Minister’s Blog

20 May 2018

Well, Meghan Markle wore a white dress afterall with a very long veil embroidered with the distinctive flora of every country in the Commonwealth. This was a very welcome gesture for it speaks of the bride and groom’s participation in a bigger, more diverse racial community.

The guest preacher, Archbishop Michael Curry, who is descended from African-American slaves, preached about the power of love to transform the world. He took his text from the ‘Song of Solomon’. The passage was read by Prince Harry’s aunt, Lady Jane Fellowes, his mother’s sister:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.’

The Anglican Church afforded the grandeur of the location and the colour of its liturgy, coupled with the understated manners of its participating clergy and office-bearers making the perfect foil to illuminate what lay at the heart of the ceremony, the love of two young people.

The best thing of all was that almost two billion people, almost a third of the world’s population, participated in one way or another in a Christian marriage. On several occasions, the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed that we were meeting ‘in the presence of God’.

Both the preacher and the form of words used in the liturgy spoke very eloquently about the sacrificial love of God celebrated in his Son whose ministry has the power ‘to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.’

Minister’s Blog

19 May 2018

With all the bad news which fills our heads and hearts, TV screens and i-phones, it is a great delight to see how people have been attracted to participate in a Royal Wedding albeit down in Windsor!

Weddings are not so common in kirks as they used to be. A number of people are not getting married and don’t see the need to commit to each other publicly and to promise to love each other until they are separated by death.

An increasing number of people are being married by humanists and celebrants. It is no longer fashionable to get married in a church and to centre the wedding ceremony on the undying love of Jesus, the Bridegroom dying for his Bride, the Church.

So Meghan and Harry bring three gifts to the world today. Firstly, their love and it’s a real blessing to love and be loved. Secondly, their faith for they are being married according to the rites of the Church of England.

Thirdly, their vulnerability. Meghan’s dad is unable to participate leaving Meghan with a dilemma. ‘Who will walk me down the aisle?’ Many brides will feel for her but her vulnerability has a charm about it.

Royal weddings are not immune from problems and the problems which arise authenticate them and enable us to see that even princes and celebrities are human beings and their weddings no different from those  which take place within our own communities.

Families are fragile. Not everything goes according to plan. Not everyone is willing to sing from the same hymn sheet. But the promise to love until separated by death is worth striving to keep for this is what binds families, communities and nations together and provides the peace and stability we enjoy today.

Minister’s Blog

18 May 2018

On 18 May 1843, a 175 years ago today,  the Revd. John Thomson, minister at Prestonkirk, followed Professor David Welsh, the Moderator and others like Dr. Thomas Chalmers out of the Kirk to form ‘The Church of Scotland – Free’.

The presenting issue was patronage and the people’s right to participate in the election of their minister – a right which was evident in the early church. This had been displaced by the Patronage Act of 1712.

This was an act of the UK Parliament which was passed with much opposition from Scotland. It gave birth to three Scottish schisms. The last was the Disruption in 1843. The Kirk had tried to circumnavigate this by passing the Veto Act in 1834 whereby the people had the right to veto the patron’s presentee.

As you can imagine, difficulties emerged and it was eventually tested in Parliament. In 1842, MPs voted to uphold the rights of the patrons despite a majority of Scottish MPs voting against it.

The Kirk had already declared that it did not support patronage a year before the Disruption and the Patronage Act was eventually repealed in 1874. Parliament eventually acknowledged the error of its ways! It was thirty years late!

By this time, John Thomson and another 450 ministers had walked out of their manses, given up their healthy stipends, the work of their glebes, the security of their living on a principle much bigger than patronage!

‘The Church of Scotland – Free’ was freed not just of patrons but of the State and state interference in the ongoing life of the church. It was a principle born out of enormous sacrifice and one which has left us uniquely placed in the whole of Christendom.

As the National Church, the Church of Scotland has a relationship with the State. But unlike its sister, the Church of England, the state has no involvement in its affairs. We see this most clearly in the General Assembly where the Queen or her Lord High Commissioner, sits apart and only speaks when invited!

Minister’s Blog

17 May 2018

St. Paul famously writes about the gifts of the Spirit. Two things are said. Firstly, we don’t have a choice. It is the Spirit who chooses to whom a particular gift is given.

