Minister’s Blog

17 October 2019

At my farewell to the congregation, I likened retirement to the season of autumn. In particular,  I talked about harvesting. A member of the congregation picked up on this theme and reflected on it in a card.

I pray that God will bless the latter part of your lives even more than the earlier part.’ she wrote. ‘Autumn is very fruitful and productive and after that the leaves fall to produce rich humus for the next Spring.’

In addition to the card which had been left at the front door of the manse, there were three plump, green cooking apples harvested from her garden. ‘I think we’ll make apple crumble.’ said Mary-Catherine. Let the harvesting begin!

Minister’s Blog

16 October 2019

Recently, I read a review of a biography of two famous politicians, Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee. The former famously led the country to victory in the Second World War. The latter formed the postwar government which radically altered the lives of ordinary people.

They both collaborated with  each other during the war to form a coalition government which saved the day. Leo McKinstry, author of the biography, summarises, ‘If Churchill was the giant of the war, Atlee was the hero of the peace.’

In reviewing the book, Andrew Rawnsey asks why they were titans and explains, ‘In war and peace, both had a capacity to raise their eyes above the petty squabbles of poisonous partisanship and fix their gaze on the wide horizon in the service of the national interest.’

There is a crucial lesson here for contemporary leaders not only on the national and international stage but also in the church and community. Collaboration and compromise are the most effective instruments to bring the new world to birth.

Minister’s Blog

15 October 2019

Someone I love is suffering. When I was at church last  Sunday on the Island of Lindisfarne, famous for its Northumbrian saints, Aidan, Oswald and Cuthbert, I lit a candle by the icon of Mary carrying her beloved Christchild.

I let them know about the candle lighting – and they were touched. I also said how cold it was in St. Mary’s Church to which they added, ‘Just as well you lit the candle!’ Where there’s a sense of humour and a lightness of touch, there is always hope.

Minister’s Blog

14 October 2019

The card with the amazing message was sent to me by my first charge, Forth:St. Paul’s. I left there in February 1990 and so to be remembered so affectionately by them after almost a  thirty year absence is very moving.

In the letter which was included, the person assigned to write it to me wrote, ‘Through the years, you ministered here at Forth:St. Paul’s, you helped nurture and guide us to a stronger, deeper faith, for which we will always be grateful.’

Obviously, this could not have been written when I left this charge almost thirty years ago. But with the passage of  time, the seeds sown quietly but faithfully have taken root in some good soil and have produced a rich harvest. It is the Gospel. Let this be our encouragement!

Minister’s Blog

13 October 2019

This week, I received a beautiful card. It had the best of all messages. Right in the centre of the front cover were the words, ‘You can’t retire from being amazing!’ In five words it got to the heart of the matter.

Sometimes we value our work too much and nurture an identity which is only partially aligned to our true selves. The farmer is more than a farmer. The minister more than a minister. Each one is first and foremost a human being.

The gifts which have been channelled into our working lives and  viewed exclusively through this prism, do not disappear when the pension starts to be paid. They are still there to be used in other spheres.

This came home to me most clearly when I thought about the loss of my pastoral work which I have found very fulfilling. It slowly dawned on me that the opportunities to listen and encourage other people are there all the time.

I don’t need to be titled ‘Reverend’ nor have a pastoral charge to be a pastor to another. It is what it means to be a human being. More particularly, it is what it means to be a child of God. And when Father Time comes calling with his scythe that is what I will be content to be – a child of God!

Minister’s Blog

12 October 2019

Stenton Primary School Harvest Assembly was in the kirk yesterday. The children excelled themselves with their homemade masks, puppets, songs, dances and tongue-twisters. They took us round the world in a celebration of other cultures. It was beautifully done.

At the end, I was presented with a homemade book of pictures which the children had prepared. Inside, they made several comments about the minister. ‘Like the grandad we never had, he fed us on Wednesday night …’

This was a reference to the juice and biscuits at J-Team. I suppose I did look like a surrogate grandfather! ‘He let us play lots of games at the end of J-Team.’ It was a lot of fun – and I shall never forget  it.

A third wrote, ‘He told us the story of Jesus like when he was buried.’ I hope this writer was there for the second instalment? A fourth demonstrated the value of telling stories.  I gave no moral but this child extracted one themselves.

I liked it when he brought the book about the tortoises and the hat. He used them to teach us about fairness.’ Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, as Jesus might have said. Who can tell what may be harvested yet?

Minister’s Blog

11 October 2019

On the cinema screen, I was alarmed to read that 3 million children die every year because of hunger. If you do the sums, you discover that this means that a quarter of a million children die every month and eventually this reduces to six a minute.

