Successful partnerships between Church of Scotland congregations and overseas churches and trusts can have an “extensive and beneficial impact on the community”, according to a new study.
Research commissioned by the Panel on Review and Reform claims that the lives of people on both sides of the link can be significantly changed, most notably for younger generations, and this has a positive knock-on effect for their local area.
It suggests the benefits are particularly pertinent for those who have visited an overseas partner, or who interacted with overseas visitors whilst they were in Scotland.
Findings are contained in the Panel’s report to the General Assembly, which urges congregations to establish a world church partnership with another congregation or project relevant to their situation.
The research believes that such partnerships can often provide participants with a new and changed perspective on life, and are worth pursuing.
It says issues at home or in the church are seen in different terms and in a broader context, and problems that seemed huge become less important. Consequently, people no longer see the social habits and culture in Scotland as being “just the way things are” but as factors that can be challenged and changed.
The research also highlights a number of spiritual benefits, including strengthening the faith of a congregation, helping others in need and seeing how Christianity is practised throughout the world.
It also offers suggestions on how to establish and strengthen partnerships, including updating communication skills and finding solutions to communication problems in developing countries.
Among the recommendations are plans for a “mentor” system so representatives from more experienced partnerships can mentor new recruits, and a yearly conference and online presence for Scottish partnership churches.
Researchers found 162 worldwide partnerships between Scottish congregations and other countries, 47 of which are within Malawi.