General Assembly 2017
The Church of Scotland will hold its annual General Assembly from 20-26 May 2017 at the General Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh.
More than 730 commissioners from congregations across Scotland and beyond will come together to take part in the event, a unique mix of debate, tradition and worship
Over the course of the week they will be joined by more than 150 people from associated partners and other organisations who work with the Church. The public gallery is open each day for any members of the public who are interested in observing the proceedings.
First held in 1560, the General Assembly is the Kirk's highest court, made up of commissioners who are generally ministers, elders and deacons, as well as youth representatives and around 40 international emissaries from partner churches around the globe. The General Assembly considers reports from each of the Church's councils, discusses issues of national and international importance, and makes decisions that help set the Church of Scotland's direction for the coming years.
Decisions made at the General Assembly can have an historic and long-standing impact on the future of the national Church. However, the Church of Scotland values thoughtful, well considered decision making, and seeks consensus whenever possible, so contentious issues are usually debated for several years before a final resolution is reached.
Word of Life
The theme for this year's General Assembly and Heart and Soul is 'Word of Life'; a rich, multi-layered theme that invites each one of us, whether we are at the heart of faith or on the fringes of faith, to think about what, for us, those words might be: hope, welcome, peace, mercy, kindness, love and so many more. Whilst the words will adapt and change throughout our life journey of faith, they help us understand and give texture to the focus of our faith, Jesus of Nazareth, the embodiment of 'Word of Life'.
Congregations and groups of all ages who are connected with the Church are being encouraged to print 'Word of Life' letters out and put a picture on social media. Join in and use the hashtag #wordoflife. Read more about the photo campaign.
Lord High Commissioner
Each year HM The Queen appoints a Lord High Commissioner as her representative to the General Assembly, unless she attends in person. This year, Her Majesty has appointed HRH The Princess Royal, who previously performed the role in 1996.
The Princess Royal will observe the proceedings and report back to Her Majesty what has been debated at the Assembly.
The Princess Royal's first official duty will be to take part in the Ceremony of the Keys, held at the Palace of Holyroodhouse the day before the General Assembly convenes -- which this year is Friday, 19 May. The colourful tradition marks the handing over of the keys of the City of Edinburgh by the Lord Provost to the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly.
The Princess Royal will also take part in the ceremonial procession at the Opening Session of the General Assembly and will attend the Heart and Soul festival in Princes St Gardens on Sunday, 21 May, as well as undertaking visits elsewhere in Scotland.
A mobile app is available for Apple iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. This allows users to access publications produced from the Assembly and provides other useful features including the order of business, as well as local information on travel, accommodation, entertainment and places of interest. It will be available for download from the General Assembly Publications website soon. Please note that if you downloaded the app last year you will still need this year's updated version.
More generally you can stay in touch by signing up to the Church of Scotland's monthly e-newsletter.
Heart and Soul
The 2017 Heart and Soul festival, featuring a diverse programme of music and entertainment will be held on Sunday, 21 May at the Ross Bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens. Church councils, congregations, presbyteries and service groups will host booths, share their stories and offer youth and children's activities. The event closes with an uplifting open-air service at 5pm. More details are available at Heart & Soul 2017 website.
General Assembly timetable