Sunday reflection 21 June 2020

Dear friends, 

Welcome to another service. 

The Very Rev John Chalmers, former Principal Clerk, played a part in our Elders’ Conference a good number of years ago before we became the new church we are today. He writes in Life and Work and with his experience and wisdom has a lot of valuable things to say. 

Below are his comments from the most recent Life and Work regarding where the Church is during the Covid outbreak. It is printed here for all those who do not receive the Life and Work magazine, which I believe is always a good read. 

‘Since the beginning of the year Covid-19 and its consequences have dominated the news: day in and day out, until we have become saturated by the science, the economics and the politics of the most disruptive and immediate global challenge that we have ever faced. And now, as we approach our fifth month since restrictive measures were advised and then enforced, the penny has dropped that life will never be quite the same again. 

Like some kind of modern day prophet Bill Gates, in 2015, warned that the greatest global threat facing humanity today was “not missiles but microbes” and he urged governments around the world to shape up and put in place the arrangements and structures to create early warning and rapid response systems. This was after the outbreak of Ebola; but, did we listen? Did we learn the lessons that would bring about greater global co-operation on health issues which could have global consequences? Far from it – instead we have been living through a period of growing isolationism and xenophobia which have made it nearly impossible to effect a global response to a global pandemic. 

It is, of course, the fault of every age and time to ignore the prophetic voices and go on living as if there was no tomorrow. This time, surely, we have endured enough distress and displacement to realise that some things have to change if we are to tackle the biggest issues which are facing our global village. As we slowly emerge from this great difficulty make it a prayer that across the nations we learn the kind of co-operation that will take us from defeating the Coronavirus Covid-19 bug to tackling the climate dis-aster that is waiting for us if we don’t make the lifestyle changes that this demands. 

The Church too has to learn lessons from our life in lockdown. Across the whole Church of Scotland from the most rural parish to the most ancient Cathedral, from our Presbyteries to our central offices, we have been offered a tantalising glimpse of a very different kind of Church. One in which we have discovered that we are not as reliant on buildings as we thought we were and it is one in which we are able, online, to reach a constituency that has been missing from our pews for generations. So, as we emerge slowly from this great difficulty, we need to make it a prayer that across the Church we build on the lessons we have learned and do not slip back into old ways. 

Right now there is great uncertainty about when we may be able to return to our church buildings, but there is no doubt about the need to expand our online presence. While we long for the day when we can once again worship in our sacred spaces we know that there are too many of them. And memories of what we once were are no use to a church that must dream of what we can be in the future. We have discovered (if we did not know already) that so much of what we do is rooted in tradition and convention rather than relevance and necessity and that has to change. 

The Bible is full of stories of onward journeys where God’s people gain nothing from looking back, while they have everything to gain by pressing on. 

That image is also captured by Jesus who reminded his followers that when you put your hand to the plough – you can’t look back. It has been a huge encouragement to feel the energy and see the imagination of those who have risen to the challenge of keeping worship and fellowship alive during this strangest of times; we have set a new standard for ourselves, the future is now full of new and exciting possibilities and for all sorts of reasons we can’t afford to look back.’ 

Thanks John.