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Speak Out! Church and Society Council

Staffing changes

In July of this year, Fiona Buchanan stepped down from her role as Local Involvement Officer for the Church and Society Council to pursue an opportunity with the World Council of Churches and Christian Aid.

We would like to thank Fiona for her contribution to the work of Church and Society over the years and wish her well for the future. While we continue to review our Local Involvement role there will be fewer editions of the Church and Society E-news, but in the meantime you can keep up to speed with the work we are doing by subscribing to the following E-newsletters -

Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office
• Scottish Faith Action for Refugees (contact dbradwell@churchofscotland.org.uk)
Eco-Congregation Scotland
Society Religion and Technology Project
Joint Public Issues Team

Speak Out: Building Global Friendships

Faith groups gather in Italy to tackle global displacement

In October, David Bradwell, co-ordinator of SFAR, took part in an international gathering in Italy to discuss church and faith based responses to the reality of global displacement. On a visit to Lampedusa, participants commemorated the anniversary of the loss of over 360 lives less than a quarter of a mile from the shore.
This doorway sculpture by Domenico Paledino commemorates all those who have died trying to reach Europe in the search for freedom and peace.

David said: "Sicily is at the centre of the Mediterranean, itself a sea that links three continents. For many centuries Sicily and Lampedusa have been places of the border, where cultures and people meet - from North, South, East and West - Etruscans, Greeks, Normans, the Spanish - and many others. The border was not a barrier but a place of exchange; a meeting place where diversity is an everyday reality of life.

"Today the border has become a barrier, a wall which has a purpose to keep people out. This exists, despite our belief in human rights and protection for those in need. Instead of offering protection and welcome to the stranger we live in a Fortress Europe; where the benefits of free movement and free markets are granted only to those already inside the borders. For the suffering of people outside, they risk everything to make the journey."

At the meeting, participants heard about a ground-breaking project called Humanitarian Corridors, where Italian church groups working with the Government of Italy are involved in the direct resettlement of some of the most vulnerable refugees in the Middle East and North Africa.

Church Moderator calls for support for Rohingya refugees

The Right Rev Dr Derek Browning Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has urged people to support the call for help as more than 500,000 men, women and children are in urgent need of food, water, shelter and medical help after arriving at overflowing camps and settlements in Bangladesh.

He said:  “In the past month the world has watched as a humanitarian crisis has continued to unfold before our very eyes. Over 500,000 people have now fled the violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar and are seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Having been left with little, they are in desperate need of food, shelter, water and medical care, while the communities hosting them remain perilously overstretched.”

He urged people to give generously to the Disasters Emergency Committee Rohingya Crisis Appeal, so that support organisations such as Christian Aid can immediately respond to the needs of those whose lives have been torn apart by the conflict.

The situation for refugees in Greece worsens

Churches and international aid and humanitarian agencies are reporting a worsening situation for thousands of refugees in Greece. There is a real danger that families in need are being forgotten, as the interest of the international media and global institutions has shifted to other situations.

For ways in which you can help and raise awareness, please click here

Speak Out: Health and Wellbeing

The Denis Duncan Lecture 2017

On Friday 3rd November, over sixty people gathered in St George’s Tron church in the heart of Glasgow for an annual lecture event held in honour of The Revd Denis Duncan, a Church of Scotland minister who dedicated his life to healing and human flourishing. The event was organised by The Guild of Health and St Raphael, and run in collaboration with the Church of Scotland. The Guild is an ecumenical organisation dedicated to supporting, promoting and resourcing the healing ministry, and works with parish churches, healthcare professionals and in the academy. The Tron was a wonderful for this event; not only is at a flourishing church with a great outreach program, the minister, The Revd Alastair Duncan, is the nephew of Denis!

