In the first centuries AD Jerusalem and other Biblical sites quickly became a destination for early Christians. Known as the People of the Way, those first Christians were instructed to journey so that they might spread the good news. They obeyed and over centuries the missionary saints became legends. Saints and their exploits became associated with special places: St Columba and Iona; St Ninian and Whithorn; St Cuthbert and Lindisfarne; St Magnus and Orkney; St Mungo and Glasgow; St Andrew and St Andrews.
According to Dr Frazier, during the Middle Ages when pilgrimage was practised throughout Europe these places became important sites for worshippers. The streets of St Andrews were specially designed to accommodate the crowds of pilgrims who travelled there.
But during the Reformation people rebelled against abuses such as selling pardons for sins and making money from supposedly sacred objects like pieces of saints clothing, locks of hair or bones.
Reformers viewed pilgrimages as superstitious and discouraged them, and they fell out of favour across Europe for a time. Yet the idea never went away. John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, for example, viewed pilgrimage as a metaphor for the challenges we face on our pathway through life. “I think pilgrimages were viewed as superstition because people believed that you could be healed by the water from a special well or by the bones of a saint,” Dr Frazer says. “That is why Robert the Bruce, who is said to have suffered from leprosy travelled twice to Whithorn, a site made sacred by St Ninian. But what those who frowned on pilgrimage missed is that the most important part of pilgrimage is not the destination but the journey. It is on the journey that we meet others and find Christ in the stranger. It’s unfortunate that in reforming some wrongful practices, we may have neglected a way to worship that is meaningful to so many.”
Jesus spent his entire ministry on the move, Dr Frazer notes, sometimes going off alone to remote places to pray and prepare for the trials he would face. And after Christ’s resurrection it was on the Road to Emmaus that he revealed himself to disciples. “They offered hospitality to a stranger and then realised they had been in the presence of the risen Christ. And it’s quite common to encounter Christ through welcoming people you have never met before. The sharing of hospitality is a sacred thing; it’s very sacramental."
Getting to grips with Assembly terminology
One of the most confusing aspects of the General Assembly can be the range of legal language and Church terminology used. Here are some of the main terms you are likely to hear during the week:
This provides the overview from each council or committee about their work over the past 12 months, and highlights future plans and direction. This report is officially delivered with a speech to the Assembly by the convener or chairman, prior to approval being sought on the report's deliverances. Sometimes the Assembly will also ask a council or committee to report back on a specific subject, or set up a committee or commission to consider an issue of importance to the Church.
Each report to the General Assembly contains a number of deliverances which commissioners vote to approve, amend or reject according to personal conscience. These deliverances set the agenda and direction for each council or committee over the coming year and can change or establish new Church law.
Commissioners can propose motions from the floor of the Assembly about the report currently being discussed. Motions, like deliverances, are for commissioners to approve or reject and are offered as an alternative to the original deliverance proposed in the report. Motions belong to three categories:
Counter-motions are brought by commissioners from the floor. They are contradictory proposals to the deliverance. As there can be more than one counter-motion to each section of the deliverance, no vote is taken on them until the whole discussion is closed and all counter-motions have been brought before the Assembly
Amendments are proposed deletions, alterations or additions which are not substantially different from the original deliverance contained in the report. In effect therefore the original deliverance is more or less acceptable but the commissioner proposing it will have a comparatively minor change to 'improve' it
This is a method by which one court of the Church (for example a presbytery) brings a matter before another (e.g. the Assembly). Once the matter has been introduced, it is debated just like the reports - already described above. Overtures are printed in the Order of Proceedings booklet.
This is a mechanism by which any individual or group can bring before the Assembly a matter that affects them personally, asking the Church to take action. When their business has been introduced and questions asked of them, the petitioners take no further part in the debate, and the Assembly can dispose of the matter in any way it wishes.
Can't get to Edinburgh for Heart & Soul? You are invited to Lochaber Presbytery's event
Keep up with the Assembly
If you are not attending to the Assembly, you can still keep in touch with what's going on. You can connect to the webcast site to watch it live, see archived highlights, or listen to a summary of the day's proceedings.
The UK Government’s definition of ‘British values’ is very vague and subjective: “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
Some school inspectors south of the border have interpreted this to mean that Christians cannot disagree with same-sex marriage. You can easily imagine how other mainstream Christian beliefs could fall foul of this agenda.
The idea of introducing an oath to ‘British values’ and equality was floated last year by the integration tsar Dame Louise Casey. It has been endorsed by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid MP.
Such an oath is a real threat to religious liberty. There are disturbing precedents in history. For example, between 1661 and 1688 a government oath was a key legal weapon used to oppress dissenting Christian believers in both Scotland and England.
Representatives of the Highland Presbyteries of Abernethy, Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Lochaber, Ross, and Sutherland met together on April 27 in a second meeting to consider how the Highland Presbyteries can cooperate more and offer resources to one another.
After some navel gazing in SWOT analyses, and declaring what Presbyteries had done and hoped to do, about forty-five minutes before finishing at 3.30pm the group resolved that a list of suitable trade contractors be drawn up, and a list of "experts" within each Presbytery be made, including those who are on Assembly Councils.
