A message from our Minister, The Rev Dr Neil Dougall - October 2018

201810The number of daily newspapers printed in the UK has fallen by 30% since 2010. That means newspapers have lost almost a third of their readers in just eight years. In the same period the number of members of the Church of Scotland has fallen by almost exactly the same figure. For the Church the drop has been 29%.

While there’s no connection between sales of newspapers and membership of the Church of Scotland, there are similarities.

Sales of newspapers have fallen. Is that because people are no longer interested in what’s going on in the world? Have they fallen out of love with the news?

Anything but. People still want the news – it’s just that they are accessing it in different ways and have different expectations. Data published by Reuters showed that by 2016 newspapers were the main source of news for only 8% of people. For 33% of people, it was the TV, and for 46% of people, the internet was where they got their news.

So, is the game over for newspapers? Have they thrown in the towel? Anything but. The owners haven’t given up. What they’re doing is trying different things to see what will work. Most have moved their content online. The Times makes you pay to read it. The Guardian asks for donations. The Mail is trying to make online advertising work. And, the Metro, has made itself free. In the process it’s become the most popular paper in the country and is one of the few that is making a profit. Will any of these prove sustainable? No one knows. Only time will tell.

There are lessons for the church to learn from the newspaper industry.

  1. Just because people aren’t buying newspapers doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in the news. Just because people no longer want to attend church doesn’t meant they’ve lost interest in Jesus, faith and Christianity.
  2. The owners of newspapers know that the old model is bust. The church needs to recognise that people are not going to flock back to church in the way it’s currently organised.
  3. The owners of newspapers don’t know what the solution is. They are being brave and trying different things, knowing some will work and others won’t. Like them the church needs to experiment with different patterns of worship and gathering to find what will connect for a new generation.

In St Andrew Blackadder we want to do this. One of our current priorities is to discover what church might look like for those who are interested in Jesus but are not currently part of church, and then to take steps to bring this into being, with a particular focus on children, young people and their families.

As a first step, the Kirk Session has appointed Douglas Hamilton to do some research. His job will be to drink coffee and hang out with people who are interested in faith but not part of church. He’s going to listen to their thoughts and aspirations. He’s going to chat with them about what sort of gathering might be something they’d like to be part of – not as consumers, but as contributors.

Douglas will then share what he’s heard and the clues he’s discerned with the Kirk Session. As we listen carefully we expect to hear the Holy Spirit prompting us. Then it will be time to try some experiments. Not all will work. Yet it is from small beginnings that new ways of being the church have always emerged.

Please pray for Douglas and the Kirk Session as we engage in listening, both to those outwith the church, and to the Holy Spirit.

Whether you turn to the right of the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’. (Isaiah 30:21 )


Loving God,
even when you seem to be
    most absent, you are ever present
    most silent, you are ever speaking
    most distant, you are never closer.
In the darkness of doubt
    help us discern your presence.
In the pain of loss
    help us listen for your prompting
In the confusion of change
    make us sensitive to your Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.

October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019 July 2019 September 2019
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