This sign was spotted on the door of St Mary’s Church in Bridgwater, Somerset. It certainly makes you think! We are equally inclusive but perhaps we need to shout louder.
Craigsbank was one of the buildings that flung its doors wide open on Doors Open Sunday this year. And the result was really very positive indeed. John Baker arranged the weekend’s activities and he was ably supported by a strong team of volunteers.
64 individuals visited the buildings over the weekend. Below are just a few of the comments received:
- Fantastic experience: wonderful building: everyone so friendly and helpful.
- Thanks for taking part in Doors Open Day – loved the building and music
- So impressed! This “hidden gem” is amazing. Intriguing architecture. Even more I admire the way you form and run your church community. Our visit has been well worthwhile.
- Beautiful Magical Spiritual Many thanks
- It was a thrill to find such a beautiful modernist building in a part of Edinburgh we did not know. The quality of light and the serenity of the building make it very special apart from it’s functional success.
- Amazing architecture Thank you so much for your time and knowledge. This is a hidden gem.
- Having been Christened here on 8 August 1943, I found my visit a quite moving and enjoyable event. (Also repeated his visit to deliver copies of the October 1943 and March 1959 Intimations and family contributions)
- Very beautiful building, inside and out.
- Great to visit again and enjoyed Tree’s piece! ( Composer) Compliments the perfectly-realised minimalism of the architecture perfectly !
- The nicest church I have visited in a long time. Architecturally stunning and a surprisingly warm and inviting space. A reflection of the congregation, no doubt.
- Beautiful architectural lines. A hidden gem thanks to “Doors Open Day”
- This church has the WOW! Factor from the moment you catch sight of it coming round the corner and on entering – so unexpected to see the configuration which is so dramatic and inspiring. A wonderful space for worship – what a lucky congregation you are to have this gem. So pleased to hear that it has been recognised as “A” listed. Thank you for opening up today.
- We enjoyed the very warm welcome and were inspired by the beautiful airy space. The architecture is truly magnificent and is in great condition.
- An amazing place- well hosted – such a great performance and what a hidden gem. Wonderful.
- A wonderful display for a magnificent building! I appreciated the exhibits showing the construction of the complex. Great to see a hidden modernist gem in the City.
- A truly striking building beautifully looked after. Marion and John were brilliantly knowledgeable.
- A beautiful piece of Architecture. Really enjoyed talking to the volunteers and getting to experience the space and its wonderful light. Thank you
Did you spot The Coat of Hopes as it travelled from Edinburgh to The Great Tapestry of Scotland centre in Galashiels?
Have you heard of the Coat of Hopes? It was the vision of one person during lockdown and created by many hands on the long walk to Cop26, each person hand-stitching their story of hope on to pieces of blanket before attaching them to the coat. 700 people carried the coat on their back during the nine week pilgrimage from Newhaven on the south coast of England to Glasgow and throughout Cop26, each sharing their hopes and prayers for the future. Above you can see the coat before the patches of hope and prayer for the future were added and as it was early last week with so many stories captured on its long flowing skirts.
You can read the background on the Coat of Hopes website and see pics of the Coat at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral where it was displayed during the Fringe.
After that, on 30 August, it was walked over the course of a day from Edinburgh to Dalkeith, then from Dalkeith to North Middleton, North Middleton on to Fountainhall, and Fountainhall to Galashiels, with a special event at the centre for The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels on the morning of Sunday 3 September. Late that afternoon those accompanying the Coat of Hopes set off again, this time to Newstead.
‘Let there be a tree,’ said God, once upon a time, ‘which grows from the birds down.’
And the church came into being. And its branches spread and its trunk grew downwards, until it rooted itself in the dusty ground. And theologians and clergy of many nations nested among its roots.
After a time, a dispute rose among them. ‘This tree does not flourish as it should,’ they said to one another. ‘We should pull up our roots, and move to richer soil, for one can see the quality of the earth here is abysmally poor. Other trees are improved by such transplanting. Let us have courage and follow their example.’ (For they saw from other trees that it was so.)
‘No! No!’ said others. ‘We have seen trees wither and die when you tamper with their roots. There are bad years and good ones, and we must take the rough with the smooth. It would be colossal folly to pull up our roots, which give us all our sustenance. Let us wait, and things will improve.’ (For they saw from other trees that it was so.)
