Church of Scotland

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Study Leave

Sunday, 30 January 2022

Jamie Milliken

Dear members and friends,

My 2022 started with some serious brain exercise and the head still hurts!  I’m involved in a study programme with ten ministers from the Presbyterian Church USA and ten from the Church of Scotland, all exploring ministry today. 

We were supposed to be meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but COVID got the better of us and we had two weeks Zooming online (US time zones applied).  Our plan is to next meet in Edinburgh in June, we’ll see!

During this most recent fortnight we focused the first week on what it is to be the church in a volatile political climate, and it was both eye-opening and heart-breaking to hear some of the stories from the USA, of fallouts in the church over politics.  An issue that had significant undercurrents in the past but with the most recent political stirrings in the USA have really brought painful questions about the very nature of what it is to be the church.  We also looked at the Scottish and UK dimensions of Independence and Brexit and the challenge of being God’s Church though difficult political debate and heightened tensions. 

For me it highlighted the essential importance of the church remaining involved in politics, particularly in speaking out and caring for the needs of those who are most marginalised, but not nailing our colours to the flagpole for this, or that political party.  

In the second week we explored what it is to be church in a post-Christian world.  Until fairly recently Christianity was the main faith professed in Scotland, but this has now changed we are now in the minority (and it will be interesting to see the results coming from this year’s National Census). 

While we are now in the minority, we can be a creative minority!  And maybe this new situation will free us up to begin to think differently about the way we live and practice our faith.  Reimagining what it is to make a positive difference in our communities and help others be open to knowing and following Jesus.  Today this will more than likely be through one-to-one interactions, loving people and serving among them.  That is why new outreach like Crossing Together with Tea and Toast, Walk and Talk and the proposed “New to Me” clothes bank are so vitally important in making connections with people who are not yet Christian. 

Through our discussions it also became apparent that with the changes to the Church of Scotland coming our way the ongoing life of the local church will be significantly expressed through the life of the ordinary membership.

The future of the church is in God’s hands.  We know that God is faithful, and we know that God has chosen to partner with us in His work in the world, offering us a life and a hope to share.   So let us be a creative minority as we continue to witness to the new life that comes from Christ living in us, and through us. 

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Jamie Milliken