Friday, 21 October 2016

The Church of Scotland in Jersey

From “The Pilot”, 1983, comes this interesting article from The Reverend P Kirby

The Church of Scotland in Jersey
By the Rev P Kirby

There has been a Church of Scotland presence in Jersey since 1972.

At that time the Presbyterian Church of England opted to go back into the Church of Scotland, rather than unite with the Congregational Church to form the United Reformed Church.

I say go back into the Church of Scotland, because St Columba's Midvale Road, St Helier, was originally founded and built in the 1850's by the Free Church of Scotland to care for Scottish troops and the Scottish community living in Jersey. Although the congregation has not changed in character to any great extent, and although the pattern of worship is not very much different from the worship of the English Presbyterian Church, its affiliation and loyalty, along with its sister church in Guernsey, now lies with the National Church of Scotland, and its main function is to serve the Scottish Community, which is quite large in Jersey, and to minister to Scottish tourists during the holiday season.

The Other `Established' Church

As I understand it, the aim of this series of articles is to provide information on the background, history and current thinking of various churches, all of which will be regarded as "Free" or "Dissenting" churches by the Church of England.

Thus it will appear strange to some of your readers to have an article written about the other Established Church in Great Britain, which is neither part of the Anglican Communion, or even episcopally governed.

The Church of Scotland is the National Established Church in Scotland, protected by law and acts of Parliament. It has territorial responsibility for serving the country, which it does by a parish system. Although recognising the State, it is totally self-governing, no members of the Royal Family, Ministers of State, or Parliament, having any power to interfere in the running of the Church, no power of appointment to any parish or elevated office, no authority to pronounce on any issue of administration, jurisdiction or theology.

Because it is the Established Church in Scotland, the Queen, and Royal Household become ordinary members of the Church of Scotland once they cross the Border into Scotland, and although they are held in great love and affection by all they hold no office in the Courts of the Church.

Ecclesia Scoticana

Although the Church of Scotland has been Presbyterian by government, and Reformed in theology since the Reformation, the history of the church can be traced back almost to the origins of the Christian Church. It certainly dates from the occupation of Britain by Imperial Rome.

The Christianity thus imported by soldiers and colonists extended on the West Coast of Scotland as far as the Firth of Clyde. St Ninian 362 - 432 carried the gospel to Galloway and later to Central and Eastern Scotland, as far north as Caithness. In the 6th century a Christian kingdom - the original "Scotland" - was formed in Argyllshire by conquest and colonisation from Ulster. This led indirectly to the conversion of the mountainous region of North Pictland, again by missions from Ireland, amongst whose missionaries was St Columba who was the founder of the Abbey of Iona.

The actual name "Ecclesia Scoticana" was first recorded in 880 after the union of the crowns of North and South Pictland. Up to the 12th century the Scottish Church was Celtic in Government - that is, it was monastic, not episcopal. It also failed to acknowledge the authority of Rome. In 1188 the sees of York and Canterbury tried to gain jurisdiction over the Scottish Church, but failed. In order to keep ecclesiastical autonomy however the Church of Scotland had to accept Papal authority, which lasted until the Reformation.

In the mid-16th century the controversy with Rome was reopened and the Church of Scotland definitely rejected Papal authority; it reasserted its responsibility as a national church and its subsequent right and duty to correct error and reform abuse in its own practice. The reformation which resulted has in no way affected identity, but on the contrary reaffirmed and strengthened the unity and continuity of the Church of Scotland with the one church catholic.

Despite what people outside Scotland may think, the church and the state in Scotland see the Reformation not as creating a new church which brutally thrust out the old, but a reforming of the old in which there was maintained a oneness and a continuing identity with itself, and what had existed from the beginning.

One of the earliest acts of the General Assemblies after the Reformation was to adhere, along with the Reformed Churches of Hungary, Poland, France, Switzerland and the Palatinate to a confession known as the Second Helvetic. It held, amongst other things, to the major ecumenical creeds.

The main subordinate Standard of Faith of the Church of Scotland is the Westminster Confession of Faith. From 1693 Parliament, at the Church's request, made it a legal requirement that all clergy adhere to the Confession. It has remained thus until the present day, being confirmed by succeeding Assemblies and also by Acts of Parliament of 1905 and 1922.

Clergy And Ordained Laity

In administration the Church is Presbyterian, that is, it is governed by a series of courts in ascending authority, made up of both clergy and laity in equal numbers. With the exception of the sessions, which are made up entirely of ordained elders, who are laity ordained for life to local church government and pastoral oversight, each court is a 50/50 mix of clergy and elders. Presbytery, the next highest court has a geographical responsibility for churches within its bounds. It has oversight of all matters of administration, law, and theology, and also the power to ordain ministers and induct them to charges.

The Synod again has the same proportion of clergy to laity, and has authority over several Presbyteries, acting as a Court of Appeal. Finally there is the General Assembly, which is convened once a year in Edinburgh in May. It meets for a week and is the ultimate authority of the Church in all matters. Again there is an equal number of elders to clergy. Approximately one third of all clergy attend on a rotating basis.

Each Assembly appoints its own moderator from the attending clergy, and officially his moderatorship lasts only for the duration of the Assembly. During the rest of the year he represents the church as a roving ambassador. There is no hierarchy amongst the clergy. All are equal, and there are no "promoted" posts at all.

Since the 1970's the Church of Scotland has licensed and ordained women both to the Holy Ministry and the Eldership. Elders, who are ordained laity, assist the minister in his pastoral responsibilities, and in the administration of Holy Communion, which is usually celebrated four times a year. It is the Kirk Session who have the authority to decide on the number of times Holy Communion will be celebrated.

Finally you may ask, Why a Church of Scotland in Jersey? Whilst we enjoy very warm relationships with all denominations in the Island, we are not associated in any way with the so-called "English Free Churches". Our prime function is to represent the National Church of Scotland and to care for ex-patriate Scots. Although our church here holds the status of a full parish of the Church of Scotland it serves the same function as other national churches abroad, that of an overseas chaplaincy.

In other words we are a National Church in a foreign land. Having said that however, I must point out with pleasure that we are a congregation of many different nationalities and backgrounds, sharing common Presbyterian allegiance, and this makes our church rich in a real and living way, and open to all. Perhaps that is why when we put up our Church of Scotland board we retained our sign "Presbyterian Church".

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