Printed from the Society, Religion and Technology Project website: www.srtp.org.uk

Dr Murdo Macdonald

image Published: Oct 14, 2010

Gillian Bishop

image Published: May 23, 2019

Grasping the Nettle Service, ‘And the Spirit of God moved..’ Glasgow, 9 June 2019

image Published: May 16, 2019

In celebration of God the Creator and God the Holy Spirit, with Dr Deborah Haarsma, BioLogos President

A Special Event for Pentecost Sunday - In Celebration of God the Creator and God the Holy Spirit

The event is made possible through financial contributions from the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Glasgow, Grapsing the Netle and a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Date: 9 Jun, 2019

Time: 3:00 pm

Venue: The University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel, Glasgow

This interdenominational public event is free but booking is essential.  

For more information and booking visit the Grasping the Nettle website

SRT Project Week of Prayer 9 - 15 June 2019

image Published: Feb 21, 2019

The annual Week of Prayer for the work of the Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) Project takes place in June. So how can you be involved?

Since the SRT Project was set up in 1970, it has covered topics from stem cells to synthetic biology, from economics to environmental issues. It seeks to bring a Christian ethical understanding to (often controversial) issues of science and technology.  We believe it’s important that the church engages in debate and seeks to influence society.

Many of the issues the SRT Project wrestles are with difficult, and wisdom and sensitivity are required in dealing with them. The support of God’s people in various ways, including upholding us in prayer, has a positive effect as we engage with these dilemmas.

Prayer is vital to what we do as the people of God. The SRT project values your prayers for our work at any time, but we ask that you particularly remember us during the second week in June. Please join us in praying that the SRT Project has a strong, positive and lasting influence on society in Scotland.

Download a leaflet

Autumn/Winter 2018

image Published: Feb 20, 2019

Spring/Summer 2018

image Published: Feb 20, 2019

Small Really Can Be Beautiful

image Published: Jan 15, 2019

Care home residents are almost twice as likely to feel severely lonely, as older people living in their own homes. One resident described it as “feeling alone in a crowd’. She was surrounded by people, but didn’t feel connected to any of them.

One charity that’s determined to tackle loneliness in care homes is Embracing Age. Their national Care Home Friends project equips local churches, helping them to train up volunteers, who then spend time visiting and building friendships with residents.

“Even when it’s a family member, it can be intimidating visiting someone living in a home,” said Jen Carter, whose own father lived in a nursing home. “It can be hard to know what to say or how best to spend that precious time together.”

That’s why, Care Home Friends ran a challenge, to find 101 ways to spend time with an elderly relative or friend. At the last count, 62 ideas had been submitted and added to the post on their blog, with suggested activities ranging from playing board games to sharing a manicure together.

One local church, with just 20-30 regular attenders, visited their local care home every month to share communion. They started a Care Home Friends project because they saw a real need in those they visited for friendship and a deeper connection.

This small church has continued to build on their success. Once a month, their Church Mice toddler group meets in the care home, much to the delight of residents.

With just a handful of volunteers, the saying ‘small is beautiful’ certainly rings true, as they’re making a big impact in their community.

“Imagine if every Care Home was adopted by a local church”, says Director, Tina English, “what a difference we could make in the lives of care home residents across the UK. I believe it’s time to restore the dignity and worth of older people in our nation.”

You can find out more about Care Home Friends on their YouTube channel or their website, www.carehomefriends.org.uk  or by emailing Jen Carter, National Co-ordinator, jen@embracingage.org.uk

National Mindfulness Day for Christians

image Published: Dec 07, 2018

The National Mindfulness Day for Christians conference is taking place in Edinburgh on Saturday 23rd March 2019.

 We are now facing a mental health crisis in Scotland and the UK on an unprecedented scale and many are turning to mindfulness meditation as one way to better manage stress, depression and anxiety.  But how should Christians respond to this phenomenon?  Is mindfulness compatible with Christian faith?  Isn’t mindfulness just for Buddhists? What are the key ingredients of mindfulness practice?  And in what ways can we benefit from a more contemplative approach to Christian spirituality?  These are some of the questions that will be addressed by the keynote speakers who include - Dr Rob Waller, Rev Shaun Lambert, Richard H H Johnston, Heather Churchill (from CWR), Rev Scott Brennan and Rev Kenny Borthwick.

For more information and tickets see www.nationalmindfulnessday.co.uk

Richard Johnston, Director of www.christianmindfulness.co.uk  said: “It is my conviction that we can draw out of the deep wells of the Christian faith and tradition in a way that enables many to experience improved mental health and a greater sense of wellbeing and spiritual connection with God.  Of course, Buddhism does have a strong contemplative tradition itself and often mindfulness meditation is only associated with Buddhism.  But all of the main religions of the world have a contemplative stream which incorporate paying attention, on purpose, with a particular intention in mind.  That’s why we can speak of such a thing as Christian Mindfulness.

“I thoroughly recommend Christian Mindfulness, knowing the benefits of it personally. It will help you into practices that have been known in past centuries to be helpful to the Christian walk but have been abandoned or have gone astray from Christian roots. It is in many ways a return to ancient wells where God’s people have always found life-giving water."

Rev Kenny Borthwick is a Church of Scotand Minister at Holy Trinity in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. You can red his blog here

 

Towards a Critical Theology of Advertising November 2018

image Published: Nov 28, 2018

A few years ago, I came across a fascinating article on the Australian Broadcasting Company Religion and Ethics website. Philosopher Thomas Wells was asking: “Is Advertising Morally Justifiable? The importance of protecting our attention.” (Http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/07/14/4273200.htm   (Accessed 3 February 2016))

Prof Wells suggests that “advertising is a natural resource extraction industry, like a fishery. Its business is the harvest and sale of human attention. We are the fish and we are not consulted……advertising imposes costs on individuals without permission or compensation. It extracts our precious attention and emits toxic by-products, such as the sale of our personal information to dodgy third parties.”

This is not a new idea. In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote 'Propaganda', which founded the philosophy of PR and advertising; and, I would suggest, is very much the foundation of ‘Newspeak’ in Orwell's 1984. Ponder the opening of Chapter 1:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet. They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”

It just so happens that none other than Joseph Goebbels (German Minister of Propaganda from 1933 to 1945) found Bernay's work 'helpful'. In 1958, Aldus Huxley followed up 'Brave New World' with 'Brave New World Revisited”, reflecting on what had happened in the real world since he wrote the original. In Chapter 6, he reflects on 'The Art of Selling'. It is horrifyingly prescient, bearing in mind it was written 60 years ago. Take for example:

“Singing Commercials are a recent invention; …........... Melodies tend to ingrain themselves in the listener's mind. A tune will haunt the memory during the whole of a lifetime. …...................... now set the words to a catchy and easily remembered tune. Immediately they become words of power. Moreover, the words will tend automatically to repeat themselves every time the Melody is heard or spontaneously remembered. Orpheus has entered into an alliance with Pavlov -- the power of sound with the conditioned reflex.”[1]

'Go Compare Man' immediately comes to mind, and, for those of us old enough to remember the 1970's, “Do the Shake and Vac!', I would thoroughly recommend Huxley's 'Brave New World Revisited', and remember it was written 60 years ago

We are now at the end of November, when we have 'Black Friday' and ‘cyber Monday’, American imports to induce mass hysteria and an orgy of consumerism. The cynic might suggest that this is mostly to sell off end of range products, and to induce in us the feeling that 'I buy – therefore I am!'

And then we come to Facebook and Twitter – which could be regarded as giant social surveillance machines with the ability to harvest your data and to sell this to advertisers. This is increasingly being recognised by advertisers:

“By effectively using analytics to combine both transactional and behavioural data to create a comprehensive three-dimensional view of the customer, businesses can fully understand the people behind the data point and in turn provide an enhanced personalised experience, cultivate more valuable relationships and generate results.”[2]

However, as was made clear in the SRT report on digital surveillance and social justice, Christian theology teaches that humans are much more than simply a compilation of our data points.

As Christians, I think we need to be alert to these issues. What I am suggesting is that we undertake a detailed and critical theology of advertising. A good starting point might be our Lord's words in Luke 12 v15:“Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions”.

[1] Huxley, A, (1958), Brave New World Revisited, London, Vintage Classics, (1994 Ed.,), p.48

[2] https://digileaders.com/the-human-face-of-data/

Barry Watson, Member of the SRT Project Committee

IPCC Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C October 2018

image Published: Nov 28, 2018

The United Nations Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC)  published a special report in October 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C.  The report examines those risks that could be avoided by containing global warming to 1.5 °C and what action would be necessary to achieve this.   

Why is this important?

The report restates the message presented in previous IPCC reports to the United Nations: that climate change is happening; that it is anthropocentric (we are causing it) and that it has serious consequences not only for us but for other species and habitats.  What it also makes clear is that the  difference  between a temperature increase of 1.5°C  and 2°C leads to significant additional risks. While it is still theoretically  possible to contain warming to 1.5°C  the report sets out that this will require urgent changes in all sectors of the economy.  However commitments made by national governments to date are likely to result in warming of closer to 3 degrees.

The response in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament is currently considering a Bill to introduce new targets to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.  The Scottish Government is proposing a target reduction of 90% by 2050 whereas  campaigners are calling for a net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  The publication of the IPCC report has added to demands for a zero emissions target  and the Scottish Government has indicated that it will consider this new evidence in relation to the Bill.

What can we do?

Government must set a lead but churches and congregations concerned about climate change can show leadership locally.   Eco Congregation Scotland provides the best opportunity for congregations to face up to this challenge in three ways.

Spiritual living: Making the link between climate change and the Christian faith

Practical living: Taking practical action in the church and in the home to reduce our contribution to climate change

Global living: becoming involved in advocacy locally or in the wider world on climate change.

Many congregations are already active but the new report  reinforces just how serious climate change  is becoming. This challenges eco-congregations  and denominations to consider new actions. This is a subject both the Church of Scotland and ECS must now revisit.

Below are extracts from the IPCC  Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C or you can read it in full here:  http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

Why 1.5 Celsius?

Human activities have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels and global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.  Climate-related risks exist  for global warming of 1.5°C  but are they are lower than warming of 2°C  The risks depend on the magnitude and rate of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and implementation of adaptation and mitigation options

Projected Climate Change, Potential Impacts and Associated Risks

There are many projected impacts of global warming.  These include increases in:

mean temperature in most land and ocean regions

extreme heat in most inhabited regions

heavy precipitation in several regions

the probability of drought and precipitation deficits in some regions

Rainfall and Drought

Risks from droughts and precipitation are likely to be higher at 2°C compared to 1.5°C with risks, in particular heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones is projected to be higher at 2°C and the area of land affected by flood will be larger.

Sea Level Rise

Sea level is rising and will continue to rise well beyond 2100, the magnitude and rate of this rise depending on future emissions.  A slower rate of sea level rise enables greater opportunities for adaptation in small islands, low-lying coastal areas and deltas

Biodiversity

Of 105,000 species studied, 9% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates are projected to lose over half of their climatically determined geographic range for global warming of 1.5°C, compared with 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates for global warming of 2°C. Impacts associated with other risks such as forest fires, and the spread of invasive species, are lower at 1.5°C compared to 2°C of global warming

Tundra and boreal forests are particularly at risk of degradation and loss.  Limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C is projected to prevent the thawing over centuries of a permafrost area in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 million km2

Sea warming and loss of coral reefs

The probability of a sea-ice-free Arctic Ocean during summer is substantially lower at global warming of 1.5°C when compared to 2°C.  With 1.5°C of global warming, one sea ice-free Arctic summer is projected per century. This likelihood is increased to at least one per decade with 2°C global warming.  

Coral reefs are projected to decline by a further 70–90% at 1.5°C with larger losses (>99%) at 2ºC. The risk of irreversible loss of many marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially at 2°C or more.

Human impacts

Regions at disproportionately higher risk include the Arctic, dryland regions, small-island developing states, and least developed countries. Poverty and disadvantages are expected to increase in some populations as global warming increases; limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050. Limiting warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2ºC, is projected to result in smaller net reductions in yields of maize, rice, wheat, and potentially other cereal crops, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

Action to limit global warming

Limiting global warming requires limiting the emissions of CO2 to stay within a total carbon budget.  As noted above global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052.  Therefore to stay within 1.5°C will require rapid and far-reaching transitions in the economy: in energy use, land management and farming, urban development and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and in industry.  These transitions imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investment.

Impact on poverty and sustainable development goals

The climate change impacts on sustainable development, eradication of poverty and reducing inequalities would be greater if global warming were  2°C rather than  1.5°C.  Climate change impacts and responses are closely linked to sustainable development which balances social well-being, economic prosperity and environmental protection. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, provide a framework for assessing the links between global warming and development goals.

Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Officer

A future worth saving for…

image Published: Oct 09, 2018

On Wednesday 3rd October 2018, the Church of Scotland and partners, Christian Aid Scotland and the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) came together at the City of Edinburgh Methodist Church to host this year’s Good Money Week conference.

The event was sponsored by Triodos Bank, EthicalFutures and Anderson MacPhie Financial Services

‘A future worth saving for’ explored ways in which we can link our faith and values to our money. Delegates learned about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how our money can help ensure a more just and sustainable world now and for future generations. 

Our Chair, Wendy Lloyd from Christian Aid Scotland introduced the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); looking at these from a theological perspective and considered how our money can be a force for good in the world.

Wendy also introduced the Kirk's animated video about Ethical Finance: You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SQI1VeEgF0

 

Continuing to look at the SDGs, Keynote speaker Christopher Stockwell, ECCR explained that Stewardship is about the use of resources for today and tomorrow and asked the audience to consider if God will find us faithful and our children and grandchildren feel that we have collectively tried our best to be good stewards?

You can read the ECCR’s paper on intergenerational justice here.

Following the plenary session, delegates were invited to take part in two of the following three workshops:

Triodos Bank, Alan Miller

Transparency and consumer choice: how a little knowledge can help us change the world

Triodos Bank is a global pioneer in sustainable banking, using the power of finance to support projects that benefit people and the planet. It believes that banking can be a powerful force for good: serving individuals and communities as well as building a more sustainable society.  This interactive workshop examined how each of us as individuals can use our money positively, on an everyday basis, to help reduce the impact of climate change and have a positive impact on our planet.  

Prosper Social Finance, Jack Friend, Iman Mouloudi and Tasha Jayabalan

Challenging Perceptions, Financing Change

Prosper Social Finance is the UK’s first student run socially responsible investment fund founded and run entirely by students at the University of Edinburgh. Delegates heard about their journey so far and about how they educate and empower their students to use money for good.

ABCUL Scotland, Karen Hurst

Credit unions: An ethical option

With the Scottish Government due to launch a campaign in the coming weeks to encourage more people to join a credit union, the workshop looked at what credit unions do, the important role they are playing in financial education for both adults and young people, and also some examples of the work of different credit unions across Scotland.

After the workshops the delegates came together again for a 40 minute Q & A followed by lunch and an opportunity to network.

 

If you are interested in coming along to next year’s Good Money Week event please contact SRTP@churchofscotland.org.uk to be kept informed.

 

For more useful resource to help you create 'An economy driven by equality' visit the Church of Scotland website

Free will, Dr Tillmann Vierkant: Life & Work article September 2018

image Published: Aug 24, 2018

“FREE will is obviously an age old puzzle. Are we free to make our own choices or are we determined by our genes and our environments?”

Dr Tillmann Vierkant is a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University’s school of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, and has worked with the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religion and Technology project including helping them report to the General Assembly in 2012.

Among other topics, he studies conscious will and the ‘zombie challenge.’ The zombie challenge is the worry that our behaviour is produced by unconscious processes and our conscious mind does not cause behaviour at all. He says there are many famous empirical findings that have been interpreted as supporting that claim and the discussion whether or not the zombie challenge actually succeeds is still one of the hot topics in philosophy
of cognitive science.

Apart from free will and the zombie challenge he works on theory of mind, mental actions, metacognition, neuroethics and many other areas of philosophy of cognitive science.

Born in Bavaria, Tillmann grew up in a largely Catholic culture where the church influence was very present.

“My family was agnostic in spite of our surroundings, but I was always interested in, and on the whole, sympathetic to, the work of the church,” he says.

“As a young philosophy PhD student, I studied with an ethics reading group which was organised by three students with a church background, so I guess interacting with and discussing questions of psychology and matters of faith with people of faith has been part of my life for a long time.

“I went on to study moral and political philosophy in Munich but also worked, as a student job, at the Max Plank Institute for Psychological Research. After my undergraduate degree I was asked by the Director of the Institute, Professor Wolfgang Prinz whether I wanted to do my PhD with them and that’s how I ended up studying philosophy of cognitive sciences.

“Though it’s a topic that concerns many fields from, for example, linguistics to artificial intelligence, in my case it was mainly philosophy of psychology. Philosophy of psychology is on the one hand philosophically informed theoretical psychology and on the other hand a discipline that thinks about psychology as a science.

“When I was offered the chance to come here to Edinburgh to become a lecturer in the subject, being one of the best places to pursue my interests, I could not refuse.”

One of Tillmann’s specialist fields of study is free will. It’s a topic with implications for the Church and one the Society Religion and Technology group were interested in examining and considering.

“Free will” – or the ability to choose freely between different possible options, is a
hot topic for those involved in religion.
It has been closely linked to concepts of responsibility, guilt, and even sin. It’s a subject that’s been studied by psychologists throughout the years, and one debated by theologians. It’s one of the questions that has plagued mankind since even before the Greek philosophers of old. For some people, the feeling that God is omniscient – that
is knows everything that there is to know and knows everything that will be – almost disproves free will. How can there be such a thing if everything is predetermined? We must all simply be living the life we are supposed to be living and doing the things that we need – indeed must – do, in order for God’s Will to be fulfilled. Seen in some ways, it would seem that free will is incompatible with faith in an all-powerful God. It also gives rise to the theory that
if people are simply doing what they are destined to do, then can they really be held responsible for their actions?

“Free will is obviously an age old puzzle. Are we free to make our own choices or are we determined by our genes and our environments,” says Tillmann.

“In recent years that puzzle has become more urgent again, because some people in the sciences claimed that they could show that humans are not free.

“A series of experiments was done by neuroscientists who claimed to have shown that consciousness is not involved in the production of behaviour. Instead all our decisions are made by the unconscious brain and we live under the illusion that consciousness is playing a role.”

The theory is that under laboratory conditions, minute but distinct changes
in the brain happen just before a decision is made – so that your ‘choice’ is not made by the conscious self, but instead determined by your brain even if just a fraction in advance of your action. Some psychologists have used these experiments to argue that there is no free will – it is all, in effect, pre-determined by your unconscious brain.

The work being done with DNA at the moment and the discovery of genes involved with violence or aggression is also contributing to the modern debate. Again how free is your will if your genetic make up is constantly pushing you in one direction, or to make one choice, over another?

