From Reform to Renewal



Finlay Macdonald is our guest speaker on Sunday 4th March at 7pm at East Craigs Church Centre when our topic is Renewing Church. This is part of our short course for Lent.

Finlay Macdonald is a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and was previously its Principal Clerk. He is Chair of the Trustees of Iona Abbey and the author of 'Confidence in a Changing Church'. His book 'From Reform to Renewal' was published in 2017. This is a history of the church since the Reformation to the present day. You can read the background to the book in an article in Life & Work.

Read the background to the book in Life&Work

In the article he says:

"...... this book is as much informed by personal and practical experience of Church life as it is by the perusal of ecclesiastical history offered in its pages. The idea for it came from conversations over the years which suggested that an accessible overview of the Kirk’s story would be helpful for elders, church members and the general reader – perhaps even for ministers interested in a crash refresher course!"

 From Reform to  Renewal

The book takes us through all of church history until the present day. As well as being a book you can read from start to finish because of its user-friendly style it is also fascinating to dip into and if you do so you will find yourself caught up in some interesting topics.

You can read specific cases of how the church persecuted those they perceived to be witches because of a verse in the bible 'Though shalt not suffer a witch to live'  Exodus 22.18. Also the last execution for blasphemy in Britain was carried out under the orders of the General Assembly in 1697. Thomas Aikenhead had maintained that 'theology was a rhapsody of ill-feigned nonsense' and had predicted the demise of Christianity by the year 1800.

                                      Witches were often burned

You can also find out some of the background to our current order of service including the fact that a psalm is always part of our worship. Congregational singing was an important part of the Reformation and this took the form of psalm singing. Apparently 'such was there popularity and reforming influence that a 1543 Act of the Privy Council described them as 'slanderous Ballatis'."

                                                                         a tune from the time

In the 19th Century Robertson Smith, a scholar, caused a great scandal by stating the bible was not a set of abstract truths and this was against Calvinist understanding of scripture. Nowadays the ideas of Robertson Smith and other controversial scholars of that period are generally accepted. Another example of the church changing its ideas and renewing itself.

Of course we are interested in reform and renewal in our own age and examples are given of new initiatives by the church in the 21st Century when we realise that we cannot attract people to our traditional Sunday service. These include Messy Church and Heart and Soul. An interesting and challenging quote from the book is: 'Extrapolators are already working on the membership statistics to pinpoint the exact date when the last church member will put out the lights.'  A real challenge to the church to reform and renew.

You can download the first 50 pages of the book here