Last night’s TV documentary was billed in the paper thus:
Reporter Reevel Anderson evaluates the benefits of the Church of Scotland and considers whether diminishing congregations are indications of the Kirk’s waning contemporary relevance.
Yet, early in the day I received an email from the Church’s media unit, it said:
Tonight on BBC One Scotland at 10.35pm there will be a half-hour documentary about the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation and the future of the Church of Scotland. Whilst no one in the communications office has seen the finished programme, we helped to facilitate interviews and filming at various locations including Orkney’s St Magnus’ Cathedral, Luss Parish Church on the banks of Loch Lomondand St George’s Tron in Glasgow.
Quite a difference in spin. I was too tired to do the programme justice last night, so recorded it to watch with coffee this morning. Oh dear – I don’t know if it was deliberately slanted editing or a fair reflection of most of those interviewed, but it came across in a mainly negative way.
The CofS has been in existence for 450 years and personally I would have thought that at the very least that fact could be celebrated. Instead, there were various attempts to talk about the historical legacy of the Church in Scotland today. For example they did mention that, the CofS is still the biggest employer in social care in Scotland today. Interestingly that is well known – indeed it was quoted to me when I was at a meeting for Learning Disability services in Oban this week. But this was stated as if it was a spin-off or irrelevance. As a Parish Minister I spent time visiting people who had been helped by the social care side of the church and I know that it matters that one of its core values is the Christian injunction to care for the weak and vulnerable in society.
The Minister from Luss, Loch Lomond was more upbeat and he spoke movingly about the internet ministry of his church. Good on him is what I say. It is true that overall numbers (bxxs-on-pews) throughout the national church have gone down in terms of adherents but the good news stories were not given air-time. In some churches there is vibrant growth.
A church where I was working had a special anniversary for the year 2000 and we were the subject of an in-house documentary. A team of three people spent 3 days with us – filming the area and interviewing people. I was given 9 videos as a memento; they amounted to 27hrs of recording time, which ended up as 10 minutes of finished movie. (Incidentally it was very positive and wisely edited thankfully!) I merely point out that there could have been much that was good news and encouraging in footage that was simply abandoned. I know that much from home movie editing as well.
So what am I trying to say? I am now retired and attend a church that is a part of a group of five little churches in the Scottish Highlands. Only this week I read some verses in the Bible where the church in Thessalonia was being encouraged because the members were growing in faith and love for each other and the vulnerable. It feels like that is happening with us, thanks to our hard-working, faithful Minister, energetic church leaders and caring helpers. That is real, it is happening now. Somehow I want to let people know that the CofS is at a critical stage because it is finding new ways to be church and to love and care for the people of Scotland and beyond.
Haven’t done a sermon for a while. Will that do God?