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The Rise and … Demise of Scottish AIF

It seems a long time ago since we became involved with SAIF. When we became engaged in October 1984 the RC chaplain of our alma mater gave us details of AIF. Bob was later to jointly celebrate our wedding with Avril’s minister at the time.

One of our earliest contacts with SAIF was at the annual (day) conference in October 1985, held in those days at Stirling University. The Association had been formed just the preceding year during the (2nd/3rd ?) International Conference of Interchurch Families in Dunblane.

Previous to that, interchurch families in Scotland had been members of a Great Britain-wide AIF.

The religious situation in Scotland is somewhat different from the rest of Britain in that the national church is the Presbyterian Church of Scotland rather than Anglican as in England and Wales. This makes for a more polarised environment, particularly in the west of Scotland from the historical perspective of RC Irish immigration in the 19th century. It was in consideration of these differences between Scotland and the rest of Britain that the decision to form a separate association was taken.

SAIF was always a relatively small association although we did manage regular local meetings in two locations in central Scotland for a number of years. One of our biggest difficulties was the lack of clergy support to provide theological weight to our case. We did, however, manage to obtain an element of recognition in the form of Presidents:

the late Rt Rev Bishop Alastair Haggart of the Episcopal church, who had always been a staunch supporter of interchurch families

the Moderator of the Church of Scotland (unfortunately a post which changes its incumbent every year so, after the one who accepted the position of President, future Moderators probably didn’t realise they occupied this exalted post)

a RC priest to represent the Bishop’s Conference of Scotland (was SAIF not important or significant enough to be granted a bishop?) The priest involved was as supportive of SAIF as he could be but his status was not what we had wished for in a President

Our first residential weekend conference, in 1988, was a major achievement in being graced with some excellent and important keynote speakers. These included RC Bishop Mario Conti whose responsibilities include ecumenical matters.

1992 saw SAIF hosting the (6th/7th ??) International Conference of Interchurch Families and a chance for us personally to renew friendships made during previous conferences.

Circumstances for many of the membership changed after that. The Chairman at the time, an Episcopal priest, moved from being a Diocesan youth officer to having his own parish to look after. Some families felt that they no longer needed the support of SAIF. Others, such as ourselves (association secretaries since 1986), started our families and no longer had the same time (nor energy) to commit to the task. Consequently, with no fresh membership nor willing new volunteers for the committee, the Association went into a "resting phase". Not much subsequently happened apart from occasional meetings in Glasgow between a few of the families. Every so often we had contact from folk wishing information or advice about interchurch family matters but not wanting any formal involvement.

About two to three years ago an attempt at revival was made starting from initiatives by Scottish Churches House and Martin and Ruth Reardon. A number of meetings were held at Churches House with a weekend conference planned for September of last year. The response though was disappointingly poor - the 2 sole remaining member families plus 2 other families. (The 3rd remaining member family had defected to American AIF in California in December 1999, living now not far from Barb and Michael Slater.) The weekend conference had to be cancelled as inviable financially.

Martin and Ruth discussed with us various options for the future of SAIF. After consideration of all possible avenues we took the decision to merge SAIF with AIF England/Wales, forming once again a GB-wide association.

As for the title of this report. Well, our Chambers dictionary includes in the definition of demise:

"to give to a successor, to bequeath by will"

SAIF as a separate entity may have gone but much was learned and achieved over the years. God willing, that will be built upon and interchurch families in Britain benefit further from it.

Gerald and Avril Dobson(Former) Secretaries, Scottish Association of Interchurch Families 4 July 2001