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Ministry

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Pastoral Letter

September 2017

School’s out for summer, and the September weekend, and the October week... ‘

Is it cruel to rejoice so much and dance a jig around the manse because the children are back to school ? There Pam and I were singing in unison ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands...’ The applause was loud. The flag blew outside the upstairs window. We couldn’t help it... such was the delight that our two cherubs were heading to their respective schools, new school bags on their shoulders, freshly sharpened pencils in a case, lunch boxes prepared. ‘ So long farewell, to you and you’ – the sound of music, St Kilda style.

Mind you, I could do with a holiday !

It seems like a long time ago since we left the house to drive to Manchester Airport and take a flight to Costa Brava. Pam had been in the same hotel before, many, many years ago and was a little apprehensive as to how it might have changed but was pleasantly surprised. Though it was bigger, the rooms were clean and bright and the view from our balcony not only gave us sight of the pools but to the beach and the sea which was just across the railway line.

Whilst WaterWorld was good fun and a tour round the Nou Camp of Barcelona football club was fascinating (a trophy room like the vestry – only with trophies), one of my highlights was a trip to Montserrat.

The monastery there, on the mountain, has been there in some form or other since the 9 th century and is still occupied by monks today. I had an opportunity of trying the local liquor (it was forced on me) and had a trip on the funicular railway but unfortunately the boys’ choir called ‘L’Escolania’ , one of the most famous in the world , were on tour.

The Montserrat Basilica, an ornate Renaissance structure, contains the statue of the Black Madonna. A common question is ‘Why is the Madonna black ?’

Some suggest it is because of wood, others suggest it represents a black African Madonna, or perhaps the statue has darkened over time. All who are able to climb the steps to see the Madonna at close hand can touch the sphere which she holds in her hand. On leaving the mountain I thought about the darkness of the wood, changing through time by touch. Worn hands, working hands, scarred hands.

Remember the Indiana Jones’ film, ‘ The Last Crusade ‘ and the search for the Holy Grail ? The correct Grail amongst all the false ones was the wooden one not the golden chalice. ‘ Who touched me ?’ Jesus once said in a Gospel story. A hand reached out, trusting that a touch was enough. I like faith like that.

Back on the plane... ‘ Dad, he touched me ‘ said Francesca. I told my children to listen... ‘

Welcome aboard the flight back to Manchester. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle and pull tight. In the event of sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask and pull it over your face. If you have a child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling with two children….. decide now which one you love more.’

They looked at us – wondering!

Holidays and Holy Days – and all the different ways that heaven and earth touch. 

Your friend and Minister

George Mackay