Monthly Archives: February 2015

“Change and Decay in All I See”

The Courier


‘Time for someone to say it’ — Minister warns lack of interest is killing the church

By RICHARD BURDGE, 27 February 2015 3.25pm. Updated: 28 February 2015 10:10am.

Rev Scott Burton decided it was time to speak out after facing more and more empty pews in his church.Shaun Ward
Churches face an “intolerable and utterly unsustainable” lack of interest from their congregations, according to a minister.

An outspoken and wide-ranging attack has been made on members who fail to attend for worship or offer financial support to their churches.

The Rev Scott Burton, minister at St Matthew’s Kirk in Perth, said: “I have no reason to believe anything other than the fact that it’s only going to get worse in the next decade.

“It’s time for someone to say it as it is I’m afraid — and I’m either brave enough or stupid enough to be the one who’s choosing to say it.

“I see the bank balance (deficits), I lead worship in the more than half-empty buildings, I feel the never-ending pressures, I counsel the office-bearers who are tearing their hair out to make ends meet. So I assure you, I’m not exaggerating.”

He hit out after studying the number of people attending churches in Perth but his comments resonated with congregation leaders across Tayside and Fife.

The Rev Michael Goss, Angus Presbytery Clerk, said: “The general perception is that attendance at services runs at about a third or a quarter of the congregational roll.

“The picture is a continuing downward trend, which has been the situation for a long time.”

The Rev James Wilson, the clerk of Dundee’s Presbytery, said:“Our membership is gradually getting fewer and older. We are slowly but surely struggling to find people to do additional tasks and take up positions of responsibility.

P“It is a problem for us in the Church of Scotland in Dundee certainly — a major problem — but it is not one that only the church is facing.”

Ministers in Fife confirmed numbers were dropping, with the Rev Jan Steyn, minister of Cupar St Johns and Dairsie United Parish Church, saying “generational change” was required to keep churches relevant.


Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Sing a new song to the Lord

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Mid Week Homily (Dumfries Northwest Church – 26/02/2015)

(using the Gospel Reading for Lent 1, Year B)


There are many folk  in whatever walk of life – who start off promisingly; then peter out.

 My late wife had a close friend at secondary school. She was bright, vivacious, intelligent – destined to go far.  Not only did she gain a good degree in sociology, but then went on to study genetics, graduating with a second degree.

Then things went wrong.  She got in with a bad crowd, married an abusive husband, took drugs, worked at odd jobs, and lived in a bed-sit with hardly any furniture.

 And this lasted many years, until, through the help and support of her brother who has his own business, she got a kind of low grade job, but she worked at it, and advanced through his organisation, going on to be a successful businesswoman with real responsibilities

 She grabbed the opportunity with both hands, and made a wonderful success of it – changing her miserable existence into fulfilling life and living.

 While some sink; others, through  pain or difficulty, learn

 And those who are able to learn from it generally are able to go on and make something of their life, for after the pain, the work begins.


Let’s now listen for God’s Word, as contained in Scripture: 

READING:  Mark 1 verses 9 to 15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Belovedwith you I am well pleased.”

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news     15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come nearrepent, and believe in the good news.”


 Jesus had a very special and exciting time when he was baptised by John in the river Jordan.

 But immediately that same Spirit of God, who had descended upon him at his baptism, drove him out into the wilderness.



Rubens: “Temptation of Christ”


The wilderness can bring a real clarity of thought.  Things which were confused and muddled before tend to suddenly drop into place, for in the wilderness priorities change.  Things are seen for what they really are, and their degree of importance shifts accordingly.  And this tends to happen whether we are thrust into the wilderness by horrifying events in life, or whether we deliberately seek out the wilderness for ourselves.

When he emerged from the wilderness, Jesus knew what his life’s work was to be.  He knew that he would spend his life in ministry, working in a very specific way for the Father.

Clouds so very often follow sunshine, and when this happens in real life, it seems such a harsh experience.  Something wonderful happens and we feel excited and thrilled and happy, but this is so very often followed by a plunge into the depths of despair for some reason or another.

 But perhaps the experience of Jesus shows that for Christians everything, all of life both good and bad, is in God’s hands. 

Perhaps the pattern should be that the thrills, followed by the depths, are a prelude to the real work we are invited to undertake for God.



Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Footprints – Groovy!


Leave a comment

February 23, 2015 · 21:33

The “Show” must go on

My beloved Father died 39 years ago yesterday (on 21 February 1976) in Glasgow  – at the Western Infirmary. Yesterday, he was very much on my mind. What a decent and honourable man he was, and a loving and beloved Dad, whose counsel was wise, realistic, and positive.  I wish that I was even half the man that he was.

It was a Saturday – early evening – when he passed away.  After the usual formalities, I took my mother home (widowed at the age of 55), and stayed with her until almost midnight.

I then drove home to my Manse – some 40 miles away  – where my beloved wife (and one year old son – fast asleep) was waiting.

After talking things through for an hour or so, I went into my study and stayed up all night, writing a sermon from scratch; my organist was a wonderful, delightful, talented musician – who often was given the praise list half an hour before the service – so no problems there, with what hymns would be sung.  Davie – you were wonderful, as a musician, and as a friend.

This was my first Charge and had only been there for a couple of years – so no “Golden Oldies” to rehash.  I think that I finished typing my notes about 6.30 that morning.

And, in the pulpit on time on the Sunday morning. Haven’t a clue what I preached about (it’s somewhere in my files).

Then, after a snatched lunch, back down the road to Glasgow.

Foolhardy? Professional? Let the congregation down with sub-standard material?  What do YOU think?P

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Bible Lessons



SECULAR SYSTEM? Violet McClintock, 9, with her parents, Lisa Reynolds and Jeff McClintock.DAVID WHITE/Fairfax NZ
A father is taking his child’s school and the attorney-general to the High Court in a landmark case over school Bible lessons.


Things turned sour between the school in Red Beach, a suburb on the Hibiscus Coast, and Jeff McClintock after his daughter, Violet, now nine, was placed in Bible classes without parental permission.

One of the Bible class teachers from Life in Focus Trust, a volunteer who was not a qualified teacher, said parents did not need to be notified because the classes were “history lessons” as the Bible was factually correct.

The school operated an “opt out” system, but McClintock said despite opting out, Violet was repeatedly put back in.

After numerous complaints, McClintock was bringing his case against Red Beach School Board of Trustees for breaching its duties under the Education Act 1989 and against the attorney-general for passing legislation that was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

Board of trustees chairman Antony Wentworth said the legal action was a “frustration” and a “distraction from core business”.

The first hearing was set down for March 26 at the High Court at Auckland.

– Sunday Star Times (New Zealand)

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic



Leave a comment

February 21, 2015 · 13:40

Trinidad Soca for the First Sunday in Lent

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Lent (2)



Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic




Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic