Reflections: Church about more than Assembly talk

Scots recitals and Burns poetry at Parkhill Primary School in Leven, with head teacher Yvonne Wallace and local minister the Rev Gilbert Nisbet
Scots recitals and Burns poetry at Parkhill Primary School in Leven, with head teacher Yvonne Wallace and local minister the Rev Gilbert Nisbet
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AS you read this, the Church of Scotland, of which I am a minister, is meeting in General Assembly, in the Assembly Hall at the top of The Mound in Edinburgh.

And, as you read this, I am sitting in that hall at the top of The Mound, listening to the debates, discussions and deliberations which are part of the Kirk’s annual meeting.

During this week I will have been frequently bored, sometimes interested, occasionally fascinated and, if I’m blessed, unusually moved.

All of Church life is certainly there in the Assembly Hall and, from time to time, all of life is there as well.

In days gone by, the General Assembly would have attracted pages of reporting in the Scottish newspapers, and many hours of television. Indeed, before the advent of the Scottish Parliament, it was a major debating chamber on Scottish issues.

However, today, only those matters which the media deems to be controversial are likely to get much coverage.

Some of the concerns which are considered during this week of intensive discussion will strike many as obscure and irrelevant. After all, the Kirk is a huge Scottish institution and much that we discuss is related to the things which have to be decided, so that the bureaucracy associated with such a cumbersome undertaking can move forward.

Other matters under discussion relate to our immediate concerns as we endeavour to get our message out to people in Scotland, and even further afield.

Some things are all about the little issues which bother Kirk folk and are of little interest to the general public. In the end of the day, what the Church is endeavouring to do is alert everybody to the wonderful, good news that God loves us.

This may not be apparent if you only happen to glimpse some of the reports about our discussions during the week. However, the Church is about so much more than all that is happening in Edinburgh during these few days. It’s about people living out their belief in the reality of the love God has for us.

In the Fourth Gospel, it says God so loved the world that He gave is only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 REB). This may be a truth that might not be evident as we read reports of all that is being discussed at the General Assembly.

However, it’s absolutely key to everything that happens in our annual meeting. If we didn’t believe this, there would be no point in going on. The Church exists to let everyone know God’s love is for everyone, and no-one willing to turn to Him will ever be ignored or rejected. Behind all that is said this week there is the love of God, which it seems to me is the only thing that really matters. Remember that and you have grasped the essence of the Gospel.

By Rev Gilbert Nisbet of Leven Parish Church.