The Rev Dr W John Carswell (Cadzow Parish Church, Hamilton):
I thank members for the opportunity to address them today. I come with an invitation to share in the work of transforming our communities. Although I speak as a minister in the Church of Scotland, my invitation is extended to people of all faiths and human philosophies.
I ask three things on behalf of the church, and the first is: give us a job. There are many individuals and organisations that serve Scotland very well, but the church is, and remains, the single largest body for voluntary service in the nation. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit those who are in prison, in hospitals and in homes. We lead interfaith dialogue and we hold passionate convictions about the environment. We used to do much more, but now Parliament does many of the jobs that were once ours, and for that I commend it. The difference is that the church does them for free, because it is in its DNA—it is who we are. Give us a job and let us work with you; please do not dismiss us by saying, “We don’t do God.” Let us work together for the common good.
Secondly, we ask you to give us a break. We are being slowly crushed by legislative requirements: health and safety, health and hygiene, data protection, safeguarding and the reporting and record keeping that go along with those well-intentioned efforts. Some churches have the personnel and expertise to fulfil those requirements, but most do not, leaving us with the unhappy choice of either breaking the law or stopping our good works. Our litigious age is a sign of the breakdown of our common trust, one in the other, but legislation will not fix that problem. Give us a break and let us talk about a better solution.
Thirdly, we ask you to give us a hand. The kirk is not as members may remember it. We are more casual, more welcoming, more inclusive, more flexible and more comfortable in our role as servants to all. We are not perfect, but we have opened our doors and taken new interest in our communities. Some members may not do God. If so, I will not hold it against them. However, if they do community and care about people, I ask them to come and join us and give us a hand.
Give us a job; give us a break; and give us a hand—and may God bless members in the doing of it. I thank you.