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Predicament PR will not solve

It's yet another grievous blow for the Church of Scotland: its senior media spokesman resigns just weeks before its most crucial General Assembly in generations takes place in May.

Yet I've recently, and reluctantly, come to the conclusion that no amount of clear presentation, forceful communication or even effective spin could help our national Kirk in its current predicament.

For it's only notionally a national church now. It no longer coheres as a national body; it is withering away and it cannot speak to Scotland, let alone speak for Scotland, any more. When it does try to communicate with the Scottish nation, the messages are often contradictory, and frequently unheard.

There are two significant ironies here. The first is that while the church may be irrelevant at national level, it is often very relevant indeed at local level. At this congregational level it is capable of energy and relevance. Many of its hundreds of congregations across Scotland are full of lively, committed, and enthusiastic folk, regular attenders at services who give generously of their time and money and are active in all sorts of ways beyond worship, though worship is important to them. And these enthusiasts are not all middle-aged or elderly.

Of course there are other congregations, often in rural areas, often without a minister, which are failing, and indeed barely have the strength left to die. But at local level the picture is most certainly not one of consistent gloom.

The second, lesser irony is that meanwhile the media director for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Peter Kearney, is so good at his job that I seriously think that the new Pope, whoever he may be, should offer him a job in Rome as head of communication – worldwide.

Harry Reid is a member of the Church of Scotland and the author of Outside Verdict: An Old Kirk In A New Scotland.

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