Each day during Holy Week the congregations of Dalmeny, Queensferry and Wardie Churches are uniting to reflect on the last and most dramatic week in the life of Jesus.
Each day a reflection on the events associated with that particular day in the week will be provided by Bob Gemmell, Ann Inglis and David Cameron, ministers in the congregations, with additional material provided by some of the members of Queensferry Church.
You can access each reflection below in pdf format. We will add the reflection for each day as the week progresses.
Many apologies for not writing earlier to you. It seems like a very long time ago since we left Wardie. The world we live in has changed dramatically in the space of only three months or so. When we left, we did so with the promise to keep in touch and to build bridges to the continent. What better time than a time of crisis to reassure each other that we are one in prayer, in faith, in hope.
Firstly, Kenneth and I would like to thank you all again for your very generous parting gifts, your extremely kind words and farewell. The love and hospitality you have shown us helped us on our way down South on a very dreich Friday morning. Once we had crossed the tunnel by train early next morning, we took the opportunity to go for a long walk along the beach of Bray-Dunes near the Belgian border. The tide was low as we walked towards Dunkirk. It felt strange just after having left Britain to arrive in a place where so many British people lost their lives to free Europe from the horrors of the totalitarian, racist, antisemitic state Germany had become under Hitler. We didn’t stop again until we arrived at my mum’s where we stayed overnight. The car did well but when we arrived the next day at the new Manse, it refused to budge again. Our first purchase in Germany was a new battery!
We are very lucky to live only 3 minutes’ walk away from the Black Forest. Baden-Baden is nestled along a valley by the river Oos. We both immediately started work in our new parishes – Kenneth in the Luthergemeinde Lichtental, I am ministering in the Paulusgemeinde Baden-Baden. Our offices are only 20 minutes away by bike, 10 min by car. In Germany, elders are elected for a period of six years and not ordained, but inducted. The last election took place last December so that I have a new team of six(!) elders. This is the number given to a congregation of just under 2000 members. Due to a long vacancy, church attendance is very low, between 20–30 people each Sunday. However, there is a very active youth group (around 12–15 young people, similar to Network) and the same is true for the young people preparing for confirmation. There is also a small team in charge of Sunday services for children which take place every so often. There is a lot of work to be done, but there is also a lot of potential and very enthusiastic people. I keep mentioning here all the great work that takes place at Wardie! We could certainly do with a visit from the gardening group as there is a huge meadow right beside the church halls. They are situated below the sanctuary which is built on a slope. The church itself is very modern, it just had a very expensive renovation completed on the outside. The concrete had been crumbling. It is a listed building with a very tall – separate – bell tower and five(!) bells as well as beautiful stained glass windows. Thankfully no need to restore them (no secondary glazing). Only the worshippers are still missing.
Wardie Walkers would love the beautiful walks in the Black Forest, too. As soon as you enter the forest, you are immersed in bird song.
I have been told that the members of the congregation like to celebrate a lot and it is true. We had a number of special services this year when good wine and food were served. The recent Lenten Faith studies always began with a meal. Sadly, with all the restrictions placed on us due to the coronavirus, we will have to wait for some time before we can celebrate again.
Kenneth and I were lucky as our ministerial colleagues stood in for us in late January and early February so that we were able to visit our daughter Tamsin in Australia. It seemed a good idea at the time to go before all the church committees on local and presbytery level start back, before the busy time of Lent, Holy Week, Easter vigil and Easter Day. Little did we know at the time that the coronavirus would force churches to cancel all the services (since 16th March). It is especially hard on our young people as they usually organise a sleepover on the night leading up to Easter Day. The special Easter vigil service begins usually on the Saturday of Holy Week at 8.30pm outside the RC Church, where both congregations light their Easter candles in a joint service. This year, we had to cancel everything just as you do at Wardie. But this is not the end of the church. Instead, we are looking for new ways of being church and of worshipping and serving God. Every evening, churches in every town and village in Germany ring their bells, inviting people to join in evening prayers at home.
You will have heard in the news that people are encouraged to observe social distancing. Not more than two people are allowed to meet outside and only if they keep 2 metres’ distance. Shops other than food stores were closed earlier than in Scotland. For 10 days, every day we were faced with new restrictions. We have a huge collection of signs for each new regulation. We are still allowed to keep our churches open for people to come and pray. However, we have to put up signs that visitors must keep a distance of 2 metres and observe the usual hygienic rules. On the whole, people here are very sensible with the exception of some older people who at first played the severity of the health risk down and felt that they should shake hands (that is how we greet each other in Germany) or even hug, whereas out of care for each other we really need to refrain from doing so for some time.