Meanwhile, the noise of the debate reached some of the birds in the topmost branches, and they were puzzled. ‘Do they not know,’ said one small sparrow, ‘that we give this tree its life? Shall we not fly down, and stop them grubbing around in their toots?’ ‘No,’ replied a wise old pigeon. ‘We can only sing when we are touched by the sunlight. But we must sing louder, so that they remember the possibilities of birdsong. And he began to coo with all his might.’
This week’s service of thanksgiving and dedication at St Giles, following the coronation of King Charles III, had a distinctly Scottish flavour and showcased both the modern and the traditional within Scotland.
“Sisters and brothers, look around you – at this beautiful tapestry of humanity – Scotland“
Regardless of your feelings towards the Royal Family, the homily, given by the moderator of the Church of Scotland – the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton – was both moving and thought provoking. The full text is on the Church of Scotland Website but here are some highlights…
“Your Majesties’, look around you. Sisters and brothers, look around you – at this beautiful tapestry of humanity – Scotland. What we learn when we listen to one another, listen to understand, not just respond; is extraordinary.
“We gather to commit to and celebrate the common good of the place and people of Scotland.
“How depleted life would be without the creative imagination that explodes through our diverse customs and cultures, faiths and beliefs – the literature, the poetry, the music, the sacred searching, scientific insight and innovation, the beauty of life unleashed.
“We are a saga, not a short story, a symphony, not a solo.
“How narrow our sight, and how monochrome our understanding when we do not embrace the richness of different perspectives.
“We can’t see round ourselves by ourselves, but need other human beings if we are to be what we were created to be – not just humans being, but humans becoming.
“The text we heard from the gospel of Matthew is from ‘The Beatitudes’ or ‘sayings of extreme blessing’. The subtleties and nuance in the original language is hidden and makes it very difficult for us to understand.
“But another way to see this today is Jesus setting out his stall, announcing his manifesto – ‘Blessed are’ can mean ‘this is what my vision looks like’ – this is what I will stand for, work for, offer my life for – this is what ‘my kingdom coming’ looks like in real time.
“Another translation is, ‘you’re on the right track if‘,
“The ‘poor in spirit’ – they are not weak or poor, the meek aren’t doormats – no, they are the brave ones among us with a deep awareness that no one alone has all the answers. The ones who call us together to search for answers that elude us when we search from our one limited perspective. We need them more than ever today.
“And ‘we’re on the right track if’ our people are brave enough, bold enough, empowered and hopeful enough to listen and learn from, and cherish, each other.
“To choose collaboration and trust over a fear-filled circling of our wagons.
“Sisters and brothers, look around you. We are one global neighbourhood – intricately inter-related and completely co-dependent, woven together, like a tartan.
“My kingdom-coming in real time comforts those who mourn – the death of someone, of course, but also the life snatched from them by war, oppression, climate chaos, systemic poverty that pulls them down like a whirlpool.
“There is no them and us, only us – and when one human being suffers, we all suffer.
“My kingdom coming means we comfort each other, welcome each other, cherish every human life – mercy and peace are not ideals to be domesticated or downgraded, they are not ‘good to have’s’ but part of the fabric of our being.
“Are we on the right track?
“This ancient text reminds us today that a bold vision like this is a tough and very often thankless task – calling for love when there is so much fear is not for the faint-hearted.
“But rejoice, it says, rejoice because it is worth it. Love is worth it.
“The psalm we heard read is a song, it’s a poem.
“Concentrated imagery that speaks to the soul, whispers a truth beyond the words.
“The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
“This beautiful, formidable, yet fragile planet we call home, was here long before we were – and without words, it worships its God.
“Tides surge, plants push through the earth and bathe in the sun, luxuriating in it.
“Birds sing full-throated and animals have languages all their own. Are we too self-absorbed to hear them? Or have we sadly become too preoccupied to listen?
“Blessed are we … on the right track are we when we understand that the heavens and the earth are not commodities or possessions, we are part of it and called to cherish and protect it.
“Blessed are we, and on the right track, when we understand that our children do not inherit this earth from us – we have borrowed it from them.
“And it is our duty to return it still singing and surging and bathing, not baking to a crisp.
“Your Majesties, you have made it part of your mission to speak alongside creation; advocating for it. As we present the honours of Scotland to you, we commit ourselves to walking that journey with you. We are all a small part of something so much bigger – this beautiful, sacred creation and everyone and everything in it.
