The Committee on Christian Life and Work
The Committee on Christian Life and Work was appointed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1869 ‘to inquire as to the progress of Christian work in this country and further to consider and report as to the best means of promoting evangelistic efforts’. In the initial years the main practical work of the Committee was information gathering. The General Assembly would assign ‘queries’ to the Committee regarding social conditions and Church engagement in parishes throughout the country which the Committee would research by sending out questionnaires and communicating with Ministers and Presbyteries at local levels. Over the years the work of the committee became more focused, they began to identify opportunities for engaging people in Evangelistic work and providing spiritual guidance and social care in communities.
Life and Work Magazine
One of the earliest and lasting successes of the Committee was the establishment of Life and Work Magazine. In response to the need for a distinctively Scottish magazine which could be circulation in parishes and able to be specially adapted to any particular Parish or District by means of a local supplement. The magazine would address the spiritual issues, help readers to confirm faith and make scriptures more accessible and better understood. The magazine would showcase successful work of the Church, setting an example to ministers and include practical observations from a broad spectrum of society.
The Young Men’s Guild
The Young Men’s Guild was established to engage the young men throughout the country and encourage them to take an active part in the Church. By 1882 the Guild had over 3000 members. Among the notable activities of the Guild was the provision of welfare tents for the Territorial Army which began in 1904. During the First World War the Guild established 25 centres, manned by 350 workers, in France and Flanders.
The Organisation of Women’s Work
Between 1884-1886 the Committee investigated the work done by women in communities, they received a wide range of responses "from ministers and from their female helpers have come many requests to the Committee for some provision for training, some recognition and organisation of those who are trained… ministers frequently ask the Committee to recommend bible women, the Church of Scotland does nothing to train bible women”. The Committee reported to the General Assembly on the need to train women as Zenana Missionaries, Nurses and Sabbath School teachers, pointing out the vital work carried out by women in parishes and lamenting that ‘At present their talents and energies are not made the most of and both they and the Church are losers by this’. The General Assembly approved of this suggestion and it was decided to provide training through the establishment of the Women's Guild in 1887. The general aim of the Guild was to unite together all women engaged in the service of Christ in connection with the Church or desire to give help or any practical Christian work in the Parish. The Deaconesses Training Home, St Ninians Mission was established shortly in 1889 to give a home and practical training for such women as desire to be set apart as deaconesses or to give themselves to Foreign Mission work or to be better trained for parish work or to be district nurses. Although it was soon established as being independent from the Committee the Guild worked closely with the Committee and its predecessor bodies, often raising much needed funds and providing valuable support to the social services of the Church.
The Deaconess Hospital
The Deaconess Training Hospital was founded in 1894, to provide practical training in nursing for deaconesses. Although this was its primary goal, it also provided a much needed medical service in the local area before any kind of health care or district nursing service was available. The original hospital had 24 beds. Extensions in 1897 and 1912 brought this total up to 42. Emergency beds added during World War I further increased the number to 68, but these were reduced after 1918, so that in 1920 there were 50 beds. In 1936 the hospital reopened following a major reconstruction which increased the number of beds to 100. In 1948 with the introduction of the NHS the hospital was given over to the Edinburgh Southern Hospitals Group.
The Committee on Social Service 1904-1919
The General Assembly established the Committee on Social Work in order that the Church could take its full share in social and rescue work. From its inception the Committee on Social Work was regarded as an ally of the Minister of the parish and its services were to be a complement to the parochial ministry, offering a means of assisting with personal and domestic problems beyond the resources of congregational life. At the outset, it was made clear that the Church of Scotland Homes and Agencies would be available to all in need, irrespective of class or creed. The initial work of the Committee was centered on rehabilitation and providing shelter and training to the destitute poor. Hostels for working young men and women, rehabilitation centres and training homes for men and women were quickly established in areas where they were needed most. Between 1904 - 1919 the Committee opened 19 services as well as providing short term relief efforts such as soup kitchens and clubs for the unemployed as and when they were needed. The Committee also took over the running of the Women's Employment Bureau in Glasgow, helping women to find part time or full time domestic employment which would also allow them to care for their families. In 1905 the Committee registered as a Discharged Prisoners Aid Society and the Hon. Katharine Scott, was appointed Police Court Sister, responsible for the care of women and girls. At that time there was no probation system and few voluntary organisations were in this field. Soon after she commenced duty, it became obvious that, without some form of residential accommodation, there was little prospect of rehabilitating women and girls who had no home of their own so a flat was rented in Atholl Place, Edinburgh. Another Court Agent was appointed in Perth to take up work among discharged prisoners in 1906 but unfortunately the records of this work are patchy and do not give details of how it progressed.