Queen recognises Church's healing role

The new Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has described the moment he was installed this morning in Edinburgh as a “humbling and uplifting” experience.

The Right Rev John Chalmers receives the millennium cross and ring from Very Rev Lorna Hood .

The Right Rev John Chalmers received the millennium cross and ring from Very Rev Lorna Hood as he was installed as the 86th Moderator of the modern era.

“There was an extraordinary sense in which the whole Church is behind you,” Mr Chalmers said.

“It is both humbling and uplifting at one and the same time. It will be a very special year ahead.”

A message from Her Majesty the Queen was read to the Assembly, in which she stated “In this important year of referendum, we pray that whatever the outcome, people of faith and people of good will, will work together for the social good of Scotland. We recognise too the important role the Church can play in holding the people of Scotland together, in healing division and safeguarding the interests of the most vulnerable.”

For the first time since 2007, a member of the Royal Family took the position of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly. HRH Prince Edward, addressed the Assembly, as First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond sat to his right, with a speech mixed with humour and serious sentiment.

He said that the Church of Scotland would continue to assert its positive role within communities, and expressed confidence the need for new ministers is being addressed. He placed his trust in commissioners of the General Assembly to make decisions that would be good for the Church and for Scotland.

Afterwards, the First Minister welcomed Her Majesty’s comments. Alex Salmond MSP said "Her Majesty is right to highlight the importance of everyone working together for the social good of Scotland, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, which is something I heartily endorse and should be welcomed across the political spectrum.

The Rt Rev John Chalmers who has known the outgoing Moderator Very Rev Lorna Hood since they were both students at Glasgow University said she had brought warmth to her role and kept the Church in the public eye over her entire year. He added: “The Church is forever in your debt.”

The proceedings initiated an exciting and important week for the Church of Scotland.

During General Assembly week, this annual gathering of the Church of Scotland will make decisions on matters of Church policy and governance.

The issues will be debated by around 730 Commissioners drawn from congregations across Scotland and beyond. Decisions made can have an historic and long-standing impact on the future of the national Church.

A special Referendum debate will be held on Tuesday afternoon, in which the Assembly will hear from four speakers before the session is opened for contributions. Author and lecturer the Rev Dr Doug Gay of Glasgow University will speak for the Yes campaign.

Douglas Alexander MP will propose his views on the Better Together campaign.

Former Moderator of the General Assembly, Alison Elliot OBE, will pose some of the serious questions facing undecided voters.

John Sturrock QC, a leading proponent of the need for respectful dialogue on Scotland's future, will then take a few minutes to reflect on the debate and highlight some of the most helpful and profound contributions.

Reports to the General Assembly are summarised this year in a mobile app which has been developed for Apple iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.

This will allow users to access publications produced from the Assembly and will provides other useful features including the order of business, as well as local information on travel, accommodation, entertainment and places of interest. You can download the app here: https://www.gapublications.co.uk/app