Our top 13 Church of Scotland news articles from 2020

It's been a year like no other, but despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, churches across Scotland and beyond have risen to the challenge of providing vital practical and spiritual support to the people in their communities.

General Assembly photo
Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, with Rev Dr George Whyte, the Principal Clerk, and Rev Catherine Beattie of Giffnock South Parish Church, at the General Assembly.

From adapting our use of technology to keep life continuing as normally as possible, to working out safe ways to stay in contact with elderly and isolated people, congregations have gone the extra mile to support those who were hit hardest during the pandemic.

Here's our list of of some of the most important, challenging and heartwarming stories from the last 12 months.

Our top stories

  1. Cancellation of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
    With reform on the agenda and Prince William appointed as this year's Lord High Commissioner, the 2020 General Assembly was set to be a significant week for the Church of Scotland. But when the Church was forced to cancel the May event because of the coronavirus pandemic, it looked as if this year would be significant for a different reason; it would be the first time since the 17th century without a General Assembly. Nonetheless, the Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair was installed as Moderator and the Assembly Business Committee pulled out all the stops to organise a shorter online version in October.
  2. Queen praises 'admirable' service of congregations during pandemic
    The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland may have been online this year and not attended by a Lord High Commissioner as usual, but Her Majesty The Queen wrote a letter to the Church of Scotland expressing her support and encouragement for the service of congregations within their communities during this "difficult" and "pivotal point in history".
  3. Black lives matter and racism is a sin, General Assembly reaffirms
    The General Assembly reaffirmed that black lives matter and racism is a sin. Commissioners also backed calls for a report to a future meeting on racial justice and the legacy of slavery, and the Church of Scotland. As part of this work, they approved a proposal to consult widely within the Church of Scotland and with majority black churches in Scotland.
  4. Iconic church launches 400th anniversary celebrations
    Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh planned an ambitious programme of events for 2020 to mark its 400-year anniversary, including a festival of science and faith that would celebrate both its rich heritage and also the future of the congregation and the community around it. Whilst inevitably many of the events couldn't take place, the team at the church put together a time capsule commemorating this strange year and will hold a service on Christmas Day, exactly 400 years to the day since their doors first opened.
  5. National Day of Prayer
    It started with a call to pray together on a single Sunday early in the pandemic but developed into a weekly ecumenical prayer event backed by Christian denominations across Scotland. The Scottish Church Leaders Forum has now held more than 40 ecumenical prayer events.
  6. Watch the church-wide Pentecost service
    Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair hosted a specially created Pentecost service which included worship, prayers, music, a sermon, and Bible readings. The service was one of the most popular Church of Scotland videos of the year.
  7. Celebrating 50 years of the Kirk’s Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) project
    Friday 1 May marked 50 years since the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) project was founded in 1970. Known originally as ‘the Advisory Group’, the SRT Committee aims to help the Church engage with ethical issues in science and technology, and to bring a Christian perspective to discussions which are often controversial.
  8. Renfrewshire church thanked for collecting four and half tonnes of food for foodbank
    Here is just one example of how congregations have gone out their way to help those experiencing hardship during what has been an extremely difficult year for many people. Since March, Houston and Killellan Kirk has been collecting around 80 bags of food a week to donate to Renfrewshire Foodbank. Over the first 15 weeks, Houston and Killellan Kirk provided enough ingredients for the equivalent of more than 11,100 meals.
  9. Kirk produces new guide to support Bible study and worship in Gaelic
    This year the Church of Scotland created a guide for Gaelic speakers and learners who want to use the language with confidence in worship. Explaining the biblical and ecclesiastical language, the booklet will also help anyone who wants to engage in Bible study or follow sermons more easily.
  10. Just heavenly - Moderator bags Scotland's Cardinal Munros one after another
    With the wind on his back and a prayer in his heart Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, bagged Scotland’s four Cardinal Munros one after another. Dr Fair climbed a combined height of 12,484ft over three days to mark the end of the Week of Prayer which brought Christians together.
  11. Friends fur-ever - Church knitters make teddies for P1 pupils
    P1 pupils at an Edinburgh primary school received surprise gifts of hand knitted teddy bears. The 65 adorable toys were made to match the colours of Buckstone Primary School by members of the knitting group at Fairmilehead Parish Church. Thoughtful gestures like this have lifted spirits in communities across the country.
  12. Inverness Foodstuff recognised in Scottish parliament
    Ness Bank Church’s Inverness Foodstuff, which provides meals to those who are homeless, vulnerable or financially disadvantaged, was recognised in the Scottish Parliament for its service to the community – serving over 10,000 meals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  13. Guild Annual Gathering goes digital
    Guild members were able to take part in the online annual gathering from the safety of their own homes this year by visiting the Church of Scotland website or Facebook page. Featuring singing and worship led by the Moderator, the specially created video helped us to recreate the Guild’s joyful atmosphere and feeling of togetherness, despite the ban on in-person events.

The Moderator's highlights

After taking up the role of Moderator of General Assembly of the Church of Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic, Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair had the unprecedented task of continuing in the role despite a suddenly empty diary. Yet although he has only travelled to very few events in person over the last seven months, Dr Fair has reached out to engage with ministers and congregations across the nation… and the world. Here are some of his moments from this year:

  1. Appearing on Off the Ball - a unique radio and podcast series dedicated to Scottish football.
    "I can't tell you how excited I was to be on Off the Ball - my all-time favourite radio programme,” he says. “Ambition fulfilled!"
  2. The Church of Scotland's Pentecost service was also a key moment, Dr Fair says.
    "Following the cancellation of the General Assembly, it was important that the Church came together as one, to worship and to remind ourselves of our unity. Pentecost was the perfect moment to do that."
  3. The Moderator’s third pick of the year is the 'It's A Fair Question' video series, which features informal conversations with a range of interesting people.
    "When one door closes, another opens,” Dr Fair says. “And so for me it was about finding ways to communicate digitally - otherwise my year would have been well and truly cancelled! It's a Fair Question was one such approach.”

If you have been following our Advent calendar during the month of December we would love to hear from you. What did you enjoy the most and is there anything that you’d particularly like to see more of next year? Tell us what you thought of our selection of stories, reflections, prayers and music by emailing us at mediarelations@churchofscotland.org.uk

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