Secondly, gifts are given for the common good – not  for self-aggrandisement nor  as rewards for work done nor  to mark out one member over against another. No! The gifts of the Spirit are given for the benefit not of one but of all.

His chapter on gifts is concluded with what he calls the ‘more excellent way’ – the way of love. Gifts are not sufficient in themselves. I may have the gift of teaching but if I do not have love, the fruit of the Spirit, how valuable will my teaching be?

We have all experienced teachers who didn’t seem to like children. It always seemed to me to be a reasonable requirement  for entry into the profession. But some are unable to journey along this ‘more excellent way’.

Fortunately, they are in the minority as Steve Turner discovered. Long after he had left school, he wrote a poem about one of his teachers. She taught him how to tell the time, hold a pen, recite his times tables.

‘You planted seeds inside me’ he concludes, ‘But did not see them grow.’ It’s an investment, an act of faith, a labour of love, you might say. For the gift is given without regard for personal gain, seeds planted for another to harvest!

Minister’s Blog

16 May 2018

There is a third thing for which the writer to the Ephesians prays and that’s power – in particular, ‘the immeasurable greatness of God’s great power’. This power has become evident in the resurrection and ascension of Christ. God raised him from the dead. God seated him at his right hand.

In this place, Christ is above all our boundaries and borders created by denomination, nationality, race, political party, sexuality, gender, age and fulfils the promise, ‘And I when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.’

It’s clearly a reference to the work which Christ effected upon the cross, in the resurrection and ultimately ascension. It’s a ministry of peace-making and reconciliation which we should strive to fulfil in the smaller and greater affairs of the day.

Minister’s Blog

15 May 2018

The writer to the Ephesians also prays that they may have riches, qualified as ‘his glorious inheritance among the saints’. This is not about money and its deceptive appeal to happiness  but the  wisdom of appreciating what has been given to us and what we are going to do with it.

For fourteen hundred year, our forebears have proclaimed the Easter Gospel, ‘Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’ We stand on this unshakeable witness which has withstood so much political and ecclesiastical upheaval and survived!

We have here no abiding city, we look for the city which is to come.’ says the writer to the Hebrews. We are at peace because our citizenship is in God’s Kingdom encouraging  us to embrace people of all nations and to espouse the values laid bare by the crucified Christ.

Minister’s Blog

14 May 2018

In his letter to the Ephesians, the writer prays that God may give the Ephesians ‘a spirit of wisdom and revelation’ as they get to know Him. It’s not the wisdom of the world. One of its supreme characteristics is hope.

It is described as ‘the hope to which he has called you’. Hope is part of our calling. It is an integral part of being a Christian. If you have no hope then you are in denial about your Christian witness.

One of the markers of today’s Kirk is evident hopelessness about the future. The changes which may have to be made in parishes across the country to accommodate a lack of ministers and finance frighten people and diminish their hope.

But our hope is not in ourselves nor in our abilities nor even our vision of things to come but in Christ. The ascension of Christ lifts us up beyond the borders and boundaries of person, party or state into a more hopeful place.

Minister’s Blog

13 May 2018

In his splendid book, ‘Ancient Wisdom, Modern World’, the Dalai Lama makes the point that ‘genuine, lasting world peace will only be possible as a result of each of us making an effort internally’.

He talks about the need to ‘disarm internally’ and to get rid of our negative thoughts, emotions, ideas. In addition, we must become aware of the sufferings of others.

It is thus essential that we remain sensitive to others and, recognising their equal rights to happiness, do nothing that would contribute to their suffering.’

Minister’s Blog

12 May 2018

Leo Wringer came from Jamaica. His parents settled in Britain in the 1950s. He was educated in England and became an actor. Initially, the jobs he was offered were stereotypical roles like servants and criminals.

Things have been changing in the theatre. Recently, he played a country squire in ‘The Fantastic Follies of Mrs. Rich’. In one of the national newspapers, a reviewer asked the question, ‘Was Mr. Wringer cast because he is black?’

The hidden assumption was that casting a black actor in this role was one step closer to securing greater inclusion and an Arts Council grant! The implication being that Leo Wringer was not cast because he was the best actor for the job but the best actor for a grant!

