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32 First, the music: the singing at Assembly is always good; but the intensity, volume and obvious sincerity struck me strongly. To hear ‘Ye gates lift up your heads’ to the tune of St. George’s Edinburgh during the Monday morning Assembly communion was particularly moving. And there were also more innovative musical items, such as the playing of the harp orchestra during the Saturday evening session.
They say that ‘People make Glasgow’ and it’s also true that ‘people make the Assembly’. Overseas delegates and visitors played a significant part. They added a new dimension to our understanding of international contexts and problems. To hear delegates from places such as Nepal, Syria, Palestine and South Sudan talk at first-hand about their homes, problems and disasters was both moving and informative.
For me personally, it was particularly gratifying when the representative of the World Council of Churches was introduced.
He was Joseph Keum from South Korea, Director of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism - and an ex-student of mine from New College.
It was good also to have present and participating, members of the Youth Assembly. Their freshness and enthusiasm was infectious, if sometimes challenging. At the extremely formal communion service I was served by a young woman wearing a very bright Hawaiian shirt and a pair of turquoise hot pants.
Before I leave ‘people’, however, I need to mention our own
congregation. Our participation in the Assembly was impressive:
from the Lord High Commissioner (baptised in St. George’s church) through several of our members who were on Councils and committees of the church, to stewards on daily duty and attenders in the public gallery – all signs, I think, of a lively, engaged and outward looking congregation.
33 Turning now to the actual contents of the Assembly, space permits only a brief summary of some of the reports, discussions, deliverances and decisions which came before the Assembly In the public eye the question of the church’s attitude to gay clergy and same sex marriage had a prominent place. The position was complicated by the fact that since the Overture on civil partnerships was sent down to presbyteries in 2014, the Scottish parliament had passed a law legalising same sex marriage. This meant that, in some respects, the overture which presbyteries eventually approved by 31 to 14 was already out of date by the time it came back to Assembly this year. On Saturday Assembly nevertheless passed the Overture into church law by 309 votes to 182.
On Thursday we returned to the issue of whether the new law should be amended to include same sex marriage. After a long and somewhat fraught debate the proposal to include same sex marriage was passed by the very narrow margin of 213 votes to
205. Even this was not the end of the matter, because Assembly then went on to debate whether the new addition should be sent down to Presbyteries under the Barrier Act for their approval. This was eventually agreed. In some ways it was unfortunate that the issues of same sex marriage and civil partnerships should have taken up so much of Assembly’s time and energy, since the debates produced more heat than light and the two sides seemed as far apart as ever.
Church and Society convener Rev. Sally Foster-Fulton received a rousing reception for a speech full of passion and enthusiasm, covering many of the major social and political issues of the day.
The 77 page report contained major sections on Social Justice, Climate Change, Criminal and International Justice, Education, Health and Politics and Government. Even such a detailed report could get bogged down with theoretical detail, however. We spent some time discussing whether the Council’s statement that ‘nuclear weapons were inherently evil’ was logical. Could an inanimate object be evil, or was it only its use which was evil?
34 One tiny item in the report might be of special interest to us. The Council has produced an eco-baton, to be taken around different churches to publicise the up-coming Paris climate conference in December. Perhaps we might consider requesting that the baton comes to St. Andrew’s and St. George’s West?
I was also highly impressed by the work of the Social Care Council – now operating largely under the branding of CROSSREACH. Crossreach employs almost 2000 staff involved in more than seventy care-related services, including care homes, children’s services, substance abuse support, and help for those with learning disabilities.
World Mission Council used the Assembly theme of ‘Living Stones’ to frame their report – drawing on the stories of members of partner churches from across the world. It was interesting to see how many of the issues they were highlighting were already on our radar here at STAGW, such as Christian Aid and partnerships with congregations overseas.
It was also interesting to note that the ‘Pilgrim for an Hour’ booklet, pioneered by our City Centre Together churches, was placed in the pigeon holes of all commissioners at the Assembly.
Jack Thompson Commissioner (invited delegate) to the 2015 General Assembly on behalf of St Andrew’s and St George’s West.
St Andrew ventures afar - and finds a familiar face on the way 36 An Amazing Experience Jennifer Dunlop Marie Austin and I recently participated in Reach Out and Listen, a halfday conference at Dalziel St Andrew’s Church in Motherwell on how to improve worship for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
For me, who has been hard of hearing all my life, sharing and understanding others in a similar situation was an amazing experience.
Rev Rosie Addis, Hearing Development Worker based at 121 George Street, presented an analysis of the needs of deaf and hard of hearing church members within the context of the 2010 Equality Act.
1 in 5 people in Scotland suffer from hearing loss to one degree or another. Many feel isolated and some have mental problems due to this.
There are various categories of hearing loss – "Profound and Deafened" who will communicate by signing, and "Partially Hard of Hearing" and "Hard of Hearing" who may use aids as well as lip reading.
It is often the case that elderly people, who develop hearing difficulties late in life, do not want to indicate that they are hard of hearing thinking that it might be socially unacceptable to say they do not hear everything or showing that they wear an aid! Often we lose Church members if they feel they are excluded because they no longer are able to hear the service and participate in the fellowship afterwards.
There are a number of key points to consider in enabling good
communication with people with hearing difficulties:
a) the speaker's face should be in a good light, speak clearly and at a steady pace; s/he should not exaggerate mouth movements or shout,
b) speakers should not move about - it is difficult to lip read,
c) minimise background noise as much as possible 37 Generally
a) for many with a hearing problem, it is difficult to lip read the speaker if s/he is wearing dark glasses - eyes are important in face to face contact,
b) to aid lip reading, if the speaker has a beard or moustache it should be clear of the lips,
c) let people sit where they wish, the front row is not always appropriate
d) when someone joins a conversation it is helpful to indicate that s/he is sitting beside someone with a hearing difficulty,
e) some people with hearing difficulties might like someone to sit beside them to assist The built environment, etc
a) use a room appropriate to the size/purpose of the group,
b) provide a loop system, permanent or movable,
c) provide a suitable audio system, and train speakers to use it,
d) provide suitable lighting,
e) if possible provide screen presentations,
f) if possible provide pre-meeting papers,
g) if possible/appropriate provide note taker to project notes on to screen,
h) older Church design often hinders a positive environment for those with hearing difficulties, however professional help is available.
At the end of the day the many "hearing" and" hard of hearing" participants agreed that the conference had been a fantastic experience with much learned and much to share.
Having said that I want to record my appreciation of the way St Andrew's and St George's West has put much of the above into practice and has enabled me to participate in Church life in a way I was unable to do before including the support from our Minister who is happy to email his sermons to me - and to anyone else who wishes to receive them.
He leads me in ways of efficiency, Through calmness of mind And his guidance is peace Even though I have a great many things to accomplish this day I will not fret, For his presence is here.
His timelessness, His all-importantce, Will keep me in balance.
He prepares refreshment and renewal In the midst of my activity By anointing my head with tranquility.
My cup of joyous energy overflows.
Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours, For I shall walk in the place of my Lord, And dwell in His house forever Toki Miyashina Thanks to Mary Margaret Scott for sharing this
TOGETHER City Tony Bryer 0131 229 6542 / 07834 748129 Centre Chaplain tbryer(dot)wpcscotland(at)gmail(dot)com TOGETHER Trustees from St Andrew’s and St George’s West Christina Bowen, Frances Cooper and James McNeill
St Andrew’s and St George's West Church of Scotland Edinburgh Is a registered charity. Scottish charity number SC 008990 40