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Kirk Session Conference 2003

The annual Conference of Abbey Elders took place on Saturday 22nd November when the Guest Speaker was Dr. Andrew McLellan who is currently Her Majesty`s Chief Inspector of Prisons (Scotland.‘Alias’ The Very Reverend, Dr Andrew McLellan, the title ‘Very Reverend’ being an indicator – in the Church of Scotland anyway - of one who has been a former Moderator of the Kirk’s General Assembly; in Dr McLellan’s case, the Millennium Assembly of the year 2000.

A former Minister of Edinburgh: St Andrew’s and St George’s Parish Church, Andrew McLellan is also a former Convener of the Kirk’s Church and Nation Committee where his skills of intellect and articulation were particularly prominent. Given such a distinguished background therefore, the Abbey Kirk Session felt sure that he would have much to say that would be both stimulating and profitable. And so his visit proved to be.

Taking the individual letters that make up the word PRISONS, he spoke about Prisons generally, Rehabilitation of prisoners, the prisons’ Inspectorate, prison Staff, Opportunities for Christians and congregations to be supportive anent the needs of prisoners, prison staff and the victims of crime.

Nelson Mandela was highlighted as an example of one whom imprisonment had not embittered and it was noted that, in his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, Mandela declares that a nation ought to be judged not by how it treats its higher citizens, but by how it treats its lowest citizens. S, finally, stood for Scotland and the Chief Inspector concluded that the problems of jails are the problems of Scotland.

Following some group discussion on two questions set by the speaker – viz., (a) Put in priority what we want our prisons to do, and (b) What, if anything, does Christian faith have to say in relation to crime and punishment? – It was universally felt that Andrew McLellan had given the Kirk Session so much that was practical and relevant to those aspects of the human condition with which he’d dealt. All in all, yet another successful Conference.

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