“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6.31
I'm not sure Falkirk in the heart of the Central Belt of Scotland would jump to mind as a "quiet place" in which to "get some rest". But here we are: the Church of Scotland's Faith Action Programme Leadership Team getting away from it all for a day apart with Jesus. It's the idea of our convener, Tommy MacNeil, to refresh us spiritually, mentally and physically in preparation for our task. Which is?
For some, this is the last desperate throw of the dice for the national church. Through decades we have been on a trajectory of decline with no sign of anything other than crash landing. That is not to say that the Church of Jesus Christ is in danger of collapse. Nothing touches that. It is entirely about whether our denomination has a future as a living branch of that church or as a dead one which must be snapped off for the health of the tree as a whole.
In his book Sleeping Giant, Tommy appeals to a different analogy, also from the Bible: the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37). The significance of this reference is the hope that it offers. The bones are already dead but, on account of the prayerful prophecy of Ezekiel inspired by God himself, the bones experience resurrection - and more: they arise a mighty army! So our task is not to save the Church of Scotland (as if we could) but, offering ourselves to God in faithful obedience, to be instruments in the Kirk's recovery of its founding mission: to win Scotland for Christ, only this time not in opposition to other churches but in partnership.