Minister’s Blog

23 April 2019

In one of his poems, RS Thomas talks about meeting a man on a journey ‘whose eyes declare: /There is no God.’ He encourages the traveller to pay no attention because there are others on the journey:

With the same creed, whose lips yet utter

Friendlier greeting, men who have learned

To pack a little of the sun’s light

In their cold eyes, whose hands are waiting

For your hand.

We have met them too – nameless strangers who radiate a little warmth, a little sunshine and who welcome us into their presence. They have discovered that there is something more important than religion and that’s our common humanity.

The poet advises us not to linger. ‘A smile is payment.’ He says. ‘The road runs on.’ He continues. ‘With many turnings towards the tall Tree to which the believer is nailed.’

There is a more eloquent witness to the power of love than the words of the evangelist and that’s the tall tree – the cross bearing, the forgetting of self, the suffering for the good of another!

Love is what unites. Love is not the preserve of Christians nor Muslims nor Jews but our common humanity. But the Tall Tree reminds us that Christianity has something deeper to offer in the one who suffers and dies for the other.

Minister’s Blog

22 April 2019 – Easter Monday

First Up!

With Easter being later, our Easter Rising was always going to be in daylight and with the change in the weather from the beginning to the end of the week, we had it made. Around 85 people of all ages climbed Traprain Law at 6-30am and joined in the service at the top. The large wooden cross had already been carried up the Law on Thursday and was still in situ.

Liz, who looks after the thirteen Exmoors, was one of the first to arrive. She brought news of the ponies. They  were on the far side of the Law and wouldn’t be joining  us. Not to be disappointed, she brought a bag of Easter Eggs for the children – one from each of the ponies, one from herself and one from  her dog! I hope he gave permission!

It was a very swift climb. The dry paths and the warming sun helped. But once you have carried up a wooden cross, nothing ever seems as challenging! The worship benefitted from the calm weather. Whilst we didn’t see the ponies, we did hear the lark ascending as the sun was rising over nearby Dunbar. People were reluctant to leave this peaceful sanctuary!

I spoke briefly about Notre Dame making a connection with our ancient kirks. The chancel at Prestonkirk was built at the same time as Notre Dame. In its constancy, it bears eloquent witness to the Easter Gospel to more people outside than ever enter its ancient walls just like the cathedral whose congregation on Monday night  included people of all faiths and none.

The kirk should never forget this for  Easter is almost exclusively  an outdoor event, celebrated in the garden, at  the beach, on  the road and up the hill  where borders and boundaries are replaced by the free air, the birdsong and the sunlight  and  we can rise together in unity because the love of the crucified Christ has already  risen within us!

Pews News – 21 April 2019

  1. Happy Easter! Welcome to the kirk and this celebration of the Sacrament where everyone is welcome to share the bread and the wine. May the peace of God be with you around this hospitable Table where the risen Christ is made known in the breaking of the bread!
  2. Coffee is served after morning worship at Stenton and from 10-15am in Prestonkirk.
  3. Flowers arranged by Jenny Harper (Stenton) and   Jane Hall (Prestonkirk). Readers are Brian Fowler (Stenton) and Mary-Catherine Scott  (Prestonkirk).
  4. Children are always welcome to worship with us especially on Easter Day. There is a Family Communion at both churches and crèche facilities available  in the Smeaton Room for under threes if required.
  5. There will be an Easter Egg Hunt in the Manse Garden after morning worship at Prestonkirk and during morning worship at Stenton
  6. The minister will be on holiday from 26 April until 3 May. Morning worship next Sunday will be conducted by the Revd. Maureen  Duncan. Anyone requiring the services of a minister should contact the Revd. Neil Watson t: 01368 860672.
  7. The Stenton Singers have a concert  next Sunday afternoon at 3pm in Prestonkirk.  Tickets cost £10 for LORD  from Moya Ramsay t: 01368 850283.
  8.  ‘The Rugged Pathway’ – An East Lothian Pilgrimage on Saturday 4 May beginning at St. Mary’s, Haddington at 9-45am and finishing at St. Mary’s, Whitekirk at 4-30pm, passing through Prestonkirk at 2-00pm. There will be tea/coffee available at the Stables. For more information contact Wendy Wilson e:  wendywilson64@googlemail.com
  9. Naxalbari/Scottish Evening on 17 May at 7pm in the Community Hall, East Linton with Indian and Scottish food, country dancers, Scottish songs and bagpipes. Tickets available from Libby (Stenton) and Elizabeth (Prestonkirk)  – £10 for adults but accompanied children are free.
  10. 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

21 April 2019 – Easter Day

Three things  impressed me about the fire at Notre Dame de Paris. Firstly, the opportunity. Although some stained glass will never be replaced because the techniques are lost to humanity, the fire does provide an opportunity for young people to learn the ancient skills required for the rebuilding. Here’s the phoenix!