He was rightly insulted ‘Why shouldn’t I play a country squire?’ he asks. In period drama, the country quire wouldn’t have been black but does that matter? Theatre is all about suspending disbelief!

Think about the pantomime! The dame is usually played by a man and the hero by a woman. Think about War Horse! No horses here but a very effective frame operated by three or four technicians. But it was as real as any horse could be on a stage!

Imaginative casting awakens us to different ways of looking at the drama and the world and challenges us to reach beyond the superficial boundaries of skin-colour to the quality of artistic endeavour.

As Wringer said after Martin Luther King, ’I have a dream that my boy will one day live in a world where he will not be judged by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.’ And his ability to act, suspend disbelief and awaken the world to a new way of seeing!

Minister’s Blog

 11 May 2018

It’s interesting that some of the things which have been introduced to Nursing Homes and work with older people in the community could come into the category of play.

Earlier in the year, the Courier had an article about a Nursing Home which had invested in equipment which used ceiling mounted projectors to create light and sound games to engage the imagination of those taking part.

The light creates the illusion of leaves falling, flowers opening, fish swimming – another world which stimulates communication and interaction between the participants.

Play allows three things to happen. It enables us to forget ourselves, to engage with others  and, above all,  to enjoy ourselves!

Minister’s Blog

10 May 2018

Old age brings with it all sorts of different problems. The most pervasive is loneliness. ‘Loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.’ said the head of the Mental Health Foundation. ‘It’s as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!’

Recently, the Foundation warned the Scottish Government that around 120,000 older Scots could be living with undiagnosed mental health conditions resulting from loneliness and isolation.

One in four experience depression when they feel lonely. Sixteen per cent say it leads to anxiety. A quarter don’t want to bother family or friend. Twelve per cent say that social media has replaced face-to-face contact which helps to relieve depression.

One person who had five hundred Facebook friends described their life as lonely. Facebook may have a place in our lives but it can never be a substitute for friendship, the warmth of human contact, the stimulation of doing things together.

Minister’s Blog

9 May 2018

The manse garden has been transformed in a remarkable way. Shane Gray and his squad have been in to cut back the laurels which have been growing so vigorously that they had grown out of control.

Light has entered the darkest corners of the garden and welcome vistas have opened up. From the garden we can now see the kirkyard, the daffodils growing on the path’s edge, the stone wall and beyond it, the sun dancing on the Tyne as it flows under the White Bridge.

Walking up the avenue, we can now see into the manse garden and behold, the grandeur of the manse. Its distinctive porch and sitooterie are prominent features but it was hidden from the general public. Built in 1770, it is a treasure worth show-casing.

Just as the garden needs radical pruning so too the life within. Sometimes it is good to step back and iradicate some of the things which have preoccupied us for far too long. What hidden vistas await when this inner pruning is complete – light, living water and the long view!

Minister’s Blog

8  May 2018

Sir Alex Ferguson had a brain haemorrhage on Saturday morning and has undergone an operation. He is presently recovering in intensive care. The news hit the front pages of the newspaper where he was described as the greatest British football manager of all time.

The former member of the Glasgow Boys’ Brigade has certainly made an impact on the world of football not only through his sporting prowess but the values which his work has revealed throughout his career.

Many people sought to send him their good wishes. Many of them were former footballers who had grown in skill and experience under his guidance. They included people like Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.

What interested me about their comments was the inclusion of the phrase ‘my thoughts and prayers are with you’. It wasn’t sufficient to say that they were thinking about him at this time. They had gone further than that. They had brought him with them into the very presence of God!

Minister’s Blog

7 May 2018

Margaret Gatty’s father was chaplain to Lord Nelson. He was with the Admiral when he was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar. He was widely travelled and spoke twelve languages. His daughter benefitted from his homeschooling.

She married a clergyman and had ten children. After the seventh, she took unwell and went to the seaside at Hastings to recover. She was introduced to beachcombing and became an expert in seaweeds. Some are named after her!

She painted in water-colours and wrote books for children. The most popular are still in print, ‘Parables from Nature’. There was a copy in my childhood home. I loved the one about the grub and the dragonfly. Mrs Gatty also sketched sun dials and wrote ‘The Book of Sun-dials’.

