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Primus opens Scottish synod with a plea for those who, like Columba, come to the UK in small boats

09 June 2022

Scottish Episcopal Church

Synod participants take part in the global “Thursdays in Black” initiative to raise awareness of gender-based violence

Synod participants take part in the global “Thursdays in Black” initiative to raise awareness of gender-based violence

THE General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church opened on Thursday morning with a eucharist in St Paul’s and St George’s, Edinburgh.

It is the first in-person meeting of the synod since 2019, and has been set up as a hybrid gathering to include members who wish to participate over a video link.

The Primus, the Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, welcomed the return to in-person meetings: “I can’t tell you how good it is to see you all again — to see this church filled with eager Episcopalians.”

The Primus’s Charge focused on the challenges of maintaining hope and sharing the good news in the face of challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis, the war in Ukraine, and climate change.

“How do we offer hope in this situation? We do it through the way we behave, by the love we show, and by the determination to lead Christlike lives,” he told the assembled members.

“As disciples of Christ, we are called to offer hope, not to give in to those who tell us it is all pointless, that we are wasting our time, that we are deluded. . .

“And remember, when we stumble or fall, when we struggle to get back on our feet, we need to recall what Jesus told us: ‘Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Bishop Strange said that he had intended to end his address there, but felt moved to note that it was the feast day of St Columba, a sixth-century abbot who, in the Primus’s words, “caused a little bit of friction” in his home country of Ireland.

Columba “found himself caught up in aggression, war, and difficulties, got in a boat with a few friends, and sailed across eventually to Iona, where he founded a monastic community.

“Today, we remember a saint who came from one place to another in a small boat because of the difficulties at home,” Bishop Strange said. He drew a parallel with those who now cross the English Channel and face deportation to Rwanda under the new Home Office policy. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York both criticised the plans when they were announced shortly before Easter (News, 18 April).

Bishop Strange said that “those being deported came to the UK not out of choice but in an act of desperation, to flee persecution at a time when their lives were in danger.

“Their need is obvious and their fears are real, and yet our response is not to help them but to send them away. . . There must be another way; there has to be another way. . . Whatever else we do, we must make it known that we cannot simply pass our issues on to other places. We must be welcoming. We must find ways of truly being community.”

At the end of the service, after a rousing recital of the Celtic blessing “Deep peace of the running wave to you,” Bishop Strange declared that this was “a duly constituted synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church.”

“We’ll now adjourn for coffee,” he said.

The synod continues until Saturday morning. On Thursday, a large number of those attending participated in the “Thursdays in Black” initiative. The ecumenical movement, started by the World Council of Churches, encourages people to wear black clothing to raise awareness of of gender-based violence, and show solidarity with victims.

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