probably on the Church of Scotland Facebook page. The second item is that the Lord High Commissioner this year will be a member of the Royal Household, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

And now what we all really came here for, the business of the Assembly. Here are a few of the business reports that may be of interest and will probably attract attention within and outside the church.

  • On Tuesday afternoon there will be a special session to discuss the Scottish Independence Referendum. This is not a business item in the sense that the commissioners will vote on a resolution one way or the other on independence. Rather it will be a time of public discussion with featured speakers followed by comments from the floor.
  • On Wednesday the Legal Questions Committee will bring their report regarding Ministers and Deacons in Civil Partnership. The report includes an overture in response to the direction of the 2013 Assembly to affirm the Kirk’s historical position while providing a path for churches and sessions to follow their conscience in the employment and ordination of same-sex partnered individuals. The legislation that is passed will then be sent down to the presbyteries for their concurrence under the Barrier Act. Before this report the Theological Forum will report on related discussions that have been held in the past year.
  • As always, the Church and Society Council, to report on Thursday, has a long report with a deliverance that takes up a wide range of relevant issues in 73 different points. Among the many topics covered in these points are Competitiveness in Sport, Families and the Church in the 21st Century, Food Security, Funeral Poverty and Living a theology to counter violence against women. And that is just a few of the topics the commissioners will consider.
  • The Youth Assembly will bring their report on Tuesday.
  • The Ministries Council will report on Monday. A centerpiece of their report is the shortage of ministers and those training for the ministry to meet future needs of the church. As their report says: 80% of the parish ministers are due to retire in the next 15 years. A variety of options will be discussed.

So there is a taste of the line-up for the next week. With the challenges facing the Church of Scotland and the Scottish people at this time it will be interesting to see what the commissioners think and what decisions they make. I will try to update throughout the week as the Assembly progresses.

So this is not just Stay Tuned, but Tune In…

Church Of Scotland 2014 National Youth Assembly Moderator And Clerk

This past week the Church of Scotland announced the choice of Moderator and Clerk for the 2014 National Youth Assembly.

The Moderator will be Ms Rachel Hutcheson, a member of Old High St. Stephen’s Church of Inverness. She has a good background in the workings of the Kirk having been involved in Church of Scotland Youth (CoSY) for the last six years and during that time participated in four National Youth Assemblies. In addition, she has served as a youth delegate from the Presbytery of Inverness to the General Assembly four times. She is active in her local church as a youth group leader and a member of the Worship Team. She has also helped with the wider church as staff for three National Children’s Assemblies.

She is a student at the University of Aberdeen working on an MA in Education. From one of the bio’s I had to look up her summer pastime of Munro Bagging and found it to be mountain climbing a particular set of peaks very much like the 46ers that I grew up working on.

The Clerk will be Mr. John Haston, an active elder from Abbotsgrange Parish Church in Grangemouth where he serves as the Sunday
School Superintendent, EV3NT co-ordinator, choir member, Boys Brigade helper and a committee member of the
men’s association. He serves the Presbytery of Falkirk as a corresponding youth member and assessor elder for another congregation. (Polity note: when a congregation can not form its own session the governing council is composed of outside assessor elders like other branches might have an organizing committee or an administrative commission.)

He has been to two previous National Youth Assemblies and he will be serving as a youth delegate to the General Assembly for the second time this May.

There is coverage of the announcement from both the Church of Scotland news article as well as a briefer article, but with pictures, from the Kirk’s magazine Life and Work. At this time the COSY page for Moderator and Clerk includes both the current officers as well as the most detailed bios of each of the designees.

The National Youth Assembly will be held 15-18 August and the theme is “My Father’s House.” In the quotes in the Life and Work article Rachel helps to unpack this a little:

“The Church is going through challenging times so we must take time to
reflect on who we are and where we are going. This year at NYA we will
be exploring how we worship. We will discuss how we think the Church
should be spending its money. We will be investigating how we can do
ministry intergenerationally and finally, how we can support Christians
in the Middle East. As we join together to celebrate 20 fabulous years
of NYA I hope delegates will feel empowered and strengthened in their
faith.”

(And I have to give a nod of approval to the coffee cup – OK, hot beverage cup – in the graphics.)

We congratulate Rachel and John on their selection as the officers of the National Youth Assembly and wish them well and offer our prayers as they prepare for the meeting and to represent the Assembly in the following year. Furthermore, we pray for the Assembly as a whole and eagerly look forward to their mutual discernment on the topics to be discussed.

General Assembly Of The Presbyterian Church Of Ireland — Youth and Children: A Tale Of The Tweets


I have been having fun the last couple of days following the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. There is no live streaming so the vast majority of what I can find out in real time is through Twitter.

A few transcripts and audio selections have found their way onto the internet. The church has posted the text of the addresses by the outgoing Moderator and the incoming Moderator. To hear parts of the Assembly you can check out a number of audio clips that Alan in Belfast has posted on his blog as part of his coverage of the Assembly meeting.  In addition, he has posted the report of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Youth and Children Council (PCIYAC) from earlier today. (part 1, part 2)

And getting down to the subject of the Board of Youth and Children’s Ministries, they were fairly vocal in the debate yesterday concerning the proposal by the Structures Committee to reorganize and consolidate Boards. In particular, they were concerned about their loss of Board status as they would be included with the Council For Congregational Life and Witness. In the end the Structures proposal was not adopted this year by the vote of 190 to 119 so they continue as they are for another year.

This afternoon was the report of the Board of Youth and Children’s Ministries itself. The report went well, as you can hear for yourself on the audio clips above, lasting just over 40 minutes. One of the highlights was a video promoting Messy Church. Another was the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Boys Brigade program and the impact that it has had, including a couple of testimonials from the floor. As for the seven resolutions in the report, nothing controversial that raised any real objections.

What did catch a number of people’s attention was the turnout of Assembly members for the report, at least at the beginning.

When the report began it was preceded by a prayer that included these lines transcribed from the audio clip:

“We thank you for those who serve within this Board, for the work of this past year. And now as they report help them to communicate to us what’s on their hearts and what’s of importance to them and to us.”

Thanks to Twitter we have some comments and pictures of the meeting space at about the time the prayer was being said. Among those tweets are these two:

 
James Currie @JCBelfast

Hall unfortunately nearly empty for the Youth and Children’s Board Report #pciga13 pic.twitter.com/pBrBMJTtD3
 

James McCormick @jamesmcc77

Not much interest in Youth & Children from PCI members. Poor show folks. #pciga13 pic.twitter.com/yUdxIRPj9o
 



As the prayer said “…what’s of importance to them and to us.” Not many of the “us.”

Now to be fair, these pictures were taken at the beginning of the report right after a short 15 minute break and the lines for coffee this week are reported to be very long. And the hall did fill up a bit more after this. Furthermore, this was not the only report with very low attendance at the beginning. But the reports on Twitter still seem to indicate that it never did fill up the way it had for some of the more high-profile reports. And comparisons continued later in the day.

So I am sitting here wondering do I really need to spell this out? Do I really need to point out that when we talk about the younger generation and their importance to the church and then we don’t show up for the report about their ministries it sends a pretty mixed message? Do I need to rant on about the theme of the Assembly being about transformation and then the report about working with the generation we are trying to transform the church for has so few people listening to it?

No I don’t think I need to do any of that. But what struck me about the events of today is that when there is so much concern and discussion about whether the church has a future I must admit that I was very surprised at the apparent lack of attention that was paid to an important Board that has responsibility for the youngest members of the Body of Christ, the ones that have the most riding on the future.

OK, rant over. Commentary mode off.

We now return to our regularly scheduled stream of tweets.