A Word from the Manse
November begins with the saints and ends with Advent and in between we have the sombre moments of Remembrance. The three do have some connecting themes. All Saints reminds us of the communion of saints, our place with those who have gone before us, in the family of God. That means the people you have known and loved. Think about them. You see All Saints feels like a bit of a catch-all, a day for those who don’t get their own special day, but how much more enjoyable to share the celebration with everyone!
The beginning of Advent reminds us of the promises of God, made real in the gift of Jesus at Christmas who becomes Emmanuel, God with us and what a huge comfort this is in difficult days for so many.
Finally, sandwiched in between, we celebrate Remembrance including remembering those who have gone before us, especially and particularly those who died in war. This year we remember those who have been killed on active service, but we also remember the civilian casualties and all whose lives are scarred by war. So many in the older generation have their direct memories, while my generation and those that follow are reminded that our peace is not what everyone has experienced, and we wonder if we have learnt anything from the sacrifices of so many men and women. Remembrance means we cannot forget the viciousness of war, the atrocities of war, the impact of war, the cost of war - lest we forget.
This month, I suspect many of us have cause to wonder quite what the ongoing impact of Covid will be, as we are anxious about rising fuel prices, the cost of heating, food costs etc, and when Climate Change is at the top of the agenda at COP26 the context of our living can seem overwhelming.
Our hope lies in what can be revealed this month. Firstly, All Saints reminds us of our connection with all God’s people and his presence with us in the world; Remembrance stirs our hearts and minds to consider the impact of our inhumanity and at Advent call to be watchful and alert gives us the assurance that God will never abandon us.
It’s true that Covid has put a strain on our sense of community and in some cases, we have responded so well, but in other cases Covid has exacerbated loneliness and sadness and depression; Climate Change and rising costs of fuel and gas can make us – in our anxiety - more prone to hold on rather than give. Yet if we are assured of our place in God’s family, and if we are assured of the coming of his Kingdom, then we can put the difficulties and challenges of life into perspective, acknowledging their reality, their seriousness, the impact (not least on others) but we shall not be overcome. We are part of God’s family with all the saints – we are living in a hurt and hurting world – but we are heirs of the promise which is guaranteed in Jesus: I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (John 14 v 18).
With Every Blessing,
We are glad that we can welcome a Waldensian minister in training. Giovanni has written this biography for you. Please make him welcome and be kind to him.
My studies have also been enriched by the preparation of a series of lessons on worship and liturgy with Prof. Hiltrud Stahberger Vogel and, by three years of collaboration with pastor Luca Negro at the Baptist communities of Albano Laziale and Grosseto.
As for my pastoral experiences, these have taken me to the Waldensian Church of Verona during the summer. Here I got to stand in for the pastor and I was able to carry out ministry and biblical studies within a multicultural context. This was a new and highly stimulating world for me. Another important experience was being locum pastor for six months at the Waldensian Church of Vasto.
In 2018 I carried out international activities by participating in the Protestant Forum for Young Theology in Europe. This was entitled "Taking responsibility, give hope, being visible" organized by the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) and the Evangelischer Bund Hessen. I also took part in the international volunteering project promoted by the AIESEC association entitled “woman in Power (UN global goal gender equality).
I am looking forward to spending time here in Edinburgh and meeting both members of the MUC congregation and people from further afield.
Good COP - Bad COP: What is COP26 and why is it so important? ...a Christian Perspective.
Article by Jemima Parker
SEPT 2021: In just a few days one of the most important conferences to be held in recent years will take place. The global climate summit, known as COP26, will be held in Glasgow during the first two weeks of November.
The importance and relevance of COP26 cannot be underestimated given the domination of our news headlines, over recent months, by one environmental crisis after another - from extreme heat events and frequent wildfires, to catastrophic floods and biodiversity loss.
Events like these are becoming increasingly commonplace and, as our scientists predicted, are a result of climate change, they are now a reality for us here in Yorkshire, just as much as they are in distant lands. If left unchecked climate change will make life on earth at best far less comfortable and at worst unbearable.
There is however, still time to do something about it, if we can act more swiftly and implement the big global wide changes that are needed to curb fossil fuel emissions and boost nature recovery.
These summits, known as the UN’s Conference of the Parties (COP) are where amendments to the global agreement on climate change are negotiated. The first COP was in Berlin in 1995 when most of the world had yet to register the significance of climate change. Twenty-six years later, COP26, co-hosted by the UK and Italy, will be the most significant since COP21 in Paris in 2015.