The lecture was delivered by The Very Revd David Lunan, Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly 2008-9. Prior to this he was Minister at Renfield St Stephen’s church in Glasgow, and convened the Board for health and healing and therefore had a great insight into this area of ministry. David spoke about the need for a confident healing ministry in the Church, following the clear mandate of our Lord to make disciples and to heal. He based much of his lecture on the work of another Scot, The Revd Cameron Peddie, and spoke passionately about Christians exploring this often forgotten area of mission, and to do so in conversation with science. Following the lecture, there was a panel discussion where David was joined by The Revd Jenny Williams, transition minister at Drylaw Parish Church, Edinburgh, and The Revd. Lucyann Ashdown, Chair of the Guild of Health and St Raphael.

It was an excellent event, and the first of many it is hoped as the Guild launches an initiative to promote the healing ministry throughout Scotland.

If you would like to learn more about The Guild, please visit:

If you would like to watch the video of David’s lecture and the panel that followed, please visit:

If you would like anymore information, then please email the Director of the Guild:

Speak Out: An Economy Driven by Equality

End the benefits freeze
The Church of Scotland, along with other members of Scottish civil society, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, asking him to end the freeze on benefits, announced in 2015.

It is expected that this will affect 700,000 families in Scotland, with an average loss of £450 annually.

Rev Dr.Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church and Society Council, said:

“As the cost of heating and eating continues to rise, the freeze in benefits is increasingly forcing people into poverty, rather than supporting them out of it. That is neither good for those directly impacted or for our society as a whole.

“In every part of Scotland, the Church is encountering people who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. That is not surprising. Since the freeze was put in place, inflation is higher than was predicted so people on benefits have less money than was intended. On that basis alone, it is time to end the freeze.”

What have faith and Finance got to do with Climate Change?

On Thursday 12 October 2017, the Church of Scotland and partners Christian Aid Scotland, Oikocredit UK and Ireland, Eco-Congregation Scotland and ECCR met in St Andrew’s and St Georges West Church in Edinburgh for this year’s Good Money Week Conference. Read the full conference report on the SRT website

Panel at the Good Money Week conference

Speak Out: Doing Politics Differently

Church and Society visit Westminster

From 10-12 October, representatives of the Church and Society Council visited Westminster to meet Scottish MPs of different parties to discuss social justice issues.

Parliamentary Officer Chloe Clemmons said:

“It was a privilege for Church representatives to spend time with some of our elected representatives in Westminster and get a sense of the new Parliament. We were excited to be able to share stories of the work of the Church around ‘Speak Out – Tackling Injustice, Living Hope’ - a new way of working that focuses on resourcing congregations through sharing local experience and practical action.”

The focal point was an event hosted by Alison Thewliss, MP for Glasgow Central. All Scottish MPs were invited and Rev Dr Richard Fraser made an informal presentation about “Speak Out – Tackling Injustice, Living Hope”. Amid the busy environment of the Houses of Parliament, a good number attended and offered suggestions on opportunities for joint work.

Face to face meetings also took place with 10 MPs and the discussion was wide ranging, featuring everything from Gaelic Language church services to the need for greater respect in political dialogue, and hardships caused by the current roll-out of Universal Credit. A theme of many conversations was the impact of Britain’s Exit from the EU (Brexit).

Access to welfare for people with disabilities was an issue discussed with Deirdre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, and she introduced an Adjournment Debate on “Upholding the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities” in Westminster Hall during the visit.

The Church and Society Council will continue these conversations with Scottish MPs, as building on these relationships will help respond to the needs of local communities.

The Church group included Richard Frazer, Convener of the Council; Pauline Edmiston and Wendy Young, Vice-Conveners of the Council; Council Secretary Martin Johnstone and Parliamentary Officer Chloe Clemmons.


Scottish Government grants money for further PB project 

A grant of £39,560 has been received by the Church and Society Council from the Scottish Government Community Choices Fund to take forward its work on Participatory Budgeting (PB).
The funding will allow 4-6 additional churches to join the PB project in 2017-18. Churches will receive training and support to design and host a PB process, and around £5000 to distribute to community organisations at their PB event, which will take place by the end of March 2018.

