Princess Anne calls General Assembly ‘a place for reasoned & civilised debate’ during week of Scottish engagements

Princess Anne is spending the week in Scotland, where she opened this year’s General Assembly on behalf of The Queen. The Princess Royal called it a place for ‘reasoned and civilised debate’

Princess Anne was appointed the Lord High Commissioner for the General Assembly by The Queen (Church of Scotland)

The assembly – which represents Scotland’s church – is taking place from 20-26 May at the General Assembly Hall on the Mound in Edinburgh. Over 730 commissioners from congregations across Scotland and beyond will come together to take part in the event, a unique mix of debate, tradition and worship.

Anne said the numbers worshipping in church may be falling, but ‘there is still a need for spiritual leadership’ which is greater than ever: “The importance of the General Assembly has been reasoned debate and that reasoned debate is in quite short supply at the moment.”

The assembly’s website describes this year’s theme:

‘Word of Life’; a rich, multi-layered theme that invites each one of us, whether we are at the heart of faith or on the fringes of faith, to think about what, for us, those words might be: hope, welcome, peace, mercy, kindness, love and so many more. Whilst the words will adapt and change throughout our life journey of faith, they help us understand and give texture to the focus of our faith, Jesus of Nazareth, the embodiment of ‘Word of Life’.

Anne was appointed Lord High Commissioner by her mother, The Queen, to observe the proceedings and report back to the Monarch as Head of the Church of Scotland. The Princess Royal performed the role in 1996, too.

The first official duty was the Ceremony of the Keys at the Palace of Holyroodhouse on Friday, marking the handing over of the keys of the City of Edinburgh by the Lord Provost to the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister attended the first day of the assembly, where Princess Anne proceeded into the hall with great fanfare. She addressed the congregation.

The Princess Royal helped launch a campaign for mental health later that afternoon, called CrossReach.

“These Grey Cakes reflect what it must be like to live under the fog of depression or anxiety. Underneath the grey exterior, there is a person struggling to be seen and heard,” the Moderator, Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning said, thanking their Royal guest.

“When people have poor mental health we very rarely get to see what’s going on underneath the surface. Through the work of our social care charity, CrossReach, we know people with mental health problems can face a 6-month wait to access support services.

“We are inviting communities across Scotland to bake these Grey Cakes and hold bake sales to increase awareness of mental health issues and raise much needed funds for support services in their area.”

Sunday saw a General Assembly service at St Giles followed by a Gaelic service in Greyfriars Kirk; then it was to the Heart and Soul festival for the Princess, as part of the General Assembly proceedings. This took place in Princes St Gardens, which recognises the work of the Church in supporting people facing poor mental health.

Other topics will be discussed at the assembly, including: a special report on Israel/Palestine prepared jointly by the World Mission and the Church and Society councils, the new CrossReach campaign, the Church’s social care council, and same sex marriage with an apology ‘for hurt caused in the past’.

Today, Anne visited the marina and the Stair Park community garden in Stranraer as the assembly continued, which was established in 2015 to improve the standard and quality of life for people with learning disabilities. Here, she opened the new Babcock engineering building at Rosyth Dockyard in Fife, Scotland.

Princess Anne will dissolve the assembly on Friday in her capacity as Lord High Commissioner.

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