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Looking Back

April 1952

Youth Assembly Fills A Gap

The following impression is by the Moderator-designate of the General Assembly, Dr G Johnstone Jeffrey.

To look down on a large gathering of young, eager Christians talking simply, naturally and earnestly on personal religion, was to have one’s heart ‘strangely warmed’ and one’s mind reassured about the future of the Church in Scotland.

I wish to pay tribute to those in charge of the assembly, to Mr Roy Paterson who presided and to the steering committee who guided the speaking with wisdom and impartiality.

The Assembly was fortunate in having as the opening speaker the Rev Guy Ramsay, M.A of Hillhead Baptist Church. Hs was a moving address in which the Assembly was well warned that no flabby pietism would meet the demands of the present confusions and tensions, but that the situation called for high, costing adventure.

The discussion that followed was replete with varied, human interest, coming as it did from so many denominational and personal points of view. Here was no impulsive or hazardous utterance but the considered opinions of those who had studied them beforehand in congregational groups.

One pleasing feature was the admission that youth required to call in the help of older people. This was in line with scripture, for we read that the youthful Jesus sat among the elders ‘both hearing them and asking them questions’.

Problems of conduct in home life and in industry were discussed with a frankness bordering at times on ruthlessness. One was delighted to listen to the thoughts of young folks who knew, by daily practice, the realities of prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, and personal dedication. The language used was often naïve and engaging. Where we older folks would speak of the intuitions or leading of the Spirit, it was refreshing to hear the phrase – “God gave me a hunch” to do a certain thing. Or again, one speaker, humbly conscious of the abysmal mysteries of religion, said that she left God to solve these enigmas in His own good time “just as I work at a very difficult crossword puzzle, knowing that the solution will appear in the next morning’s paper” – surely a wise, simple word on a great problem.

Only once or twice was there a jarring note. If youth can take it, may I suggest that, while there are many texts of scripture after the manner of “O Lord my heart is fixed,” there is none that declares “O Lord, my mind is closed”?

Personal dedication cannot be fixed too early, but there remains the long voyaging after a first-hand faith – with much to discover of one’s own humiliating fallibility, a voyage so tellingly described in Chesterton’s parable of the youths who went out in a small boat to find new worlds – and landed at Brighton pier! Each generation has to solve for itself the old, old problems of temptation and defeat and salvation.

Altogether, attendance at such a gathering of Scotland’s promising youth was a personal privilege. The Youth Assembly has come to stay and may have repercussions on the Church as a whole that are big with promise and vitality.

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