Church in the news

The latest news on The Church of Scotland's work, events and activities from external media outlets.

Tuesday 18 April, 2017

Release of the report of the Theological Forum

The latest report from the Theological Forum on human sexuality to come before the General Assembly has been published.

The comprehensive document will be considered by Commissioners in Edinburgh next month and will recommend a vote on apologising to those who have been discriminated against in the past by the Church of Scotland. It will also make a recommendation in favour of same-sex marriage in churches, although this will not be decided this year.

The document has found its way into the public domain ahead of schedule, before all the General Assembly reports are published in the Blue Book on Thursday.

In light of the report appearing in the national press, the Principal Clerk has authorised its immediate publication to allow Commissioners, members of the church and members of the public to understand fully the content and context.

You can find a link to the report on the Church of Scotland website

Unsurprisingly the press have shown some interest, with The Heraldmaking the story its front cover and also publishing another article linking the move to the recent Scottish Church Census results. The BBC online have also written an article on the subject.

360 degree images of churches

Staff from CARTA have have teamed up with Glasgow-based 360 Degree Production Company MB Design to produce a series of stunning full spectrum photos which allow Facebook users to immerse themselves in the beautiful surroundings of churches across the country.

Convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council, Rev Norman Smith, described the innovation as a “ground-breaking project” which he hoped would spark a nationwide celebration of the benefits these ancient buildings bring.

He added: “One of the greatest gifts we have been bequeathed are our buildings.

“Often they are the first place people encounter Christianity and they help us in our mission of sharing the good news of Jesus. How we use them to best advantage is always a challenge because whilst we shape them, they also shape us.”

At the moment you can see the inside of Crown Court Church, London and Dalmeny Parish Church on the Church of Scotland Facebook.

We were delighted with the interest from the press in the project which included:

The Times,Daily Express, The Sun, The National and the Glasgow Evening Times

Pilgrimage in Scotland

This year the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland will be asked to reverse centuries of hostility to the ancient practice of pilgrimage and to affirm its place within the life of the church.

Now the tradition is seeing a massive resurgence in Scotland with six major pilgrimage routes under development and enthusiasm for spiritual journeying rising every year.

Last month the National Lottery announced new funding of £399,000 to develop the Fife Pilgrims way, a 70-mile route that will travel from Culross and South Queensferry to St Andrews.

On Easter Sunday—the 900th Anniversary of St Magnus’ death—a new pilgrimage route in his honour was launched in Orkney.

This story did very well across the media, with articles in The Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Express, The Scotsman , The Press & Journal, The Courier , The Herald and Yahoo News UK.

The project has also been extremely popular on our Facebook page, with one post reaching over 40,000.

Scottish Church census results show slowed decline of church attendance in Scotland

Although overall church attendance figures show a continued decline, the rate of such decline has slowed significantly, with some denominations and geographical regions seeing encouraging signs of growth. This is partly due to a significant influx of immigrants coming to Scotland and the growth of Pentecostal churches

Eighty per cent of church goers attend weekly services with almost half (45%) having attended their present church for over 20 years.

According to the latest Scottish Church Census (May 2016), a third (35%) of all churchgoers (counting congregational numbers against churches) were Evangelical, up from 26% in 1994, while another third (32%) were Catholic, with 16% Broad/Liberal, 13% Reformed and 4% Low Church.

There was widespread media coverage of the overall decline in numbers, including The Sun,The Sunday Herald, The Courier, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Star, The Daily Express, The Scotsman, The Daily Record, Press & Journal, The National, BBC Onlineand Yahoo News UK.

Very Rev Dr John Chalmers spoke on BBC Radio 4 yesterday about the findings. There was also a discussion on BBC Radio 4 about the findings. There were also discussions and news bulletins on BBC Radio Scotland.

The Moderator was interviewed by The Times in relation to Prime Minister Teresa May's comments about the importance of religion in politics. In the interview Rt Rev Russell Barr agreed that being a leader with an understanding of the Christian Faith was an advantage.

Monday 10 April, 2017

Church in the News highlights Tuesday 4 - Monday 10 April

Commemoration of the Battle of Arras

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly conducted the centenary commemoration service for the Battle of Arras on Sunday 9 April at the Faubourg d’Amiens Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Arras, France.

Lord Llewellyn, the British Ambassador to France, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence and Prof Norman Drummond, chairman of the Scottish commemorations panel laid wreaths. A school pupil from Scotland and a pupil from France also laid wreaths.

During the service, also attended by military personnel, pupils from across Scotland Dr Barr read out a prayer, specially written for the occasion.

There has been extensive press coverage of the service including:

The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, Metro,The Herald, The Scotsman, The Daily Record, Press & Journal, The Courier,The National, The Sunday Herald,Edinburgh Evening News, BBC online,STV online, around 30 news outlets, BBC Radio 4, Radio Scotland, World Service

Arras connection to Mrs Barr

There is also a poignant personal connection between Mrs Barr, wife of Rt Rev Russell Barr, and the commemoration as her great-uncle was killed in the Battle of Arras.

At age 29, Pt David Wyllie was one of 18,000 Scots killed in the six-week battle, one of the deadliest in the entire war.

The tragic story of Mrs Barr's great-uncle was also picked up by newspapers including:

The Times, Daily Express, The Daily Record, The Scotsman , The Courier, STV online and The Herald.

Before embarking on the trip Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr was also interviewed on STV.

Jane Haining's niece visits the site her aunt worked

A relative of Jane Haining, Mrs Deidre McDowell, visited Paisley to see the thread factory where Jane worked for 10 years before becoming a missionary in Budapest. Whilst abroad Jane went on to become matron of the Scottish Mission boarding school and it was here that she protected some of the Jewish children under her care during the Nazi occupation which eventually lead to her death in Auschwitz.

Mrs McDowell and her husband, of Londonderry, attended a lunch at the town’s abbey before touring of Paisley Thread Museum and the mill where Jane worked.

In a strange coincidence Marcus Dean, the chairman of the museum who showed Mrs McDowell around, now lives in the building where Jane was trained as a missionary, the former St Colm's College.

The story was covered in the Paisley Daily Express and the Glasgow Evening Times.

WEvolution praised in theDaily Record

Glasgow-based WEvolution has pioneered the creation of self reliant groups in Scotland, already helping 250 people through a business model imported from in India.

The charity brings together small groups of people who all contribute a small amount of money each week to get a business idea off the ground. Once a business is underway the group can apply for a small loan to help their enterprise grow.

WEvolution has been backed from its beginning by the Church of Scotland and the Guild.

Government urged to act on homelessness

Anti poverty groups including the Church of Scotland and Shelter called on Angela Constrance to come to "decisive action" over homelessness. There has been press coverage in the Glasgow Evening Times, The Scotsmanand Holyrood Magazine.

Austrian TV crew interview Rev Dr Frazer on Brexit

The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, ORF, visited Scotland to film a programme on Brexit and the church. They interviewed Rev Dr Richard Frazer as well as visiting Peterhead where they spoke to fishermen and church members. The piece was broadcast on as part of their religious programming and on their website.

Monday 3 April, 2017

Church in the News highlights Tuesday 28 March - Monday 3 April

Moderator visits the Presbytery of Dunbarton

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr was last week on a visit to the Presbytery of Dunbarton, which included visits to community projects across Dumbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.

The visit received some great coverage from local newspapers including the Dumbarton & Vale of Leven Reporter, the Clydebank Post, and the Helensburgh Advertiser, as well as The Scotsman.

HIghlights included a tour of the Maid of the Loch, a former steamer which has been restored locally through an inspiring community initiative.

The Moderator also visited Faslane and St Margaret of Scotland's Hospice.

Doug Gay discusses declining numbers

Rev Dr Doug Gay, whose Chalmers lecture series took a critical look at the Church's future last month, spoke on BBC Radio Ulster about declining Church of Scotland congregations.

Irish jokes controversy

The Church of Scotland, through Fenwick Parish Church, suffered a great deal of negative press coverage when its local parish newsletter, The Covenanter published an entire page of Irish jokes under the headline ‘Irish Humour’. It was noticeable the headlines reflected on a ‘Church of Scotland pamphlet’ rather than a local parish newsletter.

The Daily Record picked up on complaints initially made on the local church Facebook page, forcing the admission the jokes were similar to "the type you would have from Bernard Manning in the '70s" and that it was an "error of judgement" to have included them. Representatives from Fenwick Parish Church immediately removed the offending material, issued an apology and personally contacted the Irish consulate to apologise directly.

The Irish Consul General said: “Based on what I’ve seen it is understandable that the article, which contains jokes based on national stereotypes, might have given offence. I understand that those responsible for the publication have acknowledged that it would have been better had this material not been included, and have issued an apology locally.”

Stories about the jokes were published in theIrish Sun, The Daily Record andThe Irish News.

BBC Radio Guernsey also reported on the issue.

The page of bad taste humour was apparently added as a last minute space filler. We’d like to remind all newsletter editors the Church website and Communications office has a wealth of images and stories which can be used to complement any local publication, and we are always delighted for people to use our content.

Study compares Catholic life chances in Northern Ireland and Scotland

A study conducted by a group of UK universities and based on 400,000 participants across the two countries, has concluded that Catholics in Scotland are at more of a disadvantage than Catholics in Northern Ireland.

TheScotland on Sunday covered the story extensively and argued that the statistics may reflect a greater need for anti-sectarian laws in Scotland to promote equality.

The Church of Scotland was asked to comment and produced a joint statement with the Catholic Church stating that:

“The Catholic Church in Scotland and the Church of Scotland have a strong track record of working together to improve life for everyone living in Scotland.

“In 2005, our two churches came together to form the charity Faith in Community Scotland, whose purpose is to encourage and work alongside people in Scotland’s economically poorest neighbourhoods.

"Sadly Scottish life expectancy remains the lowest in the UK.

“As churches we share the belief that structural injustice and the refusal to share wealth fairly are the root causes of poverty. We share a commitment to working towards a fairer, juster society.

“Sectarianism has no place in Scotland today and we support efforts such as the In Wi’ the Mix initiative that bring faith groups together to tackle difficult issues within their communities.”

