On Leaving Scotland

July 31, 2013

Let me just say right here, right now, right up front, that I was not ready to leave Scotland, and I would go back in a heartbeat. In fact, my wife is in favor of selling the house and everything that we own, and moving to that country.

It’s not that the USA is bad (its not, despite all of our grousing and grumbling–this really is a great place to live); it’s simply that within an hour of landing in Edinburgh, we looked at one another and thought–and said to one another–“We could live here!”

By way of background, we left Atlanta on July 12, along with a group of 16 other folks from Peachtree Presbyterian Church, for a “Presbyterian Heritage Tour of Scotland.” It was a legitimate endeavor, well (VERY well) planned by Academy International Travel Services of Atlanta, and included stops at St Giles Cathedral, John Knox’s house, a number of other churches as well as many historical and archaeological sites, and was crowned with a day on the island of Iona, the starting place and center of Celtic Christianity.

Our guide, a delightful woman named Lorna Johnson, was brilliant, knowing history, theology, culture, geography and geology, along with being a fantastic musician (she plays in the Scotland Chamber Orchestra) and just plain fun to be around.

“There are city Scots and Highland Scots,” I said while we were there, and I am definitely a Highland Scot.

 
I’d LOVE to do some hiking here!

I'd LOVE to do some hiking here!I loved the land outside the cities, the gentle nature of the places and the people. Courtesy reigned supreme; OK, except for the little old lady who yelled at us when five of us were talking animatedly and were almost run over by a car (“STUPID people!” she yelled); in 12 days, I heard horns honk twice. Yes, TWICE.

The food was marvelous-I even ate and enjoyed haggis and black pudding. Salmon was everywhere, and I could eat my weight in it!  The weather was anomalous; a high pressure system moved in over the country while we were there, and it was sunny and warm the entire time. I commented to Lib that the weather was “deceptively seductive.” She said that she knew it, but would be willing to buy a pair of rubber boots!

We loved it, and I would love to go back. And yes, I ordered a kilt, was measured for it, and it is being custom-made. Odds are, once I have it, you’ll see a picture here.

But here is the one drawback: the churches are dead or dying. Great preaching to be heard in them, we were there two Sundays and I was impressed with the exegetical work behind them, and the delivery of them. But the churches are empty. We

saw once church that is now a restaurant, and a number of others that are functionally only tourist sites. What’s happened?

I think the churches because insular, taking care of themselves, and wanted everyone to keep doing things the way that had always been done. As the culture shifted, and as technology moved forward, the churches had the feel of places that were stuck in the 1920’s. Particularly in the larger cities, where there were masses of people out and about on Sunday morning, I found myself thinking that what the churches–and the Church–were in need of, was a good old (new) dose of evangelism. The churches need their Pastor to be out and about among the people, rubbing elbows with them, getting to know them, talking to them, and caring about them. NOT the members of the congregation (although that is very important, too); but talking to shopkeepers, people on the streets, and “winning the right to be heard” in order to tell the story of Jesus in a warm, inviting, and welcoming way.

Let’s remember that Jesus did not spend all his time on the Temple; he went where the people were.

OK, I’ve gone to preaching, and I did not intend that.

Do I have a future as a 16th Century scholar?

 
Do I have a future as a 16th Century scholar?

Find me a church in Scotland, and give me a chance. I’d love to live there!

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