Of course, one of the major questions here is how to ensure that no one feels lonely or cut off from the community. Within a short time, two people in the congregation agreed to set up an outreach group. It’s called “Paul is helping” as the congregation is named after St. Paul. I have just been served a letter which allows me to go places as part of my work. The restrictions are not as severe as in Britain. People are still encouraged to get plenty of exercise in the fresh air and to take their bike when the go to work or shopping. There is no limit to the times you can go out, but no more than two people of the same household should walk together. Thankfully we have had very sunny spells. Temperatures vary greatly from frosty nights to 19–21 degrees, before dropping again. The climate is very erratic. Climate change clearly is here.
People who engage in helping others are also allowed to go outside. The police only disperses groups of people, but does not stop people as we see on the British news. Of course, nothing keeps us from being in touch with each other by phone, mail or via the website. I’ve had a steep learning curve familiarising myself with the webpage www.paulusgemeinde-bad.de and learning how to upload YouTube videos. Now a small number of parishioners is producing videos to keep in touch with families and children, mostly games or storytelling so far or how to bake banana bread. They will be posted over the coming weeks.
Our young confirmands have been registered for an app which allows the group to stay in touch. It also provides them with input and tasks to prepare for their confirmation. Sadly, this had to be moved from May to October. It is a big feast here with families putting on big celebrations either at home or at a restaurant. Baptisms had to be cancelled, too. They can take place in an emergency, but with no more than five people attending. We don’t expect things to return to normal for some time. However, pupils in their final year have been asked to prepare for their final school exams on 18th May. It is a difficult time for them and for all the people who have been put out of work. Thankfully the German government is stepping in financially, but just like in Britain, there is much uncertainty over how long the crisis will last. There is certainly no monitoring going on via mobile phones; the idea had been put forward but there has been an immediate outcry as it cannot be reconciled with data protection and civil rights. The suggestion is to create a corona-app which people can download voluntarily.
The medical system seems to cope well, whereas the situation in nearby Alsace (15 minutes’ drive by car) is heartbreaking. There usually is much coming and going. Many French people work in Germany and vice versa. All this had to stop to keep the virus from spreading. Germany now has taken in Covid-19 patients from France and Italy.
There are several patients here in Baden-Baden and sadly we had the first death. Funerals can no longer take place inside chapels (most cemeteries have their own chapels), but only outside and with no more than 10 people attending including the minister. This is very difficult as it puts grieving families into a position of deciding who can and who cannot attend the funeral. Now we are given the task of channelling our energies into finding new ways of weeping with those who weep. It is as though we are moving forward in hope, trusting that God will guide us step by step. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “I believe that God will give us all the strength we need to help us to resist in all time of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone.”
Our daughter is still in Australia, it is a very stressful time but she is in good spirits picking jujube fruit at present. Our son still leaves in Edinburgh, he was due to visit us last week, but his flight was cancelled with the offer to rebook anytime before 30th December. Let’s hope that the restrictions will have ceased to be necessary long before then.
I wonder how you are all coping with the quarantine – especially those of you who have been unstoppable so far. It will be a real challenge and worry to many of you, having to stay inside. At least, I hope you do.
I started with apologies and now I close having written rather a lot.
Kenneth and I think of you often. We hope that before too long, we will be able to meet up again. Until then, may God keep you safe in his great love.
Prayer Corner, written for the cancelled News at Wardie, April 2020
Father God, we thank you for being with us at all times.
We give thanks for those who have helped us on our way; who have been close to us and guided us.
We owe much to many who have made time to support others. We pray that you will continue to give them the strength required for their service.
We pray for the victims of coronavirus and their families; for the people of Syria, made destitute by greed and blindness; for those caught up in religious strife in India. May leaders of religions work to heal wounds and misunderstandings which overtake them and find what they have in common: your love for all humankind.
Help us use this season of Lent to reflect and to welcome you into our lives; may we have the strength and commitment to put aside our cares to be guided by you and to acknowledge your abundance of acceptance and forgiveness. Help us to find the peace which you offer and to share this with all whom we love.
An extended version of this prayer was used at our Morning Service on 1st March 2020.
