NERDY CHURCH DETAILS
as some of you may know, I was chosen to be the youth representative for the international presbytery of the church of scotland for this year’s general assembly. ever since I arrived in budapest I’ve been an active, engaged, and enthusiastic participant in my local church of scotland congregation here in budapest – the scottish mission in budapest (alternatively called st. columba’s sometimes). when I was looking for a church after my move here the RCH recommended the scottish mission to me because of the congregations dual affiliation with both the RCH and the CofS. I initially went based on this recommendation, and the fact that it’s one of only a handful of english-speaking protestant services here in the city, but with time it’s really become a spiritual home for me and I’ve become quite attached. I jumped at the chance to attend the GA as a youth rep after my pastor here brought up the opportunity in passing, and I’m so glad that he did!
the theme for the church of scotland’s general assembly this year was “people of the way,” seeking to highlight the church’s christian community and the contribution that it makes within scotland and also in the wider world. the general assembly was held in edinburgh, at the GA hall on the mound, from may 21-27, 2016. over 730 commissioners from congregations across the CofS, both domestic and international, came together to soak up the mix of debate, tradition, and worship that make up the remarkable event. throughout the course of the week commissioners were joined by more than 150 people from associated partners and organizations, including over 30 youth representatives.
decisions made at the GA can have lasting consequences on the future of the national church (as the decisions that are passed down to presbyteries and then to individual congregations from the GA must be adhered to), and so more contentious issues are usually debated and discussed for many years before final resolutions are reached. this year saw a host of vibrant discussions on topics such as a congregations right to call a minister who is in a same-sex marriage to serve, the importance of providing pastoral care for transgender and non-binary congregation members, how close personal relationships effect the work of the church, the future role of elders in congregations, and also the process of local church review.
other important topics were discussed such as the world mission council’s vital eco-justice projects with partners around the world, the specific challenges facing churches in rural communities, the need for fresh pastors to serve in congregations around scotland, and the importance of researching ways to make hymnbooks and worship resources more accessible and intuitive for all.
what really stuck out to me at this year’s GA is how civil the discussion was between members of the assembly, even when the topics were tense. the church of scotland really has a commitment to take the time to think things over before rushing into a decision, reinforced by a mentality to do research and learn about contemporary topics that effect the church while paying attention to how the church is called to be the love of christ for everyone – even if its not always comfortable.
seeing all of this discussion, dialogue, debate, and democracy first-hand has really served to make me even more engaged in the church of scotland. this coming august the national youth assembly will take place, which is a scaled-down version of the GA for the youth of the CofS to debate their own issues and bring forth reports to the GA, and I would absolutely love to attend. being able to represent the international presbytery and the scottish mission in budapest while meeting other youth from around the world who are active and engaged in church life would be a dream come true. things are still in process here in regards to that, but I’ll keep y’all updated as I find out more!
also, if you’re interested in reading any of the reports or hearing more about any of the topics i’ve mentioned above, feel free to check out the CofS’s blue book (the compilation of reports from all the committees of the church that are presented at the GA) or ask me a question down in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it!