Coronavirus

(COVID-19)

Due to the new    Lockdown   St. Andrew’s Church is once again CLOSED.

Details HERE

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SCOTTISH CHARITY NUMBER SC006235 THE CHARITY LEGAL NAME St Andrews Church of Scotland: Dumbarton

Church News

Saturday 27th February

Thought for the Day

Sort of typical isn’t it: Friday was lovely and sunny, Monday and Tuesday are supposed to be good weather, but at the weekend it’s cloudy and wet. How often does that happen? But life’s a bit like that. There are many things, like the weather, that we can’t control. We just have to get on with life and make the most of it. We can change our plans, find new things to do, put up with the disappointments – or sit around and complain. Even if we are ‘positive-thinkers’ there are probably plenty of people that we know who need some encouragement to work around the disappointments and bring some positivity back into life

Lord, we need rain and we need sun, and sometimes they come at times that don’t suit us. Help us not to sit around complaining about that, but get on with life in spite of it. Help us to help others who are struggling with things they can’t control, which stop them doing what they would like (whether that means weather, health, coronavirus-related restrictions or whatever), and who are feeling ‘down’. Help us too to remember those who either long for rain, or who are suffering from the after-effects of too much rain, with attendant flooding

 PS Next Friday (5  March) is the World Day of Prayer. There will not be a local service this year, but there will be a national online one on Zoom at 2pm. If you would like to be part of that, contact Ian Johnson or Susan Anderson, and they will send you the link

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Friday 26th February

Thought for the Day

I saw an interesting story in the news today about Russian diplomats returning home from North Korea with their families and luggage facing a problem getting over the border. North Korea has stopped all trains going in or out of the country as Coronavirus-prevention measures. So the diplomats travelled on a train and bus to near the border, and then for the last kilometre they sat in a rail trolley and the former third secretary at the embassy pushed the trolley along and over the border. Like a lot of stories involving humanity, you couldn’t make it up! It reflects an ages-old human experience: for every rule there are situations where exceptions have to be made. We find it here with the rules linked to lockdown: people from different households are not supposed to mix indoors, but exceptions are needed where children or adults need care; schools were closed, but for the good of all it was better that the children of key workers and vulnerable children could still go to school; and so on. Sometimes it is easy to identify where exceptions are needed, easy to agree to them, and there is little disagreement in the wider population. In other cases it is less easy to agree where exceptions should be made, and after decisions are made there are critical voices

Lord, it is much easier if rules are clear and unequivocal, but when such an approach is adopted, there are always cases where for reasons of health, safety, ‘fairness’, etc exceptions need to be made. That can cause all sorts of problems, and is a challenge facing everyone from lawmakers in Parliament, to families at home. Help us all to think carefully when we make rules, and when we make exceptions, to understand the implications of what we are doing
 

Picture of the Day

                                                                           Newcastle Walls Morden and Herber Towers             

Newcastle Walls Morden and Herber Towers

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Thursday 25th February

Thougt for the Day

There was a piece in the news today that a number of investment bank bosses would like to see an end to home working, and return to ‘traditional’ office life, once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. That may not affect very many readers of this ‘thought’, or their friends, or their families – and it may or may not be the right thing for that kind of business, how would we know? But it does raise a wider question about home working. Many people have had to do it over the past year. Some have welcomed the opportunity not to spend a large part of the day travelling to work (whether by car or public transport), with the attendant costs, and have enjoyed having more time with family or for themselves. Others have found it a fraught experience: trying to share the kitchen table, the computer/ tablet/ smart phone/ monthly allocation of broadband data with home-schooled children or partner; juggling work time with childcare time; and missing social interaction with colleagues (particularly in cases where they live alone). It worked for some but not for others. Businesses may have their own figures on how productive or otherwise home-working has been. Building back after the pandemic may well, and probably should, involve investigating the issue more fully: is it something to encourage, or not; if it is to be encouraged, what support do home-workers need; if it becomes a major way of working in the future, what are the implications for town and city centres, and what should be the response to that? We might not have the answers, but maybe we need to ask the questions of those who take the appropriate decisions – for the sake of our younger generations

Lord, ways of working, and the culture of work, have changed a lot over the years. Over the past year many have had to work from home. For some this has been an experience they have welcomed. For others it has been a nightmare. As we look forward to life after lockdown restrictions are eased, we pray for guidance for politicians and business leaders planning the way forward for the working environment – that in the future everyone may have the opportunity to find work fulfilling and rewarding, an opportunity to reach their potential, not a place for anxiety and stress

