FROM THE MINISTER
As I was heading off to Church one unusually warm and sunny Sunday morning a couple of months ago, I was reminded of an unusual experience on the island of Bermuda. Although it is not widely known, there is actually a Church of Scotland congregation there who worship in a beautiful small kirk which is white on the outside and with white pews and walls in the interior. Christ Church was the first Church to be built on the island and claims to be the first Presbyterian church building in the entire New World. My Royal Naval warship, in which I served as Chaplain, was returning from a deployment in the Caribbean, but as the vessel came alongside, there was no chance that any of the ship’s company could set foot on Bermudian soil. An unexpected outbreak of mumps had put a stop to any ideas the sailors might have had of enjoying island nightlife and they were confined to the ship. The only person the captain would allow to go down the gangway was yours truly. I am still unsure as to whether the captain thought I was immune from mumps in some way or just thought that the ship badly needed praying for, but I was set free to go off alone to the kirk. Surrounded by women in summer frocks and men in smart Bermuda shorts, we sang Scottish hymns to Scottish hymn tunes in the bright sunshine and then had tea and coffee in the grounds outside. We could have been in Perthshire. The minister’s wife was clearly disappointed not to see any sailors and obviously felt sorry for their plight. She disappeared for a time as she went over into the manse garden. When she returned, she was struggling under the weight of a big branch she had cut off from one of the banana trees. She presented the huge amount of bananas to me with the words: “Take these back to the ship. They will be nice and soft to swallow if the sailors have sore throats from the mumps!” I thanked her kindly and duly did as I was bidden, but I didn’t like to tell her that I imagined that their throats would be the one part of their anatomy which would be of least concern to the young men. When I returned to the ship, I was greeted with great interest. The sight of Rev. Stan coming up the gangway with a huge branch of bananas over his shoulder caused much intrigue and hilarity.
Although nothing in comparison to the Covid pandemic, being relatively contained and innocuous as outbreaks go, one person was determined to show kindness and compassion amid a contagion. The minister’s wife was reflecting the words on a plaque inside the small Bermudian church which went like this:
“May God bless you. May you find forgiveness for the past, strength for the present, hope for the future and may God’s peace and love go with you.”
Although growing and distributing hand-reared bananas are not options to us in Abernethy, Dron and Arngask Parish, even the smallest act of kindness to a stranger is always appreciated, and sometimes, never forgotten.
Rev Stan July 2021
As I write this, there has been a further lessening of Covid restrictions by the Scottish Government which apply to places of worship. One of the things which has been difficult to convey to the public since the start of the pandemic has been that rules which apply to restaurants or bingo halls are very different from those which apply to places of worship, whether that activity takes place inside or outside a church building. In addition, is it clear that not all ‘church’ congregations, of which we are surrounded, followed the statutory rules so diligently and this has exacerbated the confusion. Church of Scotland congregations, including our own, have been working very hard in abiding by the ever-changing guidelines, undertaking risk assessments and producing protocols in order to make public worship as safe an experience as possible.
The main change lately, has been the reduction in distancing from each other whilst in the kirk. Spacing is now reduced from two metres to one metre which greatly increases the numbers permitted within the building. We can now accommodate 31 places in Arngask Church with a maximum capacity of 62 worshippers. In the Kirk of St.Bride, Abernethy we now have 48 places (plus 8 in the balcony) with a maximum capacity of 88 worshippers.
It is still preferable to ‘book a pew’ by contacting the Roll Keeper, but with increased seating capacity it is perfectly possible to simply turn up on the day and give your details to the duty elder to comply with ‘Track and Trace’ regulations. It is now also feasible to attend either church building within the parish regardless of where you live.
Singing is now permitted, which has made a huge difference to the experience of worshipping, but sadly, the requirement to wear a mask whilst doing so, still remains.
Tea or coffee and a biscuit are now being served again after each of our services on a Sunday. There is an option open to all worshippers that, by remaining in a pew at the end of the service, refreshments will be brought to them. By everyone staying in their pew positions and by employing a ‘trolley-service’ we can conform to current regulations. Once ready to move out of the building, masks have to be replaced.
The minister and volunteer team continue to send out and deliver ‘On-Line Church’ services every Sunday for those who feel that they are not ready to return to the kirk in person. More up-to-the-minute kirk news is available through the Church ADA (Abernethy & Dron & Arngask) Facebook page where you can also find details about how to ‘book a pew’ by registering your details.
Rev Stan July 2021