Posted by: christinelaennec | May 23, 2011

A Church of Scotland Celebration

Yesterday, I abandoned my family and went to Edinburgh with my church, to take part in a Church of Scotland-wide celebration called “Roll Away the Stone”.  This event took place on the second day of this year’s General Assembly, where the Church of Scotland meets for a week to make major decisions about the future of the church.  I’d been to the General Assembly two years ago when I was awarded a prize for a short story, and my assumptions about the General Assembly being full of quite stuffy people was completely overturned.  This year the General Assembly is debating the very serious, and potentially hugely divisive, question of whether openly homosexual people should be ordained for the ministry (more here if you’re interested).  So I felt that I wanted to go join in this celebration.  And I had a great day!  Once again my assumptions were challenged as to what kind of people go to church.

The General Assembly Hall (with the long banners) as seen from Princes Street Gardens. Before the Scottish Parliament building was finished, the Scottish Parliament met there.

There were lots of different stalls demonstrating a wide variety of groups within or connected to the church.  For example, CrossReach (the arm of the Church of Scotland that runs care homes and other support services), Eco-Congregation Scotland and Greyfriars Wood Recycling.  This last group, begun by our dear friend and former minister Richard Frazer, is a project that helps homeless people to learn woodworking, while also making good use of pews that are being taken out of churches.  Below is the space of the World Church group:

The World Church area at “Roll Away the Stone,” Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, 22 May 2011.

St. Cuthbert’s church, which is at the west end of Princes Street Gardens, hosted a multiplicity of activities.  I went to the handbell-ringing workshop in the beautiful Memorial Chapel.  Before the workshop started, an elderly lady was explaining to people how the congregation of St. Cuthbert’s contributed to the chapel.  She said to buy one letter for one of the names on the wall cost a day’s wages – and she pointed out the letter that she had purchased.

Bell ringers in the Memorial Chapel at St. Cuthbert’s Church. “Roll Away the Stone,” Edinburgh, 22 May 2011.  I thought the gold mosaic was amazing!  And it was great fun to have a go at ringing the bells.

As you can imagine, I really enjoyed hearing the Lothian Gaelic choir, and in such a beautiful setting.  The angels in the dome look very pre-Raphaelite – and I really liked the handmade bird as well.

Lothian Gaelic Choir singing in the sanctuary at St. Cuthbert’s church. “Roll Away the Stone,” Edinburgh, 22 May 2011.

My favourite part of the afternoon was outside worship.  The weather cooperated beautifully.  I found singing together with so many other people to be incredibly moving:  kind of like evening worship service at Methodist Youth summer camp on the Oregon coast, only with about 100 times more people!

Worship service in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, “Roll Away the Stone,” 22 May 2011.

Funny to think that only three weeks earlier our family had been up on those ramparts looking down on the empty stage in the park!  At this very moment they are debating the Big Question so I will post this and go watch the coverage on t.v.



  1. Hi Christine,
    What truly spiritual food for the soul. Your church is to be commended for such encompassing and forward thinking actions. They, after all, do speak louder than words.
    Thank you for letting us share in your day.

  2. So glad you had a great day, and the weather held out for you, too.

  3. hearing the Lothian Gaelic Choir and participating in the outdoor worship sounds fabulous. i’m glad you had a lovely day. looks like you had good weather for it.

  4. Sometimes it is so important to “fill the well” and this looks like a very inspiring break from the everyday.

  5. Yes, Christine, “inspiring” seems like the right word, indeed.

    And in the words department, I’m a little unsure about “Lothian”….does it mean “from Loth” which seems to be a town that my Google map search indicates is far enough away from the rest of the world that it wouldn’t have enough singers to populate much more than a barber-shop quartet!…or am I mis-judging it?

  6. Assembly week in our family too! Tho my commissioner husband ducked out of Sunday after the service in St Giles – our son was visiting with his girlfriend, so he prioritised family time.
    Tsk, Christine, this is the second time you’ve been here recently and we haven’t had a bloggers’ meeting. Do get in touch on the third visit!

  7. Dear all,
    Thanks so much for your comments. I debated with myself whether to post about this, partly because it felt very personal, and mostly because I didn’t want to turn anyone off with churchy things. So once again my assumptions have been challenged!

    Vicky – so glad you enjoyed it! The question that the Church is still debating will hurt people on both ends of the conservative / liberal spectrum of beliefs. But I’m hoping that the concern for unity will prevail over differences of opinion. It’s certainly an interesting time.

    Martin and ajb – thanks! Yes, we were extremely lucky with the weather. It had been lashing down rain most of the way there, and the winds were very high, but not so high that they closed the bridge, which they did the next day.

    Sigrid – How right you are about refilling the well. I must remind myself of that more often!

    oldblack – glad you enjoyed the post! Lothian is a region of Scotland rather than a town (I must look up Loth – never heard of it, but it probably has the same root meaning as Lothian). Lothian is the region surrounding Edinburgh, and is divided further into West Lothian, Mid Lothian and East Lothian, as well as the City of Edinburgh. Each of these areas has its own Council (local government). The name comes up in a few other ways: Lothian Buses in Edinburgh, Hearts of Mid Lothian football team, and Lothian and Borders police.

    Linda – aha, now you see isn’t it amazing the people who go to church, and indeed to Assembly! I’m glad your husband prioritised time with your son though. Thanks very much for the invitation. I will try to be organised about my next visit to Edinburgh and get in touch beforehand. We should do a joint post!

  8. Very interesting, thanks for sharing, love to hear about the church part of your life, but understand your hesitations. I tend to be shy about that too online, but it doesn’t mean my faith isn’t important. Sometimes I compare it to my marriage, I don’t write much about my husband, not because he isn’t important, but because he is 🙂

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