Nearly into September and still waiting on summer weather. I hope the rain has not been too depressing.
One of the more obvious differences between church life here in Scotland and that on the other side of the Atlantic is the enormous difference in attitude to how summer is spent. Here, everything stops. Few, if any, church based organisations meet. It is simply a matter of worship on Sunday, important though that is, and little else. Whereas in the United States, there is no such seasonal hiatus. Churches run special programmes, educational projects and all manner of social activities right through the summer months. Granted their weather tends to be kinder, but there is surely much for us in Scotland to learn from their practise.
MAKING A START
In Bothwell we have been making a start.
During the summer this year, children who normally come along to our Sunday clubs have been continuing meeting together, not in church as they usually do, but in the church Centre. The Kirk Session is very grateful to Alastair and Hazel Scott for organising this initiative and also to other volunteers for giving their time and help. Now that schools have begun their new session, we are delighted to have the boys and girls back with us each Sunday as usual, spending some time within the church at worship before enjoying their own varied activities thereafter. It is especially gratifying to have the help of parents and others in the congregation assisting with the supervision of the children. Too easily do we take for granted the dedication of those who give their time and effort furthering the education and understanding of our young people regarding the Church and our Faith. Such work is vital. Nothing is more important.
However, while it is important that young people are educated and entertained and amused within the life of the church community, there can never be an adequate substitute for what is needed most – the loving example and guidance of parents. No matter how dedicated or willing voluntary leaders may be, the crucial encouragement must come from within the family home if young people are ever to be nurtured in the faith of our church family.
I realise I am touching on something that many may find uncomfortable. For what is to happen if parents themselves do not possess any spiritual understanding or depth of faith? No longer in our schools is religious education given the emphasis it once was. Perhaps this is a good thing, because it places responsibility right where it really ought to be – on those parents – and grandparents, too – who consider themselves part of the Christian family.
At the Baptism of their children, parents make sacred vows of intention and responsibility regarding the spiritual upbringing of their family. No-one forces anyone to do this. Parents seek the baptism of their children at their own free-will. Usually, I have little doubt these vows are taken sincerely at the time. However, time passes and good intention can dissipate. Meantime, children are deprived of the benefit such knowledge and relationships can bring.
That’s why learning opportunities within the Church are so important—and not just for young people.
LIVING THE QUESTIONS OF LIFE
Over the past two years we have successfully introduced a series of discussion opportunities called Living the Questions. Lead by contributions on DVD, participants are encouraged to re-consider their faith in the light of modern scholarship and understanding; and, then to relate that faith to some of the major questions we all ask about the values and practices of today’s society and world.
Reaction to the programme has been hugely encouraging with most participants graduating from the Introductory level through stage two to stage three. Each level lasts four or five weeks. Hopefully, those who complete the programme will have greater confidence to ask questions about the Church’s traditional belief; and a more confident faith realising that it is sometimes more important to ask questions than to receive an answer.