A mother’s letter to her son on the occasion of his wedding
I am standing in my mother-of-the-groom shoes in the kitchen. Ever practical, I am practising balancing. And as I am a woman – I am multitasking. I am ironing. And mentally running through a check list of preparations. Taking a group of 19 – including three octogenarians – to a land where none of us can speak the language and only I can read the alphabet is not without its challenges. As my mother has helpfully pointed out.
Unbidden, a question springs into the list. What will I say to you in the card I have bought – the one that’s just between you and me.
“So here we are” – is what my father said to me on the way to church “giving me away” all those years ago. Back last century. No emojis or emoticons to help show people how he was feeling.
He didn’t take our conversation further – I was too excited to pay attention and too young to recognise the emotional journey he was travelling on inside the limousine. This day was, after all, all about me. We arrived at the church in the pouring rain. He got out with an umbrella and opened the door. Quietly. Without fuss.
But standing here now I can feel the resonance of his words. So here we are. I feel the shift that is about to happen in our relationship. The fear of loss. The need to let you go a little bit more.
I’ve just finished ironing a shirt. (The irony is not lost on me – your Papa would instantly say if I was telling him this. And that makes me laugh out loud. He has a wry wit. A clever way with words of that kind.)
I look down at it. Smooth it with my fingers. It is the shirt that you are going to wear for your wedding. I am permitted to be your wardrobe mistress one last time.
I’ve ironed a few of your clothes in my time. I was one of a fifth generation of mothers who carefully ironed the Victorian robe you were baptised in at Wardie Church.
I ironed the shirt for your first day at school, the ones you wore to sit your exams, to pass your driving test. Probably the T-shirt you wore the day we dropped you off at University. Where we unpacked the car loaded with your new life – including photos I had made into an album. reminders of home, to send a bit of me with you.
“Mum – how embarrassing,” you had said.
I don’t want to let you go without me I was silently saying. I don’t think you heard.
The ironing is a part of the love I have always tried to wrap you in. Tough love too. I didn’t always use fabric softener when you rebelled against that starched collar of school. Sometimes if the pile of ironing was bursting out the cupboard the result may have been rough and ready. But whatever time of day, whatever the weather. I plugged the iron in and set to.
Today in the surprising unseasonal heat of a Scottish July, I have turned up the steam. I have taken extra care to press and fold it perfectly.
I stand back and survey my work.
More questions appear. So what happens to me now? When you don’t need me? Who am I? What am I for?
All mothers ask these questions I expect. As our children reach adulthood we have to adjust. Make room. Accept your independence and embrace the choices you make. Even the ones we don’t understand.
No helicopter parenting, as you flew from the nest. Instead I shouted encouragement cheerfully. Listened more than I spoke. Travelled beside you at a discreet distance. But ready to catch you if you need me to.
You are a man now. Taller, and stronger than me with your own voice, your own talents. It is awesome to have watched you unfold to your full potential. In your prime. Like an archangel I once saw painted by Raphael – burning bright. Yet inside this grown man I will always see the little boy that captured my heart the moment I saw your face.
I have taught you to iron your own shirts. But you have taught me things too – helped me find what I am still for. Cared enough to support me with the pain of letting you and then your brothers go.
I am proud of you. So proud of what you have achieved. You have done things I could not have imagined.
Most of them were good. Those that were not we can forget about. But not before they come up in the best man’s speech perhaps! Your partner in crime. He knows them all. You can cope with that though. You will take it on the chin. And return the favour at his wedding.
So – now that we have navigated this transition to our relationship of equals – adult to adult. It’s time for the ultimate test.
It’s time to hand on care of your precious heart to another. The one you have chosen to give it to.
Fathers and daughters. Mothers and sons. They enjoy a special love. But as so often – with something this beautiful – there is a price. There comes a time we have to share it with others to let it flourish. Time to move into the shadow and let your wife stand beside you – both of you burning brightly.
God gave me the gift of you to fill my heart. But he also gave me the gift of Mary’s son. When the nails on the cross pierced her heart it did not perish but opened to accept and love the world. And so neither will mine.
Because I have been given the key to open it as wide as I wish.
And as I have been so lucky – blessed with a full heart. Mother to four sons – it will have to be really big. To hold you all and the people you choose to share your life with. Within it. Whoever and wherever they are.
So next week beside a lake in a foreign land – wearing these shoes and the most fabulous hat, in front of family and friends, old and new – I will open my heart and invite you both in together.
And if my voice cracks just a little when I read of you putting away childish things I hope you are not embarrassed. But know instead that I wish you both faith, hope and love – a love to endure all things.
Now back to that list. I’ve got to iron shirts for your three brothers yet – and your father too. And my feet are killing me.
