Tag Archives: snow

You’ll have had your tea!

“You’ll have had your tea” is a traditional Edinburgh greeting!  “Tea” here meaning evening meal.

Well, I didn’t get my cup of tea, one Winter’s evening way back in 1984.

I had returned from ministering in Trinidad, and was just about to go to my next Charge in Perthshire in the March of that year.

Various speaking engagements had been organised for me, during this interim period, including this one – at a well-known (and well-healed) Edinburgh Kirk – one Sunday night.

It had been snowing all afternoon, and, by evening the roads were slippery and difficult to drive upon.

I struggled to drive there through the snow, and the ten minute journey took more than half an hour.

So, I eventually arrived (with some effort) to give a talk about what the Church of Scotland  was doing on the Island, and my time there for the previous four years.

The evening service had just finished, and I wandered into the Hall.

People were standing in little groups, chatting, and totally ignoring me. Everybody, including the then Minister, had a warming cuppa in their hand; nobody offered me anything, nobody asked who I was & what I was doing in the building, and that included the Minister who addressed not a single word to me, before he left – never even acknowledged me.

Once the evening’s congregation had dispersed, leaving only half a dozen or so people, chairs were hastily dragged into a semi-circle, I was given the most perfunctory of welcomes (including the group’s leader saying to those present, “Thank you for coming out on such a wretched evening; I’m sure Mr Strachan won’t keep us too long!”

Then…my (shortened) presentation…. a muttered thank you about bringing some Caribbean sunshine into a dark, cold night…. and that was it.

“I won’t insult you by offering you any expenses, as you’re just a mile away,” was the parting shot. “Thank you”

I stopped at a nearby pub for a warming dram….. after all, I had had my tea (not!)



The very place

As cauld a wind as ever blew,

A caulder Kirk, and in’t but few;

A caulder preacher never spak;-

Ye’se a’ be het ere I come back.

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The Show Must Go On

One of the Preacher’s nightmares is to have a dodgy stomach on a Sunday morning, prior to conducting Morning Worship (tip: never have a takeaway curry the night before)

One is sitting enthroned with less than an hour to go and wondering what to do.  It has happened a couple of times – but, mercifully, I’ve had Session Clerks who could take bits of the service, while I dashed off to the church loo.

Worse – an occasion when I had to drive some distance on a particular Sunday morning to preach for a vacant Charge in the Interim-Moderator’s Church.  We set off in good time, but the snow got heavier and heavier until the road was eventually blocked.  This was in the days before mobile (cell) phones – so I had to walk through the snow-drift to a public phone box to let the Minister know that I couldn’t make it.  Poor guy – this was  his first church and so he didn’t have any “oldies” from elsewhere to fall back upon.  I hope the Holy Spirit came to his rescue!  (I later revisited – and got the post)

While a hospital chaplain, I was paged some years ago by the company which now owns the Crichton Memorial Church in Dumfries.  It would be about three in the afternoon and the Minister who was supposed to conduct the marriage ceremony (scheduled to start then) at the Church hadn’t turned up.

Could I help out?

As I wore an open-neck shirt (for hygiene reasons) and chinos at work – I said that I would have to return home to get changed into something more appropriate for a wedding – and that it would take me half an hour.  The poor bride was in tears (her mum was in tears and – later – the wedding cake was in tiers!) but after what I hoped was a reassuring chat, we got started.

It transpired that the missing Minister (who didn’t believe in rehearsals) had assumed that the Wedding was on the Saturday.  The groom and the family were not best pleased – and it even made the local rag.

On auto-pilot:  my beloved father had osophegal  cancer and died in the Western Infirmary in Glasgow in the early evening of Saturday, 21st February 1976.  After spending some time at the Hospital, I took my mother back to the family home and spent some time with her and my Father’s brother and sister who were staying with her.

About ten o’clock, I drove the thirty-odd miles to where my Church was; had a quick bite to eat, and spent the next three hours writing my sermon.

I took the Sunday service at 11 o’clock that morning, before driving back to Bearsden immediately afterwards.  And I haven’t a clue what I preached about that day.

and here’s a repost on the same subject:

Christmas Eve 1974
The Meenister’s Log

Murder in the Cathedral – well, getting duffed up on the steps of the kirk……..

I went to my first charge in June 1974 – a pleasantly quiet village where most of the excitement at Christmastide was going to look at the lights (green, amber, red, amber, green – hell , this was confusing – but exhilarating)

Anyhow, it was Christmas Eve and my first watch night service as a newly fledged meenister.

I got to the church just as the pub across the road was scaling out (whiff of the barmaid’s apron £1; sook of the spittoon £1.25; half-pint of dregs only £1.30. – I made that up)

Mind you, a few weeks before draped from the window of one of the flats above was a bed sheet with the message: “Happy 27th birthday, Granny”

OK – to our tale of woe: some of the punters from that pub decided that it would be a good idea to rough up our church officer who had asthma.

I managed to get those youths out of the building, but they started to smash up some of the diamond-shaped stained-glass windows.

So this daft wee meenister followed them outside to remonstrate; they then got stuck into me and hit on the head with an object (at that point, unknown)

The Polis arrived very quickly, and, even though they knew who the miscreants were, were annoyed when I wouldn’t make a statement.

Our Session Clerk, the saintly Dr Tom Burnett (RIP) arrived at the same time as my heavily pregnant wife. Gossip started about a Christmas baby – Matthew was actually born at the beginning of February – but he was actually putting stitches in my head (without anesthetic!)

Then right on time, I stood in the pulpit and preached about peace and goodwill toward all men.

