Church in the news

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

Tuesday 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 anObserverArticle 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.

Monday 19 December, 2016

Church in the News Highlights Tuesday 13 - Monday 19 December

Moderator's Christmas Message

The Edinburgh Evening News gave a preview of this year's Christmas message from the Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr. In his message, Dr Barr highlights the "enormous contrasts" of Christmas, where for some "there are the sights and sounds of the Christmas markets" but for others "there are the sights and sounds of people sleeping rough in shop doorways."  

Matchbox Nativities

Rev David Pitkeathly spoke on BBC Radio Cumbria about miniature nativity scenes in matchboxes which The Border Kirk in Carlisle are giving out for free to members of the public. Mr Pitkeathly hopes that these nativities, which are made in Peru by a fairtrade group, will help people to "remember the core of Christmas".

Three Parent Babies

The Church of Scotland is urging the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to think very carefully before licensing any clinical use of the new “three parent babies” techniques it has approved.

Dr Murdo Macdonald, Policy Officer for the Church's Society, Religion and Technology Project which has been considering this issue for a number of years said "This is the first instance of regulatory approval for genetic modification of a human baby. A strong and long-standing international consensus asserts that we should not cross this ethical ‘bright line’, since to do so will very likely lead to a future of genetically modified, ‘enhanced’ and ‘designer’ babies".

His comments were published in The Times, The Herald, The Scotsman,

Moderator Rededicates Church after £1.5 makeover

More than 300 people attended a special service on Friday to rededicate an historic church in Aberdeen which has had a £1.5million refurbishment.

The special guest at Mannofield Church was Moderator of the General Assembly Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, who was accompanied by his wife Margaret.

Dr Barr unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion.

The Moderator said a huge amount of money and effort had gone into renovating and restoring the historic building to ensure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Minister Keith Blackwood said the eight-year project had been a labour of love for the congregation and described the church as a welcoming "hub of care and support for the local community".

The story was covered in the: Press & Journal,
Aberdeen Evening Express
Original FM

Mary Logie's Killer Charged

A heroin addict has today been found guilty of the murder of a “kind hearted” Church of Scotland member in Fife.

Sandra Weir killed pensioner Mary (Rae) Logie in her home in Green Gates, Leven in January.

The Daily Record, The Scotsman, The Courier and the Edinburgh Evening News all carried the story.

Church of Scotland volunteers help the homeless

The Howard Centre in Kilmarnock, which was set up as a Christian Outreach centre, are providing presents for the homeless and for people trying to overcome drug addition this Christmas. The story featured on West Sound Radio.

Find out more about the Howard Centre.

Hard-work of Minister recognised

Congratulations to Rev Scott Burton who has been included in the Courier Impact 100 list for 2016.

The recognition is awarded to people in the newspaper's circulation area "who inspire us, challenge and change our world".

Mr Burton, a former plasterer, oversaw the £875,000 refurbishment of St Matthew's Parish Church in Perth - and even carried out some of the work himself, along with other congregation members.

...Otherwise Merry Christmas from everyone in the Communications Department!

This will be the last Church in the News until the new year, when we will do a bumper edition to cover the Christmas period.

Monday 12 December, 2016

Church in the news highlights Tuesday 6 - Monday 12 December


This year's Advent campaign has had an incredibly positive reaction via our social media channels and we've also seen a large increase in sign-ups and viewing figures compared to last year.

Local newspapers in particular have given some great press around the calendar.

Here's some of the newspaper coverage:

Fife Today

Kirk criticises proposed closure of half of Glasgow's job centres

The Department of Work and Pensions is proposing to shut eight centres in some of the city's most deprived areas as part of a review that aims to reduce the UK wide number by 20%.

Pauline Edmiston, vice convener of the Church and Society Council, said: ‘The Church would want to strongly resist these proposals.

“For many people getting to their local job centre is already very challenging.

“To make that even more difficult would be fundamentally wrong and unjust.”

MsEdmiston's comments appeared in  Glasgow Evening Timesand The Herald.

Martin Johnstone, Church and Society Secretary also wrote an article for Third Force News on the subject.

Home office reviewing visa refusal

The Home Office is to review a controversial decision to refuse visas to two Pakistani Christians who want to visit Glasgow.

Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill confirmed the case would be examined by officials after Glasgow Presbytery raised concerns that bureaucracy was “frustrating our efforts to build a partnership” with people of faith in the country.

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 Pakistan Christians had been left “personally depressed and shocked” by the situation.

This story has been covered in:

The Herald 
Asian Image
Christian Today
Glasgow Evening Times


Alison Elliot wins lifetime achievement award

Dr Alison Elliot OBE has become third person ever to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Scottish Public Service Awards.

The Church elder and academic was the first woman to serve as Moderator and chaired the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Group.

The rare and prestigious award was presented to Dr Elliot in a ceremony held Monday evening in the Scottish Parliament.

