Priority areas conference looks at sustainable development

The Church of Scotland’s priority area conference is bringing together church members from communities across Scotland this week to network and hear from Right Rev Dr Derek Browning and community development specialist Cormac Russell.

Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning with Priority Areas staff
Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning with Priority Areas staff members

The Moderator is opening the Wednesday conference programme with a talk that will emphasise what we can learn from the world’s poorest people and why poverty is a problem that matters to all of us.

“How we protect the dignity of those trapped in poverty, and avoid their humiliation and exclusion, is a key response to poverty by people of compassion and faith,” the Moderator will tell conference attendees.

“In the giving and the receiving, best described as the sharing, we make a difference for good.

“Human happiness is correlated not with what we possess, but with what we give.

“The privilege of wealth lies not in what it allows us to do for ourselves, but what it enables us to do for others.”

Who is at our table?

Poverty will not, ultimately, be resolved by charity, the Moderator will say in his speech.

"Poverty will be transformed by generosity: a generosity of material things, justice things, relational things, and spiritual things. Poverty will be addressed through hospitality, which to my mind means sharing.

“Hospitality is the theme for my year as Moderator, and I’m working with the theme, ‘When one is in a position of privilege, it is better to build a longer table than a higher fence.” Who is at our table, and why? Who is not at our table, and why?’”

Talk on development

The event, held on Tuesday and Wednesday 21-22 November, at the Erskine Bridge Hotel overlooking the banks of the River Clyde, also offers opportunities to learn about the work of churches, charities, youth groups and other groups working to empower communities and end poverty.

Cormac Russell, managing director of the charity Nurture Development delivered the keynote address on Tuesday.

Mr Russell is renowned for his knowledge and advocacy of asset-based development which focuses on the strengths, ability and knowledge of people living in poor communities. This type of approach, preferred by many of the Church’s priority area congregations, has been shown to be remarkably successful and sustainable.

You can get a taste of Cormac Russell’s ideas by watching his recent TEDx talk.