The next day – Christmas morning – I had a 10.30 service – and, before we stated, Davie the Beadle, went to the church safe, and dialed in the code (6-6-6) opened the door and produced a dented can of Tennant’s lager (for my older friends, these were the heavier metal tins with the ‘Lovelies’ depicted thereon) – the one that had caused me to have three stitches put in my head.

I later enjoyed that can of beer – because it was ………….. Thirst after righteousness!

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The Found

Scripture Reference:  Luke 15, verses 1-10

A minister, touring in West Germany was invited to spend the night with one of the families of the host congregation. The family consisted of the father. the mother, and a twelve-year-old boy.

The father began to tell the minister something about the family, and especially about the circumstances surrounding the adoption of this youngster whom they had rescued during the war years.

The father said: “The boy was just a poor orphan when we first saw him. He was in rags and very dirty, but his shoes were the worst of all. The upper parts were in tatters and the soles had huge holes in them. When we took him in, we gave him new clothes and threw his old ones away.

“We decided, however, to keep those battered shoes as a reminder of how badly off he had been when he first came here. I keep them on a shelf, and when the boy complains or becomes unruly, I merely walk slowly to the shelf, haul the shoes down, and remind him of how much we have done for him.”

The boy looked hurt, ashamed, and even a bit unwanted.

The guest, afraid to say anything, in case he should offend his host, thought to himself: what a blessing it is that God doesn’t continually drag out our old shoes.

When God’s forgives, He also forgets.

After God has changed us, he doesn’t constantly remind us how we were, he doesn’t point back to the rags of sin we used to wear. He doesn’t point back to the shoes of self pride, we used to wear.

Rather, we live with his love guiding us, caring for us, comforting us, upholding us and trusting us as his children.

God is joyful when one sinner returns to the flock, or one sinner who is lost is found. And notice, if this is a parable about God, who is he in this parable? He is the shepherd and he is the woman. God finds the lost!!

In our opening story, if the father could have truly accepted this adopted child out of love, he would not have had to use the shoes as a reminder of his love for the child. The child could sense his love by the way he was treated and accepted as the man’s son.

Then the father could love him in spite of the wrongs he had done, in spite of the misbehaviour.

We are forgiven each time we wander. Each time we sin and God seeks us out, we are forgiven and returned to the fold.

We try not to wander, to sin, but we do. But through Christ, our sins are forgiven and covered with the forgiveness of Christ,

Nome, Alaska, on the edge of the Bering Sea, is like many villages of the Arctic. The ground on which the community sits is frozen, sponge-like tundra. Burying the dead is a real challenge.

Sanitation landfills are unheard of. Dustbin men don’t empty wheelie bins as they do here.

Instead a typical front yard displays broken washing machines, junked cars, old toilets, scrap wood, and piles of non degradable refuse.

Tourists who visit Nome in the summer are amazed at the debris and shake their heads. How could anyone live like that, they wonder. What those visitors do not realize is that for nine months of the year Nome sits under a blanket of snow that covers the rubbish.

During those months, the little  town is a quaint winter wonderland of pure white landscapes.

The reality of grace is that the garbage of our lives has been covered by a blanket of forgiveness.

The prophet Isaiah declares that the blight of our sin, once red as crimson, is now white as freshly fallen snow. And unlike the situation in Nome, our sin is covered forever! 

We are forgiven people. We are people who are lost and then found. We are lost sheep and lost coins, but at the same time, we are found people, found sheep and found coins because we are forgiven by Christ.

Not far from New York there is a cemetery which has inscribed upon a headstone just one word – “Forgiven.” There is no name, no date of birth, or death.

The stone is unblemished by the sculptor’s art. There is no epitaph, no fulsome eulogy – just that one word, “Forgiven”, but that is the greatest thing that can be said of any person, or written upon one’s grave, “Forgiven.”

Forgiven, that is what we are, we are forgiven in Christ.

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St.Michael’s Kirk, Inveresk

St.Michael's Kirk, Inveresk

St.Michael’s mid March (!) 2013

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March 20, 2013 · 11:42

Dead Ends

The Meenister’s Log

The snow was falling heavily and the hearse was struggling to climb the hill.  Leaving the driver behind the wheel, the funeral director and myself got out and tried to push it up the incline.  Unfortunately, the hatchback door opened and the coffin started to roll out.  Tom, the undertaker, slipping and sliding and trying to push the casket back in, and me pushing him from behind, looked as if we were in a Laurel and Hardy short.  We had a quick short once we got back in the now mobile hearse – Tom usually carried a hip-flask with him.

Another funeral – driving slowly and sedately along a busy high street on a Saturday morning, en route to the crematorium, the driver of the hearse saw, walking along the pavement a real honey of a young lady wearing a pelmet as a skirt.  He slowed down even more to admire this beauty, and so, obviously, did the driver behind whose car ran into the back of us.

Now, this happened opposite a police station. Our driver went immediately across the road to be told amazingly to wait until a police car arrived on the scene!

It did eventually and our undertaker was breathalysed (no booze in his system).  Paperwork then had to be completed and witness statements taken.

I interjected “Can this be done later, please – we’re already running late for the service?

Police Officer: “Will it make any difference – the guy in the box is deid anyway… ten minutes ain’t going to resurrect him!”

A fellow clergyman was in full flow whilst paying tribute to the deceased, when interrupted by a voice from the back of the crematorium: “He was nothing but a lying, cheating, drunken waste of space!”

Minister: “Nevertheless….”

(alternative riposte:   “Well, we all have our bad days..”)

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