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Christmas Celebration?

Christmas Celebration?

Dear Friends
‘How can you celebrate Christmas in a place like this,’ the prisoner asked me? At the time I was a very part- time chaplain in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. It was the middle of December. It’s a refrain we are hearing just now in a different context as the COVID restrictions remain in place. How can we celebrate Christmas this year with all that is going on?

My answer to the prisoner is still relevant today I think. If you can’t celebrate Christmas in prison then you can’t celebrate it anywhere. The first Christmas was celebrated against a background of an occupying army, high taxes, despotic rulers and random acts of senseless slaughter. The background of Christmas highlights its meaning in sharp relief. The darker and blacker the sky the brighter the star shines.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land asked the Jews in exile in Babylon centuries before? Eventually they realised they could sing with even greater confidence and strength because God was with them. So with Christmas this year we will celebrate, if not in large family gatherings, then rather with the reminder that Christmas means Immanuel-God with us. In these strange times the message of Christmas stands as a wonderful reminder we are not alone and never have been. So it will be that with confidence and strength we will wish people this year a very happy Christmas, and we will mean it.

Our services in advent will take up some of the traditional themes of the second coming and John the Baptist. The on-line services will continue this month. There will be a short service for Christmas Day, but there will be no Watchnight Service this year. There is a special treat on 20 December when the choir will lead us in an on-line service of lessons and carols. It promises to be an uplifting occasion . We also look forward to the return of Rev John Smith as our locum later this month. It will be good to have him back.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas
With best wishes
David

In the interim . . . .

In the interim . . . .

Dear Friends
During the period of John Smith’s absence as locum I have been asked to lead the on-line worship. I have no idea, however, what you might call a partial locum for a locum; temporary, interim, short-term were all mentioned. No matter what, they all suggest this is not a permanent arrangement, and we all look forward to John returning to his duties once his treatment is completed and I would ask you to continue to remember him in your prayers..
But we do live in a rather interim world at present don’t we? Life as we know it is on hold to some extent or another. We wait with growing frustration for these times to pass, as pass they will, so that life can return to what we once knew, and we can return to church as we used to do as well.
We are in the process of discovering, however, that there is new way of being church. There is another way of having our faith encouraged and our commitment strengthened from that which we once knew. Had anybody suggested a wee while ago, that we could be seated at home sharing in worship, yet still feeling part of an unseen congregation we would have found it hard to comprehend. But it is happening.
A friend of mine for whom I preach on occasion asked me to take a service one Sunday while she had a well-deserved break. From the comfort of my living room I conducted a live Zoom service for a congregation just south of Glasgow.
These are exciting times for the church, exciting times for our congregations as we look forward to working out how the church will look in the new norm we are told to expect. So many good thigs have emerged recently, so much talent rising to the challenge. It would be a shame to lose sight of that.
The story of the Bible is the story of a people on the move from Egypt to the Promised Land, from Jerusalem to exile in Babylon and back again, and in the New Testament the movement of a gospel, and people, from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond. We belong to that tradition of a people who have to keep on the move to keep pace with the God who is out in front leading us.
With best wishes
David

Grasping the Nettle online conference

Grasping the Nettle online conference

The Grasping the Nettle online conference (Through a Glass Darkly) has just concluded with the third and final lecture from Professor Alister McGrath.  It was a superb series of talks where he grappled with the fascinating interplay between science and religion, the limitations of perspective and our ‘toolbox’ of ways of understanding reality.  Visit the Grasping the Nettle website (graspingthenettle.org) to catch up if you missed this excellent series of lectures.  Well worth listening to all three and visit the WATCH space on the website.

The sessions were chaired by the Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison.

Email from Rima

Email from Rima

Update from Beirut

Many of you will remember Rev Dr Rima Nasrallah who preached in the Old Parish and at Eddleston in August 2019.   She keeps in touch with news from NEST.  This month’s email came with particularly sad news….  I remember Rev Savag Trashian very well.  

