Davidson says Kirk still has huge role to play in public life

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and former Moderator the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood lift a pew

The Church of Scotland still has a "huge role" to play in the life of the nation, Ruth Davidson said today.

The Scottish Conservative leader said there would be a "massive absence" in society if the Kirk, which was established in 1560, disappeared.

Ms Davidson added that she agreed with former Moderator of the General Assembly the Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood who said civic society would "collapse" if Church people stopped all forms of voluntary service.

The two women made the remarks after filming the latest 'Take a Pew' video along with incoming Moderator of the National Youth Assembly Andrew MacPherson and Edinburgh businessman Alan Thornburrow outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Two church pews are touring the country to kick-start a conversation about the place of faith in contemporary Scotland and how it relates to the big issues of the day and our changing society.

Good work

Miss Davidson said: "It is really positive that the Church of Scotland is looking to map the future in ways that it can change and adapt to try and bring more people on board.

"The conversation that they are having with people right across Scotland, whether they are members like me or not, shows that it is an organisation that really wants to make sure it is doing good work and getting more involved in the fabric of the nation."

Miss Davidson noted that Churches were often the only community-hubs left in rural communities across Scotland which have seen their shop, post-office and school closing.

"Often Churches are the only things that bind rural communities together," she added.

"The Kirk has such a crucial and nourishing role in encouraging and supporting communities across Scotland.

"I think it still has a huge role to play in the public life of Scotland, in civic life and challenging politicians like myself.

"There would be a massive absence in public life if the Church was not there."

Dr Hood acknowledged that Church membership figures, currently 363,000, were in decline but argued that statistics alone do not tell the whole story.

"A huge number of people associate with the Church who do not appear in figures," she added.

"They see it as a place where they can work out their own faith but also their service in the local community.

"If you were to take Church people, and those of other faiths, out of volunteering at foodbanks, community cafes, drop-in centres and addiction centres, civic Scotland would collapse.

"The Church of Scotland itself has more than 28,000 people registered to work with children and vulnerable adults.

"Doing this kind of work is how many people work out their faith in Christianity."

Relevant to modern Scotland

Dr Hood said she was very supportive of the latest campaign spearheaded by the Church of Scotland's Ministries Council to try and boost membership and attract people into the ministry.

"Take a Pew is literally two pews that are going across Scotland to iconic locations where we are asking people from public life and those involved in the Church to speak about how the Church has to change and what it can do to make sure it is relevant to the Scotland we live in today," she added.

take Former Moderator the Very Rev Lorna Hood, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, incoming Moderator of the National Youth Assembly Andrew MacPherson and Edinburgh businessman Alan Thornburrow

The first online 'Take a Pew'film featured guests including the STV news anchor and author John MacKay on the pews at the Kelpies sculptures by Falkirk.

There are plans to take them to Glen Coe, Brig O' Doon near Alloway, the Wigtown Book Festival and possibly to the top of Ben Nevis.

Future guests include Stuart Murdoch of Scottish indie pop band Belle and Sebastian. . People are invited to register their email to be notified when the filmed conversations go live.

So far more than 100 possible locations have been suggested by visitors to the Take a Pew website.

'Take a Pew' supports the successful'Tomorrow's Calling'recruitment initiative, which the Church of Scotland launched last year to promote training for parish ministry.Videos produced for the 'Tomorrow's Calling' campaign have been viewed online over 530,000 times and have helped stimulate a renewed interest in parish ministry.

The number of trainees for parish ministry recently accepted by the Church is at its highest for nine years.