Back in May the Church of Scotland held a tremendous event called The National Gathering organised by the Church Without Walls planning group. A number of us in St Andrew's went along to visit and to show something of what happens in St Andrew's via one of the story-telling tents. There the new puppet ministry and more established pastoral and bereavement support was show-cased - if you receive a copy of Life and Work you may have even spotted a picture of our own Jim Brown manning the tent!
I was given a CD-ROM today with all the official images from the event so that I can use them in future publicity and there are some fantastic photos. I particularly liked the picture above with Archbishop John Sentamu joining Jane Bentley with some drumming as the 3,000 folks gathered sang under the leadership of John Bell.
This afternoon I was in Edinburgh for a meeting with the Church Without Walls planning group to talk about an event to encourage church leaders and members to grasp the opportunities that come with the "Year of Homecoming" that will take place in 2009.
If you have never heard of it, you will do over the next few months. The Year of Homecoming is a government sponsored strategy to encourage people who have Scottish roots, family here, or just an affinity to Scotland to actually come and visit, meet with people, see and explore our history.
The churches in Scotland have the opportunity to play a big part in that and it was exciting to talk through how churches can open up to visitors (and this is not a building thing, it is a heart thing!), whether those visitors are from the West End of Glasgow, Toronto or Malawi.
The re-design of this website was helped by some money received as part of the Year of Homecoming to help churches create a good web presence and tell their stories, opening up the work of the church and the people of our congregation to others around the world.
At the meeting I also talked again with Carol Findlay from the World Mission Council about the possibility of St Andrew's forming a partnership of some kind with another church elsewhere in the world - something the Kirk Session has talked about and that has been mentioned on a Sunday - and was delighted to arrange for her to visit us later in October to share experiences and encourage us to take this idea of partnerships and homecoming to the next level for 2009.
On that same subject I was pleased to see that my suggestion to presbytery that the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev David Lunan, visit the Livingstone Centre in November when he is visiting presbytery. It will be an opportunity for us to strengthen the historical missionary links that Blantyre has through David Livingstone to many people in Africa.
Wouldn't it be great in 2009 to welcome people from Blantyre, Malawi to Blantyre, Scotland?