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                 Newcastle Walls King's Ditch 2        

Newcastle Walls King's Ditch

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Wednesday 24th February

Thought for the Day

The First Minister indicated in Parliament yesterday the framework for easing Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland – though at the moment there is still a lot of detail to be finalised. We heard about schools, care homes, outdoor meetings, shops – and maybe churches. At some point we should go from Enhanced Level 4 to Level 4, and then at the end of April hopefully go to Level 3. It is encouraging, but it would be nice to know more, to know for sure when some things can happen. We know why governments have to be cautious, having seen the spikes last summer and around Christmas, but living with uncertainty is hard. The beginning of April, let alone the end, is still quite a way ahead – and media waxing lyrical on the earlier re-opening in England don’t help. Feeling sorry for ourselves won’t help us either. We see the challenge ahead, we see others struggling, we have to help each other reach those goals – and not go mad when the restrictions are eased

Lord, it’s like climbing a hill, thinking you’re getting near the top, and when you reach the ridge you discover there’s another one ahead. Keeping going is hard for all of us. Help us to manage to do it, and help us to help each other when we begin to struggle

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                         Newcastle Walls Durham Tower 2                     

Newcastle Walls Durham Tower

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Tuesday 23rd February  Fairtrade Fortnight   fairtrade-logo  

Thought for the Day

Yesterday marked the start of Fairtrade Fortnight, the annual focus on trying to create Fairtrade arrangements around the world – focussing particularly on remuneration and working conditions for small-scale farmers and manufacturers. Over the past few months we have heard a lot in the news about ‘Free Trade’, and have probably learned a lot that we didn’t know before: the paperwork involved in transporting goods across international borders, the tariffs and quotas applied to goods exported/imported, subsidies applied to the production of certain foods or goods, measures designed to ‘protect’ home producers from foreign competition, the desire of larger companies to export goods or services to overseas markets, different ‘standards’ in different countries. We have seen and heard from businesses here and in Northern Ireland about the difficulties of operating a new way of working. For many small businesses in the Developing World these are challenges they face all the time. Most of us like a bargain – whether that means food, clothing or whatever (and at the minute many, who are struggling to cope financially, have to pursue the cheapest price available). But every ‘two for the price of one’ usually means a lower return for the original producer. With Cop-26 coming to Glasgow in November, we are reminded of the impact of Climate Change globally. But some communities around the world are having to contend with the effects all the time: unreliable rain, flooding, drought, pests and plant diseases. It affects the ability to produce certain crops – including coffee in Ethiopia and Central America (affecting us, as well as the farmers). Fairtrade Fortnight this year is particularly focussing on the impact of Climate Change on Fairtrade. Further information may be obtained at https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/

Lord, many of us don’t know much about the complexities of international trade, but we have been given an insight to it in recent months. We remember farmers and producers in the Developing World who are struggling with unfair trading conditions and with the effects of Climate Change. We pray that you will inspire world leaders to remember the needs of small farmers and producers, to strive for fair trading arrangements around the world, and to address the issues that could curb Climate Change. Help us to remember Fairtrade when we go shopping

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                Newcastle Walls by St Andrew's      

Newcastle  Walls by St. Andrew’s

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Monday 22nd February  Guide Thinking Day

Thought for the Day

Today is Guide Thinking Day. The last twelve months have been hard for all youth organisations and their leaders, who have worked hard to keep them going. Today is an opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation for the incredible amount of work that the leaders have been doing over the past year. There have been Zoom meetings, virtual sleepovers (which the leaders say are great, because when they say ‘right, time for bed now girls’, they simply press the Exit button, and getting them to sleep is the parent or guardian’s problem, not theirs. They have had to cope with church, Girlguiding and government regulations (with sometimes confusion created by different rules in England and Scotland)  and with West Dunbartonshire changing its Tier-ing. So thanks to all leaders in all our Guiding units and good wishes to all our guides, brownies and rainbows, as you have fun, and try to keep your promises.

