It seems to me that spring sunshine makes lockdown a little more bearable, and certainly there is a sense of tentative optimism as we look forward to moving into a different level of restriction. The news of vaccination success helps, but I am still conscious that we have just emerged from the most miserable winter on record. Some of you will remember the winter of 1963, and some of you may even remember the winter of 1948. But for me, 2020-21 was just so hard for many - perhaps the worst winter! It’s been about so much more than just the weather. We all know the sort of things we have been struggling with here in Morningside and across Scotland and the world.
Many clergy have used the past few months to preach about hope, which is surely the strongest of human emotions, and in this post Easter time, we can see that spring is emerging - splashing colour and new life around us. This adds to a sense of guarded optimism, and this is a joy! It has been great to meet people rejoicing in family reunions, albeit outside. It’s wonderful our older people in care can be visited. I have been delighted to hear several ladies and men tell me of their relief at being able to visit the hairdresser or to make plans to return to the gym or swimming. There is a palpable sense of hope.
Here in the church, we too are planning to return to life to bring back the normality we can only remember from more than a year ago. It will happen slowly - the gradual return of simple things such as refreshments after services, social groups and even singing. We will keep you all informed as these things become possible. --But even the thought of it feels good.
I am also conscious that in some way and at some point, we shall need to look back in remembrance for those we have lost, and to give thanks for those who have worked so hard to keep us fed and cared for over this unprecedented time. I am conscious too of those who are financially compromised by the economic fallout of the pandemic, those using foodbanks, those exhausted by providing care services or working in the NHS. Even now, in this time of lengthening days and spring warmth, there are those much worse off than us and in much greater need of hope!
Pray for them, pray for the Church and pray above all for those you love best. Might the light and hope of Easter fall upon all of us as we emerge from this lockdown.
- Rev. Steven
As many of you may already know, the Kirk is facing a crisis and is following through with plans to radically reduce the number of ministers and Parishes in Scotland. Much of this work has come to its head because of the Covid pandemic, which has left the national Church with profound structural and financial problems. These are being addressed in a process called "Parish Clustering," which allows collaboration and the sharing of resources.
Morningside United Church has been participating in meeting with the South City Cluster. This group comprises Morningside United, Priestfield, Craigmillar Park, Reid Memorial, Mayfield Salisbury, St Catherine’s and Marchmont St Giles. Conversations have taken place to identify common mission goals and frankly - to look at the reduction and use of buildings. At the time of writing (21/4/21), the reports from all Cluster Groups have been received by the presbytery to bring forward a plan for Edinburgh.
We quote the report for this month’s presbytery:
"...there is a very real crisis now affecting the Church of Scotland, therefore the Strategy Team is looking to formulate a plan where the Presbytery will categorise each ecclesiastical building as either:
The Presbytery is also navigating its relationship to neighbouring Presbyteries, moving towards a union with West Lothian and into conversation with Lothian and three Borders Presbyteries with the potential for doing some work on planning together.
As you have read, change is afoot and this can feel disconcerting, particularly since many of us share some of the anxieties associated from the experience of lockdown. This said, we are an ecumenical parish and so any change must be negotiated with the United Reformed Church - our other denominational partner. This is helpful in that the URC can offer a wealth of experience in change management and clustering experiences.
During lockdown, I have found time to re-look at familiar stories from the Bible. Three have really resonated with me -The parables of the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Son. Each is familiar to us, but they always reveal something new when we re-read them.
During the pandemic, the words LOST, and LOSS seem to have had a greater meaning and made me look with fresh eyes on these stories Jesus told us. In the dictionary, the words have many meanings. The ones that stood out to me were: “to be deprived of”, “to be separated from”; “to become unable to find”; “to go astray”.
Many people have suffered the loss of their loved ones this last 15 months and have been deprived of and separated physically from those closest to them who could share their pain and give them the most comfort. Many of us have been separated from our families, missing hugs and kisses that mean so much.
We have all in some ways found life hard, being unable to concentrate for long periods, not being able to plan, with our minds drifting and thoughts going astray, and the inner peace we all need so much being hard to find in the turbulence around us.
Many have lost their jobs, their security and self-esteem. I thought of the lost son –what sort of homecoming was he expecting after he had gone astray, and how his searing loss of self-esteem made him feel?
Then my mind drifted from the words “loss” and “lost” to the words “found” and “gained”.
We have gained the gift of time to reflect and rethink, to dream of a better world post-Covid. We have found that as St David wisely said, “small things matter”: kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, sharing and caring, and having had the gift of time to realise with fresh insight that these small things really are the big things after all– the vital firm foundations on which to rebuild our world and cherish our brothers and sisters.
And... like the Lost Son, we have been found and forgiven. Like the Lost Coin, we are each of the greatest value to God. Like the Lost Sheep, we all go astray but our loving shepherd joyfully welcomes us back again and again.
I have found these lines from a hymn so comforting, “I looked at Jesus and I found in him my star and sun”.
("I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" by Horatius Bonar, 1846)
I am holding onto those words as each day begins for me, especially when I am feeling a bit lost and wondering what day it is!
Contributed by: Anonymous
The Holy Corner Booksale committee has confirmed the cancellation of this year’s booksale. Although inevitable in the current Covid restrictions, it is nevertheless very disappointing for volunteers and customers as it has become a calendar fixture in May for Bruntsfield and Morningside. There are, however, a couple of developments that will help us to raise money for Christian Aid.
Details of the items for sale on eBay and how to donate to the Kiltwalk, along with the “bookish wander” are available on the Holy Corner Booksale website. If you can support us in these initiatives it would be very much appreciated. (https://holycornerbooksale.wordpress.com/ways-to-help)
The committee is also considering the possibility of holding a small scale booksale in the autumn. A final decision is dependent on many factors, not least of which is the extent to which restrictions have been lifted. We’ll make a final decision later in the summer.
Last year we were able to send a donation of £650 to Christian Aid, made up of individual member donations and a small amount of online book sales. (Understandably, nothing like the £17,000 sent in 2019 from the last booksale and donations!)
If you would like to give a donation for this year’s Christian Aid Week, you can send a cheque to the church payable to Morningside United Church with a note that it is for Christian Aid. You can also give directly online to Christian Aid at https://www.christianaid.org.uk/.
Contributed by Margaret Lobban
We owe a debt of gratitude to those people who have volunteered to prepare clean and reopen the church. It's been great to see life in the building again . Thank you all who are involved.
Covid restrictions limit what we can do as a worshipping community. Guidelines now say that we can have up to 50 people at weddings or funerals, but numbers are limited further by the capacity of the building itself. Unfortunately we cannot sing, but we are allowed a soloist and so for the next few weeks we are very grateful to Max for arranging a wonderful soloist to lead us musically.
The service is shorter than usual for obvious reasons, but hopefully by the summer we will be back to some level of normality.
To this end the elders are planning for reopening fully to groups and hall users subject to Covid rules. We are also planning to upgrade our technology so we can live-stream our services rather than just use YouTube.
Thanks are very much owed to Max our organist for taking charge and going the extra mile with recording services. We are blessed with an average of 180 watching every Sunday!
Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was 30, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the power of His divine manhood.
While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying—and that was his coat.
When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centre-piece of the human race ... All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.
As an anonymous work, “One Solitary Life” was published in The Irish Echo, 27th December 1969; in the Congressional Record, 23rd December 1969, vol. 115; and on a variety of Christmas greeting cards in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.