2013: Robert Kimmitt - NYA Rep

On Friday 17th May, I finished collecting Christian Aid money in Prestonfield and cycled down to the Holiday Inn Express on the Cowgate, not quite knowing what to expect. I have a number of friends, who I know through the National Youth Assembly (NYA), who had been to General Assembly (GA) before, and so I had a pretty good idea of what went on but I was very eager to see for myself what things were really like. After I arrived, we spent some time waiting for others to arrive and generally getting to know new faces as well as greeting old friends from NYA. In the evening we went along to an introduction to the Assembly Halls, and the general proceedings were explained to us so that we would know how to contribute to debate if we had something to say. In particular, we were reminded that prior to speaking it is important to state your name and number; a lesson that I suspect a number of more experienced commissioners could do with being reminded of! After this, the youth representatives had dinner together at Nando’s and we had a proper chance to get to know each other, which was very enjoyable. When we returned to the hotel, we had some preparation for debates that were coming up (in which the young people had a chance to go through some of the reports from the Blue Book and ask questions) as well as some worship together. This set the scene for our standard evening routine – some preparation for debates followed by worship (led by different members of the staff team), followed by bed-time (although people seemed to take an awfully long time getting from evening worship to bed…)

Similarly, our morning routine started with worship in the hotel (led by different youth delegates), once breakfast was out of the way. For me, starting and closing the day with worship felt like an excellent way to remember that amid all of the politics and slightly strange procedures we were all there together, ultimately, to worship God and help shape the future of God’s church. After worship, we headed up the Royal Mile to the Assembly Halls to begin business and the GA proper. For me the best parts of Saturday were the formal address of the Lord High Commissioner and the report of the Scottish Bible Society, both of which were very interesting and thought-provoking.

On Sunday morning was the service at St. Giles, but I had to sneak away to play the piano at my own church, Priestfield Parish Church, re-joining everybody for the start of “Heart and Soul”, which was a wonderful celebration of the life of the Church of Scotland. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to do some revision for an exam that had unhelpfully been scheduled on the Monday of GA, but I know that it was a great event for showcasing what is going on in different places in the Church of Scotland and I hope it continues.

Monday was the day that many people in the church, media and society seemed to have been waiting for, when we received the report from the Theological Commission on Same-Sex Relationships and the Ministry. I arrived late in the afternoon following the aforementioned exam, but things just seemed to be getting going as I walked in. I, like many people, had been worrying about Monday’s debate for quite a while, but I was really encouraged by the courtesy shown between people who disagreed with each other on Monday and the strong sense that everyone was concerned, principally, with upholding the unity of the Church of Scotland, which at the time seemed more important than the actual decision made.

The most memorable thing about Tuesday was the report of the World Mission Council and the comments from international delegates, particularly from parts of the world where day-to-day living is disrupted by war or poverty or persecution of the church. The World Mission Council report was very interesting, and in the deliverance there seemed to be many international situations that the church was being called to pray for and act upon that it was quite overwhelming. I felt a strong sense that we are greatly privileged in this country to be able to live, by and large, with shelter, food, water and peace from wars and I felt very glad that the church works so hard to try to reach out to parts of the world where these things can’t be taken for granted.

On Wednesday, we heard the report from the National Youth Assembly, delivered by our Moderator, Euan Patterson, which was great. It was, as always, nice to see that the voices of young people are taken seriously at GA and the entire GA experience was a good chance to see how young people can be involved in the decision making of the church nationally, through their input to debates. Now the church just needs to work a bit harder to allow the voices of young people (and young adults) to be heard at Presbytery and Congregational level. The report of the Panel on Review and Reform was also encouraging – although it dealt with a lot of abstract ideas and was at times difficult to understand, it is good to see that the church is trying to work out how best to adapt to changes in society and the lives of its members.

Thursday brought the report of the Church and Society Council, which was another massive report, covering a number of different topics. The work of the Church and Society Council seems to cover so many different areas, from science and technology to politics and government to international issues, such as the “Enough Food for Everyone IF” campaign and the conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It was again encouraging to hear about how much the church does in these areas and how congregations can support this work to make a difference in society today.

Friday marked the end of the assembly and the end of a truly wonderful week that I will remember for the rest of my life. Attending GA was a great learning experience that has allowed me to have a much clearer picture of what goes on in the Church of Scotland on a national level, as well as being a wonderfully encouraging week of seeing all that can be done when so many people come together to work for the same things, inspired by God to make a difference. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend GA and would thoroughly recommend it to any other young people who care about the Church of Scotland and its work to serve God in Scotland and throughout the world.