An ecumenical project aimed at improving engagement between churches and members of the Scottish Parliament has been described as “hugely important” by local politicians.
SCPO held a Holyrood reception this week for the Meet Your MSP project with people from congregations, church leaders and MSPs.
Brian Whittle, MSP for South of Scotland MSP, congratulated the initiative on what had been acheived so far adding:
“Meet Your MSP is a hugely important project – churches are a really good place to visit to find out what is happening on the ground and understand what is going on.“I have a particular interest in charities and church communities which often deal with people in the most need, and [as part of the Meet Your MSP project] I went to see a church project working with the homeless in Kilmarnock and spent time with the service users and providers.”
MSPs Liam Kerr, Maurice Golden and Brian Whittle at the Meet Your MSP event
Ross Greer, MSP for the West of Scotland and member of Bearsden Cross Church, said the initiative illustrated the “essential two-way relationship” between churches and politicians.
The Meet Your MSP project encourages churches to meet their MSPs in a variety of ways including coffee mornings, visits to local projects, and special services. More than 60 Meet Your MSP events have already taken place across Scotland since the project, which is run by SCPO, began last June.
The reception was sponsored by Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, who praised the project for being an important way to break down barriers between churches and their elected representatives.
Rev Susan Kirkbride of Peedie United Reformed Church in Kirkwall, Orkney spoke of the positive experience her church had when they invited their MSP Liam McArthur to a church event, and Irene MacKinnon of SCPO told the audience what the project had acheived.
Rev Susan Kirkbride of Peedie United Reformed Church in Kirkwall, Orkney
Maurice Golden, MSP for the West of Scotland, recently took part in a Meet Your MSP event at Linwood Parish Church in Paisley.
“The project is a fantastic idea – it is more important than ever for churches and church communities to engage with politicians.”
MSP Ross Greer added:
“I love the Meet Your MSP initiative because, for me, the church is a mission.“It is not just about spreading good news but also doing good things in the world and being involved in your community.“The project enables MSPs to support what the church is doing and allows congregations to lobby them to make national legislation better and get them to fix something in the local area.“It is an essential two way relationship because we know that churches are at the core of so many communities and MSPs are supposed to represent everyone in that community.”
Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and Richard Lochhead, SNP MSP for Moray
Rev Donald McCorkindale, minister at Strontian, Ardgour and Morvern Parishes in the Highlands, described the Meet Your MSP project as “terrific”.
“We held a meeting with our constituency MSP Kate Forbes and regional MSP John Finnie which was very worthwhile,” he said.“If there was a conceived disconnect between parliament and people in the constituency before the meeting, it was certainly broken down.“A lot of the conversation we had was around community empowerment.“In these days of cutbacks, communities have to find new and innovative ways to do things that might have otherwise belonged to government and local authorities.”
Marjorie Clark of Perth Presbytery and Rev Donald McCorkindale
Marjorie Clark, convener of Perth Presbytery Church and Community Committee, said it was important that MSPs “know what is happening in churches”.
The St Matthew’s Parish Church member said:
“We have a reasonably good relationship with our constituency MSPs, John Swinney and Roseanna Cunningham, and have spoken to them about local issues over the years.“They are not unknown to us and have told us before about just how important it is for them to engage with the community.“I have found this event inspiring and would encourage all church members to engage with the Meet Your MSP project.“I will be going back to Perth and looking at ways in which we, as a community, a presbytery and ecumenically, can do more to continue the conversation with our MSPs.”