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Written by Peter Johnston   
Friday, 06 February 2009 19:49

Life and Work Survey

Apologies for the quiet blog this week. A combination of toothache - more about that later - and all spare hours being taken up on a job for Life and Work, the Church of Scotland magazine, as part of my role on the Publishing Committee of the Church of Scotland.

At some point last year I had mentioned the possibility of helping the Life and Work team analyse the results from the survey that appeared in November's edition of the magazine with the assistance of Robin, my stepdad, who had helped on a previous survey I did for presbytery. Needless, to say they took me up on the offer... [There's more...]

It took a lot longer to add all the information to the database than I thought it would. It was a long, long night last night with my parents on the other end of Skype analysing the data while I wrote up the report! However, the report was presented today in our meeting at Edinburgh and certainly provided much food for thought.

I was particularly struck while assessing the information at the age differential of the readers. By far the readership is of over-60s, and so pretty well represents the Church of Scotland as a whole, you can justly argue. However, it does lead one into a bit of a quandary, which is repeated in many congregations, ourselves included. Should Life and Work simply cater for its dominant readership, or expand its format to try to encourage a wider range of readers?

Should we, as a worshipping community, cater solely for one generation of people and do that well, or try to broaden our appeal to younger generations, knowing that for some older people it can lead to challenge of what they are comfortable with? I've always felt the tension and try to walk the tightrope between gentle challenge and opening of new doors while trying to keep connections to the past. I have to confess it doesn't always work.

It is a difficult issue, and I don't think there is one simple answer to it. Yet it is a tension that we have to face and work with if we are to continue to give people of all ages space to grow in their faith and commitment through their local church. To build for the future sometimes means difficult decisions in the present.

I've certainly been learning this past week that change (in my current situation it is change of the root canal variety!!) can be painful... and so some final words from Robert Burns in his hysterical verse, An Address to the Toothache:

My curse upon your venom'd stang,
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
An' thro' my lug gies mony a twang,
Wi' gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
Like racking engines!

When fevers burn, or argues freezes,
Rheumatics gnaw, or colics squeezes,
Our neibor's sympathy can ease us,
Wi' pitying moan;
But thee-thou hell o' a' diseases-
Aye mocks our groan.

Adown my beard the slavers trickle
I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle,
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup,
While, raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were in their doup!

In a' the numerous human dools,
Ill hairsts, daft bargains, cutty stools,
Or worthy frien's rak'd i' the mools, -
Sad sight to see!
The tricks o' knaves, or fash o'fools,
Thou bear'st the gree!

Where'er that place be priests ca' hell,
Where a' the tones o' misery yell,
An' ranked plagues their numbers tell,
In dreadfu' raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell,
Amang them a'!

O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o' discord squeel,
Till daft mankind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,
Gie a' the faes o' Scotland's weal
A townmond's toothache!

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