This kind of thinking can in turn seem quite threatening to the church, because they see free will as an essential part of what it is to be a human being.

If Eve was predetermined to pick the apple and give it to Adam then was she guilty of any sin? If Judas was predetermined to betray Jesus, why is he cast as villain instead of being pitied? Some of the most fundamental aspects of Christianity depend on free will and bad choices (as well as good ones).

“I think that all my work is fully compatible with religion, but not with every possible religious claim, and that’s an important distinction,” he says. “Science does change our self-understanding, and obviously a changed self-understanding is a challenge for religion, which tends to be firmly rooted in tradition. Sometimes faith and belief challenges critical scientific thinking. I have always felt that religion can easily react to these changes, but probably this very much depends on which religious person you speak to and some will feel differently from others.

“I met Dr Murdo McDonald, the policy officer of the SRT and himself a molecular biologist, at a neuroethics conference in Glasgow and he invited me to join the SRT group. I admit I was curious and went along and I can say I have very much enjoyed our discussions in this forum.

“The whole thing just developed very organically from the first contact at the conference and my interaction and discussions with the group did not feel surprising really.

“In the project we tried to show that the church does not need to feel threatened by the scientific research because the challenge is flawed. Scientists are specialists in the experimental work they are doing, but their concepts of what free will is are often surprisingly philosophically naïve. Once we use more sophisticated concepts we can show that science and religion are not a threat to the perspective of the other, but can work together. “There are various arguments here, but the point I discussed most with the SRT group was that the scientists did not know the philosophical concept of compatibilism, which is mainstream in philosophy.

“Compatibilists believe that even if your behaviour is determined by your brain that does not mean that it cannot also be free. Great thinkers in the history of the church like Aquinas were compatibilists.

“Also, even if one did not want to accept compatibilism there are very many methodological worries with the experiments, so that at least for the moment the challenge does not seem to be acute.

“After a year or so of great discussion
I was asked whether I would help to prepare a report about the work of the group. I only realised a bit later that the report would
go to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

“It was an interesting process.

“The report condensed the discussion we had in the group.

I was not at the General Assembly so can’t say how it was received but I know that the Assembly decided to recommend the report for further consideration, so they must have found it interesting at least.

“The University was very happy with our co-operation with the Church and has gone on to use the work of the group as an impact case study.

“As a philosopher our main tool is conceptual analysis from the armchair. Having said that, I work in philosophy of cognitive science, so I get to read and work with lots of fantastic people in the empirical sciences. Actually, last summer I ventured into experimental philosophy. “Philosophers often start from intuitions and claim that they are shared by everybody. Experimental philosophy tests whether people actually have the intuitions philosophers claim they have, by asking them. In this case we wanted to know whether people really thought that an action was more free when it was done after deliberation. It turns out that people think deliberated actions are less free than spontaneous actions, but that they would not say the same thing for responsible actions. Here deliberation comes out on top.

“Working with a famous neuroscientist in Berlin we tried to settle a dispute between the two of us about what people outside academia think about the concept of freedom by asking them. It was a fascinating experience to be involved in setting up a survey.

“The study and work with the SRT is over for the time being but, of course, it would be great to work together again some time in the future. There is so much to be explored together.

“Murdo and I were discussing at some point that we should do more, but as so often in academic life there are too many things all going on at the same time, so until now we have not yet managed to come up with more detailed new ideas.

“I really enjoyed working with the Church on the project.

“It was a great experience. I very much enjoy being in touch with people outside academia. When you work in a highly theoretical discipline like philosophy it is quite easy to be cut off from the world outside. That is a shame because big topics like free will concern us all and not just a number of highly specialised philosophers.

“I have learnt a huge amount from my work with the SRT group and our work together!

“The discussions were absolutely fascinating. To a large part we mainly discussed the experiments and whether they had consequences for the free will debate or whether the zombie challenge held more weight.

“Again it is so important to not lose touch with other parts of the world that are not academic philosophy. SRT was simply wonderful for that.”

Time moves on as does academic research. Tillmann is working on other topics just now, but his principal interest is in free will.

“At the moment I am not working on free will specifically, but more on the nature of intentional mental actions or the question of how much and what kind of control we have over our thinking but free will is never far away. In fact I went to a conference on the topic of choice and free will recently and that opened up some new ideas that might connect my current interest in intentional mental actions with the topic of free will. The question here would be what kind of control we have over our choices and what kind of control over choices would be necessary for free will. It’s all fascinating stuff, and it’s good to know that mainstream churches are considering such philosophical and psychological questions as well.

It might be some time before we have any answers – if we ever do!”

This article first appeared in the September issue of Life and Work, the magazine of the Church of Scotland. You can subscribe here http://www.lifeandwork.org/subscribe/subscribe

You can read about the SRT Project working group and the report SRT Neurobiology, Freewill and Moral Responsibility  for the General Assembly in May 2012 here

Our Discussion Starters leaflet is also available to help you explore the topic further.

click here to download

Free will, Life & Work September 2018

image Published: Aug 24, 2018

“FREE will is obviously an age old puzzle. Are we free to make our own choices or are we determined by our genes and our environments?”

Dr Tillmann Vierkant is a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University’s school of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, and has worked with the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religion and Technology project including helping them report to the General Assembly in 2012.

Among other topics, he studies conscious will and the ‘zombie challenge.’ The zombie challenge is the worry that our behaviour is produced by unconscious processes and our conscious mind does not cause behaviour at all. He says there are many famous empirical findings that have been interpreted as supporting that claim and the discussion whether or not the zombie challenge actually succeeds is still one of the hot topics in philosophy
of cognitive science.

Apart from free will and the zombie challenge he works on theory of mind, mental actions, metacognition, neuroethics and many other areas of philosophy of cognitive science.

Born in Bavaria, Tillmann grew up in a largely Catholic culture where the church influence was very present.

“My family was agnostic in spite of our surroundings, but I was always interested in, and on the whole, sympathetic to, the work of the church,” he says.

“As a young philosophy PhD student, I studied with an ethics reading group which was organised by three students with a church background, so I guess interacting with and discussing questions of psychology and matters of faith with people of faith has been part of my life for a long time.

“I went on to study moral and political philosophy in Munich but also worked, as a student job, at the Max Plank Institute for Psychological Research. After my undergraduate degree I was asked by the Director of the Institute, Professor Wolfgang Prinz whether I wanted to do my PhD with them and that’s how I ended up studying philosophy of cognitive sciences.

“Though it’s a topic that concerns many fields from, for example, linguistics to artificial intelligence, in my case it was mainly philosophy of psychology. Philosophy of psychology is on the one hand philosophically informed theoretical psychology and on the other hand a discipline that thinks about psychology as a science.

“When I was offered the chance to come here to Edinburgh to become a lecturer in the subject, being one of the best places to pursue my interests, I could not refuse.”

One of Tillmann’s specialist fields of study is free will. It’s a topic with implications for the Church and one the Society Religion and Technology group were interested in examining and considering.

“Free will” – or the ability to choose freely between different possible options, is a
hot topic for those involved in religion.
It has been closely linked to concepts of responsibility, guilt, and even sin. It’s a subject that’s been studied by psychologists throughout the years, and one debated by theologians. It’s one of the questions that has plagued mankind since even before the Greek philosophers of old. For some people, the feeling that God is omniscient – that
is knows everything that there is to know and knows everything that will be – almost disproves free will. How can there be such a thing if everything is predetermined? We must all simply be living the life we are supposed to be living and doing the things that we need – indeed must – do, in order for God’s Will to be fulfilled. Seen in some ways, it would seem that free will is incompatible with faith in an all-powerful God. It also gives rise to the theory that
if people are simply doing what they are destined to do, then can they really be held responsible for their actions?

“Free will is obviously an age old puzzle. Are we free to make our own choices or are we determined by our genes and our environments,” says Tillmann.

“In recent years that puzzle has become more urgent again, because some people in the sciences claimed that they could show that humans are not free.

“A series of experiments was done by neuroscientists who claimed to have shown that consciousness is not involved in the production of behaviour. Instead all our decisions are made by the unconscious brain and we live under the illusion that consciousness is playing a role.”

The theory is that under laboratory conditions, minute but distinct changes
in the brain happen just before a decision is made – so that your ‘choice’ is not made by the conscious self, but instead determined by your brain even if just a fraction in advance of your action. Some psychologists have used these experiments to argue that there is no free will – it is all, in effect, pre-determined by your unconscious brain.

The work being done with DNA at the moment and the discovery of genes involved with violence or aggression is also contributing to the modern debate. Again how free is your will if your genetic make up is constantly pushing you in one direction, or to make one choice, over another?

This kind of thinking can in turn seem quite threatening to the church, because they see free will as an essential part of what it is to be a human being.

If Eve was predetermined to pick the apple and give it to Adam then was she guilty of any sin? If Judas was predetermined to betray Jesus, why is he cast as villain instead of being pitied? Some of the most fundamental aspects of Christianity depend on free will and bad choices (as well as good ones).

“I think that all my work is fully compatible with religion, but not with every possible religious claim, and that’s an important distinction,” he says. “Science does change our self-understanding, and obviously a changed self-understanding is a challenge for religion, which tends to be firmly rooted in tradition. Sometimes faith and belief challenges critical scientific thinking. I have always felt that religion can easily react to these changes, but probably this very much depends on which religious person you speak to and some will feel differently from others.

“I met Dr Murdo McDonald, the policy officer of the SRT and himself a molecular biologist, at a neuroethics conference in Glasgow and he invited me to join the SRT group. I admit I was curious and went along and I can say I have very much enjoyed our discussions in this forum.

“The whole thing just developed very organically from the first contact at the conference and my interaction and discussions with the group did not feel surprising really.

“In the project we tried to show that the church does not need to feel threatened by the scientific research because the challenge is flawed. Scientists are specialists in the experimental work they are doing, but their concepts of what free will is are often surprisingly philosophically naïve. Once we use more sophisticated concepts we can show that science and religion are not a threat to the perspective of the other, but can work together. “There are various arguments here, but the point I discussed most with the SRT group was that the scientists did not know the philosophical concept of compatibilism, which is mainstream in philosophy.

“Compatibilists believe that even if your behaviour is determined by your brain that does not mean that it cannot also be free. Great thinkers in the history of the church like Aquinas were compatibilists.

“Also, even if one did not want to accept compatibilism there are very many methodological worries with the experiments, so that at least for the moment the challenge does not seem to be acute.

“After a year or so of great discussion
I was asked whether I would help to prepare a report about the work of the group. I only realised a bit later that the report would
go to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

“It was an interesting process.

“The report condensed the discussion we had in the group.

I was not at the General Assembly so can’t say how it was received but I know that the Assembly decided to recommend the report for further consideration, so they must have found it interesting at least.

“The University was very happy with our co-operation with the Church and has gone on to use the work of the group as an impact case study.

“As a philosopher our main tool is conceptual analysis from the armchair. Having said that, I work in philosophy of cognitive science, so I get to read and work with lots of fantastic people in the empirical sciences. Actually, last summer I ventured into experimental philosophy. “Philosophers often start from intuitions and claim that they are shared by everybody. Experimental philosophy tests whether people actually have the intuitions philosophers claim they have, by asking them. In this case we wanted to know whether people really thought that an action was more free when it was done after deliberation. It turns out that people think deliberated actions are less free than spontaneous actions, but that they would not say the same thing for responsible actions. Here deliberation comes out on top.

“Working with a famous neuroscientist in Berlin we tried to settle a dispute between the two of us about what people outside academia think about the concept of freedom by asking them. It was a fascinating experience to be involved in setting up a survey.

“The study and work with the SRT is over for the time being but, of course, it would be great to work together again some time in the future. There is so much to be explored together.

“Murdo and I were discussing at some point that we should do more, but as so often in academic life there are too many things all going on at the same time, so until now we have not yet managed to come up with more detailed new ideas.

“I really enjoyed working with the Church on the project.

“It was a great experience. I very much enjoy being in touch with people outside academia. When you work in a highly theoretical discipline like philosophy it is quite easy to be cut off from the world outside. That is a shame because big topics like free will concern us all and not just a number of highly specialised philosophers.

“I have learnt a huge amount from my work with the SRT group and our work together!

“The discussions were absolutely fascinating. To a large part we mainly discussed the experiments and whether they had consequences for the free will debate or whether the zombie challenge held more weight.

“Again it is so important to not lose touch with other parts of the world that are not academic philosophy. SRT was simply wonderful for that.”

Time moves on as does academic research. Tillmann is working on other topics just now, but his principal interest is in free will.

“At the moment I am not working on free will specifically, but more on the nature of intentional mental actions or the question of how much and what kind of control we have over our thinking but free will is never far away. In fact I went to a conference on the topic of choice and free will recently and that opened up some new ideas that might connect my current interest in intentional mental actions with the topic of free will. The question here would be what kind of control we have over our choices and what kind of control over choices would be necessary for free will. It’s all fascinating stuff, and it’s good to know that mainstream churches are considering such philosophical and psychological questions as well.

It might be some time before we have any answers – if we ever do!”

This article first appeared in the September issue of Life and Work, the magazine of the Church of Scotland. You can subscribe here http://www.lifeandwork.org/subscribe/subscribe

You can read about the SRT Project working group and the report SRT Neurobiology, Freewill and Moral Responsibility  for the General Assembly in May 2012 here

Our Discussion Starters leaflet is also available to help you explore the topic further.

click here

Rev Peter Johnston

image Published: Aug 24, 2018

Prof Douglas Blackwood

image Published: Jul 27, 2018

Dundee church member launches recovery road map

image Published: Jul 27, 2018

A Dundee church member has launched a pocket guide for people who are struggling with complex health needs to help them navigate support services better. Community nurse Rachel McReady has developed the Dundee Recovery Road Map – a visual aid which sets out all the services available across the city, including addiction support, family carers support and health and wellbeing information. Read the ful story on the Church of Scotland website

Navigating Medical Crises: how to be prepared for the dilemmas and decisions

image Published: Jun 21, 2018

On the 11th and 12th of June, the Community Responsibility Committee of Glasgow Presbytery hosted a contribution to the Glasgow Science Festival. Professor Robin Taylor and Dr. Calvin Lightbody presented two separate but linked items on the issues which confront us when people are admitted to hospital with serious conditions which may be life threatening. There was particular emphasis on the dilemmas faced by patients, medical staff and relatives when the patient may be in the last year of life.

In the course of the evening we were asked to consider several different scenarios relating to the appropriate level of intervention which could or should be offered or undertaken in these circumstances. We were asked to consider what may contribute to a ‘good death’ as opposed to an undignified or distressing process culminating in the inevitable. We were also asked to consider the view in society which assumed that the doctor’s role was to fix everything compared with one which focused on appropriate palliative care as a preparation for a sensitive and dignified progression to the end of life in a natural way.

This was an extremely interesting and thought provoking topic which raised many challenging issues relating our personal approach to these matters, our understanding of what terms such as prognosis may mean and the general understanding within society of how we should deal with and prepare for the end of life.

On the 11th and 12th of June, the Community Responsibility Committee of Glasgow Presbytery hosted a contribution to the Glasgow Science Festival. Professor Robin Taylor and Dr. Calvin Lightbody presented two separate but linked items on the issues which confront us when people are admitted to hospital with serious conditions which may be life threatening. There was particular emphasis on the dilemmas faced by patients, medical staff and relatives when the patient may be in the last year of life. In the course of the evening we were asked to consider several different scenarios relating to the appropriate level of intervention which could or should be offered or undertaken in these circumstances. We were asked to consider what may contribute to a ‘good death’ as opposed to an undignified or distressing process culminating in the inevitable. We were also asked to consider the view in society which assumed that the doctor’s role was to fix everything compared with one which focused on appropriate palliative care as a preparation for a sensitive and dignified progression to the end of life in a natural way. This was an extremely interesting and thought provoking topic which raised many challenging issues relating our personal approach to these matters, our understanding of what terms such as prognosis may mean and the general understanding within society of how we should deal with and prepare for the end of life.

We were also urged to consider having an Anticipatory Care Plan in place before reaching a stage in life where we may not be able to make some decisions for ourselves. Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Scottish Government have produced some very helpful literature on this which can be accessed online at www.myacp.scot.

The presentation was very well received and the Q&A session was very interesting. There is no doubt that what Professor Taylor and Dr Lightbody have to say deserves a much wider audience. It is to be hoped that they will receive many more invitations to speak in many more venues.

George Kelly, Convener of the Community Responsibility Committee of Glasgow Presbytery

Highland Theological College UHI at the Inverness Science Festival

image Published: Jun 12, 2018

It is an oft-repeated fallacy that faith and science cannot mix, so the Highland Theological College UHI was delighted to host two public lectures at the Inverness Science Festival 2018 in May. Dr Ruth Bancewicz from the Faraday Institute in Cambridge presented the first session, under the title of ‘God in the Lab: When curiosity leads to wonder, awe, & the big questions of life’. Ruth explained the significance of her own faith to her scientific practice and also discussed the contributions of many significant scientists of our generation who are also people of faith. Dr Bancewicz also presented a fascinating discussion of the concept of beauty within the environmental realm. She drew the audience to the inexorable conclusion that while science can provide the answer to many of life’s questions, it is not the only legitimate means of interrogating the big questions of life. Ruth’s talk was well received and she fielded a number of fascinating questions from the floor after her presentation.

Dr Innes Visagie, Lecturer in Pastoral and Practical Theology and Programme Leader for the Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree, presented HTC’s second session at the Inverness Science Festival. His topic was: ‘Protons, people and planets: the explanatory power of Science’. Developing some of the themes mooted by Ruth the previous evening, Innes examined the question of science’s power to explain by asking and answering questions from a variety of perspectives—hence, the protons, people and planets. In doing so, he established that science, quite clearly, has great power to answer many questions regarding life and the world around us, but not all. Dr Visagie went on to show that other intellectual approaches, be they philosophical or even religious, provide equally valid answers to many important questions. Again, some fascinating discussion with those in attendance followed the lecture.

The Inverness Science Festival 2018 was a great event that saw many local people of all ages engaging with a wide variety of STEM-related events. It was a privilege for Highland Theological College UHI to be involved in the event and we look forward to future fruitful collaboration.

Dr Jamie Grant, Vice-Principal (Academic),
Highland Theological College UHI

You can find details of other science festivals around Scotland here.

Dr Tom Russ

image Published: May 03, 2018

National Education Conference on Introducing the God Question

image Published: May 01, 2018

On 17th May 2018 a joint conference will be held by Christian Values in Education, the Scottish Catholic Education Service and Scripture Union Scotland.  The main focus of the conference will be on the educational value and practical use of Introducing the God Question, the version of the series specially devised for schools and universities. Dr John Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Green Templeton College, the University of Oxford, will deliver the keynote address. The conference fee includes ITGQ classroom resources.  

Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, Barbara Coupar, said “The conference offers a new and exciting opportunity for three organisations in Scotland, concerned with the spiritual welfare of our young people, to work together and we greatly look forward to an event that will promote and facilitate a high quality spiritual and educational experience for pupils in Scottish classrooms.”

Details of the conference from Chistian Values In Education and the Scottish Catholic Education Service

Introducing the God Question in your Local Secondary School

With the new school session in full swing, now might be an ideal time to approach your local Head-teacher or Head of RE to ensure that they know about the new major curriculum resource Introducing the God Question. It has been designed for use within RME/RE and has a very close connection to the curriculum for Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies. Education Secretary John Swinney, MSP, described the series as “An example of the Curriculum for Excellence at its best”. Before approaching your local school, please write to office@graspingthenettle.org requesting our information sheet Advice for Talking to Secondary Schools About Introducing the God Question.  

What a Wonder-full World in Skye and Lochalsh

image Published: May 01, 2018

On Saturday 10th March 2018, churches in Skye and Lochalsh held their first What A Wonder-Full World event. Rev Rory MacLeod (Church of Scotland) and Rev Roddie Rankin (Free Church of Scotland) were among the local leaders who, along with the Grasping the Nettle team, organised the highly successful evening. The idea was born in August 2017 subsequent to a “Grasping the Nettle with The God Question" day conference in Kyleakin.

“Last year’s conference presented us with a vision of challenging our community to see through the 'God is dead, and science buried Him' rhetoric of the New Atheism” explains Rory.  

“In churches of various denominations the Exploring the God Question series was used with midweek house groups.  Our hope was that Christians would be enthused with confidence and concern to bring the wider community to an event which would stimulate fresh discussion”

Roddie Rankin was equally enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing church and community together, “What attracted me about the WAWW format and aim was its aspiration to create common ground for believers and sceptics to meet on. Too often we go in too hard and put people off, or hang back and never get started. Neither extreme is constructive but as soon as I heard about WAWW I thought, here's an approach which might just work. My hope was that this event would strengthen the bond between local churches and Christians, through a creative response to aggressive secularism”. 

The programme drew heavily on local talent with some poetry and music being presented in Gaelic.  As with all WAWW events the programme blended music, drama, film excerpts, poetry and conversation with scientists. In this case they were Dr Antony Lathm MD and Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland. “When it comes to artistic talent, particularly of the musical and literary variety, we are spoiled for choice here. The challenge was deciding what to omit!”, said Rev MacLeod, who is responsible for four churches - from Broadford to Elgol.

“We made sure that the event was widely advertised, which involved, among other approaches, a large team of local Christians posting a flyer to almost every home in the area.  We also organised for the Astronomer Royal for Scotland to do an afternoon 'Magical Mystery Tour of the Cosmos' ahead of the evening musical and discussion event”, added Roddie.  “Attendance at the WAWW event was good.  Most of those present had a local church connection, but there were several people who were not in this category, who had come out of an interest in the theme.  They are being followed up on a one to one basis”, he said.

Rev MacLeod emphasised that “From the beginning, this was an interdenominational initiative. On one level it seems ludicrous that such a small Christian community as ours is divided into so many denominations. We can work towards reconciliation now and into the future. Sharing projects like WAWW is a significant part of that process.

I hope that our willingness to engage with people of deep faith and none will have earned credibility for our churches.  Ultimately we are motivated by the love of God and our desire to respond faithfully to Jesus' command to go into all the world and make disciples…”

Grasping the Nettle is grateful to the church community in Skye and Lochalsh for their vision, drive and commitment as well as the way they sourced such excellent content for the programme. Summing up, one of the GTN team members commented “Can there be a better place on earth to celebrate our Wonder-Full World than the island of Skye and the west coast of Scotland?”

 

Article courtesy of Grasping the Nettle

www.graspingthenettle.org

SRT Project Week of Prayer 10th - 16th June 2018

image Published: Apr 25, 2018

The annual Week of Prayer for the work of the Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) Project takes place every June.

Since the SRT Project was set up in 1970, it has covered topics from stem cells to synthetic biology, from economics to environmental issues. It seeks to bring a Christian ethical understanding to (often controversial) issues of science and technology.  We believe it’s important that the church engages in debate and seeks to influence society.

Many of the issues the SRT Project wrestles are with difficult, and wisdom and sensitivity are required in dealing with them. The support of God’s people in various ways, including upholding us in prayer, has a positive effect as we engage with these dilemmas.

Prayer is vital to what we do as the people of God. The SRT Project values your prayers for our work at any time, but we ask that you particularly remember us during the second week in June. Please join us in praying that the SRT Project has a strong, positive and lasting influence on society in Scotland.

Download a leaflet

Meet Your MP

image Published: Mar 28, 2018

Meet Your MP is an exciting new project from the SCPO (Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office) – building links between congregations and their MPs across the country.

We want church communities to be at the heart of the decisions that affect their everyday lives - and what better way to get involved than for churches to get to know their representatives and influencers in Westminster.

You could organise a public meeting, invite your MP to a project or event at your church, or you could take them on a walk of your local area to highlight issues that need addressed. The possibilities are endless but contact is crucial.

You can read more about the campaign on the Church of Scotland website

The project launches on Thursday 29 March 2018 with a toolkit and ideas available at www.scpo.scot

Get involved and #MeetYourMP

Downlaod a leaflet

Workplace Chaplaincy in Haymarket Edinburgh

image Published: Mar 20, 2018

When Palmerston Place Church (PPC) carried out a parish survey Colin Sinclair, the minister, posed a simple question “What can we do to show Christian love and service in our community?”

Situated in the busy Haymarket area of Edinburgh the parish is the base for many offices and workplaces in the West end of the city centre.  Accessing these workplaces became a priority for PPC.

PPC in partnership with Workplace Chaplaincy Scotland (WPCS) created an innovative role for a ministerial assistant – who for one day a week as part of their ministry is the Workplace Chaplain in Haymarket.

WPCS providing training, chaplaincy support and opportunities for access into the workplaces in Haymarket – and PPC providing the time and financial support for the Ministerial Assistant.

Jack Macdonald was appointed to this role in 2016 – and has been working effectively with the business community since then.

“Chaplaincy in the workplace is a slow burn”, says Jack, “It takes time for workplaces to embrace chaplaincy… moving from a “visit us once every couple of months” to “could you come in every fortnight”, to “come in whenever you want!”’

Over the last two years Jack has connected with a number of businesses and retailers in the Haymarket area – recognised in the community as ‘their chaplain’ –successfully introducing a lunchtime seminar series on topics such as dealing with stress in the workplace, resilience, depression and anxiety – the seminar model that WPCS has operated successfully in other locations.

As well as visiting the offices and shops he provides chaplaincy into the local Royal Mail sorting office – getting to know, and provide pastoral support for the post office staff.

Jacks work has extended recently working with the Railway Chaplain to provide a Listening Post at Haymarket Station – working within a Mental Health agenda alongside MIND and the Samaritans to provide a safe place for commuters talk with people trained to listen and care for their well being.  WPCS have similar listening posts within Shopping Centres throughout Scotland.

“This partnership with WPCS has given Palmerston Place Church an effective way of connecting with the people whose workplaces are within our parish” says Colin.  “The relational model of chaplaincy within workplace chaplaincy means that Jack is naturally establishing connections with people that would be difficult to reach by the church in any other way.”

Paul Wilson, regional co-ordinator WPCS, observes “The partnership working between Palmerston Place Church and ourselves is an excellent model of how the church can engage in the lives of people at work. WPCS would love to see this model replicated throughout Scotland as we currently have a greater demand for chaplaincy that can be presently supplied”

SRT Project Policy Officer, Dr Murdo Macdonald: The world within

image Published: Jan 09, 2018

"To me, this inner world of the cell (or more accurately, of the nucleus within the cell), which biology allows us to glimpse, is an illustration of the life of faith."

Read Murdo's Guest Post for Science and Belief on their website here

Dads Rock: Supporting Dads, Children and Families

image Published: Dec 19, 2017

Dads Rock offers playgroups, Dad2be antenatal classes and 1:1 support for Young Dads (aged 25 or under).

Over the last five years Dads Rock has provided a crucial support network for Dads, children and families in Edinburgh, helping Dads increase their confidence and to be better parents for their children.  We know that children have better chances in life when their Dads play an active role in their lives.

Each year we work directly with over 1000 Dads, children and families. 

Our latest funding applications have been unsuccessful, we are working hard to secure longer term funding, however to survive we have had to cut our services to families and reduce our staff.

We need your help to secure our future.

Find out more about Dads Rock and how you can help here

#savedadsrock

Autumn/Winter 2017

image Published: Dec 08, 2017

SRT Project Week of Prayer 10 - 16 June 2018

image Published: Dec 08, 2017

The annual Week of Prayer for the work of the Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) Project takes place in June. So how can you be involved?

Since the SRT Project was set up in 1970, it has covered topics from stem cells to synthetic biology, from economics to environmental issues. It seeks to bring a Christian ethical understanding to (often controversial) issues of science and technology.  We believe it’s important that the church engages in debate and seeks to influence society.

Many of the issues the SRT Project wrestles are with difficult, and wisdom and sensitivity are required in dealing with them. The support of God’s people in various ways, including upholding us in prayer, has a positive effect as we engage with these dilemmas.

Prayer is vital to what we do as the people of God. The SRT project values your prayers for our work at any time, but we ask that you particularly remember us during the second week in June. Please join us in praying that the SRT Project has a strong, positive and lasting influence on society in Scotland.

Download a leaflet

Dr Caroline Cowan

image Published: Nov 29, 2017

Combating issues of loneliness

image Published: Nov 29, 2017

Earlier in the year, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was launched at the Houses of Parliament. Issues around loneliness are now appearing in the media on an almost weekly basis, such is the concern by government, charities and wider society.

Linking Lives UK is working hard to address these issues by supporting churches to set up befriending schemes in their local communities. These schemes enable volunteers to visit those affected by loneliness in their own homes, normally once a week for around one hour. These visits can be a real lifeline and are an opportunity to provide good quality time for someone else which is often mutually beneficial.

Many volunteers find that they discover a huge amount of interesting information about life in previous generations, and the time together is one which both parties look forward to every week. Where physically possible, volunteers are also encouraged to go out with their friend to visit local places of interest.

We are now working with 20 churches and Christian charities nationally and would be happy to talk to representatives of any Church of Scotland congregations. We are one of the Cinnamon Network ‘recognised projects’ and there are currently grants of £2,000 available through them for churches setting up projects in Scotland.

To find out more about our work, please visit our website at www.linkinglives.uk or phone 0300 302 0225.

‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families’ Ps 68: 5-6

CoP 23: Impressions

image Published: Nov 23, 2017

What’s it all about?

The UN Climate Conference (CoP23) took place in Bonn in Germany in November 2017.  This is the twenty third such conference, an annual event bringing together governments, NGOs and others to negotiate a collective response to climate change. 

One task for the conference, which assembled some 20,000 delegates from around the world, is to put into effect the agreement reached in Paris in 2015.  This was discussed in plenary sessions and other meetings by diplomats from countries around the world.  But alongside this were fringe events in a pop up campus of national pavilions, displays and events.  For those familiar with Edinburgh it is similar to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe;  one formal, high level and serious; the other a riotous market place of ideas and activities in which it is impossible to sample more than a tiny proportion of what is on offer.

How are churches involved?

The Church of Scotland attended as part of the World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation.  The WCC has a longstanding commitment and has been represented at every CoP.  It is one of many faith based organisations now involved and with the ACT Alliance (Action by Churches Together) is passionately involved in the process. 

The First Minister hears stories from the Pacific

The conference, although based in Germany, was chaired by Fiji and there were a large number of delegates from the Pacific island bringing their stories and concerns.  This is one of the great strengths of the CoP process; it is a place where those countries most affected by climate change can share their concerns and present them in a very public forum to the richer countries of the world.

The Church of Scotland helped bring together the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and two delegates from Pacific churches, Frances Namoumou from the Pacific Conference of Churches and Tafue Lusama from the Congregational Church in Tuvalu .   Frances and  Tafue were able to share their stories of impact of climate change; of droughts, flooding and sea level rise and also to explain how churches are working with governments to help those affected for example in moving away from flooding  to higher ground. You can find out more here

WHAT DID WE LEARN AT COP 23?

Faith groups said: It is our moral and ethical responsibility to take collective and immediate actions to address climate change and to safeguard life on our planet

Frances Namoumou presented the interfaith statement including these words to the CoP plenary.  The statement was signed  by faith leaders around the world including the Moderator of the General Assembly.  https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/interfaith-statement-to-the-plenary-of-the-high-level-ministerial-segment-of-cop23/ 

A ‘just transition’ is the subject of fierce controversy

The just transition to a low carbon economy was frequently debated.  The International Trades Union congress demanded that workers’ rights are respected but the concept was challenged by those for whom forced migration is now a real possibility. https://www.ituc-csi.org/just-transition-centre?lang=en

Pacific Warriors demand climate justice

The human rights of those people most affected by climate change including women, children and indigenous peoples were strongly asserted, notably by the Pacific Warriors who presented the message in dramatic style. https://350.org/the-pacific-climate-warriors-at-the-peoples-climate-summit/

Millions of Americans say ‘we are still in!’

While the US Government kept a low profile an unofficial US delegation including churches , universities, NGOs, business, states and cities (and Arnold Schwarzenegger) noisily announced ‘We are still in’  https://www.wearestillin.com/

The hosts, Germany, did not escape criticism 

Germany is still actively coal mining and protesters took journalists to a huge open cast coal mine nearby demanding ‘Ende Gelände’  (The end of the Story) https://www.ende-gelaende.org/en/ . The UK and Canada launched a campaign to end the use of coal as a source of energy. https://cop23.unfccc.int/news/more-than-20-countries-launch-global-alliance-to-phase-out-coal

Is Divestment and re-investment the new normal?

Transferring finance from fossil fuel development to a new low carbon economy was promoted as a theme not only by campaigners : http://actalliance.org/act-news/cop23-blog-climate-finance-two-words-and-so-many-interpretations/  but also by the OECD:  http://www.oecd.org/env/investing-in-climate-investing-in-growth-9789264273528-en.htm


Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Officer, Church of Scotland
ashaw@churchofscotland.org.uk

Friends of the Earth - “Tell your councillor we must stop investing in fossil fuels”

image Published: Nov 10, 2017

Friends of the Earth has launched a new campaign for fossil free pensions after it revealed that Scottish council pensions have more than £1.8 billion invested in the fossil fuel industry.

Ric Lander, Divestment Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Scotland said: "This includes BP, Exxon and Shell - some of the companies most responsible for climate change.

"A global climate crisis is underway, with extreme weather and rising sea levels threatening the lives of millions of people. Action is urgently needed, but our councils are still banking on the culprits.

"Our councils must divest their pension funds from fossil fuels, and instead put their money behind worthwhile projects like social housing and green energy."

Visit the Friends of the Earth website for more information and find out how to Email your councillor to ask them to support their campaign for fossil free pensions.

What have faith and Finance got to do with Climate Change?

image Published: Oct 20, 2017

On Thursday 12 October 2017, the Church of Scotland and partners Christian Aid Scotland, Oikocredit UK and Ireland, Eco-Congregation Scotland and ECCR met in St Andrew’s and St Georges West Church in Edinburgh for this year’s Good Money Week Conference.

Sponsored by Oikocredit UK and Ireland, EthicalFutures and Anderson MacPhie Financial Services, and chaired by Dr Katherine Trebeck, Senior Researcher at Oxfam, the event was great example of different organisations working together on a topic that is important to all involved.  ‘What have faith and money got to do with climate change?’ explored the key issues around how we can invest our money ethically to have a positive impact on the climate.

After an inspiring opening talk from Head of Christian Aid Scotland Rev Sally Foster-Fulton on living out of our faith through the use/sharing/justice of our resources, the audience heard from Christian Aid Scotland’s Senior Advocacy and Policy Adviser, Chris Hegarty about Christian Aid’s Big Shift Campaign which seeks to engage major UK banks and major UK asset managers in accelerating the ‘big (and necessary) shift’ away from fossil fuel investments towards sustainable alternatives.

Monica Middleton, National Director for Oikocredit UK and Ireland, spoke on how money can be invested for a positive impact in the developing world, and how we might challenge individuals and organisations to think about their investing activities. This was followed by an introduction on Oikocredit, an international co-operative and social investor that was initiated by the World Council of Churches in 1975.

After the plenary meeting, delegates took part in two of following three 40 minute workshops:

Julian Parrott, Ethical Futures and Kenneth MacPhie, Anderson MacPhie Financial Services led a workshop for individuals to consider their values and how that can be influenced thought their own money followed by a summary of ethical investment options and how this can link to your values and faith, and a session considering climate change issues and how investment managers approach them.

In the Church of Scotland communities and charities workshop, SRT Project Policy Officer Dr Murdo Macdonald was joined by Climate Change Officer Adrian Shaw to look at issues around Fossil Fuel disinvestment and former SRT Project convener, Dr Sinclair Scott talked about his experience implementing a District Energy Scheme in Douglas, Lanarkshire.

John Arnold, ECCR led a workshop on how congregations can get involved and gave an overview of Ethical Money Churches and Gordon Hudson gave an overview of Eco-Congregation Scotland. Dr Robin Green explained how and why Wellington Church in Glasgow invested with Oikocredit and David Cousland told of the impact of such investments on Oikocredit’s social enterprise partners.

After the workshops the delegates came together again to hear a 45 minute panel discussion including a Q & A following by lunch and an opportunity to network.

Our Chair Katherine Trebeck summed up the day: “The ownership of the audience in both their role as drivers of impact on the environment and as agents of change bodes well - we now need to multiply this awareness beyond the people who are at the event.”

Reflecting on the conference Rev Sally Foster-Fulton said: “Never underestimate the power of determined, committed, passionate people. The Good Money Week event saw justice-led people explore the part they can play in investing in a future where all have enough. What do faith and money have to do with climate change? - everything! If we are to protect our planet home, pay more than lip service to the love we profess for each other, then we have to put our money where our morals are and invest in a sustainable future. We have no other world to share. There was such energy and wisdom in the room, solid ideas and bold challenges - If it spills out into intentional action, gathers momentum and brings others along, the change could make all the difference.”

Monica Middleton also shared her thoughts: “Throughout the ages, churches and people of faith have been at the forefront of solving some of the biggest issues of their time.  Today, summarised by the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals, we face very many significant challenges - action on climate change (and its impact), an end to poverty and hunger, gender equality etc.  The role of money and partnerships in helping us overcome these obstacles is paramount and the engagement of people attending the Church of Scotland Good Money Week event was palpable.  From ensuring that our money 'does no harm' by withdrawing from fossil fuel investments (and such like) to actively investing our money in areas that have a measurable positive impact, the room was filled with rich and energetic dialogue. Questions of 'where do I start', 'how do I access and understand investing information' and 'how do I engage my wider community' echoed around the stunning St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church, bearing testimony to the role of money being very much top-of-mind within faith-based communities.”

