Church in the News: 10 January, 2017

Church in the News - Bumper January Edition!

Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr wrote a piece for the 'Sunday Essay' section of the Daily Mail in which he drew parallels between the story of Mary and Joseph as marginalised members of society and present day homelessness. Dr Barr calls for a "housing first" solution, similar to the model used in Finland and expressed concern that "at best in Scotland what we are doing is managing the situation and have long lost any desire to end it."

Moderator's Christmas Message

Rt Rev Russell Barr's Christmas message looked at the issue of homelessness, and highlighted the contrast of what can be an incredibly difficult time for those without a permanent place to stay.

The Christmas message was published in the Edinburgh Evening News, The Edinburgh Reporter and mentioned on the BBC Website.

Read the full message.


Our Advent campaign registered more than a quarter of a million views across Facebook and YouTube, and a very large number of positive comments from Church people as well as many from people outside our denomination. This doesn't include those who watched in church services which screened them. Thanks to everyone who took part in making the videos, or liked and shared them online.

Funding for Jane Haining Heritage Centre

Jane Haining's extraordinary story of heroism, bravery and personal sacrifice which resulted in her dying in Auschwitz in 1944 will be celebrated by a new heritage centre within Dunscore Church near Dumfries, which is expected to open later this year.

An existing room near the front of the A-listed building will be extended and modified and will feature a large glass door, folding exhibition panels and a TV monitor to show relevant films

It will feature photographs, letters, documents and other personal effects relating to the brave Kirk missionary, who was born at Lochanhead Farm near the village in 1897 and attended the Craig Church in Dunscore with her family.

The story was covered in The Times, The Scotsman , The Daily Record , The Herald, Press & Journal, Courier and the BBC website.

Christmas wish for widow performed

A new Christmas carol written by a retired widow from Largs was performed for the first time at Paisley Abbey just before Christmas.

Catherine Murray, an 82 year old from Largs and her daughter Fiona White were at the historic Paisley Abbey to hear her new carol performed by the Paisley Abbey Choristers in front of hundreds of people at a Christmas carol service for the ACCORD Hospice.

The surprise performance came after Mrs Murray wrote to the Church of Scotland with a Christmas wish. Tucked inside the envelope, along with her letter, were the words and music for Christmas Morning;, a new carol she had written herself.

The story was covered by:

BBC Radio Scotland
The Herald
Glasgow Evening Times
Paisley Daily Express
Glasgow Evening Times

Home Office Changes Its mind

The Church of Scotland has welcomed a decision to overturn the refusal of travel visas to two Pakistani Christians.

The Home Office ruling means that Faroq Maseh and Waris Emmanuel are now able to join a delegation visiting Glasgow next month.

Despite reassurances being provided, immigration officials refused the applicants visas on the basis they could not prove they were wealthy enough to be allowed into the UK.

The Presbytery of Glasgow, which will fully fund the visit, said the two men had been left “personally depressed and shocked” by the situation.

The case was taken up by Kirsten Oswald, MP for East Renfrewshire, who raised it with Prime Minister Theresa May who ordered a review of the decision.

The Herald
Scotland on Sunday

Around 30 local newspapers across Scotland also carried the story.

Boxer-Rebellion Document Uncovered

A fragile handwritten public proclamation has cast fresh light on the impact of a bloody rebellion on Scottish Presbyterians in China over 100 years ago.

The striking document, which is about two feet long and written in calligraphy, was issued by the Court of Emperor Kuang Hsu after the Boxer Uprising ended in 1901.

It appeals for peace between religious believers and civilians and authorises the resumption of Christian evangelism.

The priceless artefact states that all churches in the north-east of the country, then known as Manchuria, should be re-opened.

The proclamation, which is as delicate as tissue paper, effectively ordered the Liaoyang Government to protect Christian activities.

More than 300 Protestant Christians and thousands of Chinese Christians were killed by a secret organisation called the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, who were opposed to the spread of Western and Japanese influence, during the 1899-1901 rebellion.

The story received some great coverage and was published across national papers, Scottish regional and local newpapers, English regional papers and abroad (over 260 news outlets in total).

Here's a link to The Scotsman's take on the story.

Let us bray! Animals help recreate nativity scene

A Church of Scotland minister channeled her inner Vicar of Dibley and held a special Christmas service starring a cast of live farm animals.

Rev Elspeth McKay, 49, arranged for a Highland Cow and her calf, Jason the Donkey, sheep and a pony to attend the annual Christingle service at Midmar Church in Aberdeenshire on Christmas Eve.

The minister, who is a big fan of the BBC television programme and admits people often liken her to the central character Geraldine played by actress Dawn French, said the four legged cast members would add a “touch of realism to the Nativity story.

Mrs McKay, who has led Echt and Midmar Churches Together for two and a half years, added that she hoped the service with a difference would remind people that there is more to Christmas than Santa and presents.

Unsurprisingly the story was widely picked up by the media including:

The Daily Express
Press & Journal
The Herald
Regional news

Scottish Sun

Church-goers in Storm hit areas urged to go online

Amid a flurry of articles about the storm which hit Scotland just before Christmas, the Kirk was extensively quoted recommending that those in the worst affected areas should consider watching online services rather than risking their own safety in order to attend church at Christmas.

Many large newspapers quoted the Kirk's comments about the storm, including:

The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Mail
The Herald

The Daily Star
Christian Today

BBC1 News also featured an interview with Rev Robert Allan from Falkirk Trinity Church on the subject.

On the subject of digital engagement an Observer Article looked at how churches across the UK are modernising for the digital era, and noted the Kirk's online advent calendar.

Church Congregation make unique video to attract new minister

The upbeat and energetic 90 second film stars members of Keith: St Rufus, Botriphnie and Grange Church.

Vacancy committee secretary Esther Green said: We may not have the budget for a television ad, but we've produced our own film to put our congregation and community in the spotlight.

We wanted to show a membership that has get-up and go, enjoys fun, isn't afraid to roll its sleeves up and work hard and that is prepared to do something a little bit different to make its mark.

"We hope that by producing this film it shows that we've got a lot to offer and that our area is a great part of the world in which to live and work.

You can watch the final result on the Church of Scotland website . The story was also covered in the Banffshire Herald and the Northern Scot.

Let Us Play - Kirk Reaches out to men

The Church of Scotland has teamed up with a Christian charity to hold a unique fun packed conference aimed at attracting more men to the pews.

The event, aimed at tackling a gender imbalance, will feature a hog roast lunch, rubber dart guns and fast paced talks on topics including social media evangelism, sports chaplaincy and online gambling.

Organised by Christian Vision for Men in conjunction with Dr Murdo Macdonald of the Church's Society, Religion and Technology Project, it is a response to the fact women now significantly outnumber men in congregations.

The story attracted mixed reactions from:

The Times
The Sun
The Daily Mail

The Courier

On social media it has proven to be quite controversial with some people concerned that the event relies heavily on stereotyping. However, there has also been a lot of positive feedback and we always welcome respectful debate on our channels.

Rev Stuart Love Interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland

The Kirk's current youngest minister spoke about what attracted him to ministry. You can listen to Mr Love's interview online.

Sailors' Society Appoints New Chaplain

A Church of Scotland deacon has been appointed to the role of chaplain to seafarers. Pauline Robson will be based in ports along the Forth Estuary including Leith, Grangemouth, Rosyth, Braefoot and Hound Point

The role has been increased from part-time to full-time.

The story was reported on in the Edinburgh Evening News and The Falkirk Herald.