Day One

Saturday

Seated comfortably after a smooth journey to Edinburgh the General Assembly 2022 gets underway. The opening is always so formal; speeches from outgoing Moderator, incoming Moderator and Lord High Commissioner, who joins us online. Yes, this year’s GA is a hybrid affair. Technology is helping to make this happen and those who cannot travel or choose not to are still with us. There are fewer people in the hall, all to help keep us Covid safe, it’s appreciated yet, the reduced chatter, squeezing past others minding your cup of hot coffee as you go, has changed the atmosphere. It feels different. Or is that just me?

There are people here I know, of course there is, mainly from the Presbytery to which I belong. I am amongst friends. There is an absence of familiarity too. The rotas for attendance have changed, this is a very different gathering of people. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Business is underway. Presbyteries are merging. Presbyteries of Duns, Jedburgh, Lothian, and Melrose & Peebles to form the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Lothian and Borders. Voting takes a little time to process. Agreed. 320 / 6

Presbyteries of Angus, Dundee, Dunkeld & Meigle, Perth and Stirling to form the Presbytery of Perth. Issues with the voting system have occurred. The voting process is run for a second and third time. Agreed. 352 / 7. Concerns are raised again that online voting is not working effectively. Given that the voting is not close Assembly decides to accept the outcome and proceed.

Presbytery of Falkirk merging with Forth Valley and Clydesdale. Agreed. 378 / 4

Presbyteries of Aberdeen & Shetland, Buchan, Gordon, Kincardine & Deeside, Moray and Orkney to form The Presbytery of the North East and the Northern Isles. Agreed. 351 / 8

Lunch. Thank Goodness!!!

Glad for the warmth of a local cafe for lunch. The Assembly hall is on the cool side because of the increased ventilation.

Much time being spent on the issues surrounding employment of Presbytery Clerks. Bigger Presbyteries means greater responsibilities for Clerks; who should employ them? What should the salary be? Should the job description be standardised? Answers… no answers quite yet but there is a need to think it through.


The Assembly Trustees Report

The Seeds for Growth fund of £25 million over 5 years is being launched to release resources to those who want to experiment in mission and out reach. The idea behind this fund was postponed because of the pandemic while a transition fund was set up to assist with the way congregations fund ministry and mission costs. Making these changes in financial structure means the C of S will be working with a budget deficit of £35 million over the next five years.

The cost of living crisis has caught our attention. It takes me back to my early years in ministry when stipends were much lower than they are now and paying for repairs on the car was sometimes a daunting prospect. Debts mounted up. Now we are hearing of the struggle some ministers are facing heating and lighting Victorian manses where utility bills are now up to £5,000 pa. Some have chosen to switch of their heating even during the winter months. Ministers are not badly paid, not nowadays, but those who live in large, old, inefficient manses are finding life challenging. A perfect storm!

Turning into a long afternoon now. It’s gone 5pm and debate continues on allocation of Ministry posts in Sutherland which is looking at a potential cut from 7 posts to 4.