Reflection for Mothering Sunday from Rev. Robert Gemmell, Locum Minister
The sharing of joy and thanksgiving this Mothering Sunday will for most be limited and restrictive due to the difficult situation that surrounds us. Our daughter has already apologised but made it clear that her usual invitation to lunch will be on hold. She did however promise to come across with a present for her mum – but it will be delivered from a safe distance. I expect many of you will find yourselves in a similar situation.
You will recall that here at Wardie in these weeks of Lent we have been focussing on people and events of the Passion. We’ve so far looked at the Anointing of our Lord, Judas and Peter and we now turn our attention on Mothering Sunday to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I wonder what pictures we have in our minds when we think about Mary. There’s the Mary of our Christmas cards. She is the central figure in many works of art. And she is also a highly significant figure in the history of the Church, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. She has been venerated and prayed to.
We aren’t told much about Mary in the Scriptures but she is certainly in a unique position among all the players in the Gospel narrative because she is there at the very beginning and she is there at the end. An angel announced to her that she would become pregnant and have a son. The details of what happened up to her giving birth in a stable in the village of Bethlehem are well known to all of us. Mary however must have been gripped by terror when the family had to flee to the strange land of Egypt as refugees. And how must she have felt when she discovered that the birth of her son had resulted in the death of so many other little boys?
The only other story we have in Scripture about Jesus’ childhood is when his parents couldn’t find him as they returned from their visit to Jerusalem. An incident with which I am sure those of us who are parents can identify.
If we had been meeting together in Church the passages I would have chosen to be read are both from John’s Gospel: John 2: 1–12 and 19: 25–27 – passages that don’t appear in any other Gospel. I encourage you to read them along with this reflection.
In our first passage – concerning the wedding at Cana where Jesus performed his first sign – Mary had a significant role to play. She tells Jesus that the wine has run out. Again a familiar narrative to all of us. Is her statement simply referring to the lack of refreshment at the wedding feast – or do her words have a deeper meaning? Is she referring to the real thirst experienced by the people which can only be quenched by the coming of the Messiah, God’s Son? We don’t know.
There must have been many such episodes in Mary’s life when she wondered just what was happening.
And then we turn to the second of our readings. It is just a couple of verses but how poignant it is. We find Mary at the foot of the cross. How often have we as parents, grandparents feared for the safety of members of our immediate or extended family? A relative has gone off to do a dangerous job, or has gone off to war. I well remember my nephew’s time spent in war-torn Afghanistan. But somehow there seems to be something even worse, if that is possible, about standing at the foot of a cross watching your son hang there dying in agony.
In these couple of verses Jesus is hanging on the cross and Mary and the beloved disciple are standing there. What a different picture this gives us of Mary. She is no longer a pious submissive figure. She is now weeping and grieving the death of her child. The death of a child always feels wrong and unnatural. She must have doubted whether things were really meant to turn out like this.
Jesus however speaks to his mother from the cross and he also speaks to the beloved disciple and puts them in each other’s care. This coming together represents the beginning of the new people of God, the household of love. The mother of Jesus becomes the mother of the beloved disciple and he becomes her son and shows love towards her by receiving her into his home.
In this time of Lent Mary gives us food for thought on the question of discipleship. She reminds us of the importance in faith of waiting. She didn’t immediately understand the truth about her son but she knew implicitly that there was more to him than met the eye. Throughout his years of ministry I think she was waiting through all the fear and hard times for illumination about her son and I believe that came at the cross when she understood the identity of her son. And surely the same is true for us. It is at the foot of the cross as we contemplate Jesus’ passion that our quest for understanding reaches its goal.
I think the exchange between Jesus and his mother is one of the most poignant exchanges in the Bible. Here, as he was dying, Jesus made sure his mother would be cared for. Was he repaying her for her years of care and devotion? I like to think so.
Mary didn’t always understand him and there must have been times when she was infuriated by him but she loved him with all the fervour of a mother’s love. And after he was gone she stayed among his friends, praying and hoping and remaining faithful.
We are living in days of great uncertainty. Each news bulletin brings developments in the coronavirus outbreak both here and in other countries. Uncertainty inevitably leads to anxiety and, when people are isolated for lengthy periods, there is the likelihood of some people feeling depressed. All of us are seeing our lives affected. The Church of Scotland, along with other mainstream churches, has ceased to hold worship and all meetings and other gatherings have been cancelled.