The Church or Scotland Good Money Week working group is encouraging to see a growing level of interest in our in our Good Money Week events and in the numbers of church members who are engaged to start talking about issues in their own congregations.

Look out for us at the Church of Scotland's Heart and Soul 2018 event in May and if you are interested in coming along to next year’s Good Money Week conference in October 2018 please contact us at srtp@churchofscotland.org.uk and we will keep you informed of our plans.

Karen Hunter, SRT Project Coordinator
Church of Scotland

International Credit Union Day 19 October 2017!

image Published: Oct 17, 2017

International Credit Union (ICU) Day® celebrates the spirit of the global credit union movement.  The day is recognised to reflect upon the credit union movement's history, promote its achievements, recognise the hard work and share member experiences.  International Credit Union (ICU) Day® has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948.

The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the great work that credit unions are doing around the world and give members the opportunity to get more engaged. The day of festivities for credit unions and financial cooperatives globally include fundraisers, open houses, contests, picnics and parades.

The 2017 International Credit Union (ICU) Day® theme — "Dreams Thrive Here" illustrates how credit union and other financial cooperatives serve as catalysts to make different professions, personal choices and career paths real.

The Church of Scotland continues to support and promote the Credit Union movement and encourages you and your Church to engage with your local credit union. See our leaflets for more information:

A Credit Union: A common Bond for a common good and 10 ways your church can get involved with Credit Unions.

Or contact srtp@churchofscotland.org.uk

You may also be eligible to join the Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU).

The CMCU) is alliance between the Church of Scotland, the Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the United Reformed Church. 

Membership of the CMCU is open to clergy and ministers, licensed lay ministers, Church of Scotland elders, trustees and employees of the member churches and church charities.

For more information and to check your eligibilty visit www.cmcu.org.uk

Minister of Money: Henry Duncan

image Published: Oct 04, 2017

Henry Duncan was a man of many parts: parish minister, savings bank founder, political lobbyist, anti-slavery campaigner, educator, geologist, poet, author. He also played a major role in the Disruption of the Church of Scotland in 1843 – the most significant social event in nineteenth-century Scotland. But his lasting legacy is as founder of the worldwide savings bank movement. He first opened a parish bank in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, in 1810, to encourage the ‘industrious poor’ to save for times of hardship. It was run by local voluntary trustees, and the idea spread to become the basis of trustee savings banks across the world.

A man of vision and compassion, Duncan believed fundamentally in the dignity of ordinary working people. From its beginnings in a small cottage on the shores of the Solway, his community savings bank went on to influence and inspire generations all over the world.

Published by John Donald, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd www.birlinn.co.uk

Download an order form

Surveillance and Social Justice Report May 2017

image Published: Sep 06, 2017

Surveillance is not simply an activity of the security and intelligences services – as portrayed in the 007 or Bourne movies. Data-management is integral to, for example, identifying who needs to be supported through social welfare benefits. At the same time, surveillance systems can be almost insurmountable hurdles against receiving the benefits to which one is entitled. Ken Loach’s film, I Daniel Blake, tells a story which, although disputed by the government, many people testify to being an apt description of the injustices they face.

Experiencing surveillance can be quite different for people of colour than those who, because white, are considered generally to be less of a risk. Muslims, or people ‘looking Muslim’ encounter discriminatory surveillance in ways that are bound up political agendas and public misperceptions. This report focuses on three particular areas: bio-data in medical research, borders where people are required to identify themselves, and the bureaucracy of the benefits system.

Using the idea of ‘surveillance from the Cross of Christ’, we reflect on re-orientating surveillance in the light of God’s relational way of knowing, and what that might mean for treating privacy as a gift for human dignity and flourishing. It is hoped the report will stimulate Christians who are both subjects and professional users of surveillance to affirm and challenge its value.

View the full report here

Explore the individual sections of the report:

Section 1. Introduction
Sets the scene. Surveillance is part of everyday life. Ordinary people are subject to surveillance and use monitoring technologies in professional and personal roles.

Where do you, your family and friends, encounter surveillance? How do you practice surveillance?

Section 2. Rationale 
To address the positive and negative effects of surveillance. To make some preliminary connections to biblical examples of monitoring.

Where do you see fear in society? How might the ‘perfect love [which] drives out fear’ (1 John 4:18) respond?

Section 3. Aims
To help church members think critically – biblically and theologically – about everyday surveillance.

What values or qualities do you think ought to underpin surveillance today? Try to think of both positive and negative examples.

Section 4. Surveillance from the Data-centre
Offers a definition of surveillance from expert David Lyon. Explains our ‘digital footprint’.

When have you given consent to surveillance? How informed would you say that consent was/ is?

Section 5. Theories of surveillance
Introduces ‘the few watching the many’, ‘the many watching the few’, ‘surveillance from below’, and categorisation.

What prejudicial categories have you or your friends, families or colleagues encountered? Why might Christians be suspicious of surveillance that categorises people?

Section 6. Datafication 
How our lives are turned into data.

What movies or TV series have you seen that rely on people’s ‘digital footprints’ to drive the plot? How much do those movies alarm or reassure you about present (not future) surveillance?

Section 7. Security
Explains the notion of ‘securisation of identity’ and connections to rights to privacy.

How often do ‘national security’ concerns feature in the TV news programmes you watch, the newspapers you read, or the social media you follow?  How is that agenda shaping your perception of the world?

Section 8. Risk and mistaken public perception
Presents evidence of how badly wrong public perceptions can be, and how these influence support for surveillance of particular groups.

Challenge yourself by reading the ‘Perils of Perception’ report to see how accurate are your perceptions of life in the UK.  https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/publication/documents/2018-01/theperilsofperception2017.pdf
 
Section 9. Convenience and privacy
Tackles the ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ argument around increasing surveillance.

Have there been times when you had something to hide? From whom, and why?

Section 10. Surveillance from the Cross
Poses contrasting experiences of knowing that God is watching.

When have you found it comforting to believe that God is watching you?  When have you been unsettled at the idea that you are always under God’s gaze?

Section 11. The Surveilled and Surveilling One
A quality of surveillance based on Jesus’ solidarity and compassion with those under surveillance.

Consider these narratives of Jesus being watched: [list of texts]. What do they suggest to you about the sort of surveillance that is an act of care?

Section 12. Relational knowledge
Explaining that God knows, but does not gather ‘information’.

What does it mean that God knows you rather than that God has information about you?  Have a look at Psalm 139 and examples from the Gospels of Jesus encountering particular people.

Section 13. Privacy as a gift for dignity
Introduces theological arguments for the importance of privacy.

What do these various perspectives tell you about what privacy is for?  How do you use your privacy?

Section 14. Visibility
Takes up the challenge that the bible does not emphasise privacy per se. Proposes we can find social practices in the bible that have some similarities to how we practice privacy today.

In what settings do you aim to make yourself less visible? When do you try to make yourself more visible?  Read the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and see where you can find different ways in which he makes himself (or is made) more visible than usual.

Section 15. Bio-data, Borders and Benefits
Proposes ‘surveillance from the Cross’ as a criterion against which to evaluate surveillance of digital footprints.

What opportunities do you have to influence surveillance practices in your context (e.g., at work, in your home, at school or university)?

Section 16. Bio-data
Affirms the value of this form of surveillance. Raises the problem of de-anonymised data.

When have you or a family member benefited from bio-data systems? How might de-anonymised data pose a threat to people’s privacy?

Section 17. Borders
Identifies borders are sites of acute surveillance. Links to issues of prejudice.

What do you consider to be a Christian response to people crossing borders as (a) refugees, (b) asylum-seekers, and (c) economic migrants?

Section 18. Welfare Benefits
Challenges the practice of a suspicion-drive welfare system.

You might find it useful to view the Ken Loach movies ‘I, Daniel Blake’ (on encounters with the UK welfare system) or the BBC series ‘Broken’ (a story about a Catholic priest and his impoverished parish in a northern English city).

What does Jesus parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25) suggest to you about responding to the situations of which the movie and TV series are fictionalised accounts?

Section 19. Conclusion
Calls for deeper reflection and a Christian counter-vision of surveillance.

Consider using the closing prayer by identifying where you find surveillance unnerving and tempting.

General Assembly Deliverances

Download the Bible Study Notes

Linking Lives UK

image Published: Aug 24, 2017

Earlier in the year, the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness was launched at the Houses of Parliament. Issues around loneliness are now appearing in the media on an almost weekly basis, such is the concern by government, charities and wider society.

Linking Lives UK is working hard to address these issues by supporting churches to set up befriending schemes in their local communities. These schemes enable volunteers to visit those affected by loneliness in their own homes, normally once a week for around one hour. These visits can be a real lifeline and are an opportunity to provide good quality time for someone else which is often mutually beneficial.

Many volunteers find that they discover a huge amount of interesting information about life in previous generations, and the time together is one which both parties look forward to every week. Where physically possible, volunteers are also encouraged to go out with their friend to visit local places of interest.

We are now working with 17 churches and Christian charities nationally and would be happy to talk to representatives of any Church of Scotland congregations. We are one of the Cinnamon Network ‘recognised projects’ and there are currently grants of £2,000 available through them for churches setting up projects in Scotland.

To find out more about our work, please visit our website at www.linkinglives.uk or phone 0300 302 0225.

‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families’ Ps 68: 5-6

To Absent Friends!

image Published: Aug 08, 2017

Although we in our culture sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it, death is a normal part of life. After a bereavement, sometimes society pressures us to “move on”. Taking the time to remember people who are gone can often be very helpful, as part of the process of grieving.

Many churches hold an annual event, when people are invited to remember their Absent Friends. To Absent Friends is a people’s festival of storytelling and remembrance taking place across Scotland from 1-7 November. Groups are being invited to take part with the help of a small grants scheme.

The festival, which began in 2014, gives people across Scotland the opportunity to remember loved ones who have died, through stories, celebrations and acts of reminiscence. As Robert Peacock from Palliative Care Scotland explained: “November has long been associated with remembrance of the dead, and To Absent Friends builds on that tradition. In previous years, the festival has featured storytelling evenings, poetry nights, photography exhibitions, concerts, scrapbooking workshops, cafes of reminiscence, and hundreds of private acts of remembrance. All ideas are welcome!”

Some churches are already involved: Wardie Parish Church in Edinburgh, for example, held a special service and opened their doors during To Absent Friends week so people could record the name of their absent friend in a memory book. Cramond Kirk turned their Saturday Breakfast Club into a Café of Reminiscence.

Ideas for participation in To Absent Friends can be found on www.toabsentfriends.org.uk, as well as details of how to apply for grants of up to £250 to hold an event as part of the festival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further information contact Robert Peacock on robert.peacock@palliativecarescotland.org.uk or 0131 272 2735.

Good Money Week 8 - 14 October 2017

image Published: Aug 04, 2017

At our annual Good Money Week Conference the Church of Scotland is partnering with Christian Aid Scotland, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Oikocredit to show how our financial investments can have an impact on Climate Change.

After hearing from our keynote speakers from Christian Aid Scotland and Oikocredit you will have the opportunity to take part in two of the three workshops focusing on what you can do individually, as part of your congregation and in your community.

Date: Thursday 12 October 2017

Venue: St Andrew's and St George's West Church, Edinburgh, EH2 2PA

Programme:

9:15 - 9:45 Registration and Tea/Coffee

9:45 - 9:50 Introduction (Chair: Katherine Treback, Oxfam)

9:50 - 10:05 Keynote 1 - Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Christian Aid Scotland

10:05 - 10:20 Keynote 2 - Chris Hegarty,Christian Aid Scotland (Big Shift Campaign)

10:20 - 11:35 Keynote 3 - Monica Middleton, Oikocredit

10:35 - 11:15 Workshops - session 1

11:15 - 11:35 Tea/Coffee break

11:35 - 12:15 Workshops - session 2

12:15 - 13:00 Panel discussion and questions

13:00 - 13:05 Wrap/call to action (Chair)

13:05 - 13:45 Buffet lunch and networking

Workshop 1: What can I do as an individual?

Workshop 2: What can congregations do?

Workshop 3: What can your community do?

Places are free but limited. Book online at Eventbrite : www.fmcc17.eventbrite.co.uk

Download a flyer

The event is sponsored by Oikocredit, Anderson MacPhie Financial Services and EthicalFutures

A Local Multiverse!

image Published: Aug 04, 2017

Just outside Sanquhar, what was formerly an open cast coal mine has been transformed into a spectacular visitor attraction. The work of landscape artist Charles Jencks has produced a scientific “artland” covering 55 acres, called the Crawick Multiverse.

On the afternoon of Saturday 24th June we visited this “multiverse” as part a weekend of scientific public lectures, entitled “Cosmic Collisions”.  On the Friday evening Professor Carlos Frenk from Durham University traced the development of galaxies from quantum fluctuations only a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, emphasising the role of cold dark matter.

The next day, Professor Martin Hendry (Glasgow University) described the detection of gravitational radiation from the collision of two black holes, billions of light years away, explaining that this detection opens up an entirely new way of observing the universe.  Later, Professor Monica Grady (Open University) considered more local collisions which happen all the time from meteorites. An extreme example was the collision which produced the extinction of the dinosaurs- which got me thinking as to what are our chances if a similar collision happened again, or will climate change have done for us long since?

After our visit to the Crawick multiverse, the weekend concluded with two talks; Dr Noam Libeskind (Potsdam, Germany) described our place in the universe from a scientific point of view, and a conversation between Charles Jencks and the architect Daniel Libeskind investigated the cosmos as a source of inspiration and creativity.

It was an interesting and stimulating event, and I was glad that the SRT had been invited to participate. The one surprising thing was that over the weekend, the scientific theory of the multiverse (the idea that there are a number of parallel universes, including our own) got virtually no mention.  It was only raised by a question from the floor and the speaker said that he did not believe in it.

Still, we can be sure of the existence of at least one very impressive “multiverse”, just off the B740 near Sanquhar, and it’s open to the public seven days a week. (http://www.crawickmultiverse.co.uk/)

Dr Robin Green

Churches Mutual Credit Union - Three Million in assets in two years

image Published: Aug 01, 2017

Churches' Mutual, the credit union for ordained and lay ministers, church charity employees and trustees, is celebrating reaching £3million pounds in assets.

Since its launch in 2015, CMCU has processed 1100 applications from individuals and a further 43 from corporate bodies such as churches and church organisations.  Since July 2016 it has had two extensions to its common bond to offer savings and loans to eligible members of the United Reformed Church and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and in Scotland.

Read the full story on the ABCUL Scotland website

Membership of the Churches' Mutual Credit Union is open to to clergy and ministers, licensed lay ministers, Church of Scotland elders, trustees and employees of the member churches and church charities.

For more information and to check your eligibilty visit www.cmcu.org.uk

International Credit Union Day announces theme

image Published: Jul 28, 2017

This year’s International Credit Union Day, which takes place on 19 October 2017, will be themed “Dreams Thrive Here.”

Credit union professionals have decided the theme via an online poll. International Credit Union Day takes place every year on the third Thursday in October.

All 56,000 credit unions from around the world are encouraged to share photos, events and experiences online to help promote the movement. The day aims to raise awareness of the contributions credit unions make to society. 

Brian Branch, President and Chief Executive of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), said “ICU Day gives us an opportunity to encourage credit union members to get engaged, share their experiences and celebrate how credit unions and financial co-operatives have made an impact on their life choices.

#ICUday

Read more on this year’s International Credit Union Day.

Spring/Summer 2017: update from the SRT Policy Officer

image Published: May 30, 2017

We live in a world where we seem to interact more and more with machines; whether that is through our mobile phones, our fitness trackers or our (increasingly automated) cars. The ways in which we interact with machines is not only increasing- it is also evolving. Many of us are old enough to remember when we instructed computers using punch cards; I am typing this on a standard keyboard, but when I browse the net I use a different form of interaction with a machine, pointing and clicking on links or icons- often using swiping and touch screens.

Even that is becoming outmoded, though- our 10 year old son recently acquired a device which connects to the internet by voice activation (be warned- when you ask Alexa to tell you a joke, it is usually a very corny one you get in response- and the only song our Alexa seems to be able to sing when requested to do so is a poor rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”!). Soon keyboards and touchscreens may become as obsolete as punch cards, as we move towards other ways of interacting with machines- via gestures, emotions- and perhaps, in the future, directly by thought.

Interacting with machines can often be used to augment and facilitate our communicating with other people; we have all experienced the benefits that this brings. As people of faith, Christians affirm the importance of being part of community and society. At the recent meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, commissioners were invited to consider, among many other things, the Speak Out programme of the Church and Society Council (see http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/speak_out). The SRT will be leading on developing the Health and Wellbeing section of this programme- although we anticipate that we will also have involvement in other aspects of Speak Out.

An important part of community involves caring for each other; when Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, he described how the despised Samaritan not only made use of the available medical and transport technology of the day (bandages, oil and wine for the assaulted mans wounds; a donkey to transport him to the inn), but he also “…. took care of him” (Luke 10:34).

The use of technology in healthcare, as in other areas of life, is increasing exponentially; again, this often brings great benefit to many of us. However, one of the concerns in deploying technology is that this can distance us from each other- meaning that we potentially lose sight of the “care” aspect of “healthcare”, and that society and community becomes more fragmented. Part of what the SRT seeks to do is to ensure that everyone in our society is cared for, and that technologies are not deployed in ways which disadvange or exclude, but rather to help us all connect more effectively, and to understand our humanity more deeply.

Prof Kirsty Ball

image Published: May 29, 2017

Surveillance and Social Justice May 2017

image Published: May 26, 2017

The work of the SRT Project Surveillance and Social Justice working group has now ended as the final report was presented to the General Assembly in May 2017.

As part of this work, the Church of Scotland hosted a successful event at this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Borders, Benefits and Biomedicine: Surveillance and Social Justice took place on 4 April and the audience heard from SRT Committee members Iain Mitchell QC and Dr  Eric Stoddart.  Iain and Eric were joined on the panel by Prof Bill Buchanan of Edinburgh Napier's Cyber Academy and the event was chaired by Prof Kirsty Ball, University of St Andrews School of Management.

 

 

Surveillance is not simply an activity of the security and intelligences services – as portrayed in the 007 or Bourne movies. Data-management is integral to, for example, identifying who needs to be supported through social welfare benefits. At the same time, surveillance systems can be almost insurmountable hurdles against receiving the benefits to which one is entitled. Ken Loach’s new film, I Daniel Blake, tells a story which, although disputed by the government, many people testify to being an apt description of the injustices they face.