It includes some of her sketches but also the mottoes which she found engraved on them. Many have been written in Latin. ‘On this moment Eternity depends.’ is one. ‘This is the hour for doing good.’ is another. ‘Whilst you look, the hour flies: seize the opportunity.’ is a third.

They pick up on familiar Biblical themes – the contrast between time and eternity, the importance of filling each hour wisely and the urgency of the present moment which will never be repeated. Some are in verse:

As time and hours pass away,

So doth the life of man decay:

As time can be redeemed with no cost,

Bestow it well and let no hour be lost.

Minister’s Blog

6 May 2018

How many ants are there in the world? According to Edward Wilson there are a million billion! They are socially well-organised, dividing tasks amongst themselves with great efficiency. Their cohesion and collaboration are striking, holding within their way of life a vision of the kirk.

‘No task is left undone for more than a very short time.’ writes Wilson. Clearly, they do not procrastinate! ‘Through close identity with their common mother, the queen, they are able to take far greater risks .. than are solitary insects …’

A community built around the queen not only enables a fairer distribution of labour and greater cohesion but also strengthens the individual ants to be more altruistic, sacrificing their own lives for the health and well-being of the community.

Wilson describes in great detail a variety of ant in the Malaysian rain forest which is built in such a way that when faced with enemy forces can explode in the face of their enemies ‘like walking grenades’.

In Darwinian terms this is an excellent tactic.’ he concludes. Samson eat your heart out! Or perhaps we should frame this within the context of the Gospel? In either case, we can follow the advice of King Solomon who said, ‘Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways and be wise.’

Minister’s Blog

5 May 2018

There are some Ryeland sheep in a neighbouring field. They were first introduced to this land by the Benedictine monks at Leominster in Herefordshire. The monks grazed and bred them on rye pastures. Hence the name.

They have very thick coats of wool with a stocky build. They don’t appear to have any horns. Whenever I walk past them, they don’t run away as other sheep do. They are at peace with their lot.

More recently, I have seen one sheep on his own running up and down a corridor of grass between two fences. ‘That’s the dad!’ said the shepherdess. ‘He’s trying to get to the ladies!’ They were in the next field.

‘He has been a very impressive dad.’ she continued. ‘All the ewes have given birth to twins and one had triplets!’ The shepherdess had a bottle of milk to feed one of them. ‘Everyone should get a cuddle from a lamb.’ she said, handing over the newborn into my inexpert arms – warm, gentle and unafraid.

The Priory at Leominster was built in the thirteenth century like the chancel at Prestonkirk but the monastic foundation was much older. The monks have been quite influential. And successful. Perhaps the rhythm of the monastic offices, the silence and the peace have  made their breed genetically disposed to greater contentment and fertility?

Minister’s Blog

4 May 2018

The Primary 3 Class from East Linton came to explore Prestonkirk and its kirkyard. The children were very enthusiastic about their project and were very attentive when I was explaining the external and internal features of the church.

I don’t think I have ever had so many questions fired at me. It was quite astonishing. One child even spotted a feature of the kirk which I had never noticed. It was a decoration in the four corners of one of our War Memorials.

‘They look like poppies!’ said the child. And I had to agree. They were red with centrepieces. But what was so delightful about these poppies was their shape. The artist had fashioned them like the cross of St. Andrew.

It was a brilliant way of introducing a Scottish element to the poppies which were growing on Flanders’ fields. And I hadn’t even noticed. Fresh eyes, inquisitive minds, making connections, asking questions, making the most of the opportunity and creating something new!

Minister’s Blog

3 May 2018

I thought there was a very significant comment made by Professor Sue Black in Dundee recently. She has become one of the world’s leading forensic anthropologists. She has spent her life staring death in the face in the killing fields of Kosovo, tsunami scarred  Thailand, murdered corpses and abused children.

As such, she respects death greatly and realises that she cannot do her work until death has done hers. As such, she is very curious about her own death. ‘We’ve built up this idea that death is something dreadful which we should fear, but it might be the best experience of your life.’

She describes death as female and as an interesting colleague throughout her working life. She hopes she will be a helpful friend in the final moments. And, of course, St. Francis saw death as a kind and gentle friend, waiting to hush our latest breath and lead us home to God!

Minister’s Blog

2 May 2018

On Saturday night, the Village Hall at Stenton was packed to hear the Stenton Singers give a very varied programme of folk songs, madrigals, French lyrics, lullabies and some contemporary numbers including two songs by Lennon and McCartney.

