Whither the Kirk?

I watched with interest the BBC documentary last night about the Church of Scotland. (A Church in Crisis on BBC 1 Scotland) I guess that those who were hoping for a celebration of 450 years since the Scottish Reformation were a little disappointed. The programme was something of a lament and really rather sad.

They kept coming back to the question, “What would Scotland miss if the Church of Scotland did not exist?”. That’s not a great starting place, but there was no great attempt to answer it either and that’s more the fault of those making the documentary I think rather than those contributing. It would have been good to get some more voices into the mix. Surely there are some Scottish politicians ready to speak up for the C of S? Or ecumenical chums?

The overall feeling of the whole piece was a loss of morale. That’s interesting to compare with the Scottish Episcopal Church. We’ve suffered much the same numerical decline, I think and starting from a low base too. (If the C of S had our numbers, it would be presumed to have virtually disappeared already). However, there is no loss of morale. We’re talking about expansion in this diocese. When we bicker, we are likely to be bickering about how to bring that expansion about. Though bickering is not generally much fun, there are sparks of life within those arguments. We talk about turning things around and growing again. That might be a belligerent denial of reality of course, but the hope still burns strong.

I’m puzzled as to why the C of S folk went on national television and said the things they did and coloured in the picture which the BBC had already begun to paint of apparently inevitable, terminable decline. I guess lament is part of the psyche in Scotland. There was something of a sense of the maudlin songs one sometimes gets at a particular point of a good ceilidh. You know, the point where folk have been drinking but are not drunk and someone starts to sing dreary songs that everyone knows but can’t remember being taught. Sometimes in these parts we like to wallow in it. Was that what we were seeing last night on the telly?

Of course, there’s no good watching something about the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation and presuming that one is merely an observer. My own church has roots in that movement just as much as the Church of Scotland does. Its where we come from and part of who we are. Notwithstanding that, quite a lot of Episcopalians, myself included, would be keen to say that the Scottish Reformation was not entirely a Jolly Good Thing.

And that opinion was missing from the BBC’s programme last night too.