Twinning with international congregations inspiring and fruitful

(Left to right) in foreground - Rev Susan Brown and Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin

Two Church of Scotland ministers are encouraging congregations to develop close working friendships with partner churches around the world.

Rev Susan Brown and Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin, members of the World Mission Council, spoke out in favour of twinning after seeing first-hand the fantastic collaborative work being carried out by St Columba Church of Scotland and the Reformed Church of Hungary in Budapest.

They were part of a Church of Scotland delegation which visited the Scottish Mission last month to celebrate 175 years of partnership and pay tribute to the extraordinary life of missionary Jane Haining.

She was the matron of the boarding school next door to St Columba’s Church and died a slave labourer in the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi occupied Poland in 1944. Her crime? Loving and protecting Jewish girls in her care.

Rev Ian Alexander, Secretary of the World Mission Council, sets out the history of the Church of Scotland's 175 year partnership with the Reformed Church in Hungary.

Twinning is a relationship in which congregations and presbyteries link with partner churches across the world for mutual learning, friendship and mission engagement.

Challenges and joys shared

Mrs Brown, minister at Dornoch Cathedral in the Highlands and convener of the Europe Committee of the World Mission Council, said: “Twinning with another congregation in any part of the world can be so beneficial to both sides as stories are told and challenges and joys are shared.

“All sides are able to encourage and inspire as eyes are opened to different contexts and circumstances.

“The Church of Scotland’s relationship with the Reformed Church in Hungary is a long standing one – 175 years.

“It has meant that in the recent past for example, congregations in Scotland were able to hear first-hand, of how the Church was responding to the sudden influx of Refugees into Budapest and to offer prayerful and physical support.

“It means that right now, they are able to listen to the pain of knowing how to continue to respond.”

The Church of Scotland has partner churches in:

Europe – Hungary, Czech Republic, Italy, France

Asia – Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Burma

Africa – Ghana, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Sudan

Caribbean – Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Jamaica

Middle East – Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon


Mrs Brown said: “Twinnings often involve visits to partner churches and relationships are deepened, if not firmly cemented.

“The insights gained enrich the both the personal lives of those taking part, and the wider life of the community they feed back their experiences to.”

Mrs Brown said Dornoch Cathedral was looking forward to being partnered with a congregation in Batyu, Ukraine.

“We will learn much from a church, which despite little resources, is flourishing and working hard to care for and to serve the many and deep needs of its local community,” she added.

Similar joys and delights

Mrs Sweetin, minister at East and Old Parish Church in Forfar, Angus, is the convener of the World Mission Council’s Local Development and Twining Committee.

“Twinning with a church from the Reformed Church of Hungary opens up new and different ways to worship and for me it was the baptisms and similar and different liturgy,” she said.

“Learning about some of their customs and cultures has been very interesting and the way they live their day to day lives and how they integrate their life of faith with their everyday living.

“We are hoping to learn more about their work with the children and youth and they wish to learn more about community involvement from us.

“Both the Church of Scotland and United Reformed Church of Hungary have very similar issues and problems and also very similar joys and delights.”