“Thanks be to God.
Reproduced with kind permission from Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the General Assembly
This was an ancient saying, an idiom that was well-known in the ancient near east amongst the nation of Judah, some 2500 years ago. And you might be wondering what on earth does it have to do with us, here, today and what does it mean anyway. Let’s start with the meaning first and then get to why its meaningful for us.
A lot of Biblical and ancient scholars have studied the possible meaning of this idiom and not everyone agrees on the exact meaning. Which often happens with idioms that use symbolic language and are particular to a certain place and time and culture. I am sure that we can share some idioms with one another that we heard our grandparents use, that, if we use it today with our children or grandchildren we will have to explain the meaning of is. And this is within the same language and culture and even family. So imagine how meaning can be lost over centuries, cultures and geographical distance.
What most scholars agree on is that it has to do with the impact of one’s actions, and more particularly that although others often have to bear the consequences of your actions, you have to take responsibility for your own actions. So actions, consequences and responsibilities. And all of this is set within the parameters of the passing of time.
Whatever I do now, I must take responsibility for now… and later, but the consequences might actually only come into effect, possibly even over subsequent generations.
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Allow me to use a pressing contemporary example:
If this generation, you and I, through our actions of consumption and production continue to produce the same levels of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as we currently do whilst continuing to lessen and deplete the biosphere’s ability to process the carbon dioxide back into oxygen, say through the continued destruction of the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests, then the consequences will include a crossing of the biosphere’s ability to stabilise the weather patterns and the oceans’ ability to maintain its function as thermostat and carbon capture sink. This in turn will lead to the continued loss of biodiversity and increase of droughts, runaway fires and floods which in turn will increase the number of climate refugees and societal socio-political breakdown across the world. So who will then be responsible for the collapse of social stability, health care systems, and water supplies? The current and future refugees? Or the current and previous mass consumers?
Who is ultimately responsible for the increasing level instability of mass people movement across borders? Whether legal or illegal. The wealthy industrialised countries who have for generations been producing cheap consumables and consuming natural resources in the process or the pre-industrialised countries whose rivers have consequently run dry, whose crops are failing and whose island houses are being submerged by rising sea levels… only to have to flee to neighbouring countries who themselves are struggling to keep their lights on?
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Now please do not think that I intend to have us feel all guilty for living our 9 to 5 everyday jobs of earning and income, paying our taxes and enjoying the necessities and luxuries of life. The purpose of this reflection is not to take us all on a guilt trip.
The purpose of this reflection is rather two-fold.
On the one hand it is to say that we have agency, especially into the future. We are able and capable of making the world a better place. Admittedly also a worse place, but hopefully we will aspire and work toward making the future better for the next generation, and the next one after that, and subsequent generations.
Like some scientists did when they developed cures and solutions that have benefitted subsequent generations. Curing polio, developing X-rays, figuring out how the human and biospherical systems work. Or social innovators like Martin Luther King, or Emmeline Pankhurst, or everyone who stood up for the disenfranchised, however small their intervention was at the start – the consequences would have rippled out over the pond of time. We are able and capable of making the world a better place.
Acts of kindness and care and treating others with dignity can and will have effects that will keep making the world better. Consequences of actions.
But what if we don’t – what if we live lives of selfishness? Of shortermism. What if we only care about the next quarter’s profitability, what if we only care about our comfort or our immediate needs being met – but never consider the future? Never stop to think what the effect would be over time.
In our local community magazine, the Corstorphine Grapevine, one of the thought-pieces refer to something the local council did, like so many other councils across Britain of late – the irresponsible dumping of sewerage waste hundreds of time per year into our river systems. It might make sense to someone somewhere, but the eventual knock-on effect is the deterioration, even the eventual complete destruction of complete ecosystems. But at least the water company executives will say their bottom-line profits are looking good.
Who will hold irresponsible decision makers to account?
In the words of this former MP writing in the Grapevine: ‘The lack of planning for the future is getting worse each year, and whilst it might not effect the older generation much, we must all make sure that our politicians, planners and those responsible, take much more action to protect the next generations in a way they (and I would say we) have failed to do for many years.’
Another shocking example this month has been the millions of people in the UK who collectively had billions of pounds of value destroyed from out of their pension funds by the selfish, ill-thought through, shortermist decisions of a few leaders in power. Ironically the burden to try to fix the problem has been laid on subsequent generations who have now been indebted through the borrowing that was necessitated to stabilise the market.
