HRH The Princess Royal praises General Assembly as place of reasoned debate

HRH The Princess Royal has addressed the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where she is serving as Lord High Commissioner representing Her Majesty The Queen.

Moderator with Princess Anne and former Moderator
The new Moderator Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning (left) was installed before this year's Lord High Commissioner HRH The Princess Royal by former Moderator Very Rev Dr Russell Barr

After praising the General Assembly as a place for “reasoned and civilised debate” she said the numbers worshipping in church may be falling, but “there is still a need for 'spiritual leadership, and in fact, “that need is greater than ever.” She continued “The importance of the General Assembly has been reasoned debate and that reasoned debate is in quite short supply at the moment.”

HRH The Princess Royal also noted that churches in Scotland have “a major role to play in welcoming strangers,” a tradition she believes is “stronger in Scotland than in many other parts of the world”.

The speech came after the election of the new Moderator Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, who was installed in the role by the retiring Moderator Very Rev Dr Russell Barr. View a bio of Dr Browning here

Her Royal Highness is the first member of the Royal family to take on the role for a second time, having first served in the role in 1996.

On Friday HRH The Princess Royal took part in the Ceremony of the Keys at Holyrood Palace and she resumed her duties this morning with the ceremonial procession which opened the General Assembly. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also took part in the opening ceremony.

The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon was at the opening ceremony to see Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning installed as Moderator. Here they are pictured between Dr Browning's personal chaplains: Anne Mulligan DCS and Rev John McMahon.

The opening session included a powerful address from retiring Moderator, Very Rev Dr Russell Barr, who has drawn attention to the situation of homeless people across Scotland throughout his year of office.

Addressing the Assembly he identified a lack of political will as the one thing missing to resolve a situation that he described as “unacceptable”.

Dr Barr said “Homelessness continues to be a stain upon our nation’s character and consciousness. There should be no room for homelessness in 21st century Scotland.”

HRH The Princess Royal will also take part in the Heart and Soul festival in Princes St Gardens on Sunday, 21 May where she will join the Moderator of the General Assembly in recognising the work of the Church in supporting people facing poor mental health.

The General Assembly will run from 20-26 May 2017 at the General Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh.

The annual gathering of the Church brings more than 700 commissioners to the General Assembly Hall in Edinburgh to hear from councils and committees across the Church.

Members of the public can also attend and watch the proceedings from the public gallery each day. Attendance is on a first come basis with no need to book in advance.

This year’s theme is Word of Life, highlighting the beauty and power of language in sharing our faith. If you cannot attend the Assembly, a live webcast is available via the Church website. For the first time, proceedings will be archived and made available via YouTube on 'catch up' as quickly as possible the following day. The twitter feed will use the hashtag #GA2017 and #WordOfLife

Timetable for General Assembly

Saturday 20 May

The first day of the General Assembly is highly ceremonial with the Roll of Commissioners laid on the table, the installation of the new Moderator, the address from the retiring Moderator and the reading of the HM The Queen’s letter to name just a few. The First Minister is expected to attend.

Sunday 21 May

The day begins with the 10 am General Assembly service at St Giles followed by a Gaelic service in Greyfriars Kirk at 12:30 am and the Heart and Soul Festival in Princes Street Gardens from 1-6pm. The photocall is expected around 3.30pm.

Monday 22 May

After Holy Communion at 9:30 am, the General Assembly will receive reports from the Business Committee, the World Mission Council, and a special report on Israel/Palestine prepared jointly by the World Mission and the Church and Society councils. CrossReach, the Church’s social care council will also report on Monday.

Tuesday 23 May

Today commissioners will consider reports from the Church and Society Council, the Church of Scotland Guild and the Iona Community.

Wednesday 24 May

The General Assembly will hear reports from the Ecumenical Relations Committee, the Safeguarding Committee and Ministries Council. An election hustings event, People’s Politics: GE 2017, with representatives from the five main political parties will take place in the GA hall from 4:30-6pm.

Thursday 25 May

The General Assembly will receive reports from the Committee on Chaplains to Her Majesty’s forces, as well as from the Mission and Discipleship Council, the National Youth Assembly. On Thursday also commissioners will discuss a report from the Theological Forum, which will consider same sex marriage and an apology for hurt caused in the past.

Friday 26 May

On this final day of the General Assembly the morning will wrap up business from the General Trustees, the Housing and Loan fund and The Church of Scotland Pension trustees. In the afternoon the Moderator and the Lord High Commissioner will speak to the Commissioners, and the General Assembly will be dissolved until it reconvenes in 2018.

View more photos from the General Assembly on the Church Facebook page