Stephanie Harrison-Boond played three pieces on the clarsach – moving and atmospheric, transporting us across the seas to Ireland and Shetland, crisp and mellow playing calling to mind the sun dancing on the crystal sea.

Bill Watt sang Schubert’s ‘Seligheit’ beautifully and Lynda Jeffrey and Helen Horn  sang ‘The Water is Wide’ and Rossini’s ‘Cat Duet’. Their voices were well matched even in the hissing and spitting of the cats! They gained the audience’s admiration.

The programme was deftly created by Lynda Jeffrey and John Anderson provided very creative accompaniments  on the keyboard. As well as a complimentary glass of wine, there were platefuls of savouries on every table.

This year, the Singers were raising funds for Home Start and the Dunbar and District Twinning Association. The Singers are visiting   Lignière later this year  and gave us a selection of their French songs.

All credit to them for their hardwork and generosity of spirit, enriching the life of the wider community through their  charitable fundraising. Lynda Jeffrey continues to inspire and challenge in equal measure. It was a sparkling event!

Minister’s Blog

1 May 2018

In the middle of April, the rector at St. Thomas’s Church conducted an open air service in the shopping precinct where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned in a mysterious way. He was accompanied by the bishop, the church choir and local dignitaries.

During the service, three things happened. The rector threw a jug of water on the precinct to symbolise a spiritual cleansing and to draw a line under what had happened in the contamination of the city of Salisbury.

Interestingly, the choir sang some Russian music – Rimsky-Korsakov’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer. As the rector said, ‘This isn’t about nations falling out, but a single criminal act.’

And the bishop said, ‘Don’t waste a crisis! The crisis gives us an opportunity to think about who we are and what we are about!’ The holy water, the Russian music, the alternative perspective not only brought some healing but also some joy!

Minister’s Blog

30 April 2018

In a recent issue of the Church Times, I read an interview with Ian McFarland, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University. He specialised in Christology. Although a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, he worships in his local parish church which is Anglican.

Talking about where God is to be found, I was heartened to read him say, ‘For me, the experience of God comes when I hear the Word preached and receive the sacrament.’ I find the simplicity and perhaps austerity of his response very attractive. Two things.

Firstly, it validates the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Secondly, it ties into the true marks of the church celebrated in our Scots Confession – the true preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the Sacraments and ecclesiastical discipline.

He goes on to say that he would be very reluctant to identify other experiences as experiences of God. ‘They may be … but history also shows us that it’s all too easy, on the basis of appeals to experience, to mistake for God something that is most definitely not God.’

Minister’s Blog

29 April 2018

The daffodils have come out in profusion down at the Knowes Mill. We have an abundance in the manse garden. Outside the main door at Prestonkirk, there are triplets – beautiful white daffodils with three heads per stalk!

In the woodland around Smeaton, we have seen the Spanish bluebell, not as attractive as our own indigenous variety, and lots of yellow primroses by the lake. They are exceedingly pretty – unprepossessing and abundant.

Growing in the mud by the water’s edge, there were lots of large lilies – white and yellow. The yellow ones looked like candle flames – distinctive, vigorous and bright. They are called ‘skunk cabbage’ because of their distinctive skunky smell which attracts their pollinators. They come from America.

‘As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens.’ sings King Solomon in one of his love songs. ‘Love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.’ he sings towards the end of his book giving us a foretaste of Easter and another victory over death.

Minister’s Blog

28 April 2018

The last time we were at St. Baldred’s Cradle, we were surprised to see a wooden shack built into the back wall. I couldn’t imagine that Baldred or anyone else was attempting to live there. I have seen the waves hit the wall with some ferocity!

The puzzle deepened when we started walking on the beach. There were lots of timber planks all over the place. Some people had been quite imaginative in using them to make all sorts of different things.

One built a structure for a wigwam. Another used the planks to create a wooden path across the rocks and on top of the sand. A third had built a bridge which enabled us all to cross a burn which had been created by the eroding sand banks!

