PART ONE. Plenty to stimulate my old brain at the General Assembly today, but it was very much my emotions that were stimulated by a police representative from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre who showed a very powerful DVD that is used with young people to warn them of the dangers of being groomed in chat rooms on the internet. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to well up as the film progressed and my heart went out to all victims of paedophiles.
The CofS's Safeguarding Committee reported today and it was interesting to listen. They are continually striving to improve the already thoroughgoing commitment to protecting the vulnerable and disclosure-checking all our many many volunteers, as well as developing good systems of practice for those working with kids or other vulnerable people. I have met a few perpetrators in prison and I appreciate how calculating and scheming they can be.
The churches, tragically, used to be a fertile ground for paedophiles to operate in at times. Even more tragically there were sometimes cover-ups. I am not aware of such in my own denomination but it may have been so. I hope not. However much more often, I think, churches were just too naive and too trusting, and, like the rest of society in general, were less switched on to the subject.
I often tell prisoners at their induction session that the chaplain is someone to whom they can talk "reasonably confidentially" and I elaborate by telling them that obviously if they tell me they are going to blow up the jail I will shop them but also that I am legally bound to pass on matters to do with child protection (and have done so). The general prisoner population are no friends of "beasts" as they call them and are happy to agree to that.
PART TWO. On a happier note my heart was warmed by the speech given by a visitor to the General Assembly, the Special Commissioner to the UK for Malawi. Many countries were discussed this afternoon including Zimbabwe, Israel, Kenya and of course the recent disasters in Burma and China. But it was lovely to have this erudite Malawian (who in his day job is a linguist) speak of the very close friendship there has historically been between Scotland and Malawi.
When I was a wee girl I was a late developer when it came to pop music. My parents didn't have a record player and it was a while (probably secondary school) before I got my first transistor radio to listen to Radio Clyde and Tiger Tim (who once played a request for my friends and me. Woohoo!) At a younger age I knew all the words of Marie Osmond's "Paper Roses" but only because I'd heard them in the playground, and when my friends were all obsessing over which of the Bay City Rollers was the best, I had a different hero - David Livingstone.
I grew up within cycling distance of the David Livingstone Memorial at Blantyre in Lanarkshire and we visited it often. I had a book (one of these gigantic non-fiction books you get as children) called "The Great Explorers". I knew about them all but it was David Livingstone and his story (and, okay, Henry Morton Stanley too) that I loved the best. In that book there was a picture depicting the scene where David Livingstone was found dead, kneeling by his bed, having died at prayer.
I nearly became a missionary in the late eighties (a Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible Translators) but much as I still HUGELY respect missionaries today, even they would agree things aren't quite as tough as they used to be pre-aeroplane and pre-antibiotic etc.. So likely was it that malaria or other tropical diseases would kill them, the early missionaries took their coffins with them on the boat. And Mary Livingstone, the wife left at home, is at least as much a hero too. Wave upon wave went to Malawi and the Church of Scotland still contributes support to work going on there today and maintains many friendly links, as do our two countries generally. Judging by the length of the applause given to the Malawian commissioner, I wasn't the only one to have my heart warmed by this warm hearted African from the so-called "warm heart of Africa".