This short film explains what PB is through animation and interviews with two of the churches who hosted PB events in March 2017. To view click here

The Council is seeking to recruit a number of churches that are interested to be involved in this next round of the PB project. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Chloe Clemmons at chloe.clemmons@scpo.scot or on 0131 240 2276.

Give Me Five gains new supporters

SCPO is delighted that the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Scottish Unitarian Association are the latest denominations to back the Give Me Five: The Child Benefit Top-Up Campaign.

The campaign was launched by Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and the Bishop of Galloway, Bill Nolan, at the end of August 2017.

To find out more, to sign a petition asking the Scottish Government to top up Child Benefit, and to email your MSP, click here

CHurch and Society team at Westminster

Church and Society team Westmintser visit

Participatory Budgeting logo
Give Me Five logo

Speak Out: Investing in Young People

The future of Scotland’s schools
Agnes Mullen attended a conference on 25 October hosted by the Commission on School Reform on Where now for Scotland’s schools?

Claire Shewbridge from OECD spoke about how Scotland’s education compared with other countries, and highlighted problem areas as well as examples of where Scotland did better than other countries.

A panel discussion looked at whether school governance reform would make a difference, help close the attainment gap and give head teachers the autonomy to reform their schools, The keynote speaker Deputy First Minister John Swinney spoke about how the proposals fitted into the Getting it Right for Every Child programme, and explained that by setting up a Head Teacher’s Charter, Regional Improvement Collaboratives, and an Education Workforce Council, high quality support and resources would be provided locally around the country.

New Handbook for Further Education Chaplains
The Scottish Churches Education Group will meet on 20 November to discuss its new handbook for FE Chaplains, and publicity leaflets highlighting work the group is doing. It has recently updated its Christian Vision document, which has been well received and circulated via Education Authorities to Schools in Scotland.  You can download a copy here

Education Committee
The Church’s Education Committee will meet on 28 November and among other items, there will be the Scottish Government’s Education Bill and proposals for RO and Chaplaincy, training courses in 2018, and taking forward the Handbook for School Chaplains.  You can download a copy of the handbook here

If you are interested in attending or hosting a chaplains’ training conference, please contact Agnes Mullen on 0131 240 2275 or at AMullen@churchofscotland.org.uk

Speak Out: Caring for Creation

Climate Justice talks take place in Bonn with the First Minister

Climate change will hit the Pacific islands hard which is why the forthcoming climate conference in Bonn (CoP23), chaired by Fiji, is an important opportunity to raise awareness of these impacts this November.

The Church of Scotland will be represented in Bonn by Climate Change officer Adrian Shaw who will join the World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation to meet and listen to stories from others around the world on the effects of climate change.
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will attend the conference and plans are in place for her to meet the WCC delegation. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, of which the Church is a leading member, will also be sending a delegation.

One of the Pacific island nations most at risk is Tuvalu, a low lying island archipelago exposed to storm, drought and sea level rise. Adrian Shaw interviewed Tafue Lusama from the Congregational Church of Tuvalu at a World Council of Churches meeting earlier this year. 

He said: “There will be a forced movement of people out of the country to a safer place. We have to leave our ancestral land. We will lose our identity as a people, we will roam the face of the planet as homeless peoples. That is the fear we live with today because of the impacts of climate change.”

Tafue’s words demonstrate why the Church of Scotland is so concerned about the impact of climate change. To watch the full interview click here

Speak Out: Flourishing Local Communities

Learn Local visits highlight the great ideas of churches

Church and Society staff and council members took part in Speak Out: Learn Local visits over the summer and the findings are now being compiled. Here, Vice-Convenor of the Council Pauline Edmiston talks about the Tuesday Table in Keith North Church in Moray.

The group from Keith North explained to us that the idea for Tuesday Table came from hearing local folk asking for a ‘cold parcel’ from the local foodbank. A cold parcel is a food parcel which requires no cooking or heating. The church, in collaboration with others in the area, decided to provide a hot meal once a week on Tuesdays from 11.30am-1pm, and this initiative is now celebrating its first anniversary.