Experiencing surveillance can be quite different for people of colour than those who, because white, are considered generally to be less of a risk. Muslims, or people ‘looking Muslim’ encounter discriminatory surveillance in ways that are bound up political agendas and public misperceptions. The Working Group has been focusing its discussions on three particular areas: bio-data in medical research, borders where people are required to identify themselves, and the bureaucracy of the benefits system.

Using the idea of ‘surveillance from the Cross of Christ’ the group has reflected on re-orientating surveillance in the light of God’s relational way of knowing, and what that might mean for treating privacy as a gift for human dignity and flourishing.

The report hopes to stimulate Christians who are both subjects and professional users of surveillance to affirm and challenge its value.

View the full report here

A discussion starter leaflet will be avaialble shortly.

Thoughts of an SRT Project (ex) Convener

image Published: May 26, 2017

Concluding eight years as a member of the SRT Project Committee, six as convener, I feel that my horizons have been significantly expanded as I recall some of my experiences in this role. Firstly, the strengths, talents and experience brought to the group by individual members gives depth and authenticity to our discussions covering a broad range of topics. The addition of co-opted members drawn from a variety of professional and denominational backgrounds also ensures we capture informed comment from a spectrum of scientific disciplines and Christian traditions.

Staff members Murdo and Karen deal with a bewildering array of varying tasks ranging across Presbytery visits, responding to Government consultations, editing numerous draft reports, networking and keeping abreast latest developments in applied technologies to name but a few. The SRT Project is very fortunate to have such committed and professional staff keeping the wheels turning.

Reports to the General Assembly coming from SRT Project working groups during my tenure have explored interesting and in some cases challenging subjects when the ethics of applying specific technologies force us to examine our understanding of human dominion within God’s creation. For instance, the Neuroethics report raised questions such as the possible application of brain scanning techniques in determining the guilt or innocence of crime suspects.  Similarly, in IVF, the use of novel cell biology procedures involving gametes from three donors has now been approved in order to control the transfer of mitochondrial disease to subsequent generations. The latter topic formed part of the Kinship Bonds report. This interplay between legislation and the application of potentially controversial techniques is a fascinating one.  Just because we can do something does not mean that we should do it.  Such issues are core to the work of the SRT Project where the church can help inform the debate and bring a considered Christian perspective.

In 2020 the SRT Project will celebrate 50 years of contributing to the scrutiny and ethical evaluation of many ground breaking advances in science. I look forward in anticipation to the project continuing to play a leading role in voicing the Christian view of testing developments and challenging circumstances.

Glenn Walker, Convener of the SRT Project Committee May 2011 - May 2017

Spring/Summer 2017

image Published: May 05, 2017

From finance to faith – former banker gives back in Leith

image Published: May 04, 2017

Minister of South Leith Parish Church Rev Ian May is known in his parish as the man who took on the payday lenders.

Using his expertise from a former life as a banker, Mr May helped establish what he describes as a “social justice mission” that provides the community with an affordable alternative to the payday lenders, the Castle Community Bank. Read the full story on the Church of Scotland website

Rev Alexander T. McAspurren

image Published: Apr 28, 2017

Dr Armand Léon van Ommen

image Published: Apr 28, 2017

Get involved in council elections

image Published: Apr 04, 2017

In the run up to the council election, Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) and the Joint Public issues Team (JPIT) have produced “Explore” – a resource to help congregations engage with these elections and to explore some of the issues within their communities.  

Find out more at the SCPO website

SRT Project Week of Prayer 11 - 17 June 2017

image Published: Mar 28, 2017

The annual Week of Prayer for the work of the Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) Project takes place in June. So how can you be involved?

Since the SRT Project was set up in 1970, it has covered topics from stem cells to synthetic biology, from economics to environmental issues. It seeks to bring a Christian ethical understanding to (often controversial) issues of science and technology.  We believe it’s important that the church engages in debate and seeks to influence society.

Many of the issues the SRT Project wrestles are with difficult, and wisdom and sensitivity are required in dealing with them. The support of God’s people in various ways, including upholding us in prayer, has a positive effect as we engage with these dilemmas.

Prayer is vital to what we do as the people of God. The SRT project values your prayers for our work at any time, but we ask that you particularly remember us during the second week in June. Please join us in praying that the SRT Project has a strong, positive and lasting influence on society in Scotland.

Download a leaflet

Midlothian Science Festival 2017 open for proposals

image Published: Mar 20, 2017

Midlothian Science Festival 2017 is running from Wednesday 7 - 21 October. Want to take part? An event proposal is avaialbe on the website www.midlothiansciencefestival.com

Christian Aid: The Big Shift

image Published: Mar 15, 2017

Your bank could help combat climate changeThe Big Shift logo

We all want to save for a rainy day. But what if our savings are causing the storm?

Find out more about the Christian Aid campaign encouraging is to email our banks and tell them how important it is that they scale up their investment in renewables, to help fight climate change.

Visit the Christin Aid website to find out more and access resources to help you get involved.

Take part in a survey as part of a PhD research

image Published: Mar 15, 2017

I am inviting people to take part in an on-line survey as part of my PhD research. Previous research has shown that religion affects people's attitudes in different ways. Although many studies use church attendance as a mesaure of religiosity, there has been very little research into the role that participation in worship might play in this relationship. I hope that my research will provide information on how worship might be involved in the relationship between religion and people's attitudes, and the mechanisms by which this might occur. Participation in the survey is voluntary and all responses are anonymous. If you would like to take part, please just click on the link below.

Thank you for supporting my research.

Jennifer Brown

PhD Student, Coventry University

To take the survey click here.

Scottish Parliament’s CPG on Credit Unions hears Minister pledge support

image Published: Feb 23, 2017

ABCUL has reported on the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Credit Unions meeting on 7 February.  At the meeting the CPG including Karen Hunter, SRT Project Coordinator, heard the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance MSP’s vision for supporting the Credit Union movement. You can read the full story on the ABCUL website.

SRT Project at the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2017!

image Published: Feb 22, 2017

Edinburgh International Scoence Festival logo with sponsors logo EDF Energy

Presented by The Church of Scotland, Society, Religion and Technology Project at the

EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE FESTIVAL 2017


BORDERS, BENEFITS AND BIOMEDICINE: SURVEILLANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

Everyday life is already saturated with surveillance technologies, but some argue that the response to social issues lies in more and better surveilance. How is digital surveilance impacting upon issues of social justice and how can our thinking take us beyond narrower questions around privacy?

Join us for the panel discussion to explore these issues.

Speakers:

Iain Mitchell QC, Chairman of the CCBE Working Party on Surveillance
Dr Eric Stoddart, Associate Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics, University of St Andrews
Prof Bill Buchanan, Head of the Cyber Academy at Edinburgh Napier University

The event will be chaired by Prof Kirsty Ball, School of Management, University of St Andrews

Date: April 4th 2017, 8.00pm–9.30pm

Venue:  Main Hall, Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL

Cost: £8.50 (£6.50 Concession)/#scifive students £5

Download a flyer

To book please visit: http://www.sciencefestival.co.uk/whats-on

Prof Bill Buchanan

image Published: Feb 22, 2017

The Little Red Book

image Published: Feb 09, 2017

Contactless - a blessing or a curse?

Visit the Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) website to read the latest blog post from CEO Hilary Sams, looking at the benefits and pitfalls of this new technology, and the different methods available for to help us keep track of our expenditure.  

First Digital Minister goes live in Falkirk

image Published: Feb 09, 2017

A former Moderator has officially become the Church of Scotland’s first ever digital minister.

Very Rev Albert Bogle will use his ground breaking new role to create an online Kirk congregation, made up of people who may never set foot in a “real world” church.

He hopes to vastly increase the number of congregations that use social media and other online apps because at the moment only around 20 out of more than 1,300 congregations stream their services online.

Mr Bogle, whose weekly ‘Sanctuary First’ podcast on faith has a global audience, was officially welcomed into his new role by Falkirk Presbytery this week.

The 69-year-old, who was Moderator of the General Assembly in 2012-13, said: “This role is about getting online worshipers to attend church and also to support those who have no intention to go on a Sunday.

“There is a growing Christian audience online who seek quality content to nurture their faith.

“My role is about helping to provide an online community for those who have left the buildings and committee structures far behind but not the Church.”

Read the full story on the Church of Scotland website

SRT Project at the ABCUL Scotland Conference

image Published: Dec 15, 2016

On 9 December 2016 Dr Murdo Macdonald, (SRT Project Policy Officer) attended the ABCUL Scotland Conference in Glasgow.

Around 100 people from various credit union backgrounds attended the conference. Delegates heard from speakers including Angela Constance MSP, (Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security & Equalities); Yvonne MacDermid, (Chief Executive  Money Advice Scotland); Anne MacPherson, (Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development NHSGGC) and Katie Evans, (Head of Research and Policy, Money & Mental Health).

Along with Karen Armstrong, (Scottish Government) and Bobby Gould, (CUNA Mutual), Murdo presented at one of the workshops: Creating a Fairer Scotland – What role for credit unions? Murdo talked about the Church’s work over the last few years to promote membership and connections with credit unions within its congregations.

This has included the introduction of the discussion starter leaflets for churches, Credit Union: a common bond for a common good and 10 Ways your Church can get involved with credit unions.

The SRT Project also continues to share stories where churches have successfully linked up with their local Credit Unions by offering space for outreach branches and volunteering staff: you can read more about this here.  If your church has any links with your local credit union, we would love to hear from you.

Don’t forget the Church now has its own credit union. In February 2015 the Church of Scotland partnered with Anglican Churches in Britain and the Methodist Church in Britain to launch the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union (CMCU).  Membership application from the Church of Scotland is open to lay or ordained ministers, elders and anyone in a recognised position within the Church such as Church officers. It is also open to anyone in paid employment with the partner Churches or a Church based charity. Find out more at www.cmcu.org.uk

The Church’s Credit Union support work is led by Karen Hunter as part of her role as SRT Project Coordinator. If you would like more information on any of the above, please contact srtp@churchofscotland.org.uk

Scotland’s Digital participation Charter Fund: Call for Funding - Autumn 2016

image Published: Dec 14, 2016

Scotland is already a digital nation. Eight in ten households have an internet connection, and four in ten have a tablet computer. Six in ten people use a smartphone. For those who have the access, motivation and skills to get things done online, life is enhanced.

But still far too many people risk being left behind. Approximately 10% of the adult population in Scotland have never used the internet and almost one in five do not have the basic digital skills to use it effectively.

If this were just a case of missing out on a few distracting websites and celebrity tweets then we might think nothing more of it. But the stakes are so much higher. Amongst other things, the internet helps people keep in touch, learn new things, save money, find work and stay healthy. For some people it’s been a genuine life saver. These things matter to everyone, and they should be for everyone.

Getting people online and developing basic digital skills in Scotland’s communities is key to tackling inequalities and building a fairer Scotland.

Over the past two years, the Digital Participation Challenge Fund has supported 84 projects across Scotland to get people online and develop basic digital skills.

Supported by the Scottish Government, the new Digital Participation Charter Fund is now open for applications. There is a particular focus for the Fund to support organisations currently working to tackle poverty, social isolation and other forms of inequality to embed basic digital skill development work into their day-to-day activity with service users.

The deadline for applications is 12 January 2017. Funds awarded range between £500 and £10,000.

For further information and to apply please see - http://digital.scvo.org.uk/participation/apply-for-funding/

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to fill out the form!

Autumn/Winter 2016

image Published: Dec 06, 2016

2016: The Warmest Year on Record and One of the Most Politically Traumatic

image Published: Nov 28, 2016

2016: THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD AND ONE OF THE MOST POLITICALLY TRAUMATIC

2016 is on track to be the warmest year on record. Temperatures are likely to be on average approximately 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels. This follows on from two years, 2014 and 2015 that were themselves record breaking. 

2016 was also a year of momentous political developments. On the positive side the Paris climate agreement of 2015 came into effect  on the 4 November 2016 following a signing ceremony at the United Nations in April in New York and ratification by 55 countries accounting for over 55 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Elsewhere less auspicious political developments were taking place with the election of Donald Trump to become president of the USA, a man who has previously expressed scepticism about climate change and has apparently little enthusiasm for the Paris agreement.

Why does this matter?

The impacts of climate change can hardly be overstated.  Three examples illustrate this.

The oceans are getting warmer.

Ocean scientists point to one little understood fact about climate change:  over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases has been stored in the oceans.  As water warms it expands slightly and this, combined with glacial melting, contribute strongly to global sea level rise.   The rate of sea level rise varies locally according to local circumstances but is now estimated to be about 3mm. a year, a figure that looks likely to increase.

For the residents of low lying island and coastal areas the consequences or rising sea levels are serious as is the likely increase in the severity of tropical storms.   Not surprisingly the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has been one of the most vociferous advocates for climate action at recent UN conferences.  There is also a range of other consequences affecting habitats and species. 

Rainfall patterns are changing around the world.

Warmer oceans, changing ocean currents and higher air temperatures are contributing to changing rainfall patterns around the world, with chaotic consequences. In the UK winter rainfall is increasing but summer rainfall in the south of the UK is predicted to fall.  One consequence of this is very likely to be increased winter flooding, which comes at a high human and financial cost. To quote the UK Committee on Climate Change summary of impacts on the UK:  

Insured losses from flooding and severe weather events have cost an average £1.5 billion per year over the past twenty years.  In 2007 widespread flooding affected 55,000 homes, killed 13 people and cost the economy £3.2 billion.

According to a House of Commons Library report of 2014 some 5.2 million properties are at risk of flooding in England and maintaining existing levels of flood defence would require spending to increase to over £1 billion per year by 2035.  Overall the cost of responding to climate change has been estimated by the Stern Report to be about 1-2% of GDP annually if we act now but rising to a much higher figure if we delay action.  Whereas in the UK we have a range of options for adapting to climate change, the economic impact on the most vulnerable countries such as Bangladesh could be enormous.  And these are countries with far fewer resources to address the challenges of climate change.

The Arctic Ice Cap is shrinking.

One of the most dramatic consequences of a warming change is the reduction in summer sea ice in the Arctic.  The extent of sea ice is monitored daily by satellite and data from the summer of 2016 shows it was the second lowest area ever recoded. Ice reflects over 90% of the sun’s light and energy but seawater absorbs most of it, so loss of summer sea ice leading to further warming of the Arctic Ocean.    IPCC projections suggest that by mid-century the Arctic Ocean will be will be free of sea ice.  

This has a number of consequences both local and regional.  The effect on Arctic ecosystems will be profound, typically stressing populations of iconic species such as polar bears but there will be regional effects, some difficult to predict, possibly affecting Scotland  and other countries close to the Arctic.  The Met Office predict that winter weather will become milder and wetter in Scotland but an ice free Arctic introduces a new element of uncertainty into predictions.  There is also evidence of a slowing down in Atlantic currents in recent years – consistent with predictions from the IPCC.   The uncertainty about the impact of changing currents is high but the potential risks in terms of a much cooler Scotland are large.   

Meanwhile in politics….

The Paris agreement marked the culmination of over twenty years of climate negotiations. Cautionary voices have been raised about the agreement: it cannot guarantee international action and the plans submitted by governments to limit emissions still add up to nearly three degrees of warming; the mechanisms and finance to help developing countries adapt to a changing climate and grow low carbon economies need to be put in place and  recompense for loss and damage due to climate change remains an outstanding issue.  But the agreement now in place provides a robust structure within which to address these issues.

In the UK, the rest of the EU and the USA other political priorities and challenges have come to the fore.  All have ratified the agreement but all have been diverted by other crises including Brexit, migration, economic uncertainty and the US Presidential election. Since the General Election of 2015 the UK Government has removed a range of financial measures designed to promote a low carbon economy and in the USA the future of measures introduced by Barack Obama is now uncertain.  

How should we respond?

Churches and members of congregations now face a number of challenges.  The science of climate change as described in the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clear in its essentials.  Climate change is happening; it is anthropogenic (human activity is causing it); and it leads to a range of significant risks, risks that become more severe and more numerous as global temperatures increase. The time for denial or avoidance of climate change is long past and politicians or other leaders who can’t face up to this should be shunned or challenged.    Christian Aid and Church of Scotland partner churches around the world have repeatedly pointed to the injustice at the heart of climate change: the richest countries have been responsible for the great majority of greenhouse gas emissions while the poorest suffer the worst consequences.   This demands a practical and theological response.   

There are many opportunities for churches and members of congregations to get involved.  Here are three suggestions.

Become an eco-congregation. 

Join the largest and most rapidly growing community environmental movement in Scotland with a network of local groups and a range of online resources.  Eco-Congregation Scotland can help you respond to climate change in worship, in action and in advocacy.

Who is looking after your money?

If you have a bank account, savings, investments or a pension you may be financing climate change.  By carefully choosing where to put any savings or by engaging with your pension provider you can make a difference.  Christian Aid and the Church of Scotland are both investigating this issue. Careful and ethical investment can help us move more quickly to a low carbon economy.

Meet your MSP. 

The Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) is encouraging churches to ‘Meet Your MSP’ to tell them of your concerns and aspirations.  You can help organise a meeting with your MSP or MP in your church to ask them to help make Scotland a low carbon economy. 

Adrian Shaw, Climate Change Officer, ashaw@churchofscotland.org.uk
November 2016

Sign up for the Church of Scotland’s Online Advent Calendar now

image Published: Nov 24, 2016

A new online Advent calendar will bring the true spirit of Christmas to life with 25 specially created videos made by members of the Church of Scotland ministries team.

Each of the thought provoking, often hard-hitting, films feature trainee ministers, probationers, a deacon and youth workers from across the country who reflect on a word that symbolises the true meaning of the season.

Half of the daily messages, which are also inspiring and uplifting, have been recorded by women and follow on from the Church’s successful Advent campaign last year which saw 24 short videos viewed more than 180,000 times.

Nearly 6,000 people signed up to receive the high quality films last year and early indications suggest that this year’s campaign, which is bigger in scope, will prove even more popular.

Inspiring

The tone of the films ranges from the joyful to the spiritual and are aimed at helping people seeking to find the true festive spirit amid the "rampant commercialism" which now dominates the weeks of Advent.

The Moderator of the General Assembly Right Rev Dr Russell Barr features in the first video, which was recorded in Glasgow’s Queen Street train station, and focuses on the word “Journey”.

He also features in the last video, recorded at the site of the old Rottenrow maternity Hospital in Glasgow near Strathclyde University where he was born, which is being released on Christmas Day and will reflect on the word “Shelter”.

It is a pertinent theme for Dr Barr because he is using his year in office to highlight homelessness and the Tomorrow’s Calling campaign, which encourages people to consider entering the ministry.

“The Advent season is when the church picks up the Christmas story and turns its attention towards Bethlehem,” he said.

“Beginning in Glasgow's Queen Street station, the Advent Video project will take you on a fascinating journey of discovery.

