Celebrating 50 years of 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 (or “the SRT ”, as it’s more affectionately called) was founded in 1970.

Man looking up at the galaxies in the night sky
The SRT project has advanced alongside the rise of the Internet, the increasing concerns surrounding climate change, and the birth of Dolly the Sheep.

Known originally as ‘the Advisory Group’ in 1971, the SRT Committee aims to help the Church to engage with ethical issues in science and technology, and to bring a Christian perspective to discussions which are often controversial.

From oil and gas to genetic engineering

The SRT project has advanced alongside the rise of the Internet, the increasing concerns surrounding climate change, and the birth of Dolly the Sheep. Their reports on topics as varied as genetic engineering, end of life issues, surveillance, and energy and fuel poverty have helped the Church form policies regarding many of the most important issues of our time.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, offered his congratulations to the team.

“I am delighted to congratulate the Church’s Society, Religion and Technology ( SRT ) project on its 50th anniversary,” Colin said.

“Throughout that time it has sought, in cooperation with others, to ask the big theological and ethical questions about the latest developments in science and technology and to bring a Christian lens to bear on many issues.

“The questions have been endless in a world of stem cells and synthetic biology, of economic and environmental issues, of drone delivery services and digital tracking technologies.

“Both the Church and society are greatly in their debt as they continue to explore the impact our changing world is having, not least on the vulnerable and voiceless.”

Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison, Chair of the SRT@50 Working Group, is also delighted to mark the occasion.

“The 50th birthday of Society, Religion and Technology ( SRT ) is an important milestone which richly deserves to be marked and celebrated, and for which we give God thanks,” Dr Morrison said.

“Throughout this half century SRT has provided for the Church and others ethical reflection and advice of the highest quality on a vast range of important issues thrown up by rapid advances in the fields of science and technology.

“The work of SRT has gained enormous respect within the Church and far beyond. Some of the celebratory events long planned by the SRT@50 Working Group have had to be cancelled on account of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This current crisis, however, highlights as much as anything could, the vital importance of the ongoing contribution of SRT.

“Such issues as the developing technologies of testing and tracking, the reshaping of our vision for society by the requirement of social distancing and consequent increase in online engagement, require urgent ethical reflection of the kind SRT is uniquely qualified to offer.

“Indeed, some of their past work, for example in the area of surveillance, has an important bearing on these challenges.

“With many others, I congratulate SRT on this notable anniversary and wish them every blessing in their continuing service.”

SRT is currently led by two staff, Dr Murdo Macdonald (Policy Officer) and Karen Hunter (Administrator), who are based at the Church of Scotland offices in Edinburgh.

The work is overseen by a committee of nine people, which is currently chaired by Dr Caroline Cowan. In addition, experts in specific areas are consulted in relation to particular issues.

You can learn more about the history of the SRT project in their newly published historical timeline booklet.

Join the SRT Week of Prayer: 7-13 June

A graphic with SRT at 50 written on it

Whilst the SRT Committee has been unable to celebrate in the way they had hoped to this year, their Week of Prayer is still planned as a time to pray for them and give thanks for all aspects of their work.

From Sunday 7 June until Saturday 13 June they invite everyone to come together in virtual worship using a series of specially written prayers to remember their work over the last half-century.

The second week of June was chosen as the annual SRT Week of Prayer because it coincides with the anniversary of the birth of one of Scotland’s greatest scientists, the physicist James Clerk-Maxwell. Clerk-Maxwell was also a prominent Christian and an elder of the Church of Scotland.

To take part, you can download the SRT Week of Prayer PDF here.

The SRT Committee will also be marking their 50th birthday by:

  • producing the Weekly Worship resources for Sunday 31 May, as written by Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison, Chair of the SRT@50 Working Group. This includes relevant Bible readings, sermon ideas, prayers and musical suggestions.
  • tweeting about events, news and fun scientific facts on their new @SRTScotland Twitter account.
  • writing a monthly column for Life and Work magazine throughout 2020. This month’s magazine column has been written by Rev Dr David Coulter and looks at the increasing use of artificial intelligence on the battlefield.

You can also learn more about their work on the SRT pages of our website.

Stay tuned to the Church of Scotland website for more stories on the SRT project throughout the year.