What emerged from COP21 is referred to as the Paris Agreement, a landmark in the multilateral climate change process, because for the first time a binding agreement brought all nations into a common cause, to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
The Paris Agreement was a breakthrough because it allowed all nations to make a pledge – or a nationally determined contribution – which if delivered (a crucial point) should start to slow the rate of global warming, with the ultimate aim of limiting the average level of warming to at least 2°C, and ideally to 1.5°C.
These figures don’t sound like much, but they are massively significant for two main reasons. First, they are global annual averages and there will be big variations around the world, with the extremes being much higher and enough to trigger massive disruptions, including making some areas effectively uninhabitable. Second, the science is clear that 1.5°C of warming is a crucial tipping point. Stay within 1.5°C and we retain control of our future climate – but go beyond it and we risk triggering ‘run away’ climate change. In other words, if we go beyond 1.5°C of warming we lose control of our future, as a range of feedback loops kick-in where warming unlocks natural cycles that then drive further warming. One key natural cycle (there are many) relates to the melting of extensive areas of permafrost which currently contain huge quantities of methane that if released would drive further warming.
Before the Paris Agreement, the world was headed to 4° or 5°C of warming – well into the range of runaway climate change. The pledges made at Paris (if they are delivered) should limit warming to around 3°C – still well beyond that crucial threshold. But Paris included provision for these commitments, and their delivery, to be reviewed after five years. Glasgow is the Paris-Plus-Five COP, where this review happens, so it is crucial that the commitments are upgraded and each country explains how it will deliver on these carbon cutting promises.
The prospect of accelerating climate breakdown, caused by our fossil fuel emissions into the biosphere, and biodiversity loss, is an unpleasant one to think about. In its most extreme form, it would mean the end of organised human society. It’s not the earth we need to save - it will save itself – but ourselves, from being annihilated, as a result of making earth’s climate uninhabitable.
Big changes are needed in humanity’s relationship with the earth - our only home. Our ancestors were not capable of affecting ‘earth systems’, but we are, and right now our fossil fuel greedy societies are doing just that. Times of change can be turbulent and hard for all of us, but pretending climate change will not affect us and delaying action, as we have seen with the Covid pandemic, will lead to harder and more costly decision further down the line.
The good news is we have all the scientific knowledge and technology we need to transition to a thriving carbon neutral economy, powered by renewable energy. All that is needed is the political will to make it happen.
At COP26 we will be looking to our global leaders for clear strategic action, based not on wishful thinking, but on proven pathways to rapidly curb fossil fuel emissions, and boost nature recovery, to be rolled out at scale and at pace.
It is up to governments of the world to work together to forge these international agreements. Whilst we, as citizens, have a responsibility to remind our government - our political representatives - of the future we want for our beautiful Yorkshire and to show them that we are ready and willing to play our part by embracing carbon action each of our cities, towns and villages.
A good COP would see a global commitment from all countries to stop subsidising fossil fuel industries and the setting in place of an equitable agreement, where the ‘carbon polluters’ support and finance those nations and areas of the UK where climate change will have the most climate impact. The outcome of a bad COP is not even worth contemplating.
Jemima Parker is the Environmental Officer of the Diocese of Leeds, Church of England. She is also the Chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate.
Parker, Jemima (2001 Sept). Zero Carbon Harrogate on why COP26 will be crucial for the future of humanity. Retrieved from https://www.harrogateadvertiser.co.uk/news/environment/zero-carbon-harrogate-on-why-cop26-will-be-crucial-for-the-future-of-humanity-3370598.
November Events: Shop Local!
Edinburgh Bookshop (https://www.edinburghbookshop.com/)
Spektakulär - Scandi Pop-up Shop (https://www.spektakular.co.uk/)
On Saturday 27 November Spektakulär, who used to be on Colinton Road, is holding a one day pop-up shop within our main entryways and the McLeish room (central vestibule located at the back of the sanctuary). It promises to have lots of wonderful gift ideas and decorations for Christmas.
Spektakulär is a Scandi home goods and gift boutique owned by local resident Charlotte Brink, formerly located as a brick-and-mortar shop on Colinton Road. The shop is now fully online, and can be found at https://www.spektakular.co.uk/
We are proud of our neighborhood small businesses, and thrilled to be a location for these events.
Church Life @ MUC : An Update!
Main Hall - The contractors have been contacted and arrangements made for the floor to be fixed at the end of November. We really look forward to this and the resumption of church life there
Falcon Road Flat - The Elders agreed to end the commercial rent for the flat. Now, by arrangement with Link Housing Association and Edinburgh Council, the flat is being leased by the Housing Association for a Afghan refugee family.
