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Moderator Tells Guild to Sow 'Small Seeds' of Faith

Saturday October 8 2022

The Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Margaret Muir, National Convener of the Guild.

The Moderator of the General Assembly has told the Church of Scotland Guild to be sowers of the ‘small seeds’ that may lead people to faith later in life.

The Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields was speaking at today’s Annual Gathering of the Guild in the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, which reflected on the coming year’s theme of ‘wee seeds – big trees’.

He told the gathering that he came to faith after the words of the hymn ‘There is a Green Hill Far Away’ came to him while he was recovering from a serious road accident. “Where was that seed sown?” he said. “Probably a school service years before. A seed of hope in a life that needed hope.”

And he spoke of finding out, sometimes years later, how seeds he had sown while leading youth groups or taking funerals had borne fruit.

He said that while this is not a time of harvest for the Church of Scotland, it is a time for sowing and watering. “Think about the seed we sow when we explain about Jesus what we sow is not forgotten but stored in the ground of these young lives. Stored but never wasted. The holy spirit now takes responsibility for what has gone into those young lives or even those not-so-young lives.

“Now think about what you do when you sow a seed: you water it on a regular basis. Does that mean what you should be doing is nagging people with the gospel? No, but it does mean that you nag God on a regular basis, for the seed that you’ve sown and the lives into which you’ve sown those seeds. He even asks us to do this: ‘Knock’, he says, ‘and keep on knocking’. Go back and again and again to God saying ‘I’ve spoken to this person, I’ve prayed for this person’.

“The same principle applies to everybody we meet, to everybody where we might have a moment with them to speak about Jesus and pray for them on a regular basis – seed sown.

“We might be the small seeds. (God) is the great tree. He can do so much more than we can ever imagine or dream.”

Dr Greenshields also praised the Guild, particularly ‘the imaginative and life-transforming nature of the projects over the years’. “It is not known as it should be known or celebrated as it should be celebrated, but the good that you do is astonishing,” he said.

The event was the first full-scale Gathering since 2019, after the event was held entirely online in 2020 and in hybrid form last year. It had been put back a month following the death of the Queen, and was affected by today’s rail strike. Other Guilds around the country chose to meet locally to watch the livestream of the event together, and the Gathering included two link-ups with Ardoch Guild in Braco.

The 2021-22 National Convener, Margaret Muir, reflected that the Guild had grown from the seeds planted by founder Dr Archibald Charteris 135 years ago. “Members of the Guild have watered it and fed it and with God’s help and guidance it has grown into the movement it still is today.

“New seeds are still being sown, and with the same care and dedication, and God’s continuing love and guidance, they too will flourish in the days to come.”

General Secretary Karen Gillon told the Guild to remember what has been achieved, including more than £7 million raised for partner projects since 1969: “The seeds that were planted in Papua New Guinea have grown into a solar powered hospital. The seeds planted in Malawi have grown into a massive project for people living with HIV/AIDS. I could give you hundreds of examples of times seeds planted by the Guild have grown into big trees.”

The Gathering included a presentation to Keith Scott as he stepped back from collecting the stamps for the  World Mission stamp appeal after 53 years. The afternoon included a talk from the Rev David Clark, whose recent book Landscapes of Grace uses the landscape of Scotland to reflect on the Book of Psalms, and his co-author Katy Emslie-Smith who contributed prayers to each chapter. There was also a musical performance from the Clydeside Singers, an Inverclyde-based community singing group.

At the close of the Gathering, Helen Eckford was sworn in as the new National Convener by her minister, the Rev William Boyle of Port Glasgow New Church. Helen thanked the Guild ‘for the trust you have placed in me’, and urged members to take part in consultations that will take place over the next year about the future shape of the Guild in various parts of Scotland.

“Whatever direction the conversations and discussions take in your own area,” she said, “Whatever the outcome, you can at least say you had the opportunity to take part in these discussions. Please that opportunity.

“It’s our Guild, but it’s also our responsibility to leave a healthy Guild for the generations to come.”

A longer report of the Gathering will appear in December's Life and Work.

Life and Work is the magazine of the Church of Scotland. Subscribe here.

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