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The day began with a lovely John Rutter setting of For the Beauty of the Earth from Morningside Primary School and then the glorious sounds of Orlington echoed through the Assembly Hall. The closing hymn was a difficult George Matheson one, which left some struggling with the tune and others with the words.

Prior to the Report from Ecumenical Relations, the Assembly was asked to invite Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a member of the Jordanian royal family, to address the Assembly, and he gave an interesting apocalyptic vision of the next twenty-five years. While some parts had echoes of the kind of things other futurists have suggested, there was a clear Islamic worldview undergirding it, and the length of talk – without any opportunity for questions – made it a struggle to catch up with the thread. It is not clear as to the purpose of such an address, other than to give a subtext that ‘Ecumenical’ is to include other faiths, not simply other branches of the Christian faith.

The Committee’s report itself began with marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, reminding us of the motto: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, a reformed Church always being reformed. Rev Louis Kinsey asked the Assembly to include ‘in accordance with the Holy Scriptures’ to this phrase, and this was accepted without challenge.

The Safeguarding Committee reported next; it was rather incongruous to hear a former Moderator speaking of finding it difficult to complete a PVG form in order to work as a Locum, given that this has been a matter of Assembly instruction for some time.

A brief talk on Dementia care and a highlighting of a new Domestic Abuse policy reminded the Assembly of the need for proper care and support in these areas.

The Ministries Council Report was introduced before lunch but would continue long into the afternoon. It remains clear that many are still struggling with the concept of  ‘Hub-style’ Ministry and where that will lead in the future, however, relevant legislation was promised in the coming years. The Convener also launched the new Ascend support and continuing education programme and website for Ministries.

There were several heartfelt pleas from Commissioners for the Church to grapple with the crisis of the shortage of Ministers with further planning or greater seriousness. The centrality of preaching in the Church was affirmed, as was the need for greater resilience among ministers and congregations.

Near the end of a long afternoon, Rev Peter Johnstone attempted to firm up the idea of tinkering with the Ministers in Same-Sex Relationships Act, but Rev Alan Hamilton spoke against this and it was successfully resisted.

Overall, we were left with the impression that the issues covered regarding ministerial deployment and Presbytery Planning, though not gaining the attention of the media, were likely to be among the most critical issues from this year’s Assembly. Tomorrow, some of us will be meeting early on for prayer.