September 2017: Neither interference nor isolation
Most of us prize our independence. We don’t appreciate it when people stick their noses in our business. If we need help, we’re well able to ask. If we don’t ask, we expect people to mind their own business. No one likes an interfering busy-body.
What’s true of individuals is true of churches. One of the things we value about the Church of Scotland is the light touch that the denomination exercises. By and large St Andrew Blackadder is left to get on with its own mission and ministry. We don’t have to submit monthly reports. We don’t have frequent visitors by a supervisor. Presbytery is there to help if we need it. Presbytery will step in if things go wrong. Most of the time we’re left to get on with things. And most of us are pretty happy with that.
For the last year I have been Moderator of the Presbytery of Lothian. In early August I led two services, one in Musselburgh and one in Penicuik, when Presbytery inducted two new ministers. As I was doing this, a thought struck me. It’s along time since our congregation has seen or met the Presbytery of Lothian. The last time that there was a Presbytery service in St Andrew Blackadder was in 2003 when I was inducted. It is fourteen years since our congregation actually saw Presbytery and had a sense of what this body is to whom we are accountable.
At one level, that’s fine. It’s the way our denomination is organised.
At another level, perhaps it isn’t fine. When the pendulum swings away from interference it ends up in isolation. Isolation is not a word, which fits the church in the New Testament. As the pendulum swings from interference, it passes through inter-dependence and independence before it reaches isolation. Of these words, I would say that inter-dependence is the one that best describes the church in the New Testament.
God’s pattern for the church appears to be one that encourages congregations to take initiative and to be responsible for their own affairs. But never in a ‘you in your small corner and I in mine’ way. Instead we are to see ourselves as one part of the church of Jesus Christ. Each congregation belongs to the one church of Jesus Christ. We are part of something much bigger. We are connected to all the other parts of it. And so we have a responsibility to support and help these other parts. Congregations are not independent, they are inter-dependent.
For that to happen we need to know each other. We need to meet. When we do we discover how others can support us, and how we can support them.
In our Presbytery, the Moderator’s year of office ends in their home church. So on Thursday 28th September, the Presbytery of Lothian will meet in St Andrew Blackadder at 7 pm. The first part of the evening will be a service of Holy Communion, which I will lead as outgoing Moderator. The second part will be a Presbytery business meeting. Rev David Scott from Traprain (East Linton), the incoming Moderator will lead this.
Presbytery meetings are public. That means that anyone is welcome to attend either (or both) the Communion service and the Business meeting.
St Andrew Blackadder is not an independent fellowship. We are a congregation of the Church of Scotland and part of the Presbytery of Lothian. While you’ll have heard this often perhaps you’ve struggled to have a sense of what it actually means. Why not come along on Thursday 28th September and experience for yourself being part of, not just of St Andrew Blackadder, but also the Presbytery of Lothian and the Church of Scotland. Come and see how we, as a denomination, try to make inter-dependence a reality.
‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:27 )
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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