Six what? Yes – six children, six human beings,  die every minute in our world because they don’t have enough food to eat. And if you go a little bit further, you stumble upon the shocking statistic that a child dies every ten seconds because of a lack of food!

Do you know that you cannot reach the end of one of these paragraphs in ten seconds! And what are the educated leaders of the people doing about this horrific statistic? Is it because they are children and hidden from view that we can move so easily  on to the next news item?

Minister’s Blog

10 October 2019

I celebrated the Sacrament with the Guild yesterday and reflected on a lifetime’s involvement with the organisation. When my mother was in her thirties, she was treasurer and in every charge, I have worked with the Guild. They have three distinctive ministries.

The first is the ministry of friendship which enables women within the congregation and parish to get to know each other at a deeper level. The second is the ministry of hospitality. There is always food around. This is how Jesus shared the Gospel.

The third is the ministry of service. What other organisation within the kirk has celebrated an international dimension as much as our Guild with its series of imaginative and sometimes challenging projects which take us into less congenial areas of the world.

Above all, the Guild has vision. It is not me but the other. It is not only local but global. It is not temporal but eternal.  There is value in shaping the leadership of the kirk in the image of the Guild reflecting the ministry of Jesus and enabling us to live a life beyond our personal limitations.

Minister’s Blog

9 October 2019

It’s not every day that a parish minister reaches the pages of a national newspaper. Recently, this happened to the Revd. Brian Casey, minister at Springburn Parish Church, Glasgow. He was celebrating the profound impact which music had on people with dementia.

He was visiting a parishioner who could neither talk nor acknowledge his presence. In a moment of inspiration, he remembered that the man’s family had told him that he was a Kenny Rogers fan.

The minister got out his mobile phone and started to play ‘The Gambler’. It had an immediate impact on his parishioner. ‘He came to life in a way we hadn’t seen for some time and started tapping his feet in time.’

The minister and his congregation have harnessed this insight into the development of a group for people with dementia called, ‘Musical Memories’. It greatly enhances the mood of participants and has attracted members of their families to join in!

One of the last pieces of memory to go is the one for music.’ said the minister. I imagine this is because music carries an emotional memory and they  stick around the longest. Interestingly, the kirk charges nothing for this service. It is a gift of grace.

Minister’s Blog

8 October 2019

I have a copy of Andrei Rublev’s icon depicting the moment when Simeon encounters Mary and Joseph and the Christchild in the Temple. Simeon doesn’t speak in the moment that Rublev has treasured. He bends over to the Christchild lying in his arms and lifts the child up to his cheek.

It  is an act of God. For the Lord says through his prophet, Hosea, ‘I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.’ And with what did he feed them –  bread and wine, tokens of his undying love for us.

It is the most tender of embraces. The moment has been held in time for almost six hundred years – old Simeon holding the newborn Christchild and touching his cheek with his own.

The old and the new held together in the briefest of embraces,  celebrating the fragility of our humanity,  new life and old age.  It is both a welcome and a farewell  with nothing more than an old man’s blessing on a  new but radical world that is coming to birth. And so he sings his lullaby and his lament:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace

according to thy word:

for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

Minister’s Blog

7 October 2019

When I was minister at Logie Kirk in the nineties, there were a number of homeless people living rough in the woods surrounding the kirk. Some of them visited the manse which was located on the main road.

Throughout my ministry only one ever came into the kirk and worshipped with us. And he only came once. As it happened, we were celebrating the Sacrament of Baptism.

At the end of the service, I made my way to the kirk door. The organist was playing his voluntary. The people were sitting in their pews getting ready to leave. As I reached the door, my homeless friend stood up and called over to me from the other aisle for all to hear, ‘David, that was beautiful!’ He had tears in his eyes!

And that was all he said. And he never came back. But the interface between the homeless and those who were at home in our kirk had been breached. And we were left with a special gift – a question. What was beautiful?

It wasn’t just the baby which touched his heart nor the sincerity of the parents nor even the faithfulness of the minister and congregation. It was the hidden ministry beneath the sprinkling of the water – the new life,  fruit of Christ’s loving sacrifice upon the cross!

