Posted by: Chris Hoskins | May 25, 2009

General Assembly – Saturday

Saturday was a long day! There were debates in the morning, the garden party in the afternoon and then a difficult case in the evening. The moderator started the day by talking about hope. I especially liked this part: “Hope is a theological virtue, not a form of escapism, but what Christians are meant to do”. I like that, it challenges us to hope, not in an ‘airy-fairy’ sense, but in a way that means our hope is for God’s kingdom, for the oppressed, for those who we seek to reach out to. He gave us this quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Aim at heaven, and you will get the earth thrown in, aim at the Earth and you will get neither’. He went on to talk about how he perceives a deficit of hope in todays society. Is there? He was also talking about how important it is for young people to dream dreams, but that he thought society often needs to ‘jump start’ young people in order to get them to try new things and to dream those dreams.

There were a few debates in the morning, the one I was most looking forward to was the World Mission debate. This was because I was planning on speaking during this debate about Israel/ Palestine. I wanted to speak about one of the things I experienced on the pilgrimage last year. One of the places we visited was a a community know as one of the ‘unrecognised villages’. This is one of the things I have still to blog about from that trip, but I will soon. For no, let me just type here the speech I was going to give the GA before the moderator asked me if I would mind speaking quickly!

Moderator, I would like to insert a new section 7 to the deliverance, reading as follows: ‘Instruct the council to research and bring information on the issue of unrecognised villages in Israel, in order that the Church of Scotland may be made aware of their plight and for this information to be brought to the General Assembly of 2010’.

Moderator, I am delighted by the content of the report on Israel & Palestine and by section 6 of the deliverance, as I was by the relevant sections in the Church and Society report and deliverance yesterday. It is important for the Church to be involved, in word and action, in this part of the world.

Last November, I had the privilege of being a part of the COSY pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The trip was, for me, life-changing. I find it impossible to imagine witnessing what I did out there and not be affected by it. The part of the trip that moved me the most was our visit to an unrecognised village. Before I went last year, I had never heard of an unrecognised village. For those in the hall who are in a similar position allow me to share a bit about the situation.

Unrecgonised villages are communities of Arabs who live on land that has been owned by Arab families for centuries. This land is wanted by the state in order to build settlements for immigrating Jewish families. The villages do not officially exist, they will not be found on a map. They have no water or electricity and have to fend for themselves in terms of healthcare and education. The families who live there live under daily threat of their houses being destroyed.

When we visited the village, we were welcomed like we were family. They couldn’t have made us feel more welcome! We were invited into the home of one family and offered snacks and beverages. My overriding memory of the home visit is of a young child being very excited to show our group their workbook!

I was quite shocked when walking round the village at the conditions these families live in. Every single home was pieced together or repaired with whatever materials could be found, many of the homes wouldn’t be out of place in a shanty town.

I didn’t know what to do or to say, as a group we asked what we could do to help them. Their answer was twofold; “pray for us and tell others their story, give them a voice”. I resolved that I would do both, and I come to the assembly asking them to help me fulfil this commitment. Moderator, you spoke this morning about the importance of young people dreaming dreams. I am a young man with a dream. A dream that these people can be heard, that their story can be told. I would dearly love this dream to become a reality and believe this assembly is the place where that can happen. I so move the Addendum.

I’m pleased to say that the addendum was passed. I’m glad that I’ve been able to take this issue forward to this level. I look forward to next year, to see where the World Mission council take this.

Not much to say about the garden party; I managed to get a quick chat with Bill Hewitt, I’d told him last year that if I came back this year it just wouldn’t be the same for me without him in the playpen (he’s been at ever assembly I’ve been at, or at least, he’s one of the people I most remember from previous assemblies). I was also able to chat to Marjory McLean and convey my thanks to her for all the encouragement and advice she has given me over my years at GA.

Saturday evening was interesting. At the start of the evening I wasn’t that as bothered about the outcome as I was about how the debate was conducted. I don’t want to talk here about the outcome, plenty of people are doing that, I want to talk about attitudes (again). I was worried that people would be hostile and disrespectful to one another during the debate. I think the way that the moderator handled the night was fantastic. He made it clear from the start that he would not tolerate ungracious behaviour and that he would not tolerate people cheering or jeering. Overall I thought everyone did a great job of upholding this. I thought that both parties did a great job of keeping focused on the actual issue, and not allowing themselves to be derailed from that. I was so grateful and proud for the respect, grace and dignity that was displayed for all those who were involved and by all those who spoke during the debate. The attitudes displayed gave me hope for the future debates that will be had on this issue.

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Responses

  1. Oh Chris, I think you are kidding yourself about Saturday. There is nothing gracious about hatred and bigotry, no matter how you dress it up, and that’s exactly what was directed at LGBT people like me on Saturday night.


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