Interim Moderator update
As summer advances and we move ever closer to the autumn, I share an extract of this little light-hearted poem with you.
Where can you find a colourful cool
Green, with yellow and orange splodges too ?
Where can you find a rock like a croc!
Or a Midgie much bigger than you ?
Where can you find an electric brae!
Or village people made out of hay ?
Where can you find a singing kettle!
Or men dancing round a pole in May ?
Customs and follies of every kind
You can really enjoy and find
In places throughout the British Isles
If you gladly keep an open mind.
(Extract from the poem ‘Where can you find’ written by Jean Wardlaw Gallagher © JWG 2012)
The answers to the questions come in the last verse of the poem. Throughout the British Isles. people of all ages, in small villages, larger towns and even in great big cities, endeavour to build community spirit and a sense of belonging through weird customs and intriguing traditions that are quite fascinating.
From careering downhill after a rolling cheese, or crowning a goat king, to decorating bales of hay in the shape of community characters, people in creative ways are drawn closer together in their communities whilst conveying a message of 'togetherness' to the observant passers-by.
The wonderful thing, for me at least, is that you don't have to travel very far to see this community spirit in action. At this time of year I love to go through places like Thornhill or Muthill, only a few miles away, because I know, that in passing through them, I will leave with a great big smile on my face, as I catch glimpses of the fun-loving ways in which these communities are building stronger ties. Every shop owner, every gardener, every member of the community, engages whole-heartedly in the summer customs and traditions that belong to their community. A bit like the way in which local folks here in Denny used to decorate their gardens for the Gala.
When the early church was growing, people thought Christians were doing strange things, such as breaking bread and pouring wine, whilst telling folks it was the body and blood of Christ!
In the modern church of today, we light Christingles at Christmas to represent Christ the Light of the World. We decorate crosses with daffodils at Easter and we cover the church windowsills with fruit and vegetables at Harvest.
Those of us in the church understand the significance of such religious traditions. Perhaps though we need to help those who observe them from a distance, hear about them from neighbours, or pass by our doors, to understand better what we are doing and why we are doing it.
It seems to me that there is a place for customs and traditions, not just in the community but more so in the church. We should not underestimate their ability to convey a powerful message of belonging and community spirit. We perhaps just need to make them a bit more creative and relevant in today's society.
Recently the church held its Summer Mission, another old religious tradition of opening our doors to children and families during the summer recess period. The helpers were brilliant, the response from the community disappointing! Why ?
In churches across the land the numbers attending are falling drastically. Does this mean we should stop doing what we are doing ? I hope the answer is no. It just means that we have to find new ways of being the Church, so that our customs and traditions do not die away but continue to convey a message of welcome, acceptance, belonging and community spirit. A message that lets people know that the church is part of the wider community and that the wider community can be part of ours.
I stopped the car and spoke to a lady in Muthill who, at 8.00pm, was out in the street with neighbours, making sure their straw characters were still in good shape. I told her how wonderful it was that the community worked together in this way. I thanked her for the joy it brought to people like me who were passing through. I was a bit surprised when her friend told me, 'We do it for ourselves as a community and for people like you who take the time to appreciate it. But we know that the majority of people pass through our village and will not see the straw characters'. I rejoiced greatly when she concluded, 'If it builds up our community spirit and brings joy to at least a few others, we have done well.'
We need to hear these words of encouragement. If it makes a difference to our life and to the life of at least one other - we have done well. All across this land there are wonderful religious and community customs we can all enjoy, if gladly we keep an open mind!
With warmest regards and God's richest blessings
Rev Dr Jean W Gallacher
Denny Westpark Church of Scotland