Pews News – 6 October 2019

  1. Welcome to the kirk and this celebration of the Sacrament. A special welcome to members of the kirk who usually worship at Stenton. May the peace of God be with you!
  2. Coffee is served after morning worship at Stenton and from 10-15am in Prestonkirk.
  3. Flowers arranged by Kirstine McKenzie.  Readers are  Jo Gray (Stenton) and   Sally Waterhouse (Prestonkirk). 
  4. Children are always welcome to worship with us.  Children over three are invited to attend the Sunday School in the Stables after the second hymn and return for the Sacrament later on. Creche in the Smeaton Room.
  5. After worship, there will be a reception for the congregation in the kirk to mark the minister’s retirement. Everyone is welcome to attend this. The minister will be at the kirk door to greet all those who are unable to stay.
  6. The Guild meets on Tuesday at 2-15pm in the Stables. There will be a celebration of the Sacrament and an Act of Dedication for the start of the new session.
  7. On Friday, Stenton Primary School are celebrating their Harvest Festival in Stenton Kirk at 9-30am. Members of kirk and community are invited to attend.
  8. The minister will be on Study Leave from 12 October-2 November. Morning worship next Sunday will be conducted by Eddie Yeoman. Anyone requiring the services of a minister should contact  the Revd. Neil Watson  t: 01368 863098.
  9. Many thanks to Alastair McConnachie and his team for organising the Harvest Lunch. As a consequence, £303-85 was raised for church funds. The Smartie Challenge has exceeded its target and raised £1,020. Marvellous!
  10. In addition, £321  was collected for Christian Aid at the Harvest Songs of Praise at Whittingehame. Many thanks indeed.
  11. The McMillan Coffee Morning organised by Pat Carmichael raised £335-50. Well done!
  12. Copies of Pews News are available in DJ Malcolm’s, the Post Office and Votadini. Items for next week’s issue should be sent to the Revd. David D. Scott t: 860227 or e: revdd.scott@gmail.com

Minister’s Blog

6 October 2019

Yesterday, Castle Brass visited Prestonkirk. It’s a ten piece brass ensemble made up of four trumpeters, four trombones, a horn and a tuba player. They were conducted by Stephen Gallaghan who introduced the ten players and the programme.

They certainly brightened up a dreich autumn day. Before we knew where we were, we had been fast forwarded into Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’. The snow and the ice took on vivid hues in the brass. It was beautifully supported by John Anderson’s warm accompaniment on the organ.

The hauntingly beautiful tones of Stanford’s ‘Bluebird’ and Ungar’s ‘Ashokan Farewell’ were separated by three movements from ‘Divertimento’ by Premru. This was my all time favourite – and I long to hear the rest.

In it, the brass seemed best placed to question the spinning earth and disturb its peace. The chaos of the first movement led into a reflection on the mystery of the universe and all its unanswered questions. The third movement brought everyone together in a big band dance!

We got an encore, ‘When I’m sixty-four’ by the Beatles. I’m just in that category! And the ‘Ashokan Farewell’ was played as a parting gift to Mary-Catherine and me, dedicated by one of our members, trombone player, Andrew Barker. It was very moving.

The whole concert showcased the versatility of the ten players and the brilliance of their music-making. We were all uplifted by the experience and left feeling that it was good to be alive!

Minister’s Blog

5 October 2019

Last Sunday, the children brought gifts of tinned food, pasta and toiletries for the Bethany Christian Trust. They  work with people who are homeless in the city and surrounding area. Chris McNeil, the Churches and Community Relations officer, wrote in response:

‘This tremendous generosity from the congregation of Traprain Parish Church is very welcome indeed and the food gifts are already being distributed to many individuals and families in need at this time.

This includes recently homeless people who have just acquired a new supported tenancy through the Housing First Initiative, as well as many coming to Bethany’s various community support drop-in projects in areas with high levels of food poverty and deprivation.’

At the foot of the letter was a summary of their philosophy. ‘Ending Homelessness in Scotland, one person at a time.’ I like this more modest approach to the perennial problem of homelessness. Individuals matter and something can always be done to help like handing in a tin of beans or a packet of pasta.

Minister’s Blog

4 October 2019

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi who famously developed a special means of communication with all living creatures – taming a wild bear, preaching to the birds, describing animals and birds as his brothers and sisters.

I am not sure what he would have made of a  day in which we are losing so many species of plants and animals. People in the parish have already noted the falling numbers of swallows and swifts.

For my part, it has surprised me that in my nine years living in East Lothian, I haven’t heard the cuckoo in the Spring. The only time I heard him give his distinctive call was at St. Cuthbert’s Cave on the way to Lindisfarne.

The other day, I discovered why this should be. A recent study has just revealed that the cuckoo is vanishing because of climate change. The changing weather pattern  has brought more heatwaves, floods and drought which affect the cuckoo adversely.

