Church of Scotland scraps annual 'Heart and Soul' event in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens

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The Church of Scotland has agreed to scrap its annual “Heart and Soul” festival held on the Sunday afternoon of the General Assembly in Princes Street Gardens.

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The event, billed as a celebration of the church’s life, included music, worship, performances and exhibitions, with churches and organisations showing off their work.

But it cost £50,000 to stage and after moving it online last year the Kirk’s Faith Nurture Forum decided it should be dropped altogether.

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The Heart and Soul event in Princes Street Gardens in 2018    Picture: Andrew O'BrienThe Heart and Soul event in Princes Street Gardens in 2018    Picture: Andrew O'Brien
The Heart and Soul event in Princes Street Gardens in 2018 Picture: Andrew O'Brien

A bid to win official backing for a similar event for the next two years was rejected by the General Assembly, though it could still go ahead on an unofficial basis.

Proposing the substitute event, the Rev Dr Jared Hay, former minister at Edinburgh’s Priestfield Parish Church, said: “Heart and Sound is Church of Scotland success story. It has become a beloved way in which congregations have been able to tell their stories and learn from others.”

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He said he accepted the decision Heart and Soul should cease but said there was enthusiasm for continuing the work Heart and Soul had done on an interim basis for 2022 and 2023 with an event based at St Cuthbert’s Church at Edinburgh’s West End and part of the next-door Princes Street Gardens. It would be run by volunteers at no cost to central church funds.

The Rev Rosemary Frew, convener of the Faith Nurture Forum, resisted his proposal. She said: “For some Heart and Soul was well-loved and the thought of it not being there is a real loss; for others it has been appreciated but the time has come to do a new thing; and for yet others, the time, the location and they style have just not suited.”

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But she added: "You don’t need our permission to do something – if you want to do something, do it.”

She said the forum was looking to do something different for a church that was now in a very different place.

Dr Hay’s proposal was rejected by 321 votes to 189.

Heart and Soul was launched in 2011 after the traditional Saturday afternoon garden party hosted by the Lord High Commissioner stopped the previous year.

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