An American tourist was being shown the sights of Edinburgh by a local cab driver. “There,” said the driver, pointing a hand, “is John Knox’s house.” “And who is John Knox?” asked the visitor innocently. The outraged guide turned to glower at him: “Away hame an’ read your Bible,” he muttered.
The reformer who so ungallantly reduced Mary Queen of Scots to tears made an improbable appearance in last year’s Souvenirs of Scotland Competition. One of the principal prizes went to an artist who had designed a pack of playing cards, with historical personalities featured as the court cards. John Knox was there—as the Joker.
Past his statue in the courtyard go Church of Scotland general assembly commissioners bound for their annual deliberations. If Knox had joined them this year he would have heard some sobering statistics: 1,000 fewer congregations than in 1929; 116,628 fewer members than in 1969; giving per member that amounted to 45 cents a week.
The Church of Scotland Year-Book used to supply statistics on total Sunday-school membership but stopped doing so after citing the 1970 figure of 220,873 (in 1901 it had been 467,479). The Committee on Parish Education gives 167,733 as the total for 1973 and is unable to give a later figure.
I apologize for this uncharacteristic flurry of figures; they are presented without comment and with the recognition that neither head-counting nor bank balance is a conclusive guide to the spiritual condition of a church. It is significant, however, when a church acknowledges falling membership and income and sets up a committee “to interpret the purpose towards which God is calling His people in Scotland.” In his speech to the assembly the convener, Professor R. A. S. Barbour, discussed the problem: ...1
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