Moderator embarks on first presbytery visit in Edinburgh

The Moderator of the General Assembly is embarking on a ten-day visit to learn more about the life and work of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Lord Wallace said he is looking forward to attending events organised by the Presbytery of Edinburgh which will see him meet people from all walks of life and learn how they have coped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presbytery visits provide Moderators with an opportunity to offer encouragement and support to church members and the communities they serve.

 Lord Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly
Lord Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly

Due to the lockdown, this is the first fully in-person visit to take place since 2019.

Lord Wallace, a QC and former MP and MSP, said the city is close to his heart.

"I am very much looking forward to my first presbytery visit, not least because it is Edinburgh where I went to university, trained as a lawyer, practiced as a lawyer, sat in the Scottish Parliament and where I met my wife, Rosie," he said.

"I am very grateful to the presbytery for putting together a very comprehensive programme, which will allow me to engage with a whole range of people who reflect my interests and background."

Candidates

The programme will see Lord Wallace visit churches, hospitals, universities and a prison and meet ordinary church members, politicians, senior figures in the judiciary, ministers, chaplains and interfaith and ecumenical leaders.

Lord Wallace was ordained as an elder at what was St Bernard's Church in Stockbridge in 1981.

"It is now called Stockbridge Parish Church and I am looking forward to joining the congregation on Sunday," he added.

In the evening, the Moderator will lead worship at Holy Trinity Church in Wester Hailes.

Lord Wallace will meet with Councillor Frank Ross, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, at the City Chambers the following day and will later attend an event at New College to mark their 175th Anniversary and meet candidates for the ministry.

In the evening, the Moderator will attend a civic event at the City Chambers for members of the Edinburgh Area Children's Panel who make sure that a young person is at the heart of legal decisions that affect them.

Many church members are involved in this work and Lady Wallace, who will be accompanying her husband, was a panel member for many years until recently.

Courts and prison

On Tuesday, Lord Wallace, who is currently sitting on the non-affiliated benches in the House of Lords, is visiting the Charteris Centre run by Greyfriars Kirk, which is based in a refurbished church building at The Pleasance which is nearing completion.

It is a social enterprise initiative which seeks to provide a place for connection with communities of all kinds.

Afterwards he will visit Edinburgh Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Courts to hear more about the administration of justice, especially during the pandemic.

Lord Wallace will then travel to HMP Edinburgh in the Saughton area of the city where he will be given a tour and introduced to staff, prisoners and the chaplains who support them.

On Wednesday, he will visit Napier University's Sighthill campus where he will meet Principal Andrea Nolan and be given a tour of the Clinical Centre in School of Health and Social Care.

He will meet staff, students, members of the university's chaplaincy team and Professor Gary Hutchinson and Liz Aston from the School of Applied Sciences to discuss work with Scottish Institute For Policing Research.

In the afternoon, the Moderator will visit the Granton Goes Greener project at Granton Parish Church to learn more about an innovative clothes upcycling project which is part of work to reduce consumption as part of efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

He will later attend a special Presbytery service in St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, which will be attended by the church's ecumenical and interfaith partners, as well as national and civic leaders, and will be followed by a reception in Parliament Hall which will bring people from the worlds of religion, politics and legal profession together.

On Thursday, the Moderator is visiting Edinburgh Airport with Rev Moira MacDonald, minister of Corstorphine Old Parish Church and Workplace Chaplain, Esther Elliot, to hear about the work of workplace chaplains.

He will later meet with the Principal of the University of Edinburgh and visit the law school – the place where he studied - to speak with students and staff.

Frontline chaplains

In the evening, the Moderator will attend a Presbyterial Guild event in Craiglockhart Parish Church, speaking on the theme of "Look forward in Faith".

On Friday, he is visiting the Royal Blind School, the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and will attend an evening reception at Edinburgh Castle for chaplains who serve in a wide variety of contexts – hospitals, the military, universities and the workplace.

Lord Wallace said: "I am looking forward to meeting people engaged in chaplaincy, many of whom have been at the front line during the COViD-19 crisis.

"I will be very much in listening mode and hope to provide them with encouragement."

Polwarth Parish Church is the Moderator's next stop where, on Saturday, he will visit the new All Aboard canal boat that the congregation jointly own with a charity called People Know How.

It is used for spiritual and educational pursuits on the Union Canal, which links Edinburgh and Falkirk.

The Moderator will take part in worship at Tron, Moredun and Gilmerton Church on Sunday and join members of Leith Churches for a special service in the evening.

He will visit the Richmond's Hope bereavement project for children and young people at Richmond Craigmillar Church the following day.

Very Rev Dr Derek Browning, Moderator of Edinburgh Presbytery, said: "We are looking forward to welcoming Lord Wallace.

"Presbytery visits allow Moderators to meet local Christians and gain a wider perspective of how the Church, and the communities we support, engage."