We are developing ways of keeping in touch with members and of providing reflections, prayers etc. on this website. Look out for developments. We are also looking at ways of providing pastoral contact in ways which are very different from those with which we are familiar. A number of people have offered practical help. While we are very pleased that they have done so, we need to be very careful that we comply with all safeguarding matters and we are giving this matter careful consideration. A time such as this can either bring out the best in people or can bring out the worst. Let’s be sure that it brings out the best in us!
Given the above developments it is clear that the vacancy process will be delayed. As with all other aspects of our lives it would be useless to speculate about how long we will find ourselves in this situation. Be assured that we will keep you informed.
We are currently in the season of Lent. This season is traditionally when Christian people aim to deepen their spiritual lives as we journey with Jesus to the cross and beyond. It is a time to think anew about our faith and our commitment. Sometimes when people feel alarmed at what is happening around them in the world they lose faith, while others find their faith deepened as we realise once again that our God is a God who never abandons us. He doesn’t always stop bad things happening to us but he is there with us as we go through these times. God is our refuge and strength. In a time of change and confusion we should never lose sight of the fact of the promise made by Jesus that he will be with us always to the end of the age.
Easter is traditionally a time for celebrating with family and friends. That will not be possible for us this year. We can still celebrate the enormous truth that our Lord died and rose again – FOR US! I wish you a blessed Easter season as once again we rejoice that Jesus is risen.
***Do you have a church event that you need to cancel? Email email@example.com with the details and we’ll post it below***
Cancellation of Worship Services
The Church of Scotland Task Group has agreed to ask, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice, with effect from Wednesday 18th March 2020. Other Scottish Churches are taking similar actions.
Our Reflective Lent Group, which meets on Thursday nights, is now cancelled.
Thursday Toddler Group will be cancelled until further notice.
Toddler Music Cafe
Tuesday Toddler Music Cafe will be cancelled at Wardie Parish Church until further notice.
In view of the worsening coronavirus situation, it has been decided to postpone the Guild sale due to be held on Wednesday 18th March. A refund on tickets purchased can be had from Susan Dyer or Maureen Kelly.
All Guild meetings until the end of the season, including the Palm Court Tea, are also cancelled.
We are hoping to start Summer Coffee Bothy events after the 12-week quarantine period. These usually run on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Please check back for the latest information, which will be posted on the website and on church noticeboards nearer the time.
Wardie Walkers were due to hold a walk on 22nd April but this has now been cancelled.
Windows Fundraising Events
The wine tasting event, scheduled for Friday 20th March, has been postponed. We are also postponing the Silent Auction which was to take place on 29th May.
Apologies to everyone who was looking forward to these very sociable events.
The Windows Fund currently stands at around £12,500 which means we are only short of the last £3000 needed for the east window repairs. Wardie people have been extremely supportive so far in raising and gifting funds for the renovations and we are enjoying the improved light and good looks of the north and west windows.Further donations are still most welcome and with Gift Aid we may even reach our final target despite not being able to hold the above events. All cash and cheques, payable to “Wardie Parish Church”, should be addressed to the Treasurer via the Church Office. Donations can also be made directly to the church Account Number:- 00915587, Sort Code:-80 02 33. Please ensure your donation is clearly marked WARDIE WINDOWS APPEAL.
Zumba will be cancelled at Wardie Parish Church until further notice.
The Gentle Walking Group is a new venture which suits those who like to get out for gentle exercise, fresh air and friendly company. We share transport to our walks’ starting points and choose short flat walks with a coffee stop built in. Walks in 2019 included the Botanics, Inverleith Park, Cramond & Portobello.
In December it was the 98th birthday of Gordon Hay, the longest-standing member of Wardie Parish Church. He tells us some of his memories of Wardie:
“I first joined Wardie Parish Church Sunday School in 1925 at the age of 4. I was 20 when I became a full church member in 1941.
Through being a member I progressed to becoming a church Elder in 1960, aged 39. While I was an Elder I also became the first Free Will Treasurer dealing with collection envelopes and cash given at Sunday School.
I continued in my role as an Elder for a total of 54 years, finally retiring in 2014 at the age of 93.
Over the years I have seen quite a few ministers at Wardie, Rev J. Baikie who christened me, Rev. J Douglas, Rev. A. Kissling, Rev. James Rennie, Rev Thomas Thompson, Rev. Brian Hilsley and Rev Ute Jaeger-Fleming.
And now I am looking forward to meeting our next minister. The eighth in my long connection with Wardie.”