If you are reader of broadsheet Scottish Newspapers, listen to the Scottish news or read Life and Work, you will be aware that the Church of Scotland is facing some difficult decisions in the next few years.
By the time this newsletter is published, the Kirk Session will have discussed the document prepared by the Assembly Commission regarding “Same-Sex relations and the Ministry”, a document every Kirk Session and Presbytery must discuss. The final report of the Commission will come to the General Assembly of 2011. There is no need to elaborate on events of the last year in the Church of Scotland which prompted the Assembly to appoint the Commission.
There have been reports about a large number of people in the Communications department of the Church of Scotland being made redundant in an attempt to save money; CrossReach, the Social work arm of the Church is also facing a major crisis; the pay of all ministers has been frozen for 2010 (this is not a complaint, merely an observation, as at least we have a job, unlike many others who have lost theirs), and the Ministries Council also have the option to cut stipends and the Council has forecast that in 2017 (the year of my retirement!) reserves will be exhausted and they will not be able to sustain ministry across the country – unless they achieve a balanced budget by then. There has been no word as far as I can see about the fate of the pensions, in which I will have a vested interest by then!
There are suggestions that to achieve a balanced budget there will be a reduction from 1234 funded posts to 1000 “full time equivalent posts”. This does not necessarily mean 1000 ministers, but could mean part time ministers and other forms of ministry. It should be an interesting debate at the forthcoming General Assembly.
Although what I have mentioned so far might seem remote from what goes on at local level, there are concerns locally too. At the last Board meeting, it was decided that the Fundraising and Social Committees would merge as there seemed to be a lack of support or interest in what the Social Committee organised, and it was also noted that the Fundraising Committee events were not supported in the way they once were.
There may be a variety of reasons for this – bus trips are not so popular because people of a certain age (!) now have free bus transport and so organised trips are not the “treat” they once were.
The recession and the problems facing many people at the present time are perhaps a feature, but the support for these two committees has been a cause for concern for a number of years.
It is recognised that this trend is also being experienced in other organisations, and is not confined to the churches.
Lest this begin to sound too negative, there is much for which we as a congregation can be thankful – our finances are in a reasonable state – our property is in good condition – our halls are well used by the community – and we take our responsibilities as a “parish” church seriously, and I certainly find fulfilment in the work that I am doing, and grateful for the support I have had over the years I have been here.
So maybe this is a call that we should not become complacent. Things might seem fine to us, but there are issues nationally which may/will affect the church locally. The questionnaire in this newsletter is an attempt to find out what the members feel about their membership of the church. Yes, there are undoubtedly things we could do better, but equally there are things that we seem to be doing right and it is the hope of the Kirk Session that the responses to the survey will help in our future planning to ensure that Carnoustie Panbride is in the strongest position possible to face the future.
I, as your minister, am committed to sharing with you, in the journey ahead.