On Thursday 8th June, the Scottish Episcopal Church took the decision to allow same-sex marriages to be conducted by those clergy, and in those churches, wishing to do so. At St Columba’s by the Castle we celebrate this historic decision. We believe that God affirms and delights in all people, including those who find themselves blessed within a life-giving relationship of love and faithfulness. While we are mindful of the hurt some may feel at this decision, we wish to express our concern and deep regret for the hurt and pain caused to so many LGBT+ people by the way they have been treated in the past. We look forward to being able to celebrate all marriages equally in the future.
We are now affiliated the worldwide Quiet Garden Movement. On April 28th we celebrated the opening of our south-facing terrace, with children enthusiastically sprinkling it with holy water (much needed in this driest of springs). As we were about to open the gate some tourists who had seen the new signs at the top of the steps looked in. They were called Carlotta and Andreas from Italy and not only did they become our first visitors they ceremonially unlocked the gate for us!
We hope that the gardens will be open on many days though we will not be able to open when we have private Hall users. During the Festival period the garden will once more become a Fringe ticket office and café.
Our Rector David has written a prayer for this new aspect of our mission:
A blessing in the rain and sun
The goodness of the Three in One.
A blessing in the flower and tree,
The beauty of the One in Three.
A blessing in the living earth,
The knowledge of creation’s worth.
A blessing in this quiet place
The presence of the God of grace.
On all who wander in and stay
To sit, relax or think or pray
To look for stillness or release
A blessing from the God of Peace.
The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, which people learnt, chanted and danced to, at February’s ‘StC’s@6’ service
Our lovely Hall is used in many different ways, from ceilidhs and wedding receptions to conferences and theatre space. This February, it became a temporary nightshelter for 5 nights. Here in Edinburgh The Bethany Trust organises safe “bed and breakfast” for 45 – 60 people every night from October to March. They are brilliant. To make it work they need hall space around the city and so many churches help out.
Being so central we are in a prime position to help and we also know as Christians that we are not just giving but receiving. We should expect to see something of the love of God in those to whom we offer hospitality. We enjoyed meeting the men and women who joined us for the night. There was a camaraderie of mutual support amongst the guests and we were touched by the atmosphere of peace which descended by 10.30 as everyone lay down their weary bodies on their beds.
Thank you to the church volunteers who cooked and cleaned, and to Doneil and Samuel for tidying up. Thank you Justin for your administration of the event. Thank you to the Bethany team for your quiet Christian presence and wisdom in this city. Thank you God for caring about each one of us.
At a recent Sunday service we were each invited to light a candle and place it on a map of Edinburgh somewhere we had a connection with and wanted to pray for. The candles marked places of work, schools, universities, the City Council, the Parliament and Government, our homes and those of friends and family; places in particular need, places where we can bring Christ’s light.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (from St. Matthew’s Gospel)
On Sunday January 15, Jenny Paton-Williams was licensed by the Bishop as
a Lay Reader in the Diocese of Edinburgh. Since she and David moved up
from Leeds, Jenny has quietly and sensitively sought the form her Lay
Ministry might take up here, and it is great that she has been affirmed
in her calling. The Bishop charged us: “Will you, the people of God in
this place, support Jenny with your prayers and encouragement for her
ministry among you and in the wider community?” With the help of God, of
course we will, Jenny. You’ll work with grace and care and we are
delighted to welcome you!
That same day we had a different but very welcome cause for celebration.
Depending on how the calendar falls, the second Sunday after Epiphany is
sometimes the Birthday of Gilbert Clark, MBE, a person who doesn’t
believe that he is extraordinary, but who is much treasured both within
the Columban community and further afield. We celebrated his 95th
birthday, which had actually occurred two days earlier. Gilbert’s still
cultivating his allotment, still bringing vegetables to sell to raise
funds for Christian Aid, still haranguing us if we allow ourselves a
short break from singing carols (“they won’t give us any money if we’re
silent”), still attending many meetings, still protesting at injustices.
He keeps us on our toes and it’s hard to keep up with him, bless him.
Words: Val Bland
Pictures: (c) Katherine McHale
Last Friday we held a ceilidh for St Andrewstide. What made it different was that residents from the local homeless hostel were invited as well. Over the years, we have supported the hostel, giving presents at Christmas and Easter, but this was the first time that members of the church and members of the hostel had met together.
We shared music, dancing and food. It wasn’t ‘us’ helping ‘them’ but all of us meeting as equals, and seeing each other as people, with names and stories, rather than just as labels. Hopefully we were all enriched a little by it – as well as having a great evening.
Doors Open weekend saw around 350 people visit our church and garden. In church people could watch a video on the life of Columba, while children (and adults) shared in activities based on the life of St Columba: making coracles out of walnut shells; decorating illuminated letters in a Scriptorium; and making a mural of Columba banishing the monster in the River Ness.
Many people had shared in Doors Open for several years and were keen to visit a new place, and they commented on the simple beauty of the church or the wonderful surprise that is the church garden. Countless conversations with the team of welcomers were shared and refreshments enjoyed.