2013: Matthew McKenzie - Presbytery of Glasgow

I thought I would tell you how as youth reps we handle the whole experience of general assembly as it is a bit different to what normal commissioners do.  This was the second time I had attended the General Assembly as I was a National Youth Assembly representative in 2012.  To start with, all the youth reps have the advantage of living together in the same hotel for the week.  This helps us get to know each other outside the assembly halls and business hours of the assembly.  This also helps us bond as a group and also makes us more confident going into the assembly as we have our friends there to help us through the long days.  We also have the advantage of having 5 amazing staff members looking after us and guiding us throughout the week.

  • Suzi Farrant – Children and Young People Development Worker for the Mission and Discipleship Council.
  • Bruce Sinclair – Minister of Overtown Parish Church
  • Liz Crumlish – Minister of Castlehill Parish Church
  • Jamie Milliken – Minister of Portland Parish Church
  • Iain McLarty – Youth Assembly Moderator 2008 and 2009

In a normal day we would meet up for breakfast at 7.45am for breakfast followed by a 15 minute worship session which is organised by 2 of the youth reps each day.  After this we would walk up to the assembly hall and take our seats for the business of the day.  Throughout the day we would do what all the commissioners do, sit and listen to the reports and if we had questions or amendments, we would put them forward in the same was as any other commissioner.  After we have dealt with the business of the day and general assembly is adjourned for the day we would either go out for dinner in groups or some would head back and relax in the hotel with a takeaway until 8pm.  The main difference I feel between the youth reps and other commissioners is the amount of preparation work we do throughout the week of the assembly itself.  Every night at 8pm we would meet together for our preparation sessions.  One of our 5 staff members would then take us through the reports coming up in the next days and take us through the deliverance.  This could be section by section as one group or for a deliverance with a lot of sections we would split into small groups and discuss about 4 sections each then report back to the rest of the youth reps so everyone has an overview of the whole report.  If we then decide we have questions to ask or amendments to propose we can ask one of the staff to sit with us and help us prepare what we are going to say in the general assembly.

After we have had our prep session we end each night with worship which is led by one of the staff members which just helps us focus back on our faith after the long days of business and as a really good way to finish our nights.  However, we do still have time to have fun. On the Thursday night we attended a reception with the Right Reverend Lorna Hood, Moderator of the General Assembly 2013.  This is a chance for the moderator to meet all of the youth reps and also a chance for the youth reps to set the moderator a little challenge for the last day of general assembly.  The challenge involves giving the moderator 3 words to say on the Friday of the general assembly. It is up to the moderator whether they use them all at once or spread them throughout the day, but when one of the words is mentioned the youth reps will give the moderator a big cheer.  The three words this year were discombobulate, mackerel and hairspray.  We are also given the opportunity to go to a retreat at Holyrood palace which also involves a youth rep challenge named 'moderator bingo.'  This challenge is to see which youth rep can talk to the most ex moderators and always encourages us to socialise with other people during the retreat rather than just talking to other youth reps.

In conclusion, I feel that General Assembly is an amazing experience that I would recommend to any youth who wanted to know how the church works.  It has helped me grow in confidence and understand just how much work goes into running all the departments of the Church of Scotland.  I would just like to thank Glasgow Presbytery for giving me the opportunity to attend General Assembly 2013 and I hope I can attend another General Assembly in the future.