Kirk shares new guide for congregations organising online election hustings

Ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections on Thursday 6 May, the Church of Scotland has produced a new guide to help congregations organise their own online election hustings or question time meeting.

Scottish Parliament building
With Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings expected to remain in place for at least the next several weeks, new information for churches on how to organise an online event is now available.

At past elections it has been common for churches to organise election hustings shortly before polling day, to allow members of the public to put questions to the candidates.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we have had to operate in many areas of our lives. Hustings which usually would have been in-person community meetings will have to be held predominantly online this year.

Elections are also happening on Thursday 6 May in Wales and England, and new hustings resources have been produced in partnership with Cytûn – Churches Together in Wales, Quakers in Scotland, and the Joint Public Issues Team.

Discussing the role churches can play in supporting the democratic process, Very Rev Dr Susan Brown, convener of the Kirk's Faith Impact Forum, said:

"There is an important civic role that the Church can play in national life in helping people to participate in the democratic process.

"The scenes from the US Capitol last month should be a reminder that democracy is fragile and needs to be protected; the values of freedom, equality and transparency which we sometimes take for granted are things we should strengthen and celebrate.

"Democracy is not simply about putting an ‘x' in a box but thinking about the role all of us can play to build positive relationships and protect and promote human dignity."

‘Churches need to be at the heart of their community'

Mary Sweetland sits on the Faith Impact Forum and is an elder of Lomond Parish Church, Balloch, which organised a hustings in the run up to the 2019 UK Parliament election.

She said: "Churches need to be at the heart of their community, listening to and engaging with local and national issues, transforming unjust structures of society and caring for creation.

"It is likely [in my church] that we will not be able to hold a face to face hustings meeting this April due to continuing Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings.

"This advice being published is helpful, encouraging churches to work with other congregations in the constituency, to pool technical expertise and make for a bigger audience."

For many of us, the last year has been one of quickly adapting to new technologies, as worship services and keeping in touch with families and friends have moved online.

This election is likely to follow the same pattern, and the potential absence of in-person meetings with candidates means that hosting an online hustings will take on a new level of significance.

A prayer for the elections

Carol Wardman, the Bishops' Adviser for Church and Society for the Church in Wales has written this prayer for the elections:

Incarnate God,
at our creation You made us not separate from the world, but of the same substance;
and You entrusted us with the care of the Earth and of one another.
You gifted us with intellect, imagination and freedom to consider different models of government;
and You call to public service women and men with hearts and minds
set on creating a harmonious and flourishing society.

Grant us, we pray, the discernment to use wisely our privilege of choice at this election,
treating with respect all those who put their time, energy and talents at our disposal.
Guide both electors and candidates with insight, compassion and unselfishness,
that together we may understand what are Your priorities,
and make our homeland here on Earth a place where all people and all of Your creation can thrive.

You can read our guide to hosting an online election hustings or question time meeting on our website.

If you have any questions, suggestions or comments on the hustings guidance, please contact David Bradwell of the Faith Impact Forum. Any suggestions given will be used to help prepare for the next set of elections, whenever they may be.

We would also love to know how you decided to hold your event, who attended, what questions were asked and especially if you tried a new kind of format. Send us pictures too (with the permission of those involved).