LETTER FROM THE MINISTER SEPTEMBER 2020
I was invited to attend a small but very special anniversary celebration this summer in the garden of one of my parishioners. It was called ‘Black Tot Day’ and commemorated fifty years since the Admiralty abolished the issuing of a daily tot of rum to its sailors. Our host joined the Royal Navy just four days before the tradition ended, so he didn’t enjoy his ‘grog ration’ for too long, but he certainly made up for it on the day of our party: high strength ‘Pussers’ rum was flowing and enjoyed by all. Amongst the company were former service men and women and unseen by us, we were joined by countless sailors both retired and serving, at sea and on land the world over. On the button, bang-on 12.30pm on 31st July we raised our glasses to Her Majesty the Queen and a little piece of Naval history was celebrated in time-honoured style. Sadly, by the time I joined my first ship, the issuing of a daily rum ration was long over and the signal to ‘splice the mainbrace’ was confined to high days and holidays - like the birth of a new royal baby or a royal wedding.
The Navy, like so many other old institutions, has lots of traditions and practices which make it the special thing it is. I am always amazed at how the Church and the RN are similar in so many ways. Both have been around for a long time, both have their own language and both value and cherish their long held customs – which can seem very strange indeed to the uninitiated. Despite this, I enjoyed many of my ‘salty’ ways of doing things as a Naval Chaplain and was sorry to leave them all behind. Here on land, customary behaviours and long held traditions have suddenly had to be ‘put on hold’ by the effects of Coronavirus and our whole way of life, in every respect, has changed. These strictures imposed upon society will, in time, be lifted and we fervently pray for the day when this will happen: as I write this, many aspects of lockdown are already being eased by the Scottish Government. In the meantime, we soldier on. Perhaps, like me, you wonder if we will ever get back to what we might call ‘normality’. No doubt, certain traditions will be lost and others will change and be adapted. Lovely though it was, an issue of high strength rum on the ocean wave and on a daily basis really didn’t fit in anymore, with the requirements of a more technically exacting and professionally minded Senior Service. So it will be with us: undoubtedly changes ahead will be accepted and embraced and we will move on, albeit slowly and cautiously. As a result of COVID-19, our ways of daily living, our recreation and our worshipping may be forever amended and altered. Like old sailors, we might all look back on how things were with a pang of regret but best, I think, to look confidently ahead. Like it or not, we will have to move with technology and employ more modern techniques to achieve our goals - even as far as the Church is concerned. After all, we are all together in this vessel and we have each other for shipmates. Fortified with God’s promise that he is with us always and we have nothing to fear, we raise our glasses and pray for a new and brave future for us all: ‘to fair winds and a following sea’.
With my prayers and best wishes.
Rev Stan August 2020