Apologies for the recent silence on here. All my words at the moment are going other places: sermons, reports, articles, a Burns Night reply… I am doing a lot of writing at the moment, but I’m also trying to fit it in between a million other things. Life is busy. Good. But busy. I find I start the week with an empty diary, and then I get to Saturday and realise I’ve been out all week and I’ve given hardly any thought to Sunday’s service.

Diary management is still an issue, and I suspect it will always be thus.

But my disorganisation is boring chat, right?

One of the challenges I’ve faced since I arrived is simply getting my head around everything I’m involved in. I’ve met most of our partners and will start a rough rota of visiting them. But the church is a whole different story. Like any other ministry position, there is a building to worry about, finances to work through, contracts with groups using the church during the week, cleaning and maintenance and insurance and all those tasks.

When I arrived, my office looked a bit like this:

That’s not entirely fair, because at the point I took these pictures, I had already begun organising and had pulled out some things which had been hidden away behind cupboard doors. But it’s not far off. A summer dust storm meant everything was covered with a thick layer of grit, which added an additional challenge and often left me sneezing so hard I was almost sick.

These are pretty good images if I want to sum up how the whole job feels some days: a big ol’ hot mess.

I’m not naturally very organised. But I am naturally very nosey. And I always want a sense of the bigger picture so I might know where I fit in, where I can help, what I should avoid, when I might rather hide…. So from day one, I started digging through everything. And the piles of rubbish kept growing. Old CD players which didn’t work. Dozens of empty boxes. Stubs of candles. Broken Christmas decorations. A huge plywood model of the Scots Hotel.

One member of the congregation came in a couple of Sundays ago, saw the mess, and said with a mixture of admiration and horror, ‘No one has ever bothered to go through all of that’. Yeah. No kidding.

Today I went down to the church with a member of the hotel security team and two amazing cleaners. For three hours, we cleaned and sorted and threw away and organised.

Under the dirt and grime, I discovered these delights:

But there were also real treasures: Two nature books from 1899 which contained hand-painted plates of moths and butterflies. An old bible from the late 1800s which belonged to the Torrence family. An old triglot Bible in Greek, Syriac and Latin. A Greek lexicon from Lairg from 1873.

There must be wonderful stories behind these books which have just been sitting gathering dust. They can’t stay where they are and be subjected to the humidity, the heat, the dirt, the insects. Some will go in the visitors’ centre. Others … I’m not sure.

Again, it’s an apt analogy for what life is like in this country. Everywhere I turn, I uncover unimaginable depths of history, stories longing to be told, events nearly lost in time. I pause again and again and think to myself: I love my job. The good, the bad, the ugly. There is plenty of it all. But despite and because of that, I love my job.

So now, some of my questions about my work have been answered. I know what I have keys to and what I don’t have keys to. Some of the more precious items are in cupboards that now has a lock. The nave has been properly cleaned and hopefully the groups using the building will keep it that way. But with answered questions come also difficult conversations. And more mystery. And a sense of history which reaches far beyond me.

I want to honour that. But I also don’t want to be burdened by it. It’s a fine line I feel like I’m walking just now. And always.

4 thoughts on “the weight of history

  1. Finding your writings enlightening. I was once a mission partner for Sandford church in paisley and wrote regularly to the minister of st Andrews church in Tiberius which was also a hotel but I think it was only starting as a hotel when I wrote .

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