Who or what had deposited the wood on the shore? Apparently, it fell off a ship called the Frisian Lady into the North Sea and was washed up on the East coast of Scotland. Most of it landed in East Lothian.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has warned the public not to try and retrieve the lost cargo. For a start, it is illegal to take what belongs to another. And, in any case, the wood will be sodden with salt water.

I thought it interesting that people had immediately started to recycle the washed up cargo to create something new out of this apparent waste. The bridge was very helpful but most of the outcomes encouraged us to play!

No matter what happens, human beings always have the potential to turn it inside out, explore it from a completely different perspective and use it to enrich the lives of others. Nothing need hinder us if we are open to build bridges and play!

Minister’s Blog

27 April 2018

Recently, I bought a book  in a bookshop in St. Andrews which had been autographed by the author at a former Book Launch. I was glad to have it. Unlike others, I like books which have been autographed or have a secondary tale to tell!

Ever since my brother died some three years ago, I have been surprised at the number of books which he gave me during his life. I remember the beautiful book of photographs celebrating the people of Ghana, a gift  on my return in 1977.

I also have a history of the Victorian Church autographed by the author, a cousin of dad’s friend, with my brother’s own greeting. I treasure the copy of the AV which he gave me on my twenty-first, accompanying  me to every funeral. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions.’ I read.

Just the other day, I found another. I have been doing some study on the relationship between mathematics and theology. I was reading about the work of Descartes who amazingly transformed geometry into algebra using his Cartesian co-ordinates.

I remembered that I had a commentary on his work which I hadn’t read. I opened the flyleaf – and there was my younger brother speaking in French. ‘La lecture de tous bons livres  est comme une conversation avec les plus honnêtes gens des siècles passés …’

It was a quotation from Descartes and translates, ‘The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the most honest people of past centuries …’ It was an unexpected surprise  and made me wonder, ‘Where else  will  I meet him ?

It seemed strangely comforting  that a book given in 1974 and not read for forty-four years should be opened to reveal a loving gift from one who sensed the moment and the need almost half a century before!

Minister’s Blog

26 April 2018

We missed ‘The Post’ when it was in general circulation. Too busy, I suppose. However, we caught up with it when it came to the Brunton recently. The film was wonderful but so was the audience!

When we go to the cinema usually the audience is very sparse but not there. The auditorium was full! It made it a much more exciting and lively place to be. Unlike the DVD, the cinema connects us to each other in a shared communal experience.

The film features two of America’s best actors – Meryl Streep, playing the heiress, Kay Graham, owner of the Washington Post and Tom Hanks, playing Ben Bradlee, her very able but strong-minded and willed editor.

Without giving too much away, the plot hinges on a major decision which the gentle, gracious but steely Kay has to make concerning the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the revelation that the war in Vietnam was a sham, prolonged to save face and the nation’s pride!

In a telling moment, she says, ‘The free press is the servant of the governed and not the governors.’ Needless to say, Nixon doesn’t come out of this film creditably. And, of course, it wasn’t long before the Washington Post was mixed up in another expose of government, leading to the impeachment of the President himself! A must see!

Minister’s Blog

25 April 2018

The second house we visited on holiday was the House of Dun, overlooking the Montrose Basin. It is a very elegant Georgian house with a beautiful walled garden and several woodland walks. One takes you to the Old Dun Kirk which sits beside the family graveyard.

We went on the tour but I was only interested in seeing something of Violet Jacob, the Scottish poet who was born and brought up here. She married Major Arthur Jacob and left Angus for India, South Africa, Egypt and eventually England returning to Kirriemuir after his death.

She has been given a small corner of the house to herself. On the wall, there is some of her artwork – beautiful pastels reflecting her time abroad. The pastels are striking in their economy and in the emotion which exudes from very sensitively executed drawings.

On the table, there are some family artefacts. We can see a photograph of mother and son. Harry was his name. He was her only child and is dressed in a soldier’s uniform. He fought at the Battle of the Somme and was killed. He was only twenty years old.

I believe so much in the communion of saints that I am certain that he is never far from me.’ she wrote after Harry’s death. Although most of her poems were written in Scots, inspiring the likes of Hugh MacDairmid, she wrote her poem to Harry in English.

You rest, my son; our souls are those

Nor time nor death can part,

And lie you proudly, folded close

To France’s deathless heart.

Minister’s Blog

24 April 2018

When we were on holiday recently, we visited two houses. The first was in Kirriemuir where the dramatist James Matthew Barrie was born and spent his early childhood. The house belongs to the National Trust and is accompanied by a wash-house and small garden.

The wash-house was significant. It was described as Barrie’s first theatre. Presumably, he entertained family and friends to his first plays. I remember doing the same in our own back garden. The trouble was without a script, the plays never came to an end.

The house was two-up and two-down. Barrie’s father was a weaver who worked his loom downstairs. The family lived upstairs – the children sleeping in a box bed and hurley in the kitchen, the parents next door in the bedroom.

Barrie’s childhood was dominated by the untimely death of his elder brother. He was fourteen when he died and Barrie only six. As he tells the tale, his mother never came to terms with her loss albeit she had already lost two daughters.

His brother, of course, never grew up and was possibly the prototype for Peter Pan. In addition, his older brother always remained a child in his mother’s affections. Barrie was conscious of this from an early age.

On one occasion, he entered his parents’ bedroom. The room was narrow and there was only one window. Candle-light would not have made it any less gloomy. His mother was lying in bed. ‘Is that you?’ she asked. ‘No, it’s no him!’ said the young Barrie. ‘It’s just me!’

Minister’s Blog

23 April 2018

By contrast to the Episcopal Provost, the next day, we met a Presbyterian minister who had been persecuted by Government forces during the ascendancy of Episcopalianism in the Kirk during the reign of King Charles II.

We were walking along the banks of the River Ericht in Blairgowrie when we were directed to what is commonly called ‘Cargill’s Leap’. The Revd. Donald Cargill escaped but was later captured, imprisoned and executed.

It is not every day you come across an heroic minister who is celebrated in local folklore in this way. His was a tremendous leap of faith. Just before he was killed, he said, ‘Death to the believer is like putting off a worn suit of clothes and putting on a new suit.’

His resurrection faith was rewarded in July 1681 – and is immortalised in the river and rocks which now bear his name. It was a true resurrection for the soldiers and the cause are forgotten but his witness to the resurrection lives for aye!

Minister’s Blog

22 April 2018

Last Sunday, we worshipped in the Episcopal Cathedral in Dundee. I had walked past the church on many occasions but had never been inside. The worship space was more like a large parish church and it attracted a healthy congregation of all ages.

The worship was conducted by the Provost who had a very energetic style, preaching a sermon on the risen but wounded Christ and leading the people in an ‘Exchange of Peace’ which extended throughout the kirk.

The Sacrament was celebrated. Water was sprinkled over us and the smoke of burning incense wafted around us. The choir of men and women’s voices led the praise and enriched the worship with assorted anthems.

It was very busy with little silence and a lot of standing. The Episcopalians seem to have eschewed kneeling and replaced it with excessive standing. The Benediction was prefaced by the announcements of two birthdays and the organist struck up in time and tune. God was momentarily forgotten!

The Provost greeted us at the door. He kissed the ladies and shook our hands whilst holding a cup of tea in his left  with a handsome provision of three pieces of cake precariously dancing on his saucer. The tea ladies are well trained! Enter Anthony Trollope ….Oh dear, just too late!

Minister’s Blog

21 April 2018

Whilst in Dundee, we saw an exhibition of assorted artwork entitled, ‘Fun-a-Day’. Artists had been invited to do something creative every day in January and display their finished work in this city space.

Pamela had done lino-cuts to illustrate quotations from favourite songs. David had taken photographs. Another had used pastels to draw the natural environment. A fourth had drawn imaginative representations of the moon.

A fifth had been quite mathematical. He had used white card and copper wire to make a different geometrical shape every day. Each one had an additional stitch. The first was a straight line. The last had thirty-one sides!

One presented a challenge to the gallery visitors. He had hung up an enormous sheet of Amazon wrapping paper. ‘Yesterday, Amazon sent me a watchstrap packed in this two metre long sheet of paper.’ he wrote. ‘Use the space to tell us your tales of waste by Amazon …’

Mary-Catherine took up the challenge and wrote a reply. She had ironed a long sheet of Amazon brown paper and used it to make templates for her ‘Beach Houses’ quilt. Clearly, you don’t need to display your work in a gallery to have a ‘Fun-a-day’ experience at Amazon’s expense!