It was a great privilege to be part of the annual Interfaith Scotland summit here in Scotland, and on Zoom on this occasion when faith leaders from a wide range of religious communities had the opportunity to meet with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and a couple of her key colleagues, Mairi McAllan MSP, the Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Shona Robison MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government. All three spoke well and clearly value their links with faith communities. They had listened carefully to those who spoke on our behalf, including Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish and Bahai’i representatives. Time was short, just one hour, and presentations and conversation largely focussed on the effects of the pandemic and the importance of COP 26. It was good to see politics and faith in touch.
previously posted on the home page
It is often said, with a degree of humour, that everything the United Reformed Church says about what it does is qualified by its being what we ‘normally’ do. We live and work with a degree of flexibility, and we recognise that individual conscience needs to have its rightful place, and so, though we might offer strong guidance, we allow for exceptions – and so most of what we do is what we normally do. That has always been the case, and is written in many of our documents.
Of course, the quest for a ‘normal’ or, more specifically, a ‘new normal’ has taken on a new meaning in recent months. As we slowly emerge from the effects and restrictions of the pandemic, we realise that some things are changed for ever. Of course, we are not going to stay in lockdown, and we are already seeing degrees of freedom that have been missing for over a year. We genuinely can say ‘thank God’ for the vaccines. Without the skill and expertise that has produced these, there is no doubt that things would still remain in a bad place. There are continuing challenges, and they are not going to disappear, but we are in a much better place.
So, we wonder what we will be able to do, and what we probably ought to continue to refrain from doing. But we also ought to take the opportunity to evaluate our lives as congregations. What have we learned? What should we do differently now? What is the mission to which God calls us in a world that has experienced Covid 19? What about the bigger context of climate change? What about the digital opportunities that were on the way, but emerged much faster, because they had to?
What is God saying to us, as individual congregations, and as a Synod? I look forward to working with you to discover that over the coming weeks and months. May God bless and guide us in the quest for a ‘new normal’.