Juxtapositions

Sometimes one sets experiences side by side and wonders ….

I went to London last Thursday/Friday to preach for the Patronal Festival for St George’s, Campden Hill – because one of the clergy there grew up in my parish. I took a certain pleasure in being there as an Irish person, representative of a Scottish church, preaching for St George’s Day.

On Sunday, we went to Dublin for the enthronement of Michael, the new Archbishop of Dublin. Times move on in Ireland – the Gospel was read by the Catholic Archbishop and of course they are preparing for the visit of the Queen later this month. But what is really striking in the Dublin which we know so well is the sense of desolation which hangs around. The financial crisis has hit people individually in a way unlike anything we have seen in Scotland. There is a deep cynicism about the political class who have by their incompetence and corruption destroyed the country and its future. And of course the position of the churches has been very difficult for some time. There isn’t much in which people can put their trust and respect.

I couldn’t help but feel the contrast when I took part in the Kirking of the Parliament in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh last night. There was life, colour and optimism – Mario Conti, Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, was the preacher; we had Christian material; an Imam read from the Koran; a rabbi from the Hebrew scriptures … Scotland is still coming to terms with the extraordinary scale of the victory of the Scottish National Party. It has led to the resignation of the other three party leaders in Scotland. Afterwards I was able to wander around among the MSP’s and the church and community representatives. We are all working out how to share in shaping this new Scotland and where we place our own identity in the midst of it.

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