The children’s teeth are at risk from the parent’s grape eating.
Who will hold irresponsible leaders to account?
And is there even anything that can be done about such injustices?
There is a group, a federation of native Americans, first nations people, who are based around the north-east of the North-American continent, called the Iroquois. They have a guiding life principles that they expect their leadership, their elders to abide by, called the Seven Generations principle. The principle states that what we do must not harm subsequent generations. What we do should have positive effects many generations to come. Some people understand this principle to mean you and I are benefitting from three generations before ours, in other words our great grandparents. Some of us might even have been blessed enough to have known one or more of our great grandparents. So three generations previous to us have left us the legacy, the life, the society we find ourselves in. We, similarly, are building, erecting or destroying, the generation that three generations hence will be experiencing, possibly even in our very lifetime. Some of us might be blessed enough to hold our great grandchildren in our arms. The world we are busy influencing, shaping, is the one we give them to grow up in.
Is the air we leave our great-grandchildren cleaner? Are human rights more dignified? Is the biodiversity more secure or more depleted? Is the state of marriage as a valued societal institution more revered or more disregarded? Are strangers safer in our communities or less so?
If at this point you might say, Alan, it’s somewhat overwhelming to take responsibility for future generations. I am struggling just to keep things together for my own.
Which brings us close to the rest of the meaning of today’s prophetic Scripture from Jeremiah.
When the old Testament prophet Jeremiah was speaking to his people, it was to a group of exiles who were down and out, thinking they will always be held captive to the irresponsible actions of their parents and ancestors. That the predicament they were finding themselves in will never improve.
But that is when the prophet says, God is doing a new thing. God will guide you to do the right thing. God will bind his nation into a new covenant that will inspire them to know right from wrong.
Jesus years later probably has this very promise in mind when He refers to this new covenant when He inaugurates the very first communion saying that the cup of wine He is holding is a sign of the new covenant God is making with his children.
I can appreciate that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what the right thing is to do – but that is where our faith in God really does play a not insignificant role.
When making decisions, when taking actions, when forming habits – we are invited by the prophet Jeremiah, by Jesus Christ, by the very spirit of God to pause, and to discern intellectually, spiritually, with our whole being – what is the right thing to do.
Because whatever we decide, whatever we do, will have consequences and we will have to take ownership, responsibility, of our decisions, of our actions.
In today’s word God promises we will have the word of God written in our very hearts – I invite you to take the time, the effort, the joy of discerning the word of God in your very spirit as you go through life, and if you obey the Spirit of God you will be a blessing to the next generation and onto the next generation.
Rev Alan Childs, October 2022
The Rev Moira McDonald, minister at the Old Parish Church, was also Chaplain in Ordinary to the Queen. Last week, as one part of a small team, she kept vigil with the Queen’s coffin in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and again at St Giles.
On Sunday, she spoke on BBC Radio 4 about the experience.
You can listen to it here for four weeks:
The BBC also carries a full script of the programme on that page.
I walked this ancient pilgrim trail, also known as the Way of St. James, in early summer this year with three nursing friends. We walked the last 76 miles of the route in six days finishing in the pilgrim city of Santiago, the final resting place of St. James.
The countryside was beautiful, undulating and green. Lots of wild flowers covered the path sides. The way passes many historical churches and buildings and lots of places to eat and stay.
The Camino walk is very well signposted with yellow arrows keeping you on the right direction and were always accompanied by a scallop shell emblem. The shells are the distinctive emblem of the Camino as they symbolise the many pilgrim routes that all lead to Santiago.
Large numbers of people from all over the world make this pilgrim journey all year round. All had their own story. Some willing to share, others travelled in silence. Often on their own. Some singing, some chanting. The many languages I heard reminded me of the Pentecost.
At the end of the journey my friends and I attended the Pilgrim mass in the Cathedral in Santiago which was very spiritually moving and we saw the crypt where the body of St. James lies. It was quite overwhelming to appreciate that he was Jesus’s cousin, his first disciple and brother of John the Baptist.
I would strongly encourage you to consider undertaking this very worthwhile pilgrim walk.
One of the reasons for doing this walk was to raise funds for Christian Aid. Total raised, including gift aid , is a wonderful £1,220. Thank you all for supporting me in this journey.
Ann Brough, Summer 2022.