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Looking Back

June 1972

Scots Abroad Keep in Touch

By Sandy Somerville

Have you seen a new notice hanging somewhere in your Kirk porch – a small blue and white poster with a St. Andrew’s cross superimposed on a world globe?

“Got a job overseas?” it asks. “Keep in touch with the Church out there and back here.” And it supplies the address of the Scottish Churches Overseas Fellowship.

For centuries Scots have had the reputation of carrying their skills and expertise to every corner of the world. Figures prove that this venturesome spirit is still active in the hearts of men and women today.

A recent statistical report published by the Government showed that more than twenty thousand people leave Scotland every year. The majority go to English-speaking countries, such as Canada, Australia, USA and South Africa, but approximately 12% go to Europe and 18% to Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, etc.

How many of the 20,000 are Church members? How many of them join a Church in their new surroundings? We have no statistics for these. We know there are many in both categories, but we also know that there are many who lose touch with the Church in making the transition.

In a new country, where patterns of living are unfamiliar, and especially in places with language and culture differences, it is very easy to find one’s programme filled with activities and recreations which simply leave no time for the Church.

Yet those who make the small effort to get in touch usually find a warm fellowship which enriches the whole experience of living in that country. They enter into a relationship with the local community which is quite different from business or other casual contracts.

It should be a matter of concern to all congregations in Scotland that their members be given every help not to ‘drop out’ of the Christian fellowship.

The Scottish Churches Overseas Fellowship asks for information about every member or adherent who goes abroad. Out of the thousands who go every year, we receive word of approximately two hundred only.

We know the problems, Often people slip away and the minister is the last to hear about it – but surely their elder or the secretary of the Women’s Guild or a neighbouring member hears and could pass the word on if one person in the congregation were known to collect such information for the Overseas Fellowship.

For those who go to the developing or non-English speaking countries, there is another important point to be considered. They are going to experience what Americans call ‘culture shock’.

Less dramatically, that can be described as the necessity of adapting to customs which are quite different – where ignorance can cause unintended offence. People have suffered considerable disappointment and disillusionment in their relationships, simply through misunderstandings on both sides. An unfortunate beginning might have far-reaching effects.

A week-end of practical preparation will be held at Scottish Churches House, Dunblane, from 7th to 9th July 1972. It will be organised under the auspices of Christians Abroad and supported by nearly all the Churches in Scotland – protestant and Catholic.

Speakers will include Scots who have first-hand experience of living and working abroad, and overseas visitors from various countries. We can promise an interesting programme of films, talks and discussions with the emphasis on practical problems.

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