Created in 2014 through a partnership of the Parliament, the Scottish Government and Holyrood magazine, the awards recognise excellence in our public life.

The Story featured in the Holyrood Magazine and the Edinburgh Evening News.

Death of MSP Alex Johnstone

Alex Johnstone, who belonged to Glenbervie Church in Aberdeenshire, passed away peacefully after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 55.

Rev Douglas Lamb, who has provided locum cover at the church, said the Conservative politician’s death following a short illness was a “big loss” to the local community and wider north-east region he represented.

The retired minister said he knew Mr Johnstone, who is survived by his wife Linda, two children and six grandchildren, for many years and had a very high regard for him.

Newspapers across Scotland published obituaries including in:

The Telegraph
Daily Express
The Scotsman

Baby Jesus Stolen...and returned

A life-size baby Jesus was stolen from

The story was covered in the Daily Record and theBBC website

Time for Reflection

The Rev Dr Richard Frazer wrote an opinion piece for The Times in which he praised Time for Reflection in schools as a way to "promote tolerance and understanding in a pluralist and multicultural society". The piece was written in response to a Scottish Government consultation on whether there is a place for religion in schools.  

Benefit Sanctions

A letter was published in The Guardian criticising benefit sanctions. The letter was produced by Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church & Society Council, alongside representatives from the Baptist church, the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church and also the Church of England.

Family jump from second floor window to escape hotel fire

A man and his terrified family narrowly escaped death after they were forced to jump out of the second floor window of a hotel that was on fire.

Naveed Khurram, his wife Dr Fouzia Chugtai and their young son and daughter were staying at the Regent Plaza hotel in the Pakistani city of Karachi when the blaze broke out and killed 12 people, injuring 80.

It was an horrendous end to what should have been a joyful family reunion because Mr Khurram had just returned  from a three month stay in Edinburgh, sponsored by the Church of Scotland, that day.

The 38-year-old, who is currently doing a MSc in Global Health and was studying at Queen Margaret University, was woken up at 4am on Monday by a loud banging noise outside his room.

The story was covered in the Edinburgh Evening News.

Monday 28 November, 2016

News highlights Tuesday 22 - Monday 28

Church expresses concern at the Chancellor's Autumn Statement

Church leaders have warned that a freeze to state benefits combined with an expected rise in inflation will hit the poorest people in society “harder and faster”.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland , has urged the UK Government to provide assurances that vulnerable families will be protected from further erosion of the value of support payments.

The Christian press covered this in:

Christian Today

Read our own article on the subject.

Owl see you at the altar

A Church of Scotland minister was sworn to secrecy by a bridegroom, when he officiated at a traditional wedding ceremony with an unusual twist.

The Wilkinsons had their wedding rings delivered down the aisle by a barn owl.

Karl Wilkinson surprised his bride, Emma-Jane, by having their wedding rings delivered by a trained barn owl.

Rev Adam Hood, who leads St Andrews Wallace Green Church of Scotland in Berwick-upon-Tweed, said he enjoyed the surprise and would do it again.

“The owls had a deep symbolic meaning for the couple, so I was very pleased to take part in what was a very happy occasion,” he said.

“The service was completely traditional until it came time for the exchange of rings."

“You worry about something so different and out of your control but it all went perfectly and it was all great fun," said Mr Hood.

“The wedding itself was a very happy and positive occasion, people enjoyed themselves.

The story has had some great covereage including The Times,  The Sun (with a lot of puns!) and Metro.

Honorary Doctorate for former Moderator

Congratulations to the Very Rev John Chalmers, who was awarded an honorary doctorate from Aberdeen University last Friday.

Ministers interviewed about recruitment

Rev Stuart Love and Rev Graham Blount were interviewed last Thursday morning by BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie programme for a piece about younger people entering the ministry which is due to be broadcast later.

Jane Haining's will to feature on the Antiques Roadshow

Jane Haining's story continues to attract attention, with Cameron Brooks attending a recording of the BBC Antiques Roadshow at the weekend. Cameron was trusted with the safe keeping of Jane's recently rediscovered artefacts to be featured in a special programme about the holocaust. The programme will be aired in January with Fiona Bruce talking to two of Jane's relatives who travelled from Northern Ireland to appear in the show.  

Issues with the Humanist Society

A request was made for a humanist funeral in a church-owned, but publicly funded community hall in Golspie. Unfortunately this local issue has received negative covereage in The Herald and The Scotsman. It is likely that the amount of negative press on similar issues will increase in the future as more people opt for Humanist funerals.  

Calling all Councils & Departments!

Media outlets are now contacting us seeking good stories they can feature over the quiet period around Christmas and New Year. This is the ideal opportunity to get interesting and non-time sensitive stories in the media, especially if they have a Christmassy feel to them or deal with emotive issues such as homelessness and loneliness which people are especially thinking about as they buy presents and think about spending time with their family.