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Scottish General Synod: ‘Don’t blame young people for not returning to church after lockdown’

17 June 2022

THE 2022 Synod sessions closed with a presentation by the Provincial Youth Committee. The original plan had been to let children and teenagers involved with the group deliver the presentation, but, for various reasons, none could attend.

Instead, the Revd Tembu Rongong (Moray, Ross & Caithness), the committee’s convener, addressed the Synod, and told the members that they should not blame young people who had been slow to return to church after the easing of lockdown. “Welcome them back,” he said, rather than say: “You’ve not been here for a while.”

Claire Benton-Evans, the provincial youth co-ordinator, said that it was “easy for us to get stuck” looking for the key to that “magic cupboard” that contained all the young people raring to attend church. “Of course, there is no such key,” she said. Instead, it was all about “building relationships”.

In a speech made by video link because she was suffering from Covid, Ley-Ann Forsyth spoke about being on a church youth camp when she was 12, and going through a difficult time after her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and her mother had attempted suicide.

During the camp, in a state of great distress, she encountered an “unremarkable man”, who was then “just plain Revd Mark Strange”. The Primus, now the Most Revd Mark Strange, who was chairing the session, was seated directly underneath the screen on which Ms Forsyth’s image was being projected.

He looked visibly moved as she described how “he saved my life”, simply with the words “OK, I’m listening.” This, she said, was the first time that she had been treated as an individual: previously, she had always been asked “How’s your mum?” or “How’s your dad?”

Ms Forsyth, who is a member of the youth committee, said that she emphasised that Bishop Strange’s words were “unremarkable”, because this was something “we can all do”.

“I think it’s really important that we as a whole Church recognise that it is the responsibility of all of us to recognise our young people as individuals,” she concluded.

Earlier on Saturday, the Safeguarding Committee had reported back through its convener, Richard Baker, who said that “it is clear we still have word to do.”

A motion was carried to expand the committee so that it could include “two additional individuals from outwith the Scottish Episcopal Church with safeguarding management experience at a senior level”.

The Primus, chairing the session, offered his thanks to the committee. “When I think back to my first appointment here in Scotland, we hadn’t really started any of this, but now it’s so important,” he said. The changes “work to keep us all safe”.

Click here for more coverage of the SEC synod

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