Secondly, the people.  It  was  remarkable that so many people gathered in the streets of Paris to watch the conflagration. They were certainly not all Christian but two things were said about them. They were united in grief  and their unity was enveloped  in a worshipful silence. Here’s the true congregation!

Thirdly, the building.  This great House of God  bears eloquent witness to more people outside  than ever enter its ancient walls. For over eight hundred years, it has spoken to a community about Christ’s victory over sin and death! ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!’ Here’s our hidden and most effective evangel!

Minister’s Blog

20 April 2019 – Holy Saturday

One of the most spectacular events ever to take place at Notre Dame de Paris was the wedding of our Mary, Queen of Scots to Francis, the Dauphin, the heir apparent to the French throne.

It happened on Thursday, 24 April 1558, the second week of Eastertide. The crowds flocked to the square. Others hung out of windows to catch a glimpse of the tall, slender beauty who was marrying their short, weedy Dauphin as John Guy describes him.

Mary did two unusual things. Firstly, she let her hair fall down her back. It wasn’t tied up upon her head. This is what was expected. But in this way, its glory shone and her beauty was greatly enhanced.

Secondly, she wore white. This was very controversial. At the French court, white was the colour of mourning. Disregarding the convention, Mary chose it for her bridal gown.  White for purity, new life and Eastertide.

The young bride was not only Queen of Scotland but also heir to the throne of England. Her cousin, Elizabeth, was considered to be illegitimate issue. In the marriage, three kingdoms were potentially united under Mary and the Dauphin.

It wasn’t to be but on her  wedding day, Mary chose to wear the colour of mourning and gave it new life. She challenged the conventions and suffered for it. The people loved her vitality. It was like another Easter where mourning was turned into dancing. As the Psalmist says:

You have turned my mourning into dancing;

you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy! (Psalm 30;11)

Minister’s Blog

19 April 2019 – Good Friday

Among the treasures which were saved from the flames which destroyed the roof of Notre Dame de Paris was the ‘Crown of Thorns’. Apparently, it was retrieved by the Chaplain to the Paris Fire Service.

The relic was given to King Louis IX by the Emperor of Constantinople to secure his alliance.  The King built a special chapel to hold it. However, after the French Revolution, it was removed and eventually deposited in the Cathedral.

It is brought out of the treasury on the first Friday of the month and on every Friday during Lent for a special veneration mass. Many people have seen it and maybe they have been surprised for there are no thorns on the crown.

Apparently, it was spontaneously made by the soldiers. They wove a circlet of rushes together and embedded sixty or seventy crowns from the jujube tree. They were removed by the King and distributed to his allies who preserved them in other beautiful reliquaries.

There is no  way of telling that this was the actual crown of thorns. There may be other contenders. In a way, it doesn’t really matter for a crown of thorns sat upon the head of Jesus just before his crucifixion and today we remember it in the prayer of Father Andrew:

O Dearest Lord, they sacred head

With thorns was pierced for me;

O pour thy blessing on my head,

That I may think for thee.

Minister’s Blog

18 April 2019

Strange as it may seem, the screensaver on my laptop is a beautiful photograph of Notre Dame de Paris. It was taken by my elder son on his honeymoon. Unlike him, I have never been to Notre Dame but like Chartres and Rouen, it has been on my wish list for ages.

Notre Dame has been around for a long time. Building began in 1160 and was largely completed a century later. As such, it has witnessed many national and ecclesiastical events. Mary Queen of Scots was married in this kirk. Napoleon was crowned. Joan of Arc beatified.

Because of its ancient and constant presence, it is a building which has grown in the affection and esteem of the nation. But there’s more. Despite the strong communities of Jews and Muslims in France, the cathedral is a symbol of something much deeper.

Notre Dame is literally ‘Our Lady’ and refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is the one who gives birth to a Saviour and offers protection to a nation, uniting a city and a people in their grief for what was lost in the fire.

When the embers were finally extinguished and the smoke lifted, among the treasures which remained in Notre Dame was a gold cross and a sculpture of Mary holding the crucified body of Jesus. The survival of this  ‘Descent from the Cross’ during Holy Week is surely prophetic.

The gold cross standing amidst the wreckage of the fire  is a strong symbol of hope. The ministry of Mary, our Lady, lovingly embracing the dead child born from her womb, has already inspired many people to embrace this great House of God not for burial alone but for resurrection!

Minister’s Blog

17 April 2019

Hedgerows are very important – and there are many of them in the East Lothian countryside. Before the leaves begin to conceal the interiors, we can see the remains of last year’s houses. On the stretch of hedgerow from Preston Mains, I spotted one every three or four feet!

In our kirkyard, the Guides have attached a birdbox to one of the trees. It has a hole in the side to attract the bird, a lid at the top for inspection and straps attaching it to the tree. They were careful not to penetrate the bark.

They had consulted a countryside ranger and an environmentally friendly website to see how to construct the box. I hope they succeed in attracting a bird and find fulfilment in working harmoniously with nature.

A blackbird has already built her nest in the ivy which is growing in great profusion on the manse walls. There are four eggs in the nest awaiting  incubation. There will be multiple births by Easter.

Meanwhile the dipper dances on the stones in the Tyne. The heron stands imperiously on its banks. The hare is being targeted by coursers damaging the growing wheat with four by fours! And the badger crosses the driveway up to the manse as we return home in the dark!

‘Nothing is so beautiful as spring.’ writes Gerard Manley Hopkins before going to ask, ‘What is all this juice and all this joy?’ He sees it as a reflection of Eden’s garden. But there are more dead badgers at the side of the roads than we have seen in the manse and chasing hares for sport is not what God meant when he asked us to have dominion over all created things!

Minister’s Blog

16 April 2019

In the sixteenth century, Giovanni Bellini painted a curious picture. In the foreground, you can see two priests wearing their white and black habits. One is running away from a soldier who is trying to hack him to death with a pick axe. The other is being stabbed to death with a knife.

In the background, something curious is happening. A man is walking through the forest. A woman stops to think. A child is sitting with a dog  beside the trees. A forester is pruning branches with a sickle and another is chopping down a tree with an axe.

But no-one seems to notice the barbarity of what is happening in front of them. As we look at the painting, we want to shout out, ‘Wake up! Can’t you see what’s going on? These defenceless men are being brutally murdered. Don’t swing your axe and your sickle at the trees, come to their defence!’

But no-one notices! The priests are brutally murdered and no-one cares. No-one stops to help! The world continues to turn around as if nothing unusual is happening. The dog barks. The child is bored. The woman stops to think. The man walks on. And the foresters wield their axes and sickles and no-one is alive to the reality of this brutality.

Although we know it’s wrong, we are strangely sympathetic to the people in the background. We have to be. We have been there – walking through the forest, stopping to think, swinging our axes purposefully, never realising what’s going on in front of us.

‘Wake up! Can’t you see what’s going on?’ Although we hear and see the facts and figures relating to human brutality, indiscriminate violence, racial hatred, we do not always translate them into practical or political action. More often than not, we ‘re busy doing other things, safely ensconced  inside our beautiful picture frames.

Minister’s Blog

15 April 2019

Last Sunday marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda in which 800,000 people were killed. This represented 11% of the total population. A further 30% escaped into exile.

At a special ceremony to remember these events, the President said, ‘Our bodies and minds bear amputations and scars, but none of us is alone….We exist in a state of permanent commemoration, every day, in all that we do …’

In his analysis of what happened, the ecclesiastical historian Brian Stanley, reveals that the church was not an innocent bystander. If colonial history had a significant part to play, the church’s political aspirations did too.

In the three decades before the genocide, the government-controlled media increasingly referred to the Tutsi as  cockroaches and generated fear amongst the Hutu that the Tutsi where going to attack.

They had become dehumanised enemies of the state. ‘It was a stance directly contrary to any Christian understanding of humanity,’ writes Stanley, ‘yet during this period the alignment between the churches and the Hutu government that disseminated such rhetoric grew ever closer.’

How was this possible? In one area of the country, which had seen the start of a Christian revival, three out of the four Anglican clergy legitimised the murder of the Tutsi by an ‘appeal to Old Testament precedents such as Samson’s slaughter of the Philistines.’

Minister’s Blog

14 April 2019

Herodotus wrote his famous history around 450BC. In it, he refers to the construction of a baris, a ship made out of wooden planks and arranged like bricks. For centuries scholars have argued with each other about  the truth of his account.

The trouble was – no evidence. Recently, this has been rectified. A baris fitting the description in the work of Herodotus has been found where he saw it in the river Nile confirming the truth of his historical account.

It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right.’ said the Director of Oxford University’s centre for marine archaeology. ‘What Herodotus described was what we were looking for.’

The truth will out! For two and a half millennia, people didn’t believe what Herodotus wrote because there was no evidence to back up his narrative. But the lack of evidence turned out to be unimportant because what he wrote was always true.

The writers of the gospels are in worthy company. Maybe in 450 years, evidence will be available which will convince the remaining doubters that what is written about Jesus, Holy Week and Easter is true! But the evidence will not be important because the gospel was and is and always will be  true!

Minister’s Blog

13 April 2019

On Wednesday, we attended the Forth Children’s Theatre production of ‘Whistle Down the Wind’. The musical is based on the 1961 film of the same name. The music was composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber and the lyrics written by songwriter, Jim Steinman.

Moray McConnachie, one of our young people, was performing the part of Amos. He had a very convincing Southern accent and embraced the part convincingly. He had two numbers to sing. One with demanding sustained top As and another on a motor bike with a girl. Both memorable.

It isn’t often that the theatre invites an audience to consider the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ. But in this world of fundamentalist Christians eager to experience a miracle in their midst it is the perfect context.

Because of a misunderstanding, some children are convinced that an escaped killer is none other than the living Christ returned to earth to fulfil a prophecy that has been a long time in coming.

What I liked about the storyline was the confusion created by what was real and what was fantasy. This was evident not only in the narrative about the return of the Christ but also in the emerging teenage culture which clashed with the old values of the southern fundamentalists!

This clash between reality and fantasy is evident in our own world from Brexit through to the changing landscape of the kirk to the dynamics of family life. The beauty of the gospel is to be found in a reality which seems almost fantastical.

It was carried, as you may have expected, by the children who sing that memorable number, ‘When Children rule the World’. I remember it well for when Lloyd Weber sent tapes of the song to the Primary Schools, Riverside Primary learnt it and sang it in Logie Kirk at Christmas 1998:

We’re glad it’s clear, our Saviour is here
He’s gonna guard each boy and girl
No hunger or thirst, the last will be first
The night that children rule the world.

Minister’s Blog

12 April 2019

The article was only four small paragraphs long but it was enough to stimulate a theological thought. It was all about potassium. Apparently, if enough heat and pressure is applied to this metal something remarkable happens.

The atoms in potassium can exist both as solid and as liquid. Traditionally, matter exists as either solid, liquid or gas. But now the scientists have discovered this dual existence which may be replicated in other elements with interesting consequences.

I immediately thought about the risen Christ. His body looked as if it was solid. Afterall he could eat fish. But his body could pass through a door like gas! If the atoms in other materials can exist in multiple states, why can’t we? Easter and resurrection are beginning to look like the new normal!

Minister’s Blog

11 April 2019

All but one of the four groups reading the Old Testament have completed their assignment. It has taken eight weeks to read from Genesis to the end of Kings. It has been quite arduous in places and quite different from reading the New Testament.

The amount of violence in this section of the Bible has been quite alarming even for those of us who have read it and studied some of it before. There is no avoiding the disturbing nature of God as perceived by the Israelites at this time.

Reading about the indiscriminate slaughter of people sometimes attributed to God’s wilful vengeance puts contemporary  religious warfare into a more understandable context. Is this really our God or is it their perception of God?

Four consequences. Firstly, it makes us more wary about attributing actions to God. It is not uncommon to hear people say, ‘It was God’s will!’ or ‘That was God speaking.’ Or, ‘This was God’s revenge.’ Is it or was it and how do we know! Silence is a more eloquent witness.

Secondly, it makes us more humble about assuming that Christianity is a superior religion. How could it possibly be when it features so much brutality in the history it shares with Jews and Muslims alike?

Thirdly, it makes us more appreciative of the ministry of Jesus who reinterpreted the law and chose to suffer himself rather than fulfil the expectations of a warrior Messiah. For the Messiah’s reign of peace is not won out of the bloodshed of others but through  the shedding of his own blood.

Lastly, it encourages us to celebrate the wise articulation of our faith in the Declaratory Articles. There it says that the Church of Scotland believes that the Word of God is contained within the Old and New Testaments. This is quite different than being equated with all the words written there. We need to exercise discernment. And that’s a lifetime’s occupation!

Minister’s Blog

10 April 2019

On Monday, we visited our own house in St. Andrews and did some gardening. Mary-Catherine worked with the roses and I dug the vegetable patch and did some planting. We spent about four hours altogether and picnicked in the garden.

Throughout the entire time, we had  a very welcome companion. At the corner of the garden, there is a telegraph pole. A very animated blackbird was perched on top of it. Throughout the afternoon, he sang loudly and clearly and without taking much time off.

Apparently, blackbirds sing from the end of January until the summer. Studies have shown that the first to sing are the males which have been hatched the year before. Typically, they love to sing after  the rain!

I have never been so refreshed by a piece of music as I was with the song of the blackbird. Whilst the tones and the tunes were familiar, they had sufficient variety and enthusiasm to sustain interest and inspire industry.

‘Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.’ wrote Eleanor Farjeon in her beautiful poem, ‘Morning has broken.’ Although it is black in colour it has a very perceptive eye with an intelligent glint. It will always be for me the first bird of creation.

Minister’s Blog

9 April 2019

On 3 March, the Kirk Session decided to vote on the proposed union between Traprain and Athelstaneford linked with Whitekirk and Tyninghame.  Ballot papers were issued and elders voted in secret.

As it happened, twelve elders voted for the union. Ten elders voted against the union. And ten elders were not present to vote. It had been previously ascertained that absentees would not be able to vote by proxy.

Whilst I was surprised and concerned about the strength of the opposition, I was delighted that a majority of the Kirk Session had recognised the wisdom of moving forward together.

Following the vote in Kirk Session, I consulted the Presbytery and shared my concern about the strength of the opposition to the union. As a result, the Kirk Session was given a middle way to consider.

Acknowledging that the vote was for the union and recognising the strength of opposition, it was suggested that the Kirk Session could agree  to embrace  an informal instrument like a parish grouping with our neighbours.

This would mean acknowledging that the time wasn’t right for the union, freeing our neighbours to call a part-time minister and in the meantime continue to deepen our relationships  and explore the future together.

When the Kirk Session met again last Tuesday, it was clear that it  had two options. Either it could  go with the vote or it could  pursue  this middle way. A  third option to retain the status quo would have been out of order,  contradicting  the initial vote.

As it happened the Kirk Session went for the middle way. It was led  there by two elders one of whom declared that he had voted for the union and another who had previous spoken eloquently about the union.

Although they had voted for the union, they  suggested that we take the  middle  way. They encouraged us to move from   a union opposed by ten elders to a future which respected this opposition and provided a more inclusive way forward.

Some would say, it was common sense. But that is to play down the grace with which this view was articulated. For what I hoped for didn’t happen to  complement this initiative.

No-one who voted against the union revealed their identity nor did they  affirm the value of the middle way nor their willingness to temper their opposition to a union by embracing an informal instrument like a parish grouping.

Nevertheless, the Kirk Session voted unanimously for this  and when I asked if anyone  dissented no-one did.

Minister’s Blog

8 April 2019

For almost two  thousand years, the world believed with Aristotle that the moon was a smooth, unblemished sphere. When Galilieo got access to a telescope which magnified things by a factor of thirty, he discovered that it was ‘uneven, rough, full of cavities and prominences’.

If Aristotle  had got this wrong,  could his view that the sun orbited the earth also be challenged.  Galileo thought so. The church disagreed.  The Inquisition’s fear of change condemned Galileo and confined him to house arrest. But the truth will out. The apology took almost four centuries to come!

In the world of science, change took a very long time. In the Church too, it can be long in coming. Vision isn’t enough. We need to have faith, humility  to change perspective and the resolve to do something about it! 

But the truth will out. Change cannot be stopped. The powers are too strong for us for they come not from human beings but the living God who says:

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Pews News – 7 April 2019

  1. Welcome to the kirk –  and  may the peace of God be with you!
  2. Coffee after morning worship in Stenton and from 10-15am in Prestonkirk.
  3. Flowers have been arranged by Jenny Harper (Stenton) and  Patricia Brown (Prestonkirk). Readers are Denise Russell (Stenton) and  Joyce Patrick  (Prestonkirk).  Lenten Prayers led by Jemma (Stenton) and Sophie and Ollie (Prestonkirk).
  4. Children are always welcome to worship with us. At Stenton, there is an activity for the children after the children’s address. At Prestonkirk, children over three are invited to attend the Sunday School in the manse kitchen after the second hymn. Creche in the Smeaton Room.
  5. The Sacrament of Holy Communion  will be celebrated in both kirks immediately  after morning worship.
  6. Pre-Easter Lunch in the Stables after morning worship at Prestonkirk. There will be an Easter Basket and tickets are available from Anne (Stenton) and Yvonne (Prestonkirk).
  7.  ‘Smartie Challenge 2019’ – Over £900 was raised by the last Smartie Challenge so we’re doing it again. Smartie tubes will be handed out today  to those wishing to take part. Enjoy the contents and fill the tube with 20p pieces and return it to the fundraising team when finished!
  8. Palm Sunday Procession at  Prestonkirk next Sunday morning.  Meet at the manse at 10-45am.
  9. Date for your Diary – Easter Day is on Sunday 21 April and begins with a short act of worship on top of Traprain. Meet in the car park at Traprain at 6-30am. Come for bacon/sausage rolls etc at Alison Cargill House thereafter. Bring an egg to roll  if you like!
  10. On 14 May, our Twinning Group is organising  an Indian Scottish Evening to welcome Miku Foning and the Revd. Nirwan Subba to our parish. Indian and Scottish food, country dancers, Scottish songs and bagpipes. Tickets are available from Libby (Stenton) and Elizabeth (Prestonkirk)  – £10 for adults but accompanied children are free.
  11. 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

7 April 2019

On Friday evening, we attended the exhibition, ‘Funaday Dundee’. Ninety people had submitted art work for the exhibition. There were only two requirements.  It should be done in January and for fun.

I decided to write my blog in a different way. I reduced it to one word on the first, two on the second … and thirty-one on the last day of January. The blogs were then written onto irregular polygons and displayed as a spiral.

I was delighted to see that my contribution had been located immediately below David’s work in three Primary colours with black and white. Pamela had submitted very compact but atmospheric views of Dundee.

There were lots of imaginative exhibits. A woman knitted a jumper using wools from thirty-one sheep. A man  made a chess board with figures created  out of corks. A third person used her art to  reflect on her January days carrying a debilitating illness.

One of my favourites was the mother who divided an A3 sheet into thirty-one shapes. She placed her child’s toys in each space and on each day invited her child to choose a toy. This directed her to paint something in that section of the paper.

I loved the interaction of mother and child, the random choice and the element of play which she built into her project with the use of toys. The end result was a very bright but abstract painting celebrating a very playful January!

Perhaps we don’t need an excuse to be creative. But when we aren’t encouraged, it doesn’t necessarily happen. The beauty of this project lies in two things. It is open to  everyone – for  we are all artists. And it is for fun not for a sale nor a competition, simply for fun!

Minister’s Blog

6 April 2019

At the Reformation, the kirk abandoned the ecclesiastical hierarchy. There were to be no bishops in Presbytery nor anywhere else. We were an egalitarian church and this was reflected in liturgical changes. The cathedral was replaced by the upper room.

However, like hens in a farmyard, men, in particular, have always been keen on securing a pecking order. And so, the kirk was tarnished by the need to defer to those who were obliged to fund the building of kirk and manse. Hence the Laird’s Loft and its separate door.

Taxing people’s seats in the kirk with what used to be called ‘Seat Rents’ filled certain people with possession and they guarded their place in the kirk as sacrosanct. Even yet, with empty pews and plenty of seats some people still  play this farmyard game.

And what about the Laird’s Loft? In Stenton, it is now the organ loft, beautifully adapted, revealing none of its previous history. And in Prestonkirk, the Laird’s Loft and door is no more unless, of course, it has been moved somewhere else?

Minister’s Blog

5 April 2019

Apparently, men are spending thousands of pounds on their appearance. I suppose that includes what they wear on their bodies and put on  their faces. They are making a statement about themselves.

I know some who dress like dandies to attract. I am not sure if they want to attract other men or women or simply attract and be the centre of attention. But they remind me of a poem written by Robert Fergusson in the eighteenth century.

In those days, some men were following a fashion which made them look ridiculous – tight trousers, tall wigs, slim figures. The word which was used to describe them was macaroni. And so Fergusson describes his subject as, ‘Daft gowk in macaroni dress’.

I suppose it is a masculine prejudice to think it more foolish for men to dress like dandies to attract the attention of others than women. Both, of course, are foolish not simply by putting themselves centre stage but in denying the virtue of the gospel.

When Samuel came to crown a new king, his choice was contradicted by God  for, ‘Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.’ And as Peter says, ‘Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.’

Minister’s Blog

4 April 2019

Sending cards is a wonderful ministry. Sometimes a card arrives for the congregation. Recently, one came from America. On the front cover, it simply said, ‘Thinking about you!’ And on the inside, the message continued, ‘In thought, in word and in prayer.’

There was a text too. It came from the Psalms, ‘How priceless is your unfailing love.’ And the rest was handwritten, ‘In memory of our dear Mabel – Love and Peace – Anne’. Anne was Mabel’s cousin.

That would have been sufficient. They were moving and thoughtful sentiments. There was much effort in the purchase and sending of the card. But inside, there was also a hundred dollar bill for the kirk!

Anne wasn’t able to  attend her cousin’s  funeral. She had been ill in the autumn whilst visiting Mabel  and Mabel looked after her. There was much to remember for  Mabel was one of life’s givers and never lived a minute without accomplishing sixty seconds of distance run!

Minister’s Blog

3 April 2019

Stenton Primary had their Easter Assembly in the kirk. The children dramatized ‘The Snowdrop Story’. Most of the narration was done by the older children and the younger ones took the parts of the flowers.

Afterwards, the teacher said  that she had told the children the story but they dramatized it. They took the tale, added their own spin on it, divided it up into parts, allocated them, rehearsed them and produced a beautiful performance.

We never had such an imaginative piece of learning at school. If anything, our classroom activity was inhibiting. We weren’t allowed to move or speak or act without permission. And we were rarely encouraged to take an  initiative of our own.

But, we didn’t need to. As children, we dramatized our own stories in the back green. We even made up the story, allocated the parts, time-tabled the rehearsal, produced the play and then invited our families and neighbours to come and see!

I don’t remember anyone suggesting this nor do I remember any adults interfering with it. They gave us blankets for our curtains which we draped over the washing-line and I dare say one or two other necessary props but that’s all!

We never considered that this was an educational enterprise. This was imaginative play, the validation of individual gifts, a community festival where the child was king, the rules were made up as we went along and our innate creativity celebrated in a performance that sometimes came to an end with great reluctance!

Minister’s Blog

2 April 2019

It is interesting to see how the passage of time destroys reputations. Farmers and industrialists who pollute the land, the river and the sea may get off with it for a while but history soon catches up with them.

When John White’s company, J and J White Chemicals, was dumping Chromium VI on the land, the public was unaware of what this  toxic waste was doing when it was washed into the River Clyde by the rain. It causes cancer.

John White was ennobled and took a seat in the House of Lords as Baron Overtoun. A  park in Rutherglen was named after him. Now people in the community want Overtoun Park renamed following the revelations of his hidden and insidious legacy.

Some people cultivate a name for themselves and carefully curate their reputations but as time passes and perspectives change, the truth emerges. Better foregoing the estimation of others which changes with the seasons and use the only reliable measure – the full stature of Christ.

Minister’s Blog

1 April 2019

Now here’s an April Fool gleaned from Brian Stanley’s very well-written and stimulating, ‘Christianity in the Twentieth Century’. In his exploration of ecumenism, he explodes the myth that denominationalism is ‘a peculiarly Western disease’.

He considers the Presbyterian Church in Korea. In 1907, there was only one Presbyterian denomination in Korea, the Presbyterian Church of Korea. In 2011, there were no less than 215 different Presbyterian denominations in South Korea.

Jesus explicitly prays for the unity of the church. ‘May they be one.’ he says. ‘As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ With such foolish division in the church is it any wonder that the world hesitates to believe that Jesus is the Son of God?

Pews News – 31 March 2019

  1. Welcome to the kirk –  and a special welcome to all the children on the Cradle Roll who have come to worship with us on this Mothering Sunday. May the peace of God be with you!
  2. Coffee after morning worship in Stenton and from 10-15am in Prestonkirk.
  3. Flowers have been arranged by Lynda Jeffrey (Stenton) and  Kathleen McKinney (Prestonkirk). Readers are Jane Steven (Stenton) and  Tom Middlemass  (Prestonkirk).
  4. Lenten Prayers led by Lottie (Stenton) and Reuben (Prestonkirk). Intercessions are led by Denise Russell (Stenton) and Helen Hamilton (Prestonkirk).
  5. Children are invited to participate in the whole service this morning.
  6. The Guild AGM is on Tuesday at 2-15pm in the Stables.
  7.  ‘Bothwell and Mary’ – a lecture by David Affleck at the John Gray Centre on  at 10-30am. Free but booking is essential because of the demand. Contact www.johngraycentre.org or 01620 820690.
  8. Pre-Easter Lunch in the Stables next Sunday at 12noon. If you can help with sandwiches or tray bakes, please contact Anne, Eleanor, Pat, Yvonne or Alastair.  There will be an Easter Basket and tickets will be available from Anne (Stenton) and Yvonne (Prestonkirk).
  9.  ‘Smartie Challenge 2019’ – Over £900 was raised by the last Smartie Challenge so we’re doing it again. Smartie tubes will be handed out in April to those wishing to take part. Enjoy the contents and fill the tube with 20p pieces and return it to the fundraising team when finished!
  10. Date for your Diary – Easter Day is on Sunday 21 April and begins with a short act of worship on top of Traprain. Meet in the car park at Traprain at 6-30am. Come for bacon/sausage rolls etc at Alison Cargill House thereafter. Bring an egg to roll  if you like!
  11. ‘Traprain’s Got Talent’ raised £310 for kirk funds. Congratulations to everyone who  was  involved especially Aimee who came up with the idea and Moray who won!
  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

31 March 2019

We are beginning to get the message. It has taken us a long time. To be honest, it makes common sense. We just never thought it applied to us. But, we see it now. It applies to everyone except the ostriches with their heads in the sand.

Exercise helps us live longer and improves our quality of life immediately. This is obviously true for the physically fit pursuing a sporting interest to the highest levels but the good news is that it applies to anyone who takes even a little exercise!

The ‘British Journal of Sports Medicine’ has just published the results of a study which appears to show that even low-level physical activities will lower the risk of death by heart disease, cancer or, indeed, any other cause!

This includes simple things like walking and gardening. So instead of driving, walk a little more. Cut the grass. Bend down and pull  a few weeds. Hoover. Run up the stairs. Learn to live a bit more. Don’t die – and  certainly not with a death certificate marked, ‘Laziness!’

Minister’s Blog

30 March 2019

Last Saturday, we had an astonishing event in the Community Hall, East Linton. It was entitled, ‘Traprain’s Got Talent’. And it certainly has – bagpipers, pianists, singers, gymnasts, dancers, a solo comedian. Eleven acts in all.

Everyone got the chance to vote and Moray McConnachie turned out to be the winner. He sang an Elton John number and accompanied himself on the piano. We have known the teenager since he was a child and he has played regularly in the kirk. He will go far!

But the talent was not only in the eleven acts but in all those who contributed in other ways to the event – the flawless lighting and the sound engineers, the warm-hearted chairman, the ones who ran the bar and prepared the cold meats and cheese, the raffle donors …

There were two things which I really liked about this magical event. Firstly, it attracted an audience of all ages. Every decade was represented! Secondly, the initiative was taken by one of our recently confirmed members, Aimee, a teenager like Moray.

Her mum and the Sunday School leaders helped as did others like ‘Pix in the Stix’ but it was a young person’s idea and the magic was theirs to share. Would that we could entrust our youngest members with more. Who knows what would happen next?

Minister’s Blog

29 March 2019

One day, Jesus sailed across Lake Galilee to the country of the Gerasenes at Gerasa or modern Jerash in Jordan. There he met a man with an unclean spirit. It turned out that there was a legion of unclean spirits.

He appealed to Jesus to be healed. The unclean spirits were dispatched to an unsuspecting herd of swine some two thousand strong. They promptly rushed down the steep bank and drowned in the lake!

When he was there, Jesus wouldn’t have met a famous resident from Gerasa, a mathematician called Nicomachus for he wasn’t born until around 60AD and, of course, Jesus was no longer walking these parts.

But I am intrigued by the connection with Gerasa the more so if Nicomachus had been taught his mathematics there. For if he had, it seems likely that Jesus may have picked up some of it too.

I have never thought about Jesus as a mathematician but why shouldn’t a man as clever as Jesus have been exposed to these things? Although, Nicomachus wasn’t an original thinker, he wrote a famous ‘Introduction to Arithmetic’. It became the standard textbook for teaching the subject throughout Europe for the next thousand years!

Minister’s Blog

28 March 2019

The secret to walking to the South pole is to put one foot in front of the other and to do this enough times.’ wrote Erling Kagge. ‘The biggest challenge is to get up in the morning when the temperature is fifty degrees below freezing …’

I think he’s absolutely right – and I have found it to be true. The best conference I ever attended was an eight day event at Carberry Tower. It was on working with young people.

It was far too long but it was worth it because I learnt one of the most important lessons in my ministry with young people. The advice contained only three words. They could have been written by the polar explorers. ‘Make a start!’

That’s the problem. People have all sorts of excuses. There aren’t enough young people around. I cannot commit to every week. I am too old. These things may be true but if no start is made more damage is done to the congregation than you would think.

Congregations without children and parents committed to nurturing their children in the faith are in terminal decline. And it is all for the want of adults in the kirk making a start. So beware!  Seize the opportunity! It may not present itself again.