Friday, June 3, 2011

Church of Scotland Assembly reflections

Last week I attended the Church of Scotland Assembly.Here are a few unsystematic, non-comprehensive reflections:

  • the daily worship was unashamedly traditional Presbyterian - unaccompanied metrical psalms, beautifully worded formal prayers, thoughful reflections by the Moderator. Not sure if worship is usually so traditional or whether it reflected the preferred style of the Moderator who conducted all worships. It may also have reflected the marking of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible from which we read exclusively during the week.
  • singing 'Your hand o God has guided' prior to the sexuality debate. It set a wonderful theological basis for the subsequent discussion. The refrain lifted the roof: 'One Church, one faith, one Lord' said it all - goosebump stuff!
  • the respectful tone of the sexuality and leadership debate even though they were mainly debating whether or not to set up another Task Group.
  • the various formal receptions for guests in exotic locations!
Common themes with Uniting Church
  • how to address ageing/declining membership and ministry profile
  • size and sustainability of Presbyteries
  • justice and community concerns (including Israel/Palestine)
  • sexuality and leadership
  • emerging church
Quirky things

  • proposals are called 'deliverances'
  • youth delegates can speak but not vote
  • the presence of the Queen's represenative, the Lord High Commissioner (this is clearly a State Church)
  • the grand formal entrance of the Moderator each day
  • the electronic voting/counting system
  • I appreciated the strengths of the 'parliamentary process' although came away more attached to our concensus processes, especially at voting time.
  • mobile phones have to be switched off (not just to silent), saw no laptops (and only the odd surreptitious i-pad)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An unexpected crucifixion

Wandering through Glasgow's wonderful Kelvin Grove Art Gallery last week I noticed a darkened room featuring one very large work - Salvadore Dali's Cucifixion. A small reproduction of this work had hung on my father's study wall and to see the original brought back many memories as well as a fresh appreciation of a very fine work. Painted in 1951 the Gallery purchased the piece in 1952 for a then considerable 8000 pounds. Apparently there were large street demonstrations protesting the acquisition - so much to spend on one piece of art! The work also attracted much theological response, both appreciative and critical. Must do some research on that. At some stage a fanatic who clearly hated the depiction slashed and tore it which can be seen if you look very closely. Perhaps the most notable feature of the painting is the perspective. The viewer looks down on the crucified Christ. His face is not visible, just the top of his head. The cross is clearly planted in the earth (the Bay of Lligat, apparently, is the scene depicted) but spans to the heavens. It is a cosmic Christ. There are no nails securing him to the Cross, his body appears unblemished by the violence. Apparently Dali wanted the work to celebrate the beauty of Christ, more, I suspect, in the tradition of John's gospel, than Mark's.