Life

The Church of Scotland

What is worship in the Church of Scotland like?

The Church of Scotland is one of the largest organisations in Scotland. The responsibility for the running of the church is held by both the members and minister. They also share the task of taking care of the parish. Some church members are ordained as ‘Elders’. The Elders and the Minister (who may be a man or a woman) form the “Kirk Session” where together they make key decisions about the future of their congregation – that is, the local ‘kirk’. However, that doesn’t mean that they do all the work! Everybody who is part of the church is encouraged to make the most of the gifts and skills that God has given as they try to put the example of Jesus into action in our local communities.

The Bible plays a central part in the church’s life. The people who started the Church of Scotland wanted to make the Bible easily available to ordinary people. (At the time, only people who were rich or educated had a chance of reading it.) The church continues to believe that the Bible is relevant and challenging for people today and that it contains the inspired Word of God. It helps in understanding who we are and who God is.

The Church of Scotland has a strong tradition of preaching stretching back to the times of John Knox and the Reformation. It is a really important part of worship in the Kirk and is one way of expressing the will of God – ‘God’s Word’. In many places, the Lord’s Supper (or ‘Holy Communion’) is celebrated two to four times a year. This is less often than in some traditions and makes it a very special event. The Minister will usually lead the service from a set order, reminding people of the story of the Last Supper and then giving out the bread and the wine. All members of the Church of Scotland are invited to take part in the Lord’s Supper, and local churches can also decide to permit children who have been baptised. The Minister may invite members of other denominations to join in the Lord’s Supper. For a long time, people came forward to sit round tables, just like Jesus did with his disciples all those years ago. This still happens in some congregations. In others, people place white cloths on the pews to suggest a table where everybody is sitting. Kirk is for people of all ages and backgrounds. Young people are incredibly important to the life of the Church of Scotland. In Sunday School, youth clubs and other church activities children make friends and become part of the ‘church family’.

Baptism is really important to the church. Mostly it is children that are brought for baptism. However, adults may be baptised too and when they are they may be ‘confirmed’ at the same time. (This is often called ‘Admission to the Lord’s Supper’ or the ‘Public Profession of Faith’.) Baptism with water is an image of being ‘washed clean’ – of starting life all over again and being chosen by Jesus as one of his disciples. If you are baptised in a Church of Scotland church, this will also be recognised by most other denominations. Baptism is about becoming part of the whole church, not just one part of it.

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