Tuesday 17th. February, 2015 – Off to Crieff 

I was given this huge bedroom on the ground floor – what an enormous bed (but very comfy – no wonder I slept in)

I was up and showered and in the car ready to set off for Crieff by six in the morning. It was far too early but an hour later would have been far too late, all brought about, of course, by the necessity of driving round the Edinburgh City By-pass. As it was I hit the by-pass just before seven and even so it took half an hour for that part of the journey. I arrived at Crieff Hydro before nine and was an hour early but that was better than the alternative.

My first impression of the conference was of an awful lot of people, there must have been sixty or seventy people present – that was my first lesson: not all presbyteries (nor presbytery clerks) are created equal. Some presbyteries have clerks, deputy clerks, secretaries and administrators. They have offices and all kinds of facilities. Some are just clerks doing everything from the dining room table of their already busy manse. I sat smugly thinking that I was the only one with a custom-built office in a barn (even if in every other way I was at the underprivileged end of the clerk’s spectrum).

We started with coffee, moved on through worship to a session on clerk’s concerns – and there were many, ranging through work-load and the complexities of data- protection, OSCR, child-protection and so on to the problem-solving, and person management situations in which people found themselves. I was taken off with a group of eight or nine other new clerks to be inducted into the mysteries of form returning and entrusted with a sheet of ‘very important dates’ by which certain returns had to be made, failure to comply with which the Church would spontaneously destruct itself – and it would all be my fault.

So that you can imagine what the conference was like, I took this picture before one of the sessions started

Next a session on useful statistics in which it was certainly suggested that the Church would start asking clerks for new and better data because existing data (which I had just spent a month extracting from Session Clerks throughout the presbytery) may not a) be very useful or b) be read by anyone.

Never mind, the lunch which followed was exceedingly good and I was sitting between my great friend Peter and the Presbytery Clerk of Ayr who presumably thought that I must be OK because I was a friend of Bill who, he told me, had already got the Moderator’s visit in 2016 organised. (Took a note on my pad, kindly provided by the Crieff Hydro, to start getting the Moderator’s Visit for this Easter organised.)

In the afternoon we received three presentations. One on ‘Assembly Future’ consultation, another on a review of the Discipline Acts by a very energetic lawyer (Robert Hynd) who seemed to rejoice in the fact that there were now going to be more criteria for disciplining ministers than at present, including a new crime of ‘conduct unbecoming’ a minister of religion. I was glad that mention too was given to the importance of trying to resolve matters calmly and quietly without recourse to the big stick. I was in truth quite taken-aback by the number of clerks who spoke of the discipline matters they had had to deal with. It is certainly not somewhere I hope to be.

We got some coffee (and a very good sugar donut) before embarking on the final discussion which was on strengthening regional Church structures. How could the Assembly Council assist presbyteries? Here we got into discussions about assistance with such things as local reviews and, in our group, about assisting presbyteries to use the 4% of ministry money allocated to presbyteries for their use.

After prayers, we moved into our rooms and Peter and I went for a drink before dinner. This time I sat between Peter and David (the clerk at Dumbarton and my neighbour from Helensburgh). It was a happy meal, the food was good and Peter splashed out on a really good bottle of wine ( he is one of the high-paid clerks, of course – and has an office, and a secretary who does all of the work) and afterwards we retired to one of the bars for a few more drinks. It was a good evening.

I retired to my room – a huge room on the ground floor of the hotel, big enough for at least one family and beautifully fitted out. I phoned Rachel who had been at Selkirk for the day at a business course and then Peter arrived and we talked into the night.


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