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Region: England, Wales and Northern Ireland

RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Church: The Free Church of Scotland

One person's experience of life in the Free Church of Scotland

This is one person's account of their own experiences in a Free Church of Scotland:

"I am part of the Free Church of Scotland. This denomination is very strong in the Western Isles of Scotland, where many of the services are in Gaelic, the traditional language of Scotland. The leader in a congregation is called the Minister. Ministers do not wear special clothes although some wear a special collar.

"The area where the service of worship is held is very simple. We don’t display a cross, but there may be a banner with a picture of a burning bush and the Latin words 'nec tamen consumebatur' ('however, it was not being burned up'). This comes from the Old Testament (Exodus 3: 1 - 3) where God speaks to Moses from the bush which seemed to be in flames but was not being destroyed. The 'burning bush' is a picture to us of God's presence with us.

"We don’t use instruments in our services. We sing only Psalms. We often use books called Psalters which contain the words and music we need. The singing is led by a precentor who starts the Psalm and then everyone joins in. If you are a young person in the Free Church, you become part of our Sunday School. In some congregations this takes place during the service. The children and their teachers go out after a children's talk by the Minister.

"When a person comes to believe in Jesus for themselves, they will usually want to sit at the Lord's Table (that is, take Communion). A service of Communion is held twice or three times a year. The Communion weekend usually starts on Thursday with special services and a visiting preacher.

Friday night used to be the 'question night' when the minister gave out a Bible text and invited the men present to speak about their own experience. This is still practiced in some congregations.

"After the Saturday night service those who hope to sit at the Lord's Table wait behind and receive tokens. These are small metal rectangles which say: 'This do in remembrance of me'. This was Jesus’ command to His disciples at the Last Supper. On the other side of the token is the name of the congregation that they belong to.

"After the sermon, before the Communion service, there is a special talk known as 'fencing the tables'. The preacher explains the meaning of the service and tells about the type of people who should be at the Table and who shouldn't. Those who wish to take Communion move forward during the singing of a Psalm and, after handing over their token, they sit down at tables (pews covered with white cloths) to take the bread and wine.

"A large number of congregations have an evening during the week when young people in the Church and the community can gather. Some of the bigger congregations have special Youth Workers. For the adults, services are held morning and evening on a Sunday and there is a mid-week meeting for prayer and Bible Study. There are other meetings for women and for men.

"We baptise children because we believe that the children of Christians are included in God's covenant (agreement) with His people. The baptism takes place at the end of a service. The mother and baby might arrive just in time for this while the father will have been present for the whole service. Sometimes the mother is accompanied into church by a friend.

"There are no Godparents but the whole congregation stands as the child is baptised, to show that they are taking a vow to pray for the child and to support the parents as they work to bring up their child in the Christian faith. Baptism does not make a child a Christian. That involves knowing Jesus Christ personally, and it is then that the person will know why their baptism was important."