As I travelled to Edinburgh from Skye for the General Assembly week my single goal was survival and anything beyond that would be a bonus. I confess I was extremely nervous, but I was very conscious of so much support and prayers from my own family and congregation, and beyond. Thank you. As it turned out I really enjoyed the week and am very grateful to God for the privilege of being part of it.
We are not without our challenges and problems in the Free Church, but I was struck by the harmony and unity, and the friendship and fellowship, that existed as we met together. The discussions and debates were lively but conducted lovingly. There was seriousness and there was humour. There was a real sense of having a great work to do and the desire to do it. It was so encouraging to see a passion for church planting, and a strong emphasis on developing established congregations and add to that a dedicated time to discuss global mission. The Mission Board have a huge remit, but they fulfil it well.
I also was remembering the days when we used to wait to see how big the deficit was going to be, or how big the hole in the pension fund was. We perhaps neglect to acknowledge what an amazing job the Board of Trustees have done over the years to get the church finances in order, and the vision they have for the gospel.
There was so much that I found exciting, not just the work the Mission Board and the Board of Trustees. Great things are going on in ETS, the Board of ministry report was excellent, the discussion on praise and worship was animated, even the presentation on reviewing the Practice (the book that gives guidance over matters of procedure and discipline) had its moments! However, there were a few things in particular that for me stood out.
First was the need for workers. There is a lot that needs to be done, and a lot that we can do but we need people, the right people, to do it. We were reminded several times of the need to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers.
Second was the very practical guidance that came from the Communications report regarding biblical principles which should govern how we communicate with each other, the public and the media. I also appreciated it as something that could really help on a personal level to be more God honouring when communicating with others, and especially in the use of social media. Check out the report, it is good.
Third was the decision to have the Board of Trustees, in conjunction with the Mission Board, examine how we can better support and finance churches in areas of social deprivation. It was clear in the Assembly that there is a real heart for the church plants in places like Govan, Charleston and Merkinch. The Board of Trustees is going to review how we can better support them and report back to the next Assembly.
But the main highlight of the week for me was the hour of prayer, praise and Bible readings on the Wednesday morning. The prayers were so heartfelt, the praise was heart-lifting (led by Lachie who sings the way I think I can sing in my head, but then open my mouth!), and the Bible readings were about Jesus. I think what made the week special was that it was gathering of people who wanted everything to be about Jesus.
I did enjoy the week, but having said that, I was still glad when it was over!