Two presbyteries of the Church of Scotland have come together to sign the ‘Tarbert Declaration’, a commitment to fellowship together, to work together and to share resources in areas of common interest.
For some time the Presbytery of Lewis (covering the Isle of Lewis) and the Presbytery of Uist (covering Harris, North Uist and Benbecula) have been discussing a closer association, and now the ‘Tarbert Declaration’ formalises a closer cooperation between the two presbyteries.
First introduced into the Church of Scotland in 1579, the concept of presbytery was then a forum for the spiritual development of its members, through reflection on God’s Word and fellowship.
Nowadays the presbytery is the governing body of ministers and elders, responsible for a number of congregations over a particular region. Altogether there are 45 presbyteries in the Church of Scotland, including the Presbytery of England and the Presbytery of Europe.
Recognising the tendency for modern presbyteries to become purely administrative agencies, the ‘Tarbert Declaration’ seeks to recover the idea of fellowship and spiritual nourishment while providing a mechanism for the Presbyteries of Lewis and Uist to share resources in the discharge of key functions such as the statutory appraisal of local congregations, safeguarding provision and Data Protection implementation.
Under the ‘Tarbert Declaration, the two presbyteries will meet together once a year with a clear focus on fellowship and spiritual nourishment while the day to day business of both presbyteries will benefit from a pooling of resources and access to a wider range of expertise. This innovative approach – pioneered in the Western Isles – could serve as a blueprint for the wider Church as the General Assembly encourages presbyteries across Scotland to cooperate to a greater extent than they have in the past.
Moderators of both presbyteries signed the Tarbert Declaration during a special service in Tarbert Church of Scotland, Harris, on Saturday 10th December 2016.
PHOTOGRAPH: Left to right: John Cunningham (Clerk to Lewis Presbytery), Rev Dr David Donaldson (Moderator of Uist Presbytery), Rev Dr Ben Johnstone (Moderator of Lewis Presbytery), Wilson McKinlay (Clerk to Uist Presytery) signing the ‘Tarbert Declaration’.