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General Assembly 2013

Thomas Baldwin
Thomas Baldwin

 

Friday May 24 2013

General Assembly 2013: day seven

 

The General Assembly closed with the Moderator, the Rt Rev Lorna Hood, saying she 'could not have had a better General Assembly to chair'.

"Almost from the day, indeed the hour of nomination, I was being berated by tales of despair and gloom," she said. "'Not the year to be Moderator'. 'This'll be a difficult Assembly'. Only a few days ago I was asked how it would feel to be Moderator when there was one of the biggest schisms in the church since the Disruption.

"Yet every time I replied by speaking about hope. Because I knew hope was not in me, not in us but in the message and the saviour we proclaim.

"So what have we experienced this week? Unity in our disunity. What words did we hear most of all? Grace and love. A desire you can almost touch and feel of the church wanting to be together. That was my experience."

The final morning was largely taken up by General Trustees, and featured discussions about insurance and the energy efficiency of church buildings and manses.

The chairman, the Rev Dr James Jack, told the Assembly that the Church of Scotland still has ‘around 400’ more buildings than it needs. He said that the Trustees would work with congregations to try to provide solutions to this.

A new section was added instructing presbyteries to make sure that manses have energy performance certificates, and that congregations take appropriate action in the light of those certificates.

Dr Jack was forced into a defence of the Church of Scotland Insurance Company, through which all financial boards and courts are instructed to insure all ecclesiastical buildings. He reminded the Assembly that: “The profits come back in whole to the work and mission of the Church of Scotland.”

A couple of amendments and a counter-motion that sought to make this optional were defeated.

A motion from the Rev Geoff Monk urging the General Trustees to look at the church buildings, to assess them for community use or to find energy efficient alternatives was also defeated. Dr Jack told the Assembly that it was up to local congregations and Presbyteries to address such issues, although the General Trustees were willing to help any congregation that asked.

There was also a plea from the Rev Neil Glover for the Assembly to affirm the staff who work at '121', the church's administrative offices at 121 George Street. He said: "We need to be better in the language we use about 121. When people talk about 121 in less than complimentary ways this has a corrosive effect.

"I have often considered how much it would cost a commercial organisation to acquire the level of service and expertise given to the whole church by the people who work at 121. They give us excellent value for money. They are passionate about they do... they are an excellent group of people."

That was later echoed by the Moderator during the presentations in the final session, addressing the new staff: "The work you do is so important and sometimes we belittle that work and we refer to 121 as if it wasn't part of us. And yet we are all part of the one church and you in your way very often see that call to work in 121 as part of your service."

In her final morning reflection, Mrs Hood called on Commissioners to be 'agents of hope'. She said:
"We still believe we are united because we are the church, because we are Christ's body in the world and because of that we can be that hope. We need to be the agents of hope going back to where we are in our parishes, in our churches and in the life of Scotland and elsewhere.

"We need to be the agents of that hope and we can do it not because of our gifts and talents and not because we believe the church is going in the direction we had hoped. We can be agents of hope because of the message, because of the story we have to tell, the message of God's love as it comes to us in Jesus.

"We can be that hope for the strength is not in ourselves but in the Gospel of the Living Lord."