The situation in Lebanon is very unstable. We are unable to form a government or agree on a way forward. The country is experiencing chaos and lawlessness. The interest in help and reconstruction decreased dramatically yet so many people are still homeless and many are still sliding under the poverty line. Educational institutions are teaching online and trying to catch up with the academic year which means that many of the young people who were volunteering in the first few days are now off the streets. 

Our Churches are still in ruins and many institutions are dysfunctional. Since Sunday some villages and towns are under strict lockdown and this is paralyzing us even further. 

We as a community experienced a great shock this weekend. One of our graduates/student Rev. Sevag Trashian age 41, passed away suddenly due to a heart attack. He was a perfectly healthy man and very active. We do not understand what happened. For me, this news is extra sad. He was working with me towards his Sacred Theology Master for the past 5 years, I met with him every week for three hours and our friendship extended beyond the classroom. Sevag was the pastor of a local Armenian Evangelical Church (you probably remember him….. We had his funeral yesterday in a Church with no windows and demolished sides and walls. It was so sad! Misery upon misery. 

I am sorry to send only bad news. We cling to our Christian hope. 

Blessings, 

Rima

October Pastoral Letter

October Pastoral Letter

PASTORAL LETTER


Dear Friends,

Here we are seven months or so into our Covid situation, and sometimes the whole thing seems like a roller coaster. Numbers down, then up again. The threat hanging over us of a renewed period of restriction with all the family and individual angst that brings with it. The building is not open for Sunday Worship, but elsewhere in this magazine you will find an article describing the things that are alive and well around church in spite of the building being closed.

As always, I am grateful for the little stories I hear of individual care and concern expressed for friends and neighbours – especially those who need particular thought. Thank you for making a difference.

After a year spent as our Interim Moderator, Very Revd Finlay Macdonald, during which he has brought the church to the brink of important steps in the way ahead, has demitted the post. Rather in the style of Moses, who had to hand over to Joshua for the final push across the Jordan. (He will be reading this and laughing at his Locum’s flights of fancy.) More to be said, but for the moment these two. Finlay’s work in preparing the way for a stable move forward has been wonderful to behold. His many acts of wisdom and kindness (some of them unseen) have brought positive enhancement to the situation. Secondly, as a colleague, I pay tribute to Finlay’s kind friendship and guidance. He has made my time here a great and enjoyable experience.

On my own front, I continue as Locum for the meantime. I have to take two months (unpaid) leave of absence to undergo treatment for Prostate Cancer – and they will start on the 15th October. It may be that I will be able to be back for Christmas. I realise that the timing could have been more helpful. But there we are.

When a new Interim Moderator is appointed, it will be up to him or her to determine practical steps on the way forward. But in the meantime, Pamela and I and the Kirk Sessions will continue to serve the people of God in the best way possible.

Grace and peace,

John

A message from Revd Pamela Strachan

A message from Revd Pamela Strachan


BEIRUT

Conditions in Beirut grow worse each day. After the enormous explosion on 4 August which killed nearly 200 and left 6,000 injured the city has struggled to bring order from the chaos. Hospitals and schools as well as winter food and medical supplies have been destroyed; the country’s infra- structure is on the point of collapse and the cabinet has resigned en masse.

I have been reassured to hear from friends and colleagues at NEST (Near East School of Theolo- gy) where I studied in 2018 but although they have survived the blast, their accounts reveal the extent of the damage and the suffering being endured throughout the city – as well as the chal- lenges ahead. Over 300,000 have been made homeless.
NEST has appealed to friends for support and solidarity. You will see a fuller report in our Sep- tember Magazine, and also news from Sylvia Haddad, who runs the school in the Sabra-Shatilla refugee camp which both Finlay and I have visited during our respective visits to Lebanon.
Thank you for your support and prayers.

Pamela Strachan, OLM

If you wish to contribute, our Treasurer, Ronald Ireland has arranged to receive cheques through the Church office.
Please make cheques payable to Peebles Old Parish Church of Scotland, clearly marked on the back: BEIRUT NEST Recovery and post them to the Church Office at High Street, Peebles, EH45 8SW

Alternatively, a contribution can be made through Christian Aid. Further detail for the Beirut appeal, here please https://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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