Lord, thank you for all the members of the Guide, Brownie and Rainbow units. May they continue to have fun, enjoy what they are doing, and learn both skills and about life. Thank you too for the leaders and all the work they have been doing. May they feel fully supported in what they do. Help all members of the Guiding family to keep their promises

 

Picture of the Day

On Tuesday 29 May 1789 Burns and friends continued down the Great North Road from Morpeth to Newcastle – then still a walled town with defensive ditch. St Andrew’s Church probably dates from the 12th century, and is said to have been founded by King David I of Scotland (who held portions of Northern England at that time). The composer Charles Avison is buried there

                                                                             Newcastle St Andrew's Church

Newcastle St. Andrew’s Church

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Saturday 20th February  World Day of Social Justice

Thought for the Day

This ‘international day’ was established by the United Nations in 2008, following the unanimous adoption of the International Labour Organisation’s Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation. This year’s theme is a ‘Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy’. Over recent months the restrictions put in place to restrain the spread of Covid-19 has highlighted big disparities in access to online work and learning in this country: some families have sufficient computers or laptops for parents and children to be online at the same time, and have packages of unlimited, or huge monthly allowances, of broadband data; others are maybe all trying to work with one mobile phone, and a limited amount of data on that. That disparity is not just found in this country, but all round the world, and mirrors the disparity between high-income and low-income countries. It is likely that in the aftermath of the pandemic, in countries like ours, there will be a move to more home-working, but again that will be more practical for some than others, and is not really an option for many in lower-paid jobs – and we might ask whether some of the lower-paid jobs might disappear if fewer people are travelling to city centres to work, or going out for lunch from their city-centre office. Again that is a scenario that will play out world-wide, having a particular impact in low-income countries. There are no easy answers, but maybe something on which to reflect, and encourage politicians to consider among their plans for ‘building back’ after the pandemic

Lord, in the last 12 months many of us have made big strides in our use of technology, with meetings online, greater use of internet shopping and so on. But some people don’t have access to the internet, and feel isolated, others cannot afford to buy extra equipment or more expensive data packages, so are limited in their access to home-working or online learning. For some online working is not an option. It is an issue in this country, and all round the world. As we look forward to rebuilding the world after this pandemic, inspire political and business leaders to take account of the needs of low-income individuals and countries, and work for a more inclusive future

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                      Warkworth 6                   

Warkworth Castle 6

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Friday 19th February

Thought for the Day

There are reports in the media that at a virtual meeting of G7 leaders today richer countries will be urged to donate part of their vaccine orders to poorer countries where little or no vaccination has been done. Apart from the altruistic, inclusive concern that everyone on the planet should be protected from the virus as soon as possible, there are practical considerations for politicians too: if they want to open up world trade and travel, large areas of the world being unvaccinated limits that plan; and the longer large sections of the world population are unvaccinated, the greater the chance that new variants will appear, some of which may be resistant to vaccines. President Macron has proposed that 4-5% of current supplies should be donated, to start vaccinations as soon as possible. The Prime Minister has said that the majority of Britain’s surplus supply will be donated (400m doses have been ordered) but no timescale has been indicated. Around 130 countries around the world have yet to begin any kind of vaccination programme. Apart from obtaining government approval of the vaccines in these countries, there are a number of major hurdles to rolling out a programme: availability of people to do the vaccinations; suitable/hygienic healthcare facilities where they can be done; conflict zones; corrupt/authoritarian regimes; isolated peoples; suspicion of ‘Western’ medicine. Tanzania is a good example of the latter: the President declared last June that the country is Covid-free. Little testing has been done, and there is no plan for vaccinations. The Health Minister held a press conference recently promoting the benefits of vegetable smoothies in giving protection, and the President recommended steam inhalation and herbal medicines

Lord, the whole world population (almost 8 billion of us) is at risk of catching coronavirus. We are grateful for the work that has led to people here being vaccinated, but we are conscious that the situation is very different in most middle- and low-income countries. Inspire the international community to take bold steps to make vaccines available for people in these countries, and to get them safely and quickly to people who need them

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                       Warkworth Castle 5                

Warkworth Castle 5

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Thursday 18th February

Thought for the Day

There was an item in the news last week that younger church-going people were complaining that the church doesn’t say anything about Climate Change. I’m not sure how large a sample the journalist who composed that piece was interviewing, or where they were based, but awareness of Climate Change is very much something of which the wider church is aware. Groups like Christian Aid, Tearfund, SCIAF, Cafod etc refer to it regularly in the material they produce – sharing stories of individuals and communities around the world who are experiencing the effects of Climate Change on agriculture, water supplies etc as well as devastating drought, wildfires or flooding