MSPs hail 'brilliant' Church community work

Church members have been hailed at Holyrood for the “brilliant” community work undertaken across Scotland.

Green MSP Ross Greer said the state would not be able to cope if services and support provided by faith communities were withdrawn.

He said he was “immensely proud” of the contribution members of Bearsden Cross Church in East Dunbartonshire make to improve and enrich the lives of others.

Ross Greer
Church of Scotland climate change officer Adrian Shaw chats with Green MSP Ross Greer. Credit Andrew O'Brien.

Mr Greer, a member of the congregation, made the remarks during a recent debate at Holyrood to celebrate the launch of Serve Scotland, a network of church-based charitable organisations.

The session was led by Kate Forbes, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, who said faith communities hated injustice, loved people and “will not be content until peace and love reign supreme in Scotland”.

Mr Greer said: “Faith organisations provide such a range of services and support in every city, town and village in our country that, if they were to go, we would not be able to cope.

“That is particularly true in this era of austerity, of public services being hammered by cuts and of a concerted effort to reduce the supportive role of the state.”

Immense pride

Mr Greer said members of Bearsden Cross Church ran a “Mind That Song” club for people living with dementia and their carers.

The club uses singing to bring together those who can often feel isolated and overwhelmed – using the well documented ability of music to bring back long forgotten memories and give those with the condition a renewed sense of self.

Church members are involved in BEAM- Bearsden and Milngavie’s talking newspaper – which benefits people with eyesight challenges.

Mr Greer said they have also worked alongside East Dunbartonshire Council to welcome four Syrian families to the local area earlier this year.

“I’m immensely proud of the brilliant work my church and many others do within the community and it was a wonderful opportunity to talk about this in parliament,” added the MSP.

“I’m particularly pleased that Bearsden Cross have taken a lead in supporting Syrian refugees and referred in my speech to fantastic volunteers like Peter Drummond, who has given up to 40 hours of volunteering a week to help our new residents feel welcome in the community.

“Of course the church doesn’t stand alone, there are many thousands of volunteers from other churches, faith groups and secular organisations working together across Scotland to make a difference.

“Without this amazing work we simply would not be able to cope and we should be grateful for it.”

Defender of the poor

Mr Greer, Scotland’s youngest MSP, said his faith motivated him to enter politics.

“Jesus was overtly on the side of the poor, the excluded, the ignored, the disenfranchised and the exploited.

“He was on their side when it damaged his reputation, his earning potential and any hope he had of moving up the ranks of religious or political power.

“He was on their side when he drove out the price-manipulators and rent-seekers in the temple courts and he was on their side when it cost him his life.

“That is what has always motivated me in my faith and my politics -the desire to serve others.”

Invaluable

Graeme Dey, SNP MSP for Angus South, highlighted work carried out at a drop-in centre in his constituency which helps people struggling with addictions.

He said the Havilah Project, run by St Andrew’s Parish Church in Arbroath, was doing important work.

Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament debating chamber.

Mr Dey said: “Havilah began in response to the desire of some members to reach out to the many people in the local community who, for whatever reason, often find themselves excluded, isolated and unloved.

“It helps people who are struggling with addictions.

“Volunteers have also visited some of the service users who have been sent to prison, and some people, on leaving prison, make Havilah their first port of call because they know of the welcome that they will get.

“Angus Council and the Church of Scotland’s Go For It fund provide financial support and, in 2015, the project was presented with the Queen’s award for voluntary service.

“St Andrew’s church also works alongside Arbroath Old and Abbey church on operating a food bank in the town.

“Having visited the food bank, I know of the invaluable service that it is providing to people who are in times of crisis.”

Love

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser and Dave Stewart, a Labour politician, praised the “inspirational” work carried out by Street Pastors – who support late night revellers worse for wear and the homeless - in cities across the country.

“There is a general view that, across Scotland, church congregations are dwindling—at least, that is what recent censuses and surveys have told us,” said Mr Fraser.

“However, perhaps what we are learning is bums on pews on a Sunday morning might be less important than the holistic work that churches do, particularly in the wider community, in reaching out with the gospel and in their other outreach work.

“Such work is a practical illustration of the Christian faith, in offering help and relief to, and demonstrating love for, those who are less fortunate.”