2013: John Haston - NYA Rep

If I had to pick one word to describe my week would be… Amazing!

I loved every second of it all, even the early morning worship and the late evening preparations and Worship sometimes not finishing till around 11.30pm.

All of the youth reps were all accommodated in the Holiday Inn Express on the Cowgate, Just off the Royal Mile.  Facilities were all above what I expected.  I was sharing a room with Michael Mair whom has almost completed his studies and is in the final stages of his training as Minister of Word and Sacrament.  Once he has finished his training in a few months’ time, this will make him the second youngest minister ever to enter service in the Church of Scotland.  The difference is only by a matter of weeks.

I arrived on the Friday Afternoon around 2pm as I had a meeting before General Assembly began to discuss other business with the National Youth Assembly Moderator, Euan Paterson.  We all had dinner at Nando’s then we all had to attend to the assembly halls for a tour and training on how Assembly is run.  After this we all went back to the hotel for Worship and Prep for the following day’s Debates.  Which happened every night except Thursday (which I will touch on later).

The opening ceremony was exciting.  When the Right Reverend Albert Bogle handed over the Ring (the spare one), he also gave her a cross which was given to him by an elder of St Andrews parish church before he left, it had been handcrafted for him by the elder.  It was to remind him of why he was in the position, he was there because of the cross.  We all have to remember that all of us here tonight are here because of the cross, without the cross – where would be Christianity? What would be our symbol?

After the opening Ceremony, there were various reports from the Assembly Arrangements Committee, the Scottish Bible Society, Legal Questions Committee, Council of Assembly, the Joint report of the council of assembly and Mission and Discipleship Council on the Place of Doctrine and Theological Reflection in the Life of the Church of Scotland, and then two reports on Pensions.  Then I had a rehearsal for communion on Monday.

There was also an evening session that evening which we were unable to attend as we as study time back at the hotel for Monday’s Debate.

On Sunday Morning, I went to St. Giles… one word – POMPOUS.  I liked it, but it was just a bit too traditional and too much circumstance.  The sound system was terrible, it was two sound systems with each one a different mic, so during the sermon, each time the Moderator turned her head in the opposite direction, the sound was lost.  I was actually quite gutted as I only got half a sermon. 

After this was Heart and Soul 2013 in Princes Street Gardens.  My First Job was to head to Stage C to Sing hymns and Psalms for the Mission and Discipleship’s Slot on the Stage.  I found myself in the front row much to my horror, but it was fun.  As we finished, we carried on singing down the avenue past all the Church of Scotland congregations represented from all over Scotland and the world handing out prayer cards.  As we had done this, we got a ticket for a free coffee and Cake (except the cupcakes) from the Mission and Discipleship tent.  I spent the afternoon walking around the gardens speaking to other congregations and getting some ideas for things we might be able to in our church to encourage more young families to come to church.  Later I was doing my part for Falkirk Presbytery by carrying the flag down the avenue to the closing worship and I got a front row seat next to the Moderator and her Family, and appearing on the massive screen three times, singing and dancing and worshiping the lord.  Then it was back to the hotel for Prep and worship.

On Monday, I had to be at the assembly halls for 8.15 am to prepare the wine and bread for communion.  I was very humbled at been given this once in lifetime opportunity to serve communion at the General Assembly.  As we entered the Assembly Hall, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as the assembly sang Psalm 24 – Ye Gates lift up your Heads on high.

After Communion was the big debate of which you have already heard about tonight.  It was one of the biggest decisions that the church has had to make.  The funniest story I heard was later on, one of the members of the public gallery said to one of the youth delegates in the toilet “I don’t actually do the whole church thing, I just came to see a fight, but its all been very civilised and very “Christian Like”. 

On Tuesday was the reports of the World Mission council, The Guild, Social Care Council (or Crossreach as it is more commonly known) and the Mission and Discipleship Council.  As an NYA rep, I have to say We love the Guild.  The Guild were actually the ones who funded the very first National Youth Assembly and you can see how much it has grown and developed over the years.  I would encourage all members of the Kirk Session to join the Guild (Including the men).  I am very happy to say, I will be joining this year and look forward to this years syllabus.  And what can I say about the Social Care Council, well the Convenor Sidney gave his final report after so many years of hard work, it was sad to see him go, I’m sure that a lot of people will miss his contribution to the assembly each year.  Sidney was actually staying at the same hotel as us, and always provided a laugh at breakfast each morning.  Now the Mission and Discipleship Council report was very interesting.  I spoke to the assembly on section 18 of the printed deliverance and commended the work of the Mission and Discipleship Council’s current involvement with empowering young to have an active part the how the church is developed for the future and urged the assembly to accept section 18 for to look into how young people could have an even greater involvement in the decision making processes of the church, which would involve giving them a vote at the General Assembly and also at Kirk Sessions, changing the way in how the local church involves young people.  To which after speaking I received a round of applause from the assembly.  It made my day really.

Wednesday was a very busy day with 7 Reports with the Report of the National Youth Assembly being one of the final reports of the day.  We were supposed to be on at around 3.15pm, and actually didn’t go on until around 5.30pm, so we were kept waiting in the black and white corridor for almost 2 hours, and most half of the day’s proceedings. The reason for the delay – More talk of Pensions…  On Wednesday evening, closing worship was with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, using I might add, the finest Aldi Port, voted the best in a Sunday Broadsheet newspaper.  After which was followed up with fellowship and karaoke at the public house around the corner.

Thursday was Chaplains day, much to the delight of some female youth delegates, drooling at the sight of men in uniform.  The reports from the chaplains to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, Ecumenical Relations, Iona, and Church and Society.  The church and Society report was the other Big report of the week after the reaction of Section 13 of the report entitled “The Inheritance of Abraham” to which I am sure you heard about in the press leading up to the General Assembly, but Unfortunately this was one we had to miss as we had an important engagement that we certainly could not missed.  Yes, that would be the official invitation to the Beating of the Retreat at the palace of Holyroodhouse.  But first, we had a reception with the Moderator, Right Reverend Lorna Hood.  What a fantastic woman she is and I cannot wait until she visits Falkirk Presbytery in February.  I had a fantastic evening at the palace and met the Great Great Granddaughter of the Missionary David Livingstone and she was so lovely, and was very interested in seeing young people in the church today.   There even had Magic Refilling Glasses, they would refill just before they got empty.  The challenge of the evening for the youth reps was to actually empty the glass before being refilled.  To which was not achieved unfortunately.   I was very well behaved and stuck to the same glass all evening, but lost count how many times it was refilled.  We then had a meal at Biblo’s restaurant provided for us by the Mission and Discipleship Council.   Great fun and fellowship was had by all including the some of the pastoral team, who came out with us to the nightclubs afterwards.

Friday morning, worship, check out of hotel, take suitcases downstairs, and head to the assembly.  Now was the final reports of the General Trustees, Trust, Investors Trust, Church Hymnary Trustees, Central Services, Nomination Committee, Selection Committee, and the Printing of Acts.

The closing of the Assembly was at 3pm which was actually, quite a sad time – it meant we were going home.  After an amazing week, it was upsetting to leave, I shed a tear but I knew that upon leaving the General Assembly, the Holy Spirit will travel with us and will remain with us in all that we do.  The General Assembly has left me with the feeling of wanting more, to learn more, to teach more.  I look forward to seeing what God has planned out for me.