2012: Becky Hogg – Duns presbytery

This was my first experience as a youth representative at the General Assembly. I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to fill this position, but I am very glad that I did as it gave me an insight into the wider work of the Church of Scotland. The setting, in the Assembly Halls in Edinburgh, was magnificent, and accommodated the 800 or so delegates very well!
 
As a youth representative for Duns Presbytery, my responsibility was to attend the youth representative sessions every evening, and discuss the following days’ business with my fellow youth delegates from across Scotland. This helped to clarify ‘the blue book’ as it encouraged the youth representatives to read through the reports and discuss each section, raising any issues that they would like to contribute to the debate the following day. Although a dense read, we managed to make sense and help each other in understanding the business better.  By sharing knowledge and opinion of issues dealt with in each report, this gave me a valuable insight not only into the work of the Church, but also of the work of the smaller localities, for example the Iona Community Board.
 
The Saturday allowed us all to gain our footing at the Assembly, as a lot of us were new youth representatives who had never been to such an event before. On the Sunday, Heart & Soul 2012 took place in Princes St. Gardens where we were blessed with beautiful sunshine and plenty to see and do. This was a special event, and stirred a sense of belonging to the event for us youth reps. I helped out with some catering duties on the Sunday in the Mission & Discipleship tent as well, and it proved to be a successful afternoon for them. One special memory for me was at Communion on Monday morning, where a small youth choir, including myself, sang ‘King of Kings, Majesty’ to the delegates at the beginning of the service.
 
On the Wednesday, we were all lucky enough to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury speak at Assembly. His main topic was about living in a ‘change of age’, which was a key theme that ran through the business of the week – the Church in a changing age. I think also that the presence of youth representative at the Assembly also contributed to the idea of a ‘change in age’ in the wider Church society.
 
The Storytelling Centre was the ‘hub’ for youth rep. activity, where we had morning worship, breakfast, group discussions about the reports, evening worship, singing and readings, and also a couple of special evening events with music and more group activities! This ‘hub’ was an ideal space for congregating and each morning I felt confident that we were in good hands in this space ahead of the day’s business.
 
Of particular significance at this event was the ability for youth representatives to contribute to the report notes and commendations at any given time. We thoroughly enjoyed the sermons and jovial nature of the Moderator of the Assembly this year, the Rev. Albert Bogle! Each day had its own theme, which set the tone for the day, and the Moderator would usually tell a story in relation to the day’s theme before business begun. The prevalence of love and forgiveness was at the crux of his messages.
 
As a group, we identified ‘mission in a digital age’ as just one key issue affecting the Church and its message today. A lot of the General Assembly coverage and ‘hype’ centred around social networking sites such as Twitter, which attracted a fair amount of attention and contribution from the youth group. We believe that this is an important tool in getting the message ‘out there’ to wider society, however we are wondering how this can work on a more local basis – how can church numbers be gained and retained? Do we need to turn our attention to the digital networks available?
 
Thursday evening, our last night at the GA, was very enjoyable with a reception at Holyrood Palace, followed by a meal at the Macdonald Hotel for the youth reps. We were in the land of luxury!
 
I left the conference with a refreshed and invigorated perception of the work of the Church (as well as many new friends), and I am eager to keep the youth involved all over Scotland. I am therefore interested in attending the National Youth Assembly on the weekend of the 11th and 12th August, and would be delighted to take forward any matters or recognition notices that could be raised in relation to the work of the youth within Duns Presbytery.