Learn more about twinning with a congregation or presbytery elsewhere in the world and how it can benefit your faith and congregation.
What is twinning?
Twinning is a relationship between a congregation or presbytery of the Church of Scotland with a congregation or presbytery from elsewhere in the world.
The twinning relationship is rooted in our faith in Jesus Christ, our love of God and our love for each other. It is an opportunity to participate in God's mission based on the understanding that we all have gifts to offer and experiences of life and faith to share.
We are invited to participate in God's mission in the world. This mission is not confined to the locality of a congregation's ministry, nor to the boundaries of a nation. The Church of Scotland's special relationship with our partner churches provides a rich context for our involvement in world mission. These relationships demonstrate our understanding as a Church of being part of the Body of Christ.
As part of the Body of Christ we belong together, strengthening, helping and building each other up. Partnerships provide a framework for joint working and learning, and twinning is a concrete way of demonstrating that we belong together.
What does twinning look like?
Every twinning is different – you and your twinning partner will work together to develop the twinning in ways that work for you, and that allow you both to give to and receive from the relationship. Below you will find a few examples of twinnings that have been going for a few years, just to give you an idea of how yours could work.
They do all have a few things in common:
All twinnings are arranged through our Partner Churches around the world – this helps us ensure that both twinning partners understand the basic principles on which twinning is based.
The foundation of a twinning is a shared desire to learn from each other as each person involved is exposed to new ideas, perspectives and experiences.
Twinnings are about churches coming together as equals, regardless of size or financial status. They are not based on an exchange of money in either direction, although as relationships between the churches develop, working on joint projects could become part of the twinning.
Twinnings are grounded in the whole congregation/Presbytery – not just led by the minister. Everyone has something to offer a twinning, and something to learn!
Visits are vital. Twinning opens the door to deeper understanding between cultures. With more opportunities for interaction, dialogue and first-hand experience through visits, participants can better understand what it is like to walk in another person's shoes.
Fellowship is a crucial foundation of twinning. The relationship can provide space for sharing experiences and expressions of faith, and often fosters growing faith and lasting friendships.
The time it takes to start a twinning can vary hugely – some can get up and running in a matter of weeks, but others can take months or even years to get going, it just depends on how easily the communication gets going. Most twinnings set up Twinning Agreements, which set out the aims and objectives of the relationship, and also give it a timescale – usually 3-5 years. After this period the Agreement can be renewed and re-signed, or the twinning can be mutually agreed to be brought to a close.
Where to start with twinning?
We love to hear from congregations and presbyteries who have started to think about Twinning, so the first step would be to get in touch with the Faith Impact Forum team. One of our Development Officers will be happy to talk you through the initial stage of the process and if appropriate, will arrange to come out and meet with you or a small team from your Church. Email Carol Finlay at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dunscore, Moniave and Glencairn twinned with Lubuto, United Church of Zambia (UCZ)
This twinning developed in 2007 after the minister of Dunscore met Rev Simon Kasanga from Lubuto UCZ when he was studying in Edinburgh. The congregations spent some time getting to know one another at a distance, and eventually a 10-year Twinning Agreement was signed. It had the motto “Tuli Pamo”, Bemba for “We are Together.”
Over the next 10 years there were a number of visits back and forth between the congregations, and the fellowship deepened through regular prayer for each other and working together on shared projects to help resource the community around the church in Lubuto.
In 2018, as the 10-year agreement period was coming to an end, the congregations met virtually to decide whether or not to renew the twinning. Support for this was unanimous, despite some difficulties with communication over the years (common in twinnings!). Two members from Dunscore travelled to Zambia over Holy Week and Easter to meet with their friends in Lubuto to discuss the renewal. As well as a busy programme of ‘official’ visits, the pair had time to spend with old friends and have some new experiences.
One traveller said: “We were also able to renew relationships made on previous visits. During these visits, we were asked many questions about Dunscore and Moniaive and about the people who had hosted our friends from Zambia or invited them to their houses for meals. This really brought home to me how strong and lasting relationships can be fostered in a short time even between people who live many miles apart.”
“We were welcomed as old friends by the people who had met us before, in Zambia or when we hosted them as visitors to Scotland. We were also welcomed warmly by people we had never met previously. The hospitality we received was truly humbling. We felt that our nationality, culture, language and skin colour were no barriers to friendship. We agreed wholeheartedly with the Rev Simukonda’s wish to change the Twinning motto from “Tuli Pamo” (“We are Together”) to “Tuli Umo Muli Christu” (“We are One in Christ”).
“We had wanted to spend Holy Week with our Sister church and this proved to be both exciting and uplifting. We enjoyed participating in a style of worship which was different from our own. The music and dancing were wonderful. The charismatic prayers were a new experience which took us out of our comfort zone and led us to pray from our hearts. It made me re-examine my own faith and my relationship with God and the Church.
“Our visit brought home to us that despite all our differences, we are truly One in Christ. We worship and serve One God, who loves us all. We should strive to spread this message in our communities.”
