The Queen’s “warmth of welcome” at Kirk’s General Assembly
Published on 14 September 2022 4 minutes read
During her visits to the Church of Scotland's General Assembly in both 1969 and 2002, Her Majesty The Queen spoke with great affection for the work of the Church of Scotland across the country and the rest of the world, as well as the "special influence" of the Kirk on her own personal faith.
1969 General Assembly
In The Queen's opening speech to the General Assembly in May 1969, which you can listen to via SoundCloud, her words are as timely now as they were then.
"This occasion brings back many happy memories of the special meeting of the General Assembly held in October 1960 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation," she said.
"It was my experience of that time and the warmth of the Assembly's welcome which made me resolve to be in Edinburgh at a suitable opportunity for the period of the normal annual General Assembly and to be present at the opening and at some of your regular deliberations.
"Christians everywhere are sustained and inspired by the ideal of the brotherhood of man and the commandment to love one another. In this imperfect world the struggle to achieve this ideal is long and hard, but we all look to the leadership of the Church and we are most conscious of its unceasing efforts.
"There may be an inclination to look back at the apparent lack of progress but it is far better to look forward with hope, with faith and with expectation.
"The world may often seem gloomy and discouraging but we should remember that we are only able to witness a very small part of its continuing development; we should remember that with courage and perseverance we can do God's will in the certain knowledge that He expects us to fulfil His grand design.
"In this, there is work for the most humble. Injustice, suffering and ignorance cry out for remedy all around us. Church people have every opportunity to set an example of service and self-sacrifice so as to make this world a better place for all people.
"The qualities of compassion and tolerance, love and forgiveness are the most precious gifts of God and I know that these qualities are to be found in your Assembly and in the Presbyteries and congregations represented here. Add to these courage and perseverance, and the Church can continue to exert a decisive influence on the life of the nation."
2002 General Assembly
During her Golden Jubilee year in 2002, following the death of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, The Queen was once again in attendance at the Kirk's General Assembly, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.
In her opening speech (which you can watch from 41:40-49:30 in the video above), as well as thanking the Scottish people for their support as she grieved her losses, the Queen remarked on the "special influence" the Church of Scotland had on her own faith.
"My visit here today affords me an opportunity to thank the people of Scotland for their support after the deaths of my mother and my sister," she said.
"I have been so touched by the kindness shown by so many of you over these recent months. I greatly value my family's long connection with the Church of Scotland.
"If some of my predecessors have had their differences with the Church, others have held it in high regard. I think especially of my great-great Grandmother Queen Victoria who was devoted to the Kirk not least because of its straight-forward, practical Christianity. This characteristic of the Church of Scotland has also had a special influence on my own faith.
"As we go about our lives, we all search for ways of translating the timeless values of Christ into everyday guidance for the challenges we face. I believe that Christ's example of tolerance and compassion gives us all, in our different circumstances, that sense of direction we so often need in today's changing world.
"Your tradition of practical Christianity and the importance you attach to the teachings of tolerance and compassion are evident in your present priorities. I am impressed by the activities of your Board of Social Responsibility [n.b. now the Church of Scotland's Social Care Council, CrossReach], the largest provider of social services in Scotland apart from the public agencies, and especially by its work with the elderly and those with alcohol and drug dependency and I appreciate that there is increasing pressure of demand as you pursue this vitally important work.
"The Church recognises that it cannot stand still and continues to make valuable contributions to the fastest changing spheres of national life. In debates on the implications of science and technology it has developed a particular expertise, most recently making high profile contributions on ethical issues such as genetic engineering.
"The Church has also been active in drawing attention to the human misery surrounding the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and in working with partner churches, particularly in Africa, to alleviate suffering and poverty. Scottish Christians are increasingly involved abroad in speaking up for the innocent and voiceless brought up in conflict and suffering.
"In the face of these and other challenging issues which the Church faces as it looks to the future, may your faith and courage be strengthened by your deliberations during the week ahead."