Max Carsely - Max would like to extend his grateful thanks to all who contributed to his farewell gift. He is deeply grateful for your help and says he feels blessed to have worked at MUC. He hopes to return to visit us from Berlin at Christmas.
Organ - Max has been temporarily replaced by Evan Cruikshank. Brigitte Harris is helping too. Meantime the Elders will look at longer term arrangements in the next few months
Online services - These will resume. We have purchased a new camera to enable this. Technology seems the way forward in the economy of worship post pandemic.
Romanian Orthodox Community - The shared use of the church on Sundays has proved very successful and it’s wonderful to be able to offer support to this large community of Christians.
Church of Scotland Parish Clusters & Mergers - We shall hear this month about future plans but meantime we seek to work more closely with Marchmont St Giles
Edinburgh Napier University - We have been approached by Napier University to look at developing part of the building for student wellbeing services. At the same time, we have been asked if Napier could use part of the Church for classes because of the shortage of accommodation caused by Covid.
Book Group – This month’s book groups will be held on 11 and 25 November. We are reading Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith.
Children’s work – The elders will be meeting shortly to discuss the children’s work and we will have new proposals for the congregation.
Coffee Mornings – These will be held on Thursday 4 & 18 November in the Small Hall. We look forward to seeing everyone.
A poem by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard
Much have I spoken of the faded leaf;
Long have I listened to the wailing wind,
And watched it ploughing through the heavy clouds,
For autumn charms my melancholy mind.
When autumn comes, the poets sing a dirge:
The year must perish; all the flowers are dead;
The sheaves are gathered; and the mottled quail
Runs in the stubble, but the lark has fled!
Still, autumn ushers in the Christmas cheer,
The holly-berries and the ivy-tree:
They weave a chaplet for the Old Year’s bier,
These waiting mourners do not sing for me!
I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,
Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;
The naked, silent trees have taught me this,--
The loss of beauty is not always loss!
This poem appeared in Poems (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895).
It is in the public domain.
A Prayer for November
Thank you, Lord, for this day.
May I live it in the spirit of the gospel, Looking on everyone I meet with friendliness and compassion.
May I live it also in care for the earth, given to us to enjoy; may I be grateful for all the earth gives me.
Give joy and peace to all I meet this day.
I pray this with Mary, mother of the Church.
Remembrance Sunday Meditation
by Vishvapani Blomfield
https://thebuddhistcentre.com/highlights/vishvapani-bbc-thought-day-remembrance-day-meditationSomething remarkable can happen in a sports stadium when a crowd observes a minute’s silence. Those present cease, for that moment, to be supporters and become reflective and respectful. When a particularly significant loss is remembered – as when Anfield commemorates the Hillsborough dead – the silence gathers the crowd into a shared emotion. Then the whistle blows and hostilities recommence.
The minute’s silence on Remembrance Day this Sunday probably can’t match that emotion for most of us. Yet the invitation to reflect is the same and, here too, silence is a fitting medium.
The most intense experience I’ve had of remembrance was attending a weeklong interfaith retreat in the grounds of Auschwitz/Berkenau concentration camp. My grandfather and other members of my father’s family died in the Holocaust but my father was baffled that I would wish to go to such a place. When I found myself sitting in Berkenau, surrounded by barracks and barbed wire and shivering in the biting autumn air, I shared his perplexity. Why was I there?
It helped that we performed rituals and recited kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead; and it also helped that I had time to simply sit in silence. I sensed that I wasn’t there for myself: I was there for the dead. I was there to remember because the alternative was to forget. I was there to bear witness to the suffering of others because it was the suffering of the family, the world and the life of which I’m a part.
A minute is barely enough time for the chatter of our minds to begin to settle. All the same, Remembrance Sunday is an invitation to find a space in our harried lives for a silent opening to all that war has meant for the country. For me, it is a national meditation on what Wilfred Owen called ‘the truth untold / the pity of war, the pity war distilled.’
Attending to that untold truth requires that we become quiet, for just a moment, and bear witness to what happened. We don’t need to figure it out or think how to put it right. Then what? I think Owen’s word ‘pity’ is a clue, and ‘compassion’ – a word beloved by Buddhists and others – is another. We can’t force compassion into existence any more than we can force a flower to grow. But if we sit quietly in those silent moments at a football match, in a concentration camp, or on Remembrance Sunday, perhaps compassion will emerge; and, with it, a sense of what to do next.
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.