Interestingly, whilst some birds are vanishing others are increasing. What creates a bad habitat for one species actually helps to foster greater numbers in another. Swings and roundabouts, winners and losers but the cuckoo is an eccentric friend and it’s one birdsong which is immediately recognisable!

Minister’s Blog

3 October 2019

Right at the heart of the gospel, there’s the absence of Jesus. Although his friends are bewildered when he tries to prepare them for it, he says, ‘I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away.’

Somehow his absence is going to do them more good than his presence. ‘For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.’ His absence will be filled by his Spirit.

In his absence, we remember what he said and did. Our curiosity is aroused. What did he mean? Why did he do it? The words, the water, the bread and the wine, take on a deeper significance as his absence stimulates our search for truth.

As it happens, I have had four charges spread pretty evenly over four decades. ‘Which one was your favourite?’ people ask and I reply. ‘I had four charges and I have four children. I love my charges as I love my children – all equally but differently.’

And when my mother was disappointed when I left Logie for New Kilpatrick, she confessed, ‘I thought you would go to Logie and then go out to pasture …’ I was not interested in sitting comfortably in a charge. I felt God’s call to do other  challenging things.

When my work was done and the wind changed direction, I took my lead from Mary Poppins  knowing that there was much value in a ministry of absence where the Spirit of God could purify what was given and bring forth a harvest unbeknown to me when the time was right!

Minister’s Blog

2 October 2019

Some of the people who participated in the Community Bible Experience this year were upset that Moses didn’t get to lead the people into the Promised Land at the end of their journey. But why should he? It wasn’t his end. It was God’s. And he entrusted this final step to his successor, Joshua.

It may not have been a  good ending for Moses but God wanted it to be the beginning of a new ministry.  Some people cannot see this and never get it. We are only instruments of God’s grace not initiators.

We hold office only through his will and when we try to force it like Abraham, disaster befalls us.  Some people hold on  for too long and do not sense the right time to hand over to a younger Joshua.

The surprising thing is that although Moses was an old man, we are told that ‘his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated’.  He had much more to give but it was not the will of God that he should continue to lead the people.

He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab but it is said, ‘no-one knows his burial place to this day’.  It was shrouded in anonymity. There was no possibility that a shrine to his honour could arise. The honour was God’s and not his.

For he lived and  died in the spirit of Jesus who says, ‘One sows and another reaps.I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured and you have entered their labour.’ 

We may not live to see the harvest of our hard work, patience and even endurance.  But we let go  in  faith knowing that in the mystery of God’s grace, others will be the beneficiaries of our life’s work while no-one knows the place of our burial.

Minister’s Blog

1 October 2019

In the Parable of the Sower, there are three unexpected things. The first is the ministry of the sower. ‘Listen!’ says Jesus, ‘a sower went out to sow.’ And that’s all he did and that’s all he does in this parable.

And that’s all that we need to do too! We are told later on that the seed is the Word. ‘A sower goes out to sow!’ A preacher goes out to preach. A neighbour goes out to care. We go out in faith to scatter the seed and that’s all we are called to do!

The second unexpected thing is that a lot of this scattering of seed is wasted. It falls on the path, on rocky ground, in thorn patches and doesn’t produce a harvest. And that’s true of the sowing the Word.

Not everything we do will produce a rich harvest. Maybe most of what we do comes into this category. But we are called not to anticipate the end result but to go out in faith and scatter the seed!

The third unexpected thing is not that  some falls on good ground and produces a rich harvest some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred fold but that we have nothing to do with it.

In a former day, farmers acknowledged that the actual growth of the seed was a mystery for which they were not responsible. As rich beneficiaries, they were the first to share their harvest with the rest of the parish at the Harvest Thanksgiving.

Minister’s Blog

30 September 2019

Farmers plant seeds in their fields. Some seeds are planted on purpose in the garden. But there are many, many more seeds which travel from one place to another by other means.

Some are blown away by the wind. Some get caught in the soles of our shoes and fall off in a completely different place. Some get picked up by different creatures and are buried in the ground and forgotten.

In order to grow, they need to move to a different place. If they didn’t move away, they wouldn’t get buried in the ground nor would they germinate, grow and produce a harvest.

We have to move as well if we want to grow. That’s why people travel to other parts of the world. That’s why children leave home when they grow up. That’s why Jesus says, ‘Follow me!’

Like parachuting, hitchhiking seeds, we are called to go on a journey if we’re going to produce a harvest! And the best harvest of all are the fruits of God’s Spirit – joy, love and peace!