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Home  >  News  >  47th General Assembly for Dialysis Patient John


47th General Assembly for Dialysis Patient John

Thursday May 21 2020

Being a kidney dialysis patient who is shielding during the coronavirus epidemic didn’t stop John Williams taking on his accustomed role as technical director of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland last weekend.

The full Assembly was cancelled due to the epidemic, but the Rev Dr Martin Fair was installed as the new Moderator of the General Assembly in a live broadcast from the Assembly Hall.

John, director of Oscus Media, who carried out the role dressed in full personal protective equipment, described it as ‘a weird experience, but very moving’.

It was his 47th time running the technical side of the General Assembly, and he says his target is to get to 50, ‘although that is very much up to my medical team’.

He has been a dialysis patient at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital for two years, and is one of only a handful of people in Scotland who performs self-care dialysis.

He has been in isolation since the start of the Coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic, although in the early stages his frustration with lack of support from the Scottish Government led him to making appearances on TV and radio. “In England and Wales there was support, but we weren’t being told to shield at all, we weren’t getting support with things like food deliveries. So I ended up going on the BBC, and within two days the letters miraculously arrived!”

When it came to the General Assembly, he explained to his consultant that he was keen to do it. “Her immediate reaction was go for it, firstly because it was perfectly safe because we were isolating and shielding, secondly because it was essential for my mental health – it would have been a massive downer if I hadn’t done it.”

The hall was set up in advance by the very experienced Oscus Media team, which includes John’s son Nick. All the different groups involved used different entrances, and the floor was marked so everyone knew where to stand.

“All I had to do was walk in, put sanitiser on my panel, and work it,” John says.

“It was a lot more complicated than a normal Assembly – we had live Skype links and more videos than usual, so there were an awful lot of things that could have gone wrong.

“We were delighted with how it went, and the comments [since] have been absolutely incredible.”


Lorna Paterson - Thursday, May 21st, 2020

“John deserves a write up in L&W for his long years of brilliant service to the Church as Director of Oscus Media and with the Kirk’s Pathway productions before that. Having worked with him for all of my eleven and a half years with the Guild and seen the outstanding quality of the work he and his team produce, I know that the Kirk is hugely in his debt, more than ever now when he copes with it all so ably and cheerfully despite his dialysis problems. Hope and pray he DOES make it to his Jubilee production! Well done good and faithful long serving servant.”

Beryl Brodie - Saturday, June 6th, 2020

“John congratulations on your 47th year working at the General Assembly. Sorry to hear about your health problems but hope you get to your 50th anniversary. Pleased to hear your son Nicolas works with you. It was great to work with you in the Board of Communication. Take care, God bless. ”

John Williams - Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

“Lovely to hear from you Beryl. I'm doing ok and dialysis is working, I have cut right back as a pensioner but i love doing he GA. It's something I can do still. Working on a Commission of Assembly soon so am in and out of the hall dressed still in PPE That's what i will have to do for a long time. Hope you are doing OK and i fondly remember the happy days we all had.”

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