Initially, the church approached partners to support the project and the local Tesco, through its community support team, arranged for the church to pick up excess food from the store on Sunday nights, and to help serve at the Tuesday meal. Donation and Harvest Thanksgiving provide food also, and Social Services promote the meal where appropriate.

The random nature of the food donated means that the volunteers need to be flexible and creative with the menu. Three kinds of soup and one pudding are offered each week. If only parsnips, red cabbage and carrots are donated, they are the soup of the day, and if the only pudding ingredient available is lemons, lemon meringue pie will be served.

The project started off with two volunteers getting people to come in off the streets, and it quickly grew to 30-40 people being served. Now there are between 60-80 folk coming along. Some are extremely isolated, some live a life limited by poverty, some have mental health issues, and others come for reasons known only to them. 

The only condition is that when you come, you must be prepared to sit and chat to folk and the volunteers encourage this approach. Dignity is also a huge feature of the project and is shown in small ways such as offering three choices of soup, and using ‘pay what you like’ pricing.

It is hoped that this initiative will help the two town churches work together in other areas of service and support ‘being church together’ more regularly. 

(Pauline was joined by Andrew Tomlinson, Charlie Smith and John McConachie and they met with Rev Alastair Gray from Eckhardt, and Liz and Rosemary from Keith North Church).

UK Government Consultation on Fixed Odds betting Terminals
The Church of Scotland has welcomed a new 12 week consultation to reduce the risk of people suffering large losses from playing fixed-odd betting terminals. In a joint statement with the Salvation Army, The Church of England, The Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, CARE, The Evangelical Alliance and Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, the Church of Scotland has urged the UK Government to act boldly, highlighting that "fixed odds betting terminals present serious problems in society and for local communities, families and individuals." Find out more here


Hope Within

Prisoners Week, 19-26 November

The ecumenical National Launch Service for Prisoners Week will be at 6.30pm on Monday 20 November in St Margaret’s, Drip Road, Stirling, FK9 4UA, followed by refreshments. There will be sharing some of the hopes from prisons and communities across Scotland.

The theme for the week is Hope Within – highlighting the gifts, talents and potential within prisons, within communities, and within ourselves. Prisoners Week is an initiative of the churches that aims to stimulate discussion, highlight concerns and share hope, in prisons and communities across Scotland. A calendar of events can be viewed at www.prisonersweek.org.uk

Visit to Edinburgh by Fr Laurence Freeman, Director of The World Community for Christian Meditation - Day Workshop: Spirit and Liberty

"Where the spirit is there is liberty". In a post-truth world and in an era of artificial intelligence what - on earth -does spirituality mean? In a post- Christendom church what is the contribution of the disciples of Jesus to the healing and renewal of humanity?

Date/time: Saturday 3 February 2018. Registration: 9.30am-10am/Day Workshop: 10am-5pm
Venue: Sanctuary, Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL.
Cost: £35/£25-£20 (Concessions)/£10 (Students).
For more information and how to register click here

An Evening with Dr Rowan Williams

In conversation with Professor Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, Dean International, Middle East, the University of Edinburgh.

Description: Dr Rowan Williams is acknowledged internationally as an outstanding theological writer, scholar and teacher. He has been involved in many theological, ecumenical and educational commissions. He has written extensively across a very wide range of related fields of professional study – philosophy, theology (especially early and patristic Christianity), spirituality and religious aesthetics. He has also written throughout his career on moral, ethical and social topics and, since becoming archbishop, he turned his attention increasingly on contemporary cultural and interfaith issues.

Chair: Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive Officer of the Edinburgh Cyrenians.

Date/time: Wednesday 21 March 2018. Registration: 6.30pm-7.15pm. Event: 7.15pm-9pm.
Venue: St Mary's Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, EH12 5AW.
Cost: £10/£8 (Concessions)/£3 (Students)
For more information and how to register click here

Contact Church and Society

The Church and Society team can be contacted by emailing churchandsociety@churchofscotland.org.uk or by phone on 0131 240 2275.


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