Forfar East and Old twinned with Zuglo Reformed Church in Budapest, Hungary
The churches first established a link back in 2012 when some members of East and Old looked into the twinning process and applied to World Mission (now the Faith Impact Forum) for a twinning partner. After some possible partners were suggested, East and Old felt Zuglo Church best fitted their vision and expectations, and a formal twinning committee was set up. The two churches eventually signed a Twinning Agreement, which outlined their aims and objectives for the relationship.
Initially, correspondence was mainly via email between a couple of representatives from each partner, but the congregations were kept up to date and got to learn more about one another. News was shared about their respective churches, and information about the traditions and beliefs of the church and prayer requests were passed on. The first visit to Budapest took place within a year, when 12 members of East and Old visited the church and spent a few days getting to know the congregation in person.
Since then, the twinning has flourished, with yearly visits to and from Budapest and regular communication continuing in between visits. Solid, genuine friendships have developed, and the churches are always learning new things about each other and deepening their faith as they learn more about how the other lives as a Christian in another culture.
Highlights of visits have been a ceilidh in Budapest and young members of Forfar attending the Zuglo family camp and taking part in their first communion.
Just before the pandemic, a small delegation of three members of Zuglo church came over to Forfar for a brief visit to attend the celebrations for the 225-year anniversary of the church building, where they enjoyed a special service with the Moderator of Church of Scotland providing the sermon. It was uplifting and highlighted the importance of such a link in helping to see the broader picture of the Christian faith across the world and our part in it, something which the twinning link with Zuglo helps them achieve.
During the pandemic, the two churches held regular Zoom meetings and did some joint Bible studies based around the topic of ‘Care for Creation’. East and Old are already an active Eco-Congregation and they have encouraged Zuglo to connect with Eco-Congregations Hungary. East and Old are planning to plant around 1600 trees in their area over the next couple of years, and they have funded the purchase of a tree to plant in the Zuglo grounds.
At the start of the pandemic, East and Old were publicly honest about the financial struggles they were experiencing, and without being asked, the church in Budapest sent out money to support the church in Forfar. More recently, Forfar sent some money to Budapest to support the purchase of new hymnbooks, which have a stamp in the front indicating that these were bought by the Forfar church.
This exchange of money at the time when the congregations most needed it is a great sign of the way the congregations have grown closer. There is no feeling of obligation for one congregation to support another financially, yet when one is in need, and others can meet that need – they do so, with joy.
Glasgow Presbytery twinned with the Diocese of Hyderabad, Pakistan
Congregations in the Presbytery of Glasgow are actively involved with the World Church in many diverse ways, but until recently they had not embraced the Twinning Programme. The Presbytery decided to encourage congregations to do so by twinning at Presbytery level, and now the Presbytery is in the process of twinning with the Diocese of Hyderabad, which is part of the United Church of Pakistan.
The Diocese is in the province of Sindh, situated in the very south of Pakistan, bordering India. It is a small Diocese with only 26 parishes, but otherwise has similarities with Glasgow Presbytery, which has well over 100 parishes. The Diocese and the Presbytery are both centred on large cities with an industrial heritage, universities and teaching hospitals. Both have parishes in rural areas and their populations have some of the poorest people in the country as well as high rates of unemployment.
Christians in Pakistan are very much a minority and practice their faith in very difficult situations. They are frequently discriminated against and subjected to violence. Despite all these difficulties the Diocese continues to publicly serve others, particularly the poorest in the wider community, by supporting schools and community hospitals and planting churches in the tribal areas. This difference was one of the main reasons Glasgow decided to twin – what an opportunity to learn what is it like to be a Christian living in a minority situation, and what a chance to support our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
In November 2019, four members of Presbytery spent eight days in Sindh getting to know the people there and building relationships. It was a privilege to worship, preach and share communion with our brothers and sisters. Worship was joyful, with psalms being sung in Urdu. Some buildings are a legacy from the British Raj, but in the tribal lands there are mainly traditional round buildings with thatched rooves where the faithful crowd in.
The group also visited schools, and Kunri Hospital, which is supported by the Diocese and has been supported financially by the Church of Scotland for several years. The hospital now specialises in gynaecology and obstetrics. Infant mortality in the area is amongst the highest in the world; there are four doctors working hard, training community midwives and helping large numbers of women give birth.
The Scottish team was greatly encouraged by the great kindness and generous hospitality received from everyone we met. We were frequently challenged and humbled by the strong Christian faith demonstrated alongside a desire to evangelise through serving the marginalised of all faiths. People consistently asked to be remembered in prayer. The strength of belief in the power of prayer was challenging and should encourage us in the Church of Scotland to reflect on our own prayer life.
Glasgow Presbytery has learned much about faith in action and hope. Twinning with Hyderabad will provide a framework for joint working and support for each other. Representatives from Hyderabad have been invited to visit Glasgow next year, when a Twinning Agreement will be finalised and mark the beginning of a fruitful relationship.