Archbishop Cushley reflects on the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which he attends in his role as in his role as Catholic Bishop President for Ecumenical Relations in Scotland.

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It’s that time of the year again and I find myself attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The Kirk invites sister churches in Scotland to send an observer to attend, and I’ve been representing the Catholic Church there for the last eleven years.

That itself shows an openness of the Kirk in letting others see how they address issues and makes decisions.

The commissioners at the General Assembly, men and women, ministers and laity, represent the whole Church for a certain limited amount of time, and they vote on all matters relating to the life of the Church.

They’re elected to serve for a short period of time, and even the Moderator, famously, only serves for one year – and a shout out to the new Moderator, Dr Shaw Paterson for his warm welcome the other day - but although the Assembly’s membership changes regularly, there are two things that never seem to change, and I mean that in a good way.

I have never attended a session – even with royalty present – when there wasn’t warmth, humour, and laughter.

The first is perhaps the nation’s best kept secret.  The ministers and people who make up the Church of Scotland have a great sense of humour.

They can laugh at themselves, and they can take a joke.  I have never attended a session – even with royalty present – when there wasn’t warmth, humour, and laughter.

The reputation for dour sobriety couldn’t be further from the truth.

The second is that the people there regularly let me see a sense of duty towards the whole nation.

An openness and sense of service that is not always noticed by the rest of us. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, it seems to me that the Kirk tries to make itself available to everyone in Scotland.

It has been the principal Christian presence in the country for nearly five centuries now, but that’s not just a bit of history; it’s about pastoral care and practical action at the service of everyone in the country.

My friends at the General Assembly deserve a pat on the back for their concern for us all, and for doing it with a smile.  Have a good one!

Thought for the Day was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on Tuesday 21 May 2024.