There was a request for ministers willing to conduct a committal at the crematorium, to save ministers coming on a long journey for a few minutes, having already conducted a local service. This is particularly pertinent to Inverness ministers, active or retired, who are willing to be available. If you wish to be added to the list, please contact the Presbytery Clerk
What is needed is to begin to plan a strategy to actually resource Presbyteries, rather than drawing up lists. Everyone was very cautious not to impose on another Presbytery, but this perhaps the group deciding to do any real and useful work together.
It is early days, and there are numerous problems that have arisen in each Presbytery, who are all stretched in a number of ways. Help on Data Protection, Safeguarding, accounting and Local Church Reviews were mentioned as ways where future resourcing would help, In the long-term consideration of a central office and administrator would be considered - perhaps using part of each Presbytery's 5% from Ministry & Mission.
PICNIC AND PRAISE 2017
Fourth Picnic and Praise Event.
This year with John Alexander Wilson and local singers.
Castle grounds open 6.00 pm on Sun June 25 2017
Free entrance and parking.
Bring a picnic, chair, rugs and - just in case - midge spray!
The Business Committee is suggesting a radical change to the structure of Presbytery and its meetings. The proposal would run for a two-year trial period, with a review at the end. Adjustments might also be made during the two-year trial.
Proposed is that Presbytery normally meets four times a year. In the 2017-2018 session of Presbytery this translates to meeting in conference during the morning of Saturday 9th September, followed by an ordinary meeting for business in the afternoon. The conference would include Communion, and the business meeting would welcome new commissioned and additional elders and corresponding members. General Assembly remits would be formally allocated and agreement made as to when any Overtures must be debated (the norm being to do this at the November meeting).
The next meeting would be on Tuesday November 21st, with just an ordinary evening meeting of Presbytery. At this meeting the Presbytery budget and Presbytery Dues for 2018 would be agreed, Ministry and Mission allocations affirmed, with decision about how to spend the 5% Presbytery allowance, already managed by the Finance Committee as soon as the M&M figures are available. Appoint the Rolls and Records Inspection team due to report at the June meeting. Appoint the Examination of Congregational Accounts team, also due to report in June. Debate Assembly remits and Overtures and returns. Intimate the intent to appoint General Assembly Commissioners at the March meeting (with a more extensive rota devised to include which congregations send Commissioners, when additional, retired ministers and others are able to attend). Finally, agree the conference programme for the March meeting.
The Presbytery meets in conference in the morning of Saturday March 10, 2018 and then for ordinary business in the afternoon. As part of the afternoon business the Presbytery receives a report on the Presbytery Minutes inspection (the committee to inspect them being appointed in November. The report is to be submitted to the Principal Clerk by March 31). Commissioners to the General Assembly are elected (notice of doing so having been given in November). Nominate the Youth Representative to the Assembly, appoint the Presbyterial Panel representative, and appoint the Commission of Assembly representatives. Presbytery accounts are presented, and the following year's auditor appointed. The next Moderator of the Presbytery is nominated for 2018-2019, being elected at the June Presbytery (the Moderator takes up office on July 1). Finally, call for the commission of elders for the following session.
The final meeting of Presbytery in the year is an ordinary evening meeting on Tuesday June 26, 2018. At this meeting the Examination of Congregational Accounts report and the Inspection of Records report are received (the examining teams were appointed at the previous November meeting). The Roll for the Presbytery in the 2018-2019 session is laid on the table, the Moderator is elected and takes office from July 1. Finally, agree the conference programme for the September meeting.
All meetings are to be at Inverness Inshes Church. It was not felt that it would be practical to go round different congregations at this stage, because many congregations lack conference facilities, having pews, limited audio systems and visual facilities.
Business Committee meetings
The Business Committee is to meet approximately two-weeks before each Presbytery on Tuesday August 29, 2017, Tuesday November 7, 2017, Tuesday February 27, 2018, and Tuesday June 12, 2018. Each at Inverness Inshes Church and at 7:00pm.
Other Committee meetings
Committees may meet virtually (provide all members are able to be included in such types of meetings). Ideally, the Committees should arrange to meet at least two weeks before the the Business Committee in order to write and submit reports timeously. All Committees will be required to report at each meeting of Presbytery.
The Business Committee proposes that the workload of the Committee, and principally lightening the load for the Convener, Clerk, and Presbytery Clerk, by the Committee confining itself to matters of Presbytery operational business. To accomplish this, Vacancy Procedure matters should be passed to the Ministry Committee, as should matters connected to pastoral care, ministers' health needs, and manse families. When the Planning Committee has finished the extensive current planning, parish reappraisal should also revert to the Ministry Committee. The Ministry Committee has been running "light" in recent years, and this is being addressed by this restructure.
The old Superintendence Committee wanted to get away from a superintendence image while engaging in the newly introduced Local Church Reviews, which was geared to be supportive and to encouraging to congregations. The Business Committee took on the aspects of superintendence, thinking this was an occasional requirement. However, it has proved to involve considerably more than envisioned, and looks set to become even more involved, so it is proposed that superintendence returns to the Congregational Support Committee as a sub-committee with its own convener. The sub-committee would report through its own convener, but the Congregational Support Convener would also serve on the sub-committee.
Sadly, Hamish MacLean, Reader Emeriti, has died just 4 days after his wife, Jessie.
Rev Tommy Bryson has changed his email address to firstname.lastname@example.org
COUNCIL & DEPARTMENT PUBLICATIONS
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Church of Scotland
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