Village Harry Potter festival planned by minister axed - for being too popular

Rev Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Church, Bearsden had planned for a "small local" Harry Potter themed fete but was dismayed when the event went viral and ten thousand people expressed interest in attending.

After meeting with the council it was decided that the event had the potential to be too big for a small group of volunteers to cope with.

Activities which were had been planned included a quidditch tournament, wand making and a Harry Potter service in the church.

The story was reported in the Glasgow Evening Times and The Daily Record.

Monday 27 March, 2017

Church in the news highlights Tuesday 14 - Monday 27 March

Westminster Attack response

The Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr, joined with other faith leaders in Scotland following the attack on Westminster to "urge everyone of whatever faith tradition or none to live peaceably with their neighbours and to actively uphold the values of compassion, love and respect."The statement was carried in The Heraldnewspaper and dozens of local media outlets on March 24th. A short prayer the Moderator contributed on our website and social media channels in the immediate aftermath of the attack was also greatly appreciated, reaching more than 55,000 on our Facebook page alone.

From Nepal to Edinburgh - minister's new charge makes headlines

The new transition minister in Edinburgh's Willowbrae, Rev Malcolm Ramsay, was featured in The Herald, The Edinburgh Evening news and The Edinburgh Reporter, following his move from being a mission partner in Nepal back to Scotland. The article prompted an unexpected recognition in the Scottish Parliament with Lothian MSP Miles Briggs tabling a motion recognising and supporting Malcolm's appointment which received cross party support from 20 MSPs.

Government funding worth £225,000 for Church backed social enterprise charity

The social enterprise charity, WEvolution, which was created through a Church initiative, received a further £225,000 funding announced at a successful conference in Glasgow last week. The charity and its mission were picked up by BBC News online, Third Force News,The Scotsman, BBC Radio Scotland and regional news outlets. Part of the reason for receiving good coverage were the excellent colourful images captured by the event photographer the charity hired.

Dundee missionary's legacy inspires Kenyans today

Following the Moderator's recent visit to Kenya, our very own Cameron Brooks was intrigued by the story of Dundee Missionary Minnie Watson, whose faith and commitment is still regarded as an inspiration by millions of people in Kenya. Cameron did some research on his return home, and put together a story which has been carried by BBC News Online, The Courier, The Scotsman, as well as our own website which also has a video Cameron made during his trip.

Church addresses prospect of second independence referendum

A statement from the Church and Society Council, on behalf of the Church, setting out the need for more respectful dialogue on the subject of Scottish independence was largely well received, with the notable exception of Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser. He released a no holds barred reply which if anything emphasised the need for more, not less, grace and humility in this often all too heated debate. Of the more than 37,000 people the statement reached on our Facebook page, only 4 people indicated they were annoyed by the Church stating its case. Not so those who read the headlines in the Scottish Daily Mail, and to a lesser extent The Courier, who focussed on Murdo's interpretation, the Mail headline incorrectly stating 'Anger as Kirk ditches its neutrality on second poll'. Cue some angry telephone calls to our office. It is clear the spirit of grace, love and respect doesn't make for attention grabbing headlines. As The Herald showed with its more accurate, but less snappy 'Prime Minister will fuel animosity if she blocks second referendum, warns leading churchman'. A face to face meeting between Church representatives and Conservative MSPs to discuss the issue last week proved a much more respectful dialogue.

Church elder taking UK's largest Sunday service shares thoughts on worship

Undaunted by preparing Britain's most listened to Sunday Worship service reaching around 1.75m people, church elder, writer and broadcaster Anna Magnusson shared her thoughts on our website about the greater role church members can take in sharing worship. Listen again to her programme, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 26th March

Ministers share thoughts on tackling difficult subjects on BBC Radio

On BBC Radio Scotland's Sunday Morning with… programme on March 26th were former Moderator Very rev Alan McDonald talking about preparing the Thought for the Day on Good Morning Scotland the morning following the Westminster attack. You can hear Alan's Thought here on BBC Radio Scotland at 07:23:26 Also on the programme was Rev Shuna Dicks of Aberlour Parish Church who was taking part in a group discussion about having good conversations in our current challenging and difficult times.

Learn how to Live Web Stream: Event in Motherwell this weekend

Web experts Sanctus Media hold a free one day event from 10-3 this Saturday April 1st at Motherwell's Dalziel St Andrews for anyone interested in streaming their services or events live online. More information and registration here

Come to the Glasgow Presbytery Communications Pilot launch April 18th

The first in a series of events to help congregations in Glasgow Presbytery improve their websites, social media and local communications takes place in Gorbals Parish Church on Tuesday April 18th at 7pm. There will be a key note address on how to engage people on social media from one of Scotland's top charity communications consultancies, Third Sector Lab. For more information and to attend contact Rob Flett,

Welcome Edinburgh Presbytery's new Communications Officer, Julie Dunn

Julie has recently joined Edinburgh Presbytery to help coordinate and improve church communications in the Capital. With a background working for commercial and public sector clients in an award winning marketing agency, Julie brings a varied range of professional communication skills to the new role. Welcome Julie at