“As the series explores some of the background to the birth of Jesus, you will learn so much more about the deep meaning of Christmas and so much more about yourself.

“And when the journey ends outside a broken down maternity hospital, your heart will be filled with wonder and you will be glad to join with the shepherds and angels, and with people the world over, celebrating the birth of the Christ child.”

You can read more about the Advent calendar on the Church of Scotland website and you can sign up here

SRT Project Summary Report Jun - Nov 2016

image Published: Nov 24, 2016

Thank you to all who continue to support and encourage the work of the SRT, in whatever capacity- not least in remembering us in your prayers.

Highlights from the past few months include:

Surveillance and social justice: This working group, which is being led by Ian Mitchell and Eric Stoddart, plans to report to the General Assembly in May 2017. The group presented a draft report to the Church and Society Council meeting in November.

Digital divide: We continue to work in this area through a number of initiatives, as we seek to ensure that the church contributes appropriately to ensuring that congregations are using digital technologies to help those in their communities who may not be able to fully access the benefits brought by digital technologies. We are partnering with a number of groups, both within and outside the church, in this regard.

Local science festivals: We have been able to be involved with the Orkney Science Festival, and are grateful to Prof Robin Taylor who agreed to contribute to events in Kirkwall on behalf of the SRT. Prof. Taylor has also written an article published in the October issue of Life and Work magazine.

Presbyteries: The SRT has been invited to speak in Biggar on Nov 23rd at a special meeting arranged by Lanark Presbytery, about issues around organ transplantation (following on from the report to the General Assembly in May 2015). On the same day, the launch of the British Transplant Games takes place in Motherwell.

Credit Unions: As this work continues to expand, Karen has been increasingly busy in this area. Interest in and membership of the Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) is growing. Charles Sim, a Kirk elder from Kilmarnock, has been working closely with Karen in promoting the CMCU, in Presbyteries and among church employees in 121. We continue to seek to make progress in encouraging CrossReach staff to join CMCU, following our presentation to their regional conference.

Good Money Week: The Good Money Week conference took place in Edinburgh on Nov 3rd. This was very well attended. One of the emerging themes of the work of the Council is around the issue of disinvestment, especially from fossil fuel companies. We continue to work closely with Adrian Shaw, Climat Change Officer, who is leading on this aspect of the work of the Council.

Conference of European Churches: The next meeting of the Bioethics group of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) will take place in Strasbourg in March. The SRT continues to make a significant contribution to this group; I am chairing the CEC bioethics group which will develop a report on gene editing.

SRT@50: A small group is starting to plan for the 50th anniversary of the project in 2020. We are exploring possible ways to get funding for some of these initiatives.

Other issues/ future engagements for the SRT Project:

Dr Murdo Macdonald, Policy Officer, SRT

24 November 2016

Digitally Remastered: A biblical guide to reclaiming your virtual self

image Published: Nov 24, 2016

Digitally Remastered: A biblical guide to reclaiming your virtual self unpacks the practical and spiritual significance of our technological choices. 

The rise and proliferation of communications technologies is arguably the most significant development of the 21st century. The web, social networking and smartphones have pervaded every area of life and every aspect of society. The web is a democratising technology, redistributing power away from the gatekeepers who previously controlled access to information and towards ordinary citizens, much as the printing press gave the laity the ability to read the Bible in their own language.

At the same time, there are dangers inherent in our uncritical adoption of communications technologies. Like any technology, they are a tool which can be used for beneficial or harmful ends.

Digitally Remastered explores some of the key areas in which our use of communications technology affects our lives, relationships and faith. These include a critique of the ‘Always-On’ culture that both offers ready access to information and threatens constant distraction; the way we either end up saving or wasting time through our use of the web; and the question of identity and integrity in an anonymous online environment.

Central to the book is the premise of freedom vs slavery: that communications technologies make a good servant, but a terrible master.  They can be used in ways that align with our faith and make us more human, or else detract from our status as creatures made in God’s image. The book also unpacks the effects of the web on consumerism, explores issues of privacy and surveillance, and looks at some of the temptations inherent in our use of the web.

For more information or to order the book, visit https://www.muddypearl.com/books/digitally-remastered/

Surveillance and Social Justice

image Published: Nov 24, 2016

One of the SRT Working Groups has been considering everyday surveillance with the aim of reporting to the General Assembly in 2017.

Surveillance is not simply an activity of the security and intelligences services – as portrayed in the 007 or Bourne movies. Data-management is integral to, for example, identifying who needs to be supported through social welfare benefits. At the same time, surveillance systems can be almost insurmountable hurdles against receiving the benefits to which one is entitled. Ken Loach’s new film, I Daniel Blake, tells a story which, although disputed by the government, many people testify to being an apt description of the injustices they face.

Experiencing surveillance can be quite different for people of colour than those who, because white, are considered generally to be less of a risk. Muslims, or people ‘looking Muslim’ encounter discriminatory surveillance in ways that are bound up political agendas and public misperceptions. The Working Group has been focusing its discussions on three particular areas: bio-data in medical research, borders where people are required to identify themselves, and the bureaucracy of the benefits system.

Using the idea of ‘surveillance from the Cross of Christ’ the group has reflected on re-orientating surveillance in the light of God’s relational way of knowing, and what that might mean for treating privacy as a gift for human dignity and flourishing.

The report hopes to stimulate Christians who are both subjects and professional users of surveillance to affirm and challenge its value.

In March 2017 Dr Eric Stoddart of the University of St Andrews, and a member of the Working Group, is convening a research workshop in Edinburgh, ‘Religions Consuming Surveillance’. There are a few places for contributions from people who have particular experience in churches or other religious communities using data-gathering (of one form or another). Details are available here.

‘Why is everyday surveillance a religious issue?’ – a public lecture by David Lyon is online here.

Check out the new SCPO website!

image Published: Nov 15, 2016

The Scottish Churches Parliamentary office can help you to have your say, providing advice and support to individuals, groups and churches. Visit their new website www.scpo.scot to find current consultations, briefing papers on topical issues, official responses to government consultations and interviews.

Organ Donation: Presuming consent?

image Published: Oct 31, 2016

On 23 November the Church of Scotland highlighted the importance of organ donation, and the life- enhancing, life- giving effects that organ donation has on many families.

At an open meeting in Biggar organised by the Presbytery of Lanark, Dr Murdo Macdonald, SRT Project Policy Officer spoke on organ donation, while a local family talked about their experience of raising a child who has had to undergo an organ transplant.

Rev Mike Fucella, Convener of the Presbytery Committee who organised the event, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to discuss this important issue- one which affects many families in churches throughout Scotland”

“The Church of Scotland has for a number of years been a keen supporter of organ donation, encouraging its members to register as organ donors- and, very importantly, encouraging them to discuss their wishes in this regard with their family and friends”.

Mr Neil Healy, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation with NHS Scotland commented: “Currently almost 38% of people in Lanarkshire have registered their wish to donate on the Organ Donor Register. Anyone who joins the Register can give the gift of life.  If you support organ donation, please take the time to visit www.weneedeverybody.org and join today.“

The event also highlighted the fact that the British Transplant Games will be held in North Lanarkshire in 2017. Mrs Jo Brown, speaking on behalf of Transplant Sport, commented: “The British Transplant Games were inaugurated in 1978 in Portsmouth. Over the past 39 years the Games have grown from a one- day event with 99 participants, to a four day annual event with over 900 transplant recipients aged from 2 - 80+ taking part in over 20 different sports with over 1500 supporters watching on.”

“Some participants come to win medals, training for their specialist events, hoping to be selected for Team GB & NI competing at the World Transplant Games.  However, most come to meet new friends, catch up with old friends, enjoy new sports at their own pace and socialize for a few days with others who have also faced debilitating illness but are now fit and well as a result of a successful transplant.”

For information about the British Transplant Games, please see http://www.transplantsport.org.uk/britishtransplantgames

Interested in finding out more about community shares?

image Published: Oct 25, 2016

Interested in finding out more about community shares?

Community Shares Scotland is holding a free Training Event in Dundee to inform about the community shares funding model.

Find out the benifits to your own community or the communities you support in a work capacity; meet with other community groups who are interested in setting up a share offer or learn from those who have had success already.

There will be a focus on: 

This event is aimed at both community groups and intermediary support organisations. It will be practical and engaging - the objective being increased knowledge and skills within communities and support organisations, thus creating an enduring legacy of expertise in community shares.

Date: Tuesday 15 November 2016, 10:30 - 15:30
Venue: Verdant Works, Dundee

FREE EVENT BUT BOOKING ESSENTIAL Book here

Read more about Community Shares Scotland at www.communitysharesscotland.org.uk

Any questions? email to: Sandra@communitysharesscotland.org.uk

End of Life Issues: Orkney Science Festival 2016

image Published: Oct 04, 2016

The Church of Scotland was delighted to collaborate on these events organised by University of Glasgow End of Life Studies Group  at the Orkney Science Festival.

Professor Robin Taylor, a medical doctor and ordained minister, was joined by Rev. Dr Hamilton Inbadas to speak on ethics, faith and belief in the face of death.

Catriona Forrest is Public Engagement Officer for the Wellcome Trust-funded project Global Interventions at the End of Life, led by the University of Glasgow and is a member of the Glasgow End of Life Studies Group. Click here to read Catriona's blog about the events, listen to or watch the various audio and video recordings.

If your Church would be interested in getting involved with your local science festival, you can get more information here.

International Credit Union Day 2016:  “The Authentic Difference”

image Published: Sep 20, 2016

Since 1948, International Credit Union Day has been celebrated annually on the third Thursday of October. Each year, the international event affords the opportunity to remember credit unions’ proud history and promote awareness of and support for the credit union difference. This year’s theme, “The Authentic Difference” celebrates what makes credit unions truly unique. On 20 October, credit unions from around the world will join forces to celebrate the day.

Credit unions are recognised as a force for positive economic and social change and have provided significant value in both developed and emerging nations. International Credit Union Day is sponsored by World Council of Credit Unions, the international trade association and development agency for credit unions, as well as numerous national credit union trade associations and federations around the world.

Brian Branch, World Council president and CEO said "Credit unions differ — in both philosophy and structure — from other financial institutions, In addition to community commitment and positive economic and social change, we put people before profit to provide all members with affordable financial services. This is the authentic difference that makes a real impact in our world.”

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that provide an effective and viable alternative to for-profit financial institutions for over 217 million members in 105 countries worldwide. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions exist to serve their members, providing a safe place to save money and access affordable loans.

The Church of Scotland continues to support and promote Credit Unions and encourages you and your Church to engage with your local credit union. See our leaflets for more information:

A Credit Union: A common Bond for a common good and 10 ways your church can get involved with Credit Unions.

Or contact srtp@churchofscotland.org.uk

You may also be eligible to join the Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU).

The CMCU) is alliance between the Church of Scotland, the Church of England, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the United Reformed Church. 

Membership of the CMCU is open to clergy and ministers, licensed lay ministers, Church of Scotland elders, trustees and employees of the member churches and church charities.

For more information and to check your eligibilty visit www.cmcu.org.uk

Join us at our Conference to mark Good Money Week 2016

image Published: Sep 14, 2016

MAKE YOUR MONEY COUNT

This year, the Church of Scotland is partnering with EthicalFutures, Triodos Bank, Rathbone Greenbank Investments and Shared Interest to host an event that brings together some of the UK's key ethical investment organisations to mark Good Money Week. The event will explore key issues around how we invest our money and give practical ideas to make your money count.

Date: Thursday 3 November 2016 - 10AM

Venue: St Andrew's and St George's West Church, Edinburgh EH2 2PA

The event will be chaired by Martin Rhodes - Director of Scottish Fair Trade Forum

GUEST SPEAKERS

Julian Parrott -EthicalFutures

Hew Davies - Triodos Bank

John Arnold - The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility

Matt Crossman - Rathbone Greenbank

Patricia Alexander - Shared Interest

PROGRAMME

10:00 Registration and Fairtrade refreshments

10:30 Welcome

10:40 Introduction from panellists

11:40 Open discussion

13:00 Lunch and networking

14:00 Close

Places are free but limited - Book you place online at www.mymc16.eventbrite.co.uk

Download a flyer

Barry Watson

image Published: Sep 06, 2016

World Suicide Prevention Day - 10 September 2016

image Published: Sep 05, 2016

World Suicide Prevention Day RibbonWorld Suicide Prevention Day is on Saturday 10 September 2016

In Scotland, it is a sad fact that suicide is one of the major causes of death among young people, particularly among young men. A young death is always one of the most devastating events for a family or a community, and when that death results from suicide the tragedy is all the harder to bear.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said, ‘Of all the many pastoral issues I have dealt with over 38 years of ministry, supporting the family and friends of someone who has taken their own life has been the most challenging. The feelings of anger and guilt can be quite overwhelming for those left behind so doing all that is possible to prevent the tragedy of death by suicide is an important aspect of the work of the church’s work. The gospels tell us that Jesus often spent time with people who were in desperate circumstances so trying to ‘be there’ for people who feel like ending it all is an important part of the church’s ministry.

“The Church of Scotland General Assembly report on suicide, particularly among young men, included an 8 page booklet aimed at stimulating discussion on this subject in Kirk Sessions (see http://www.srtp.org.uk/srtp/view_article/suicide_among_young_men_the_church_as_a_community_of_carers_2011) and I am pleased to commend this booklet to you.

Dr Barr continued: “Any suicide, especially the suicide of a young person, has a profound effect on the community to which the church seeks to minister and our approach should always be marked by compassion and understanding rather than blame and recrimination. The General Assembly booklet has been used by many churches, and is also recommended by some NHS agencies dealing with issues such as mental health and suicide.”

“The church often becomes involved after a suicide and it is important to look at how the church, in its parishes and communities, deals with suicide and with those bereaved by suicide. From my own pastoral experience there can be some questions in the aftermath of a suicide which make coping with that particular bereavement difficult: Why did this happen? Why could we not stop it? and grief may be mingled with feelings of anger, guilt confusion and shame.’ It is possible to undertake training to become more able at supporting others who feel desperate or suicidal: among the organisations recommended is Scotland's Mental Health First Aid, and we have recommended that churches avail themselves of local courses which are run free from time to time.

Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt MSP said: “We welcome any work which helps highlight the importance of suicide prevention action, and of sources of support for people who may be at risk of suicide. The Scottish Government treats suicide prevention as a priority area and is working with partner agencies including the NHS, Social Services, Police Scotland and the Voluntary Sector to continue to improve the support available. The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013-16 sets out a range of evidence-based commitments to continue the downward trend in the suicide rate which we have seen over the last decade and more.

“We provide funding to support the Breathing Space helpline for people experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety; as well as funding to support the work of Samaritans.  We are also working with NHS Boards to make mental health services safer for people at risk of suicide, for example: risk management, better observation and improved management of medicines.”

For further information, or if you would like multiple copies of the booklet, please contact the Society, Religion and Technology Project

Find out what you can do to support World Suicide Prevention Day by visiting the World Suicide Prevention Day website

Children’s Panel members make decisions to help Scotland’s vulnerable children - could you?

image Published: Aug 23, 2016

The Children’s Panel is the largest legal tribunal in Scotland, making decisions to help the lives of vulnerable children and young people. Children’s Hearings put children and young people first. Panel members have to deal with cases that are often complex, difficult and emotionally challenging. They play a vital role in the Children’s Hearings System, generously giving their time, skills and commitment to make decisions based on sound reasons in the best interest of each child or young person, aimed at improving his or her life.

Children's Hearings Scotland (CHS) will be recruiting for over 500 new volunteers to join its community as Children's Panel members. Applications to join the Children’s Panel are open now and until 25 September 2016.

Click here for more information and to apply.

Prize Essay Competion: Designer Babies?

image Published: Jul 05, 2016

Faith and Though offer a prize of £500 for the best essay on the subject of 'Designer Babies?'

Closing date: 30 September 2016

This essay competition is open to all, with a particular focus on young people (sixth formers and undergraduates). Please encourage people you may know to take part.

Essays of any length accepted (up to a maximum of 7000 words)

The essay should be factual not (science) fiction

It can be scientific, theological, phillosophical or a mixture of one or more of these.

Ethical issues should be addressed, e.g.

Entries will be anonymised before being professionally refereed and if the referee considers that the prize should be shared between two entries the trustees decision will be final.

Submit your essay by email to Honorary Secretary drapkerry@gmail.com or post to: Dr Alan Kerry, 3 Dukes Place, 19 Watford Road, Croxkey Green, Hertfordshire, WD3 3DP

Good luck!

Suicide: the Church as a community of carers

image Published: Jun 29, 2016

In Scotland, it is a sad fact that suicide is one of the major causes of death among young people, particularly among young men. A young death is always one of the most devastating events for a family or a community, and when that death results from suicide the tragedy is all the harder to bear.

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said, ‘Of all the many pastoral issues I have dealt with over 38 years of ministry, supporting the family and friends of someone who has taken their own life has been the most challenging. The feelings of anger and guilt can be quite overwhelming for those left behind so doing all that is possible to prevent the tragedy of death by suicide is an important aspect of the work of the church’s work. The gospels tell us that Jesus often spent time with people who were in desperate circumstances so trying to ‘be there’ for people who feel like ending it all is an important part of the church’s ministry.

“The Church of Scotland General Assembly report on suicide, particularly among young men, included an 8 page booklet aimed at stimulating discussion on this subject in Kirk Sessions (see http://www.srtp.org.uk/srtp/view_article/suicide_among_young_men_the_church_as_a_community_of_carers_2011) and I am pleased to commend this booklet to you.

Dr Barr continued: “Any suicide, especially the suicide of a young person, has a profound effect on the community to which the church seeks to minister and our approach should always be marked by compassion and understanding rather than blame and recrimination. The General Assembly booklet has been used by many churches, and is also recommended by some NHS agencies dealing with issues such as mental health and suicide.”

“The church often becomes involved after a suicide and it is important to look at how the church, in its parishes and communities, deals with suicide and with those bereaved by suicide. From my own pastoral experience there can be some questions in the aftermath of a suicide which make coping with that particular bereavement difficult: Why did this happen? Why could we not stop it? and grief may be mingled with feelings of anger, guilt confusion and shame.’ It is possible to undertake training to become more able at supporting others who feel desperate or suicidal: among the organisations recommended is Scotland's Mental Health First Aid, and we have recommended that churches avail themselves of local courses which are run free from time to time.

Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt MSP said: “We welcome any work which helps highlight the importance of suicide prevention action, and of sources of support for people who may be at risk of suicide. The Scottish Government treats suicide prevention as a priority area and is working with partner agencies including the NHS, Social Services, Police Scotland and the Voluntary Sector to continue to improve the support available. The Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013-16 sets out a range of evidence-based commitments to continue the downward trend in the suicide rate which we have seen over the last decade and more.

