Our faith

Central to the Church of Scotland is our love and worship of God through following the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ. We express our love for God by our love and practical care for each other and for those we live with and encounter in our daily lives.

Although the Church traces its roots back to the beginnings of Christianity in Scotland, its identity was principally formed by John Knox in the Reformation of 1560. At that time, the Church split from the Roman Catholic Church and instead adopted the reformed tradition. The Church of Scotland is Calvinist Presbyterian; we recognise no head of faith other than the Lord God, and no one person or group within the Church has more influence than any other. More information about our governance can be found in the Our Structure section.

Our role in the community

Church of Scotland parish churches play a crucial role across a range of communities, from remote villages to deprived urban areas where shops, banks, schools, and other institutions have disappeared.

Pastoral care of parishioners is an essential part of Christ's calling to the Church, particularly in times of need. As part of their caring task, local churches also aim to resource and run projects relating to groups such as asylum seekers and unemployed people.

How We Worship

Worship within the Church of Scotland is for everybody, regardless of age, nationality, status, or ability. Patterns of worship vary from church to church and this generally means that people can find a place of worship where they feel comfortable.

The parish minister is responsible for leading worship, although increasingly, church members, including deacons, elders, and readers are involved in both planning and helping to lead worship. Regular services of worship are at the heart of the life of the Church, but congregational life often includes prayer groups, Sunday schools for children, youth groups, the Guild, social activities, and support groups for people facing problems.

Music is an essential part of the Church's worship and can take a wide variety of forms. Increasingly, multimedia, such as video, is used during church services to help spread the word of God in the 21st century. Preaching is central to the Church of Scotland's way of worshiping God. The preacher, usually the minister, will share a message drawn out of a passage from the Bible. Preaching aims to help people interpret and apply the Bible's teaching to modern life. Visit our worship section, which includes a range of prayers, hymns, readings, and other material.

Holy Communion

Holy Communion, also called the Lord's Supper, is open to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ and have made public profession of faith.

Five Marks of Mission

The General Assembly of October 2020 endorsed the Five Marks of Mission, agreeing that for the Church to be fit for purpose in the 21st Century, these five marks must be evidenced at local, regional and national levels. Originally developed by the Anglican Communion in the 1980s as a way to define Christian mission they are:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

The Assembly Trustees noted that they will be interpreted and expressed differently across the Church and said that church members may also use an alternative definition of the Five Marks of Mission created by the Anglican Board of Mission in Australia in 2013:

  • Witness to Christ's saving, forgiving, reconciling love for all people
  • Build welcoming, transforming communities of faith
  • Stand in solidarity with the poor and needy
  • Challenge violence, injustice and oppression, and work for peace and reconciliation
  • Protect, care for and renew life on our planet

Whichever way of expressing these essential ideas is preferred by the local, regional or national Church, the call to Christ's people to do and to be something in the image of Christ, and serve within the world, remains clear.