In Putting the Church back into the stories of Scotland
(6 September), Gerry Hassan
speaks about Church and faith having a place in both Scotland's past and present.
This resonates with the experience of street pastors who are now operational in more than 20 areas of Scotland, to 'listen, help and care' in both day and night economies, on the streets and in 'safe spaces'. Street pastors are the churches' response to where people are at, for underlying most presenting issues we find people are looking for meaning and hope in personal, local and global terms.
Gerry goes on to affirm that 'a Scotland only about politics or our individual wishes as consumers and the idea of the self is like, much of the West, a barren place'. Celia Walden writes (The Telegraph
) that it is ironic that as a secular society we've thrown ourselves into the cult of self, worshipping daily at the temple of 'ME'. However much folk try the escapism of entertainment, such a worldview leaves people in a spiritually barren place.
People don't want to be just a number in a system, whether political or religious. The authentic Christian faith is not a religious system, it is a relationship with God to Whom each person is valuable. All too often people don't have anyone with time to really listen to them.
Cicely Saunders started the hospice movement when she asked a patient what he really wanted and got the reply: 'Someone to look at me as if they were really trying to understand me'. Teachers are busy. Social workers are swamped. Although a very high proportion of calls Police Scotland get at night and weekends are effectively welfare rather than criminal scenarios, the thin blue line is getting thinner. As Street pastors listen to all kinds of people, situations and questions non-judgementally, they find that underneath the secular facade 21st-century people are really searching for meaningful significance to their lives.
It may be that in the past the Church had what Gerry describes as an 'overbearing influence'. Now, however, it is secularism which has an 'overbearing' influence, seeking to remove Christianity from the public arena. Secularism is a worldview/attitude accepted by faith and leaving people the poorer. Street pastors seek to embody and show the enriching love of Jesus: that has a needed place in our personal, social, national and global life.
The follow up to last week's tale of the complications involved in flying to Kirkwall with BA may well take you aback. In spite of having confirmation of the flights from Heathrow to Aberdeen and then to Kirkwall right up to 31 August, when we arrived at the check-in desk on 1 September, it was to be told we had no reservations – and nothing the desk clerk could do found any. Eventually, she offered us seats in business class to Aberdeen on the plane we thought we were booked on. We bought them as that at least got us part of the way – bookings through to Kirkwall were apparently impossible.
When we arrived in Aberdeen, we got two seats on a later Loganair flight to Kirkwall so all was well. But they too had to be paid for. So, instead of paying BA for two flights to Kirkwall, we have paid for four. The other complication is that we paid for the replacement return flight via Edinburgh I told you about last week which we have to reclaim.
Once upon a time we would have gone to a travel agent and said what we wanted or into a BA office where we would have been face to face with a human being. The automatic email we have now received saying how much BA hoped we had enjoyed our time with them and would fly with them again has simply rubbed salt in our wounds. If we could reply, it would be short and anything but sweet.
That said, Kirkwall proved a delightful town, to have nice restaurants, pubs and shops, as well as a glorious high street which had St Magnus Cathedral at one end and our rather smart flat at the other. The weather was perfect and the sites and sights, wartime or Neolithic, proved worth seeing. The Highland Park distillery helped us feel better too.
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