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 for some time now and the ‘Tarbert Declaration’ formalises a closer cooperation between the two Presbyteries.
The concept of Presbytery was first introduced into the Church of Scotland in 1579 when it was a forum for the spiritual development of its members, through reflection on God’s Word and fellowship, long before it assumed powers of administration and governance.
Nowadays, Presbytery is a governing body of Ministers and Elders, responsible for a number of congregations over a particular region.
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 per 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.
The Tarbert Declaration was signed by the Moderators of both Presbyteries during a special Service in Tarbert Church of Scotland, Harris, on Saturday 10 December 2016.
Pictured at the signing are: 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).