Synod Meeting 11th-12th March 2022

The National Synod of Scotland met in Helensburgh United Reformed Church and online on 11th-12th March. In his opening address the Moderator, Revd Paul Whittle, asked what it means to be the church today as we celebrate the Jubilee of the URC but also consider the global context of pandemic, climate crisis and war. He encouraged us to look to the Synod Aspirations and particularly the desire to celebrate God’s unconditional love, the challenge of inclusivity and the counter- cultural nature of radical love and invited Synod to engage more deeply with the aspirations.
Much of the business concerned clarification on the roles and responsibilities of Synod Trustees, the Synod Executive and Area Council, together with some thinking on Committee structures. All but one of the proposed resolutions passed and further work is now possible to find people to serve in the revised structures.
The Pastoral Committee introduced a new scheme, ‘Our Church, Our Faith, Our Work’ which replaces Local Mission and Ministry Review. This will involve church visits, working with the Synod team and Mission Action Planning to enable congregations to develop their life. Unlike LMMR this is a voluntary scheme and will involve ministers and congregations working together.
A resolution asking the Joint Public Issues Team to work on a campaign on fuel poverty was brought by the Church and Society Committee and the Ecumenical and Interfaith task group brought a further resolution proposing Ecumenical Guidelines for the Synod, both of these were passed. Synod also noted the appointment of Duncan Walker as Synod Treasurer.
Synod will meet again on Saturday 17th September.

On Friday 11th March the Scottish College also met at Helensburgh URC, in person and online, to hold their AGM

 

Looking to Lent and Easter

In many ways it all began in Lent 2020. Lockdown, queuing at the supermarket, washing and sanitising my hands. No vaccines then, nor had we begun to tread the challenging path of variants. Not being able to worship in our church buildings on Easter Day 2020 was hugely significant. It felt like we didn’t know what had hit us. But we were grateful, and became increasingly grateful, for the work of the NHS, and of key workers, in supermarkets, delivery drivers, teachers and many others. Gradually, we adjusted. We didn’t think it would last so long, but, though rules and regulations have chopped and changed, and continue to do so, it has not felt ‘normal’ for something like two years.

Are we getting to a new normal? Will this Easter see us worshipping in church in a ‘sort of’ normal, a new normal. As I write, there are many signs of hope, and it looks as though it will be different, though we still can’t be sure what twists and turns lie ahead.

That has got me thinking about the importance of living in the moment, and of valuing God’s blessings as they are for me now. The Easter message, to which we head, as we journey through Lent is always a message of hope. It was in 2020, and 2021 – and will be in 2022 and beyond. We’ve all been through a lot, some, of course, more than others – but we all need to pick out the signs of God’s Kingdom where we see them.

I remember once – and I just can’t remember where – going round a stately home (or one of that type of place) and seeing on display a collection of crosses, which quite intrigued me, not least because I have a very small collection of crosses. Each one speaks of the cross, of Good Friday, of Easter Day, yet each also has a special connection for me. One of those that I most value is my brightly coloured Salvadoran cross (pictured). These crosses emerged in the 1960s and 70s. I think I obtained this one (probably from Traidcraft) in the early 1980s. At that time people in El Salvador were frequently fleeing brutal persecution, the most prominent example of which was possibly the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980. The crosses were a reaction in which the people tried to express hope in the midst of the pain and suffering. Brightly coloured scenes that related to their faith were painted on to wooden crosses as an expression of faith. Some of the scenes were drawn from everyday life, others from the Bible.

I wonder, if we were to try and do the same, what we would depict on our cross as we approach Easter 2022.

Paul Whittle

INTERFAITH SCOTLAND SUMMIT

previously posted on the home page

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.

Blessings,

Paul

LOOKING FOR NORMAL

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’.

Blessings,

Paul