Church of Scotland responds to Scottish Household Survey

The Scottish Household Survey found that 49.8 of adults say they are not religious and fewer people are claiming an affiliation with the Church of Scotland. Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Church of Scotland minister at Greyfriars in Edinburgh and Convener of the Church and Society Council, says the big picture gives us a lot more cause for optimism.

Richard Frazer
Richard Frazer

Dr Frazer, said:

“The apparent ongoing decline in affiliation to formal religion revealed by the Scottish Household Survey is not surprising. The changing nature of faith, belief and spirituality in Scotland is something that people in the Church of Scotland have recognised and are seeking to adapt to. In our latest "Take a Pew" video, which we recorded in Glencoe recently, I speak to two other ministers about how the church is helping combat the growing problems of social isolation and loneliness in both rural and urban communities among people of all faiths and none. It's just one example showing how the activity of congregations throughout Scotland is not confined to church attendance on a Sunday morning, and statistics on religious affiliation tell just a small part of the story.

"It is recognised that people express an openness to faith and spirituality without feeling it necessary to tie that into to affiliation to a church or other recognised faith based organisation. Many of the initiatives of the Church of Scotland over recent years have sought to meet people where they are, rather than expecting everyone to come to the church. We recognise that whilst many people still value traditional church membership and going to church on a Sunday, others continue to have spiritual needs that are not necessarily expressed by declaring that they are “religious”. In many respects, the Church of Scotland is adapting successfully to this new landscape.

"We have almost 1400 congregations, and there are many where activities throughout the week are as much a part of church life as the activity of Sunday morning worship. In some cases there may even be more people affiliated to groups associated with the church than there are church members. These activities include everything from lunch clubs, mother and toddler groups, social enterprises and the organising of professional support such as counselling and social care, offered to everyone, regardless of belief.

"The social capital of Church of Scotland congregations that contribute to the wellbeing and flourishing of local communities is incalculable. In particular the Church of Scotland has a proud record of solidarity and support for some of the parts of our community where people experience poverty , inequality and injustice. Support for refugees, the homeless, the vulnerable, people living with dementia and other mental health issues and those experiencing isolation and loneliness are just some of those whom the church and church members seek to walk alongside.

"Crossreach is the social care arm of the Church of Scotland and employs about 2000 people offering care in 70 different locations throughout Scotland, providing care for children, adults and the elderly. Since the 19th Century, (and even before that), in various forms, the Church of Scotland has been in the vanguard of providing services to the most vulnerable in our community, often pioneering work that is then taken on by others.

"If these latest statistics provide something of a challenge, they will not diminish the social impact the Church of Scotland has in communities the length and breadth of the country."