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Looking Back: The Church Led The Way

In May 1954, the Church of Scotland celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Committee on Social Work. The Moderator of the General Assembly, the Rt Rev J. Pitt-Watson, who had personal memories of the early days of the Committee, penned this tribute.



In the pre-Union Church of Scotland Offices at 22 Queen Street there were two rooms, very familiar in my boyhood and youth. The one was occupied by Mr. Thomas Nicol, the first Secretary of the Social Work Committee. The other provided not very adequate accommodation for the original staff – Mr. J. C. Lennie, the Honorary Treasurer; Mr. A. F. Wallace and Mr. J. H. Lauder, the Deputies of the Committee, my father, who was Cashier, and a lady typist.

This was “the day of small things,” but the work was fortunate in those who first accepted the responsibilities of leadership – such men as Lord Polwarth, the first Convener of the Committee, and his successor, Dr. David Watson, who did so much to awaken the Church to its responsibilities within the social and industrial field.

From such modest beginnings as these the Social Service of our Church has become, in the course of fifty years, the greatest enterprise of its kind in Scotland. Its ministries cover almost every aspect of the social problem and every period of human life from childhood to old age. It has adapted itself to radical changes in the pattern of social life, so that instead of being rendered redundant by the Welfare State, it has integrated itself within it.

How I wish that every member of the Church could see – as I have seen during this Moderatorial Year – what these ministries really mean, not in terms of printed statistics in a Blue Book or a pew leaflet, but in terms of the promise of life given to children with no such promise; security and a Christian background given to youth otherwise denied them; hope and a loving discipline given to the unfortunate and the erring; comfort with pride and self-respect to the aged in the eventide of life.

Shall I ever forget my visit to Belmont Castle on a lovely autumn day, the gardens ablaze with colour, the gracious and spacious rooms, and the old folk who, at the time when life so often dwindles to a point of weary isolation, had found in deed and truth the shelter of Mother Church?

Let us thank God for this great work, and in doing so let us remember with gratitude those who have laboured to make it what it is: a succession of devoted Conveners, and a great body of men and women who have served in the work, not as doing a job but as fulfilling a Christian vocation.  This indeed is the Church in Action and the Gospel of the Inasmuch. To all who have served this cause a great debt is owed, not by the Church only but by Scotland itself.

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