“We provide funding to support the Breathing Space helpline for people experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety; as well as funding to support the work of Samaritans.  We are also working with NHS Boards to make mental health services safer for people at risk of suicide, for example: risk management, better observation and improved management of medicines.”

For further information, or if you would like multiple copies of the booklet, please contact the Society, Religion and Technology Project

LET’S GET SCOTLAND ONLINE

image Published: Jun 07, 2016

Carol Smillie has teamed up with the Scottish Government’s Let’s Get Online campaign to encourage Scots to make the most of the benefits of using the internet.

With one in six people in Scotland missing out on the benefits of being online the Let’s Get Online campaign is set to provide vital information through a nationwide roadshow.

From keeping in touch with friends and family and searching for jobs, to managing bills and watching catch-up TV, the campaign aims to highlight the benefits the internet can provide.

The Let’s Get Online team will visit towns and cities across Scotland from 31 May until 22 July, offering free, informal, one-to-one, drop-in sessions on how to get online.

Lets get online staff helping lady with computerTrained and friendly staff will host over 100 sessions at a variety of locations ranging from supermarkets and job centres to local community hubs and shopping centres. The team will help people experience the benefits of being online first hand by providing one-to-one support for a variety of online activities, including settingup an email address, tips for safe internet shopping and banking and how to video call friends and family.

To launch the Let’s Get Online roadshow, TV presenter Carol Smillie and Minister for Older People Jeane Freeman visited a group of older learners at a digital programme provided by Wester Hailes Library in Edinburgh.

Ms Freeman said: “One in six of people in Scotland are missing out on the benefits of being online and we want to change that. We are committed to helping reduce social isolation amongst all age groups

– being online can help reduce this risk while providing a better quality of life and improve education,health, wealth and well-being.

“We want to give people the support and knowledge they need to have the confidence to get online.These free sessions are taking place throughout Scotland and will provide vital advice to help those who are not online to make the first steps.”

TV presenter Carol Smillie said: “It’s not long ago that I struggled with emailing and now I’m able to edit my own family movie clips. My son helps me out with the tricky stuff but I’ve spent some time getting up to speed with the online world and now I think I’m pretty good. It just goes to show that it is never too late to have a go and get involved – don’t be afraid it’s easier than you think.

“Social media is really important for my business and I think the internet is great for keeping in touch with family and friends. I think it is important for those not online to take the first step and the Let’s Get Online free informal sessions are a great place to start. Whether you want to learn how you can keep in touch with friends and family, search for a job, manage your bills and banking, or watch catch-up TV, there’s so much you can do online to make your life a little easier and more fun.”

Let's get online team helping man with tablet computerThe Let’s Get Online roadshow is supported by an information line which people can call on 0300 004 1000 to find out where and when their nearest session is, as well as information about other learning centres and courses in their local area. Those online who know friends or family that would benefit from the roadshow should visit www.letsgetonline.scot.

Please note the free informal drop in sessions timings may be subject to change. Please visit www.letsgetonline.scot or call 0300 004 1000 to check up to date timings.

Calls to the Let’s Get Online information line are free with UK landlines and most mobile provider packages. Some mobile providers may charge at local rates. Please check with your provider.

DIGITAL SCOTLAND is a national movement of the Scottish Government and partners in the private, public and voluntary sector across Scotland. The partners work together in a coordinated and comprehensive approach to deliver a wide variety of programmes and projects. Their shared goal is to ensure that Scotland and its people are positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital age.

 

The SRT Project's Policy Officer Dr Murdo Macdonald recently shared stories of churches and church-centered organisations which are closing the digital divide for some of Scotland's poorest communities. You can read more about that here.

The SRT Project are exhibiting at the IAB 2016 in Edinburgh on 15 June

image Published: Jun 01, 2016

On Wednesday 15 June, the SRT Project will be exhibiting at the International Association of Bioethics 13th World Congress at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.The conference aims to help us build a bridge between the questions and answers of how bioethics can contribute to some of the most important issues of our time.

It will be a great oppotunity for us to showcase the Church of Scotland's work in this area and make contact with experts in the bioethics field.

From gentic research to global pandemics, and from scarce resources to climate changes that affect us all, the need to consider the proper place of public interests and public goods has never been more pressing.

The conference runs from 14 - 17 June and aims to help us build a bridge between the questions and answers of how bioethics can contribute to some of the most important issues of our time.

IAB 2016 will offer :

See www.iab2016.com for more information.

Spring/Summer 2016

image Published: Jun 01, 2016

SRT Project Summary Report Dec 2015- June 2016

image Published: May 26, 2016

Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) Project Summary Report

Dec 2015- June 2016

Thank you to all who continue to support and encourage the work of the SRT, in whatever capacity- not least in remembering us in your prayers. We would continue to encourage you to especially remember the work of the SRT during the special Week of Prayer (June 12- 18th. See http://www.srtp.org.uk/srtp/view_article/srt_project_week_of_prayer_12_18_june_2016)

Highlights from the past few months include:

Energy, fuel poverty and climate change: The report of this working group, which explores a number of important interlinked issues, was debated by the General Assembly in May 2016. The report was accepted, and there were a lot of encouraging discussions around these issues. It is important that we continue to finds ways in which the church can contribute to tackling fuel poverty.

Surveillance and social justice: we continue to develop the work around the ways in which surveillance is used, and especially to explore concerns around how surveillance deepens marginalisation of the most vulnerable in our society. The working group plans to report to General Assembly in May 2017.

Science festivals: The SRT event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016 was based around the fuel poverty report mentioned above. This facilitated discussion included a number of experts in different fields. It was encouraging to see so many people attending and engaging with these issues.

We continue to explore ways of being involved in science festivals throughout the country, and to encourage congregations to consider getting involved in their local science festival- please see http://www.srtp.org.uk/srtp/view_article/scottish_science_festivals

Credit Unions: Karen Hunter has taken on responsibility for our work with CUs, and she has been very busy promoting this through talks to Presbyteries, CrossReach, etc. There are lots of opportunities to get involved with credit unions. The Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) may be of particular interest to many: if you are interested in opening an account with them, please see the CMCU website, www.cmcu.org.uk

Good Money Week: How we use the resources which we have available to us is an important question. We will be involved in a half day conference in Edinburgh on Thursday 3rd November, to mark Good Money Week. We would encourage people to attend.

Digital divide: There is clearly an opportunity for individual churches and presbyteries to have a positive impact on their communities; we have highlighted some of the ways in which congregations are already doing this, and are always encouraged at the innovative approaches which many churches are taking to harness the positive power of digital technologies in their local areas.

The SRT has been involved in meetings in Europe, and also in large gatherings such as the International Association of Bioethics. However, we’re acutely aware that it is the church we primarily seek to serve, and we always enjoy interacting with presbyteries and congregations. If you would like our support in any way, please get in touch (www.srtp.org.uk)

Murdo Macdonald, SRT Project Policy Officer

Online Today: RNIB Scotland helping people with sensory loss to get online

image Published: May 26, 2016

New technology has brought an explosion of information and services to our fingertips. The click of a mouse button and we can book holidays, GP appointments, pay bills, order shopping, check bank accounts and contact friends and family. But what if you are blind or partially sighted? How do you take part in the online world if you struggle to see a screen?

Don't worry - help is at hand. Over 1,800 people with sight loss in Scotland have already been helped by a Lottery-funded project led by the charity RNIB Scotland. Online Today (www.rnib.org.uk/online-todayis holding drop-ins and group sessions across the country to make sure that no one with a sight problem need be left behind in today's digital revolution.

"Many of today's latest smartphones and tablets now come with in-built accessibility features that can make it far easier for someone with a visual impairment to use," says Sheila Sneddon, who manages the Online Today team in Scotland.

"The speech, magnification, colour, contrast and other features that come built in to most tablets and smartphones mean that you can use them to get online regardless of your level of sight-loss. Many of the people we introduce these basic features to never even knew they were there. They'd simply assumed they wouldn't be able to use new technology.

"But that would mean they were excluding themselves from a vast range of everyday activities - because so many of the things we do nowadays are done online.  Sometimes exclusively online."

The Online Today team talks blind and partially sighted people through the basics of how smartphones and tablets can be configured to maximise their accessibility.

"Our sessions are very informal, not aimed at people who already have an interest in new technology," says Sheila. "Many, though not all, people with sight loss are older, so perhaps less likely to be as familiar as younger people with going online. So we demonstrate the relevant features in easy to understand, non-jargon language.  And the feedback we have received from clients is very positive."

Janet Prydie (57) from Dundonald in South Ayrshire, who has blurred, fragmented vision attended an Online Today session in Glasgow and was delighted with the results. She had struggled to use her iPad but is now much more confident and has since bought an iPhone 6 Plus, as well.

"I am relaunched on a wave of enthusiasm," Janet said, "determined to use my iPad a whole lot more and to meet the challenge of 'taming' the iPhone! Without the Online Today team my iPad would still be snoozing in a drawer, and they also gave me the push I required to get onboard the smartphone train!"

Lorna Serpina (28) from Armadale in West Lothian has sight loss due to diabetic retinopathy. "I only lost my sight two years ago so I wasn't very up on what was available for the visually impaired," she said. "Now I can really only see shadows.

"I'd used the i-phone and i-pad before but had no idea of the accessibility features that were available, like enlarging the keyboards and the 'Rotor' voice-over feature that allows you to more easily navigate through the phone.  The Online Today session helped me realise I could do so much more with the phone. It's really boosted my confidence."

The Online Today team are happy to give demonstrations to all kinds of groups.  They can offer a drop-in event where people with sight loss can come along and try out the different smartphones and tablets for themselves and they also do a three hour hands-on session that goes through the basics of setting up and using a tablet.

For further information, please contact IAN BROWN at RNIB Scotland on 0131 652 3164 or 07918 053 952.

Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty May 2016

image Published: May 25, 2016

The SRT Project reported on Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty at the 2016 General Assembly. This is a highly topical and fast-moving subject. In recent years there have been very significant developments, such as the UK Government’s plans to terminate renewable energy subsidies and the announced closure of Longannet power station.

All of this is against the backdrop of Paris in December 2015, when over 190 countries met at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. The urgent challenge is to negotiate a deal which will limit emissions from developed countries and help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change and develop low carbon economies.

These developments may seem to be focussed on governments and huge multi-national energy companies. However the reality for many of the most vulnerable in our communities is a day-to-day struggle to afford to keep warm. Our group has found some encouraging success stories, such as Community Energy projects in rural and island locations which unite communities and generate benefits for the local population. However, many challenges remain. Despite the Scottish Government’s aim to eliminate Fuel Poverty by November 2016, levels have risen to 39.1% of households in the most recent figures. Improving the energy efficiency of existing homes is becoming more difficult as the most straightforward measures such as loft insulation and cavity wall insulation reach saturation levels.

Our report challenges governments to address the issues we have identified and encourages congregations and individuals to take responsibility for the stewardship of our world and its resources.

Read the full report here

Dowload our discussion leaflet

COP21

image Published: May 25, 2016

The Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) was the 21st meeting of this organisation that was held in Paris in December 2015.  The pre-negotiations suggested that there were good chances of an agreement this time.  However there were major issues that needed to be resolved at the Paris Conference.

There were 195 countries at the conference. The debate was tough but an agreement was reached.  It is not all the campaigners hoped for.  It is not all that the developing countries hoped for.  It is definitely not what the fossil fuel companies hoped for.  This makes it sound like it did not work.

An agreement among 195 nations after 20 previous attempts is an achievement.  At the start of the conference the participants were looking for a 2oC limit on warming.  This was the figure proposed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change.  However many of the developing countries who are already experiencing the impacts of warmer climates insisted that this was not enough.  This group wanted the climate to return to pre-industrial levels by 2050. 

The big decision was that all countries accepting the agreement were working for a rise of no more than 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels in the next 20 years.  The original proposal was 2oC but the developing countries, particularly those who are experiencing the effects of climate, pushed for the reduction.  In the future I suspect this target will be challenged and it will be interesting to see where the pressure comes from.  At present the UK contribution suggests that this country will struggle to make the necessary changes for this to be achieved.  There are policies in place but the plans and projects do not match the timescale.

The phrase – fossil fuels are history – started at this conference.  This is a challenge but this is important as in Scotland the urban areas are dependent on natural gas for heating.  To change to a non-fossil fuel alternative involves major changes in infrastructure and housing.  However this change relates to another part of the agreement that there needs to be a growth of renewable energies.

Renewable energies have been seen as a major method of dealing with the changes that are necessary.  However there are problems with energies that depend on sun or wind where the production can only be intermittent at best.  The main problem is storing energy produced at times of plenty for use.  Conventionally we have used batteries but this is not efficient and expensive.  The need for research in this area is now vital but until this work has been done the development and growth of renewable energies will be limited.  However there are many areas of the globe where the current technology would be a major benefit.  This development needs capital investment and support.

This investment and development could be possible if there are new markets for carbon that allow development countries to participate in trading emissions.  This element of the agreement required a lot of negotiation but the lobbying of faith groups and non-governmental organisations were very influential in supporting the developing countries. 

The final agreement was the protection of forests.  The importance of trees in storing carbon has been recognised.  However this is not about forestry but about biodiversity and the health of ecosystems.  The forests, woodlands and even individual trees need to be part of a functioning ecosystem that is sustainable in the long term.

This suggests that COP21 was a great success but there are some caveats. 

Just one of the topics not included in the agreement is agriculture and food production and diet.  If we are to share out the land used in agriculture fairly then we should all move to a vegetarian diet as livestock production has a large carbon footprint. 

As I write only 177 countries have signed the agreement.  Enough countries have ratified the agreement that it now becomes United Nations policy and these countries need to incorporate the agreement in legislation and practice.  This is where everyone of us as active citizens need to be active.

Sheena Wurthmann, SRT Project Committee Member

SRT Project at the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016

image Published: May 25, 2016

The SRT Project ran a very successful event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on April 6, based on our recent investigations into Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty. Chaired by Sarah Boyack, former Minister for the Environment, it took the form of a panel discussion featuring three experts whose knowledge and experience have been particularly influential in shaping the thinking of our group.

John Cunningham, Head of Energy Services at Western Isles Council, talked of the challenges faced by people living in homes that are exposed to a harsh climate and are often difficult to insulate using conventional methods. This, combined with high costs of energy, means that Fuel Poverty levels are among the highest in the country – around 60-70% of householders needing to spend more than 10% of their income just to keep warm. John described the exciting partnership initiatives which have been developed to tackle these issues, such as generation of renewable energy and the setting-up of an energy supply company to sell energy at reduced rates with profits going towards improving energy efficiency of homes, creating valuable jobs and skills in the process.

Elizabeth Leighton from the Existing Homes Alliance explained the importance of improving the energy efficiency of existing houses in Scotland. Without substantial investment in this it will be impossible to meet target reductions in carbon emissions, and Fuel Poverty levels will remain at unacceptable levels. She was encouraged by Scottish Government ambitions to make this a National Infrastructure Priority, and suggested the target should be for all homes to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of Grade C or better.

Finally, Shona Stephen, Chief Executive of Queen’s Cross Housing Association in Glasgow, described some of the innovative energy efficiency measures being implemented in their properties. Techniques such as external and internal cladding have been used to reduce heat loss, while district heating schemes using low-carbon heat-pump technology bring greener and cheaper energy to Queen’s Cross residents. Shona emphasised, however, the vital on-going need for support and education to help their tenants to get the best out of their homes and heating systems – there was no point in simply investing in technology and expecting Fuel Poverty to disappear.

A lively audience discussion followed, with comments and questions to the panel before Sarah Boyack brought the event to a conclusion, remarking on the breadth of expertise that we had benefitted from, and the positive feeling that solutions were available and that there was a determination to make them work.

The findings from our investigations into Energy Issues and Fuel Poverty will form part of the Church and Society Council report to the General Assembly on Tuesday May 24.

Read the ful report here

Dowload our discussion leaflet

SRT Project Week of Prayer 12 - 18 June 2016

image Published: May 11, 2016

The annual Week of Prayer for the work of the Society, Religion and Technology (SRT) Project takes place in June. So how can you be involved?

Since the SRT Project was set up in 1970, it has covered topics from stem cells to synthetic biology, from economics to environmental issues. It seeks to bring a Christian ethical understanding to (often controversial) issues of science and technology.  We believe it’s important that the church engages in debate and seeks to influence society.

Many of the issues the SRT Project wrestles are with difficult, and wisdom and sensitivity are required in dealing with them. The support of God’s people in various ways, including upholding us in prayer, has a positive effect as we engage with these dilemmas.

Prayer is vital to what we do as the people of God. The SRT project values your prayers for our work at any time, but we ask that you particularly remember us during the second week in June. Please join us in praying that the SRT Project has a strong, positive and lasting influence on society in Scotland.

Download a leaflet

Energy and Fuel Poverty Issues

image Published: May 11, 2016

Free downloadable Sports Mission Pack 2016 available from 4th May!

image Published: May 02, 2016

Sport plays a big part in many people’s lives. With another exciting summer of sport ahead, are you looking for ways in which your church can make the most of the great opportunities these major sporting events provide to reach people in your community? If so, we have just the thing for you!

How about organising a sports quiz? In 2014, as part of their engagement around the Commonwealth Games, over 90 churches in Scotland hosted a sports quiz, with materials provided by Christians in Sport. Or what about arranging a “Night of Champions” event? Night of Champions is a multi-sports tournament perfect to run in your church to help engage young people.

The free downloadable Sports Mission Pack 2016 available from 4th May at www.christiansinsport.org.uk/2016 includes:

Guides on how to run different sports events including sports tournaments and ‘big-screen’ events

A multimedia sports quiz

A 2-minute gospel film called 'Born to Play' along with a 5-minute sports-themed gospel talk

Help on how to follow up with people coming to your events

Information about readysetgo.ec - a website with a whole host of resources for running events in your communities.

Douglas Roberts from St Stephen’s Comely Bank church in Edinburgh said: “The resources were brilliant and made it very easy for us to organize.  The quiz looks very professional and our guests had a fun evening full of laughs and most importantly heard the good news of Jesus Christ.  I would strongly encourage churches to use the quiz and other Christians in Sport resources to reach out to people in their communities.”

Or perhaps you have young people in your congregation or community who play sport seriously? The Sports Plus summer residential camps offer ‘serious sports action for serious young sports players’ (P7- S5) in your churches, schools and communities.  This week of specialist sports coaching, and team competitions for young people, is taking place at Glenalmond College from 10th-15th July.  Sports Plus is the perfect way for young people to improve in their sport, while exploring more about the Christian faith and what it means to be a Christian sports player.  For more information, and to book a place, check out the website here.

Perhaps your Kirk Session or congregation might consider helping to sponsor some of your young people to attend Sports Plus? Franny McGrath, a youth worker from Aberfeldy Parish Church, said: “Over the years Sports Plus has been an instrumental part of our youth programme. With solid Bible teaching and professionally run sports it is a must for any young person involved in sport. As a leader it is fantastic to see young people being exposed to the Christian faith as well as seeing young people coming back enthused to follow Jesus, having the confidence to represent him in their chosen sport.”

Whatever you choose to do, make sure your church doesn’t miss out on the opportunities which sport gives us to engage with lots of people in our communities. For further information please see www.srtp.org.uk

Open Farm Sunday: June 5th

image Published: Apr 25, 2016

Open Farm Sunday logoA former national convener of the Guild and a minister who has been instrumental in the recent initiative to appoint a farming minister within the Church of Scotland have spoken out to encourage churches and church members to re- connect with farmers in their local areas.

On Open Farm Sunday (5th June) farmers across Britain are encouraged to open their gates to tell their food and farming stories. By allowing the general public the opportunity to hear first-hand from those who rear, grow or produce the food and drink that we enjoy we hope to provide a better understanding of the importance behind supporting your local farmer.

Rev John Paterson, minister at Lugar, linked with Old Cumnock Church in Ayrshire, said: “Farmers, vets, suppliers, employees, estate workers and the like are in difficult times. The church needs to reach out to all in the farming community and associated workers and professionals, and to reaffirm the Christian belief in the infinite value of each person and the equality of all before God. The farming community has been and continues to be central to the rural community in which it exists.

Mrs Helen- May Bayne, former National Convener of the Guild, who along with her husband Sandy farms in Perthshire, said, “Initiatives such as Open Farm Sunday provide an invaluable opportunity for those who have little contact with farming to get an insight into what makes the farming community tick- and also to understand where our food comes from. In our report to the General Assembly on sustainable agriculture, we sought to emphasise the fact that food is a gift from God, for which we should all be thankful. (see www.srtp.org.uk/assets/uploads/267_WEB.pdf)

Rebecca Dawes, Open Farm Sunday Scotland Co-Ordinator, said: “In 2015 Scotland saw 24 farms get involved at all levels and from all different backgrounds. There was the dairy farm that offered a small, exclusive visit for the local church congregation allowing the host farmer to determine the size and time of the event. There was the fruit and vegetable farm that opened for just a few hours welcoming anyone that wanted to come along for a farm walk. An environmentally-led farm carried out woodland trails to allow families to see how many species of insects and birds they could find. And a mixed livestock farm ran a full open day offering tractor and trailer rides, refreshments, talks and activities for several hundred visitors.

“Open Farm Sunday is continuing to grow in Scotland, but we need those who are at the heart of agriculture to get involved so we can keep telling our farming stories.

For further information, and to find a farm near you which will be open on June 5th, please see www.farmsunday.org

SeeMe Activism training

image Published: Apr 11, 2016

SeeMe logoSeeMe have an exciting opportunity for our See Me supporters to attend community activism training over 8 days in May/June.

SeeMe are running ACTIVATE in partnership with Glasgow University. It will be delivered by a Glasgow University tutor at the SAMH Offices in Glasgow. It will run over 8 Fridays, 6th May - 24th June 10.30am - 3.30pm. Attendees would need to be able to commit to the full 8 days.

The course is aimed at people with an interest in community development and community activism (this interest could be connected to current paid or volunteer work or a desire to get more involved with this type of role in the future).

The key concepts covered by the course are:

•    What is community work?

•    Values and Principles of community work.

•    Equality /Anti discrimination

•    Power and Participation

•    Local – global issues

The course is free to participants and lunch and pre-agreed travel expenses will be provided. More information can be found here.

If you think you would like to attend or would like to find out more, please contact Maeve Grindall (maeve.grindall@seemescotland.org / 0141 5302011). Please feel free to share this information with your contacts.

Awards keep on coming for founders of Calderglen Befriending Project

image Published: Apr 11, 2016

A dedicated member of Claremont Parish Church, East Kilbride, along with her team of young volunteers, has been recognised for her role as the 'lynchpin' in an elderly befriending scheme which has also been praised in both the Scottish and Westminster parliaments.

Mrs Avril Anderson, 74, a community councillor and congregational board member, began the Calderglen Befriending Project over four years ago after noticing a need in the community and forming a partnership with Odette Frazer, depute head teacher of Calderglen High School.

Mrs Anderson, Ms Frazer and the students were presented with certificates recognising the success of their work at the Generations Working Together Recognition Awards ceremony at Strathclyde University. Last year, at the same awards, Mrs Anderson was named Volunteer of the Year.

The Provost of South Lanarkshire Elaine Logan has also presented the group with East Kilbride and District Crime Prevention Panel's Silver Salver Award no less than four times.

Each year new 6th year students from the school are paired with elderly community members, around 80% of them from the Claremont Parish Church congregation. The befrienders call in for one hour each week to help out around the house or just to chat.

After viewing the scheme's success, MSP Linda Fabiani and MP Lisa Cameron have both urged other schools to create similar befriending projects.

Read the full story on the Church of Scotland website

Bridging the gap

image Published: Mar 23, 2016

The SRT Project's Policy Officer Dr Murdo Macdonald shares stories of churches and church-centered organisations which are closing the digital divide for some of Scotland's poorest communities.

We’re all aware of the great benefits that access to the internet can bring. It makes communication easier (think Skyping the grandkids in Australia). It means we can find all sorts of bargains (online marketplaces such as eBay and Gumtree), and we can easily compare the cost of our weekly groceries from a variety of supermarkets.

However, for many people, accessing the benefits of going online is not easy. Perhaps you don’t feel confident about navigating the online world, or you simply don’t have access to the necessary equipment.

A number of churches are keenly aware that many of the people in the communities they serve struggle to access the internet, for a variety of reasons. Many congregations have responded to this need, and have seen lots of people gain in many ways. Churches have shared their stories about the benefits people gain which are often much more than simply financial and, more importantly, about gaining social confidence or other life skills are at the heart of what transpires when churches seek to bridge the digital divide.

Anne McGreechin describes the experience of Ruchazie Parish Church

“Ruchazie often seems like a small forgotten corner in the North East of Glasgow.  There are few resources here, which is why Ruchazie Parish Church is vital to the community.  Through our children’s and youth work programmes we regularly engage with over 100 young people.  We also run a small community café, and in the past year with the help of a Go for It Pilot Grant, we have tried to develop this space.

In July last year through our partnership with Cranhill Development Trust (CDT), Glasgow Kelvin College and The Wheatley Group we installed five new computers giving local people access to the internet, which has now become a necessity especially for those claiming beRuchazie Open Space Community Cafenefits and looking for work.  In addition to the internet access CDT’s employability team also run a weekly job club, helping people with curriculum vitae, job applications, access to training etc.  But even just having the computers has given people a reason to come into the building for the first time.  One young man, very shy and withdrawn, started to come in and use the computers once or twice a week.  Our staff and volunteers always greeted him warmly and started to get to know him a bit better.  As the weeks went by he started to respond, making eye contact and smiling hello.  Recently he asked if there was anything he could do to help out.  We have given him the job of keeping the café tables clean one day a week and he is about to do a food hygiene course which will enable him to volunteer in the café.  This is a huge step for him and would not have happened without our computer suite.

We also run a lunch club for over 60s and have recently started a Digital Awareness club for this age group.  It has been great to see older people bringing along their tablets or using our laptops to engage with social media and make contact with friends and family from their past and in different parts of the world.

Since the computers were installed in July we have had 160 new users.”

Marilyn Sime tell the story of the Sandhead Learning and Internet Centre, near  Stranraer Wigtownshire

“About fifteen years ago a chSandhead Learnng and Internet Centreurch member asked the village youth what facilities they would like in the church hall, and they came up with the idea of an Internet Café.  After various funding sources were identified this became the now well-established Sandhead Learning and Internet Centre (SLIC) (see www.sandheadlearning.co.uk).

With the support of Go For it grant funding, SLIC has become embedded within the local community by offering free digital support to everyone.   Rural deprivation is an ongoing problem within even the most idyllic of settings, wedded as it is to lack of confidence, financial hardship and poor public transport. Being digitally terrified can make people feel even more socially excluded.  This is where SLIC has made its mark. With the grant contribution, users are amazed to be offered FREE support and tuition of a very high quality.  Young Johnny gets help with his CV, housebound Mrs Jones learns how to use her new tablet, Ms Amanda has the mysteries of the internet explained to her, utility bills are accessed by OAPs, and PowerPoint skills have been very useful for the team who run the SU group at the local school.

SLIC does not stand still.  Under its caring co-ordinator the organisation is sensitive to the huge rise in the number of people on benefits who are now the main users.  The digital divide, like the Berlin Wall, is starting to fall.”

Penny Macleod highlights the digital work of The Well, Govanhill, Glasgow

THe Well IT support“The Well Multi Cultural Resource Centre is based in Govanhill, Glasgow – the most ethnically diverse square mile in Scotland. Many residents experience multiple disadvantage and poverty. Our computer suite is open to the public five days a week.  This is a lifeline for those who have no access to a computer and who do not have the language or IT skills that are required to function in modern day Scotland.

Ivor from Eastern Europe came to The Well for help. He had no income because he was not able to satisfy the Benefits Agency that he was genuinely seeking work. His English was so limited, the first thing we did was to find someone who could translate for him. One of our volunteer IT support workers worked with him to identify what would help him qualify for benefits and support his search for work. This included English language practice, help with a CV, identifying what jobs he could do, as well as support to develop basic computer skills to do job searches and applications on line for himself.

Ivor attended our weekly jobs club. Within weeks Ivor started to use a computer keyboard- he found it frustrating as it would take 10 minutes for him to type out his name, address and new email account details when he was applying for jobs. However, he persevered and started to come in to make use of the computer suite most days on his own and to enjoy time with new friends.

It has been a joy to see his English improve along with his confidence and independence. He now receives Job Seekers Allowance, applying for jobs and attending appointments as required. He looks happy and does not have to borrow money from friends.

The Well (thewell.org.uk), is grateful for the Support of The Go For It Fund which has helped support our work here in Govanhill.”

There are, of course, many other examples of churches taking similar initiatives (see, for example, the SWITCH project in Chalmers Church in Larkhall: www.srtp.org.uk/srtp/view_article/bridging_the_digital_divide). Perhaps your church might be thinking about this issue: our advice would be- don’t just sit there, go for it!

The Open Space Community Café in Ruchazie received a Go For It Pilot Grant, while the Well and Sandhead Learning and Internet Centre received Go For It Main Grants.  For more information about the Go For It Fund, please visit:  www.churchofscotland.org.uk/serve/go_for_it

This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Life and Work. You can subscribe at www.lifeandwork.org/subscribe/subscribe

Credit Union Outreach service opens in Kirkton Church, Carluke

image Published: Mar 02, 2016

Lanarkshire Credit Union (LCU), formerly Blantyre and South Lanarkshire Credit Union has opened a new outreach service in Carluke. The new Outreach service will be held in Carluke’s Kirkton Church every Monday from 10am to 12 noon, giving residents of Carluke a regular opportunity for face to face contact with the credit union.

The new service was officially opened by the Provost of South Lanarkshire, Councilor Eileen Logan, who was delighted to welcome the new face-to-face Credit Union service to the ward she represents.

The event took place at Kirkton Parish Church on 1.12.15 where attendees were invited to “See how you can benefit” from becoming a Credit Union member. The event was well attended by the community of Carluke, who have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the outreach.

Sue Kehoe is a member of Kirkton Church in Carluke.  She is involved with the set-up of the Credit Union at Kirkton and also a member of the Carluke Community Council which initiated the idea of establishing an outlet in Carluke. Sue told us “Carluke Community Council members were aware that many people are under financial pressures and wanted to offer an alternative to the loan companies which charge exorbitant interest rates. We were delighted to be able to work in partnership with Lanarkshire Credit Union as it would have been more difficult to go it alone. Several venues for the outreach service were explored but the hall at Kirkton Church was chosen as it was well placed and offered free of charge. We now have a team of 10 volunteers and the churches in the town, Carluke Community Council and Lanarkshire Credit Union have been most supportive.  Our joint aim is to offer a face to face service that will benefit anyone who needs it.”

LCU’s Allister Cassells, who has been heavily involved with this project since the outset, said: “The Credit Union has been working together with the Carluke Community Council to bring a Credit Union service to Carluke.

“Credit Unions have a very different business model to banks and serve the whole community, meaning people don’t have to approach payday lenders or other high cost lenders. LCU also offers Life Savings Protection at no extra cost which could provide your family with a single lump sum payment to cover end of life expense in the event of your death.”

Founded in 1991 to serve the community of Blantyre, LCU has expanded over the years to serve anyone who lives or works in Lanarkshire. LCU has grown into one of the largest Credit Unions in Britain, with over 14,000 members and more than £14 million in assets. The credit union’s Savvy Savers schools project has been a particular success, attracting more than 7,000 junior depositors most of which come from their Savvy Savers Project which works with over 80 schools across South Lanarkshire.

LCU also has branches in Blantyre and Rutherglen which are open six days a week, and a branch in Larkhall which is open Monday to Friday.

Read more about Credit Unions and how your church can get involved in our Church and Society leaflets:

A Credit Union: A common bond for a common good

10 ways your church can get involved with Credit Unions

Find your local credit union:

ABCUL: www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk/home

Scottish League of Credit Unions: www.scottishcu.org/our-credit-unions

Principal Clerk chairs new action group on affordable credit

image Published: Mar 01, 2016

Moves to improve access to affordable credit in Scotland for people on low incomes are to be championed by a new action group led by the Very Rev John Chalmers.

The Principal Clerk to the General Assembly began working with the Carnegie Trust to address this issue during his time as Moderator last year. Now he has been appointed the chairman of a new group which believes people from all walks of life should be able to legitimately borrow money at affordable rates.

Mr Chalmers says the national Affordable Credit Action Group will promote access to "excellent forms of community lending" with the aim of reducing the cost of borrowing, supporting financial inclusion, promoting fairness and greater equality.

"I believe the inequality in our financial system has to change if Scotland is to overcome its wider social problems. Improving access to cheaper, small and short term loans to those who can afford to repay them could improve people's quality of life – particularly those in disadvantaged communities.

There has never been a coherent, nationwide approach to resolving the issue of affordable credit in Scotland. Together we can avoid duplication of efforts, improve sharing of best practice and create new opportunities to tackle the big issues at scale."

The highly respected Group, consisting of representatives from across Scotland's financial industries as well as the third and public sectors, has spent a year analysing financial inequality in Scotland.

Jeremy Peat, the co-Chair of the Affordable Credit Working Group, is a former Chief Economist of RBS and a Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde's International Public Policy Institute. He said "Access to credit in Scotland is not a level playing field. Credit is – for a mixture of good and bad reasons – most expensive for those who can least afford it.

"While the regulation of payday loans has reduced the supply of expensive credit, it has done little to affect demand for short term borrowing amongst the poorest members of society or to stimulate alternative sources of supply of credit. A step-change is needed because that demand is not going away."

The group has published a series of 18 recommendations for government and industry to adopt in order to break down some of the barriers they've identified. This includes recommending that a Scottish Government minister is given responsibility for financial inclusion, including affordable credit, as part of their brief.

The Church of Scotland is one of a group of churches which came together to form its own credit union in February 2015. The Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU)  includes the Kirk, the Church of England, the Methodist Conference, The Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales. The United Reform Church has also made a formal application after it was welcomed to do so informally.

The God Particle Play is back for 2016!

image Published: Feb 11, 2016

A scientist and vicar walk into a bar...

A quantum physicist and a vicar walk into a bar. Joining forces to solve a perplexing mystery, they discover the real meaning of faith, knowledge, love and the importance of keeping an open mind.

“The God Particle”, a romantic comedy with a hint of sci-fi, will be touring the UK from late March to early June, including a number of performances in Churches of Scotland (17th- 23rd Feb; see  www.thegodparticleplay.com/#!2016-tour-dates/cee5 for further details).

Written by James Cary, award-winning co-writer of BBC1’s Miranda, BBC3’s Bluestone 42 and Radio 4’s Another Case of Milton Jones, The God particle enjoyed a sell- out run at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and is described as being “deep, smart, and very funny.”

Mr Cary explained that he wrote The God Particle out of frustration. He said: “Most Christian characters in movies or TV shows are one of two types- either the extremely stupid Christian who respond with bafflement to questions about their faith in a way that suggests that they have never thought about these issues before, or the angry Christian who responds to questions with rage or fury, as if questions and challenges are inherently bad and all disagreement must be shut down. Either way, Christian characters on TV tend not be measured, reasonable, good-humoured and intelligent all at the same time. And many Christians I know are measured, reasonable, good-humoured and intelligent.

So Mr Cary decided to write a play in which a scientist fires numerous questions at a vicar who has some good answers, as well as a few questions of his own.  The result is play is a slightly odd mix of romantic comedy and science fiction, which takes place in a curiously named village called Threepiggs, which is next to an Institute of Advanced Quantum Theory. The new vicar, Gilbert, arrives and is keen to track down his predecessor, Father Steel who has strangely disappeared. He is joined on this journey by Dr Bex Kenworthy, who is a Quantum Physicist, and skeptical about all things religious. Despite their differences, Gilbert and Rebecca discover they have an awful lot to talk about. One of the key themes of the play is what it means to have an open mind. The GK Chesterton quotation comes up: “The purpose of having a mind is the same as having an open mouth - to close it on something solid.” In the play, Bex argues that a good scientist would never close their mind on anything, whereas Gilbert contends that Bex has closed her mind on the scientific process.

Mr Cary said: “The feedback on the play so far is that it has been successful in this. But you and your friends, of course, can judge that for yourself.”

For further information and how to book, please see: www.thegodparticleplay.com

Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016

image Published: Feb 04, 2016

The Science Festival 2016 will be exploring science, technology, engineering and design’s ability to help improve our world and our lives through the concept of Building Better Worlds.  Through a vibrant and varied programme of events, exhibitions and happenings, you can exploring everything from the personal to the political, the microscopic to the cosmic, and the natural to the synthetic.

You’ll voyage through our planetary system of ideas and together we’ll discover if a better world is here and now, just beyond our reach or on another planet.There’s something for everyone, young and old, at Edinburgh International Science Festival this Easter.You’re sure to find the perfect solution for a great scientific day (and night!) out. Join us on this voyage of discovery…

Check out the programme at www.sciencefestival.co.uk/whats-on

The Church of Scotland SRT Project is presenting an event on 6 April:

Can we address Fuel Poverty and respond to Climate Change? A Church of Scotland perspective

Find out more

Download a flyer

Find your Credit Union: ABCUL

image Published: Jan 26, 2016

Find your local CU - Scottish Leauge of Credit Unions

image Published: Jan 26, 2016

Printed from www.srtp.org.uk on Tue, June 18, 2019
© The Church of Scotland 2019