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The first court Listening Service in Scotland – intended to help people who may be upset or uncertain about attending a court – has been officially launched at the Edinburgh Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Court.
The Listening Service has been established by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in association with the Edinburgh Interfaith Association. It is staffed by volunteers organised by the Association, a body made up of representatives from the different religious traditions in the city. The initiative provides an independent confidential listening and support service to all court users.
The Edinburgh service is only the second in the UK taking up an idea first established in Bradford where a similar service is operating in the Magistrates and Crown Court. The concept is to help people who may feel the need to talk to someone during what can be an unknown and stressful experience of attending court.
The idea to set up the service came from the Rev Andrew Letby of the Edinburgh and Forth Circuit Methodist Church after he heard of the experiences of a couple in his congregation who had attended court for a case involving their son and felt the need for someone to talk to and help them understand a process they had never encountered before.
Volunteers has been recruited and trained for the new service. They are present in court at busy times and can speak to court users of all faiths – or none – who wish to engage with the service. Court users can also be referred to the service by court officials and partner agencies staff. The volunteers provide a listening ear for those who want to talk; help court users find their way around the building; or refer them on to other organisations and services if appropriate.
Welcoming the initiative Edinburgh Interim Sheriff Clerk Les McIntosh said: “Having someone available to listen can be a real comfort at a stressful time and we are pleased to be leading the way by making this new service available at the court. This initiative has the full backing of Sheriff Principal Mhairi Stephen, QC, and has the potential to provide a valuable service to court users, particularly those attending for the first time or those who are distressed or upset.”
It offers “a biblical and theological framework to help us respond, as followers of Jesus, to the emerging issues that we might confront. It is written in the hope that through it, many local Christians, both as individuals and congregations, will be stimulated to consider their responsibilities as a gospel people, in the face of the housing issues that are becoming an increasing reality in the life of our nations. For some this might be through the combined endeavours of the faith community, for others by seeking to reflect the priorities of God’s kingdom through their day-to-day working lives.”
Appreciating Church is a Christian ecumenical project which aims to encourage the church at a local and national level to engage people in an inclusive way, listening to ‘all the voices’, building on our existing strengths and skills, counting our blessings and co-creating a resilient church as part of the kingdom of Heaven.
Appreciating Church is about developing a self-sustaining Appreciative Inquiry (AI) community of practice across the churches, initiated and led by the United Reformed Church, in partnership with the Methodist Church, Quakers, and the Congregational Federation, with interest from individual dioceses of the Church of England and others.
Read how churches have used this approach.
A new chaplaincy initiative called ‘The Listening Service’ has been launched in Edinburgh, with a team of 19 trained chaplains from the city’s faith communities beginning work on Tuesday 6 December at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. These new court’s chaplains will provide an independent, confidential support service to all court users and staff – of all faiths and none. Court staff and staff from other agencies at the court (e.g. Social Work, Victim Support) will be able to refer court users to the Listening Service. The service is free, private and confidential; a listening ear for all who request it, when it is most needed.
The Project Leaders for the Listening Service are Rev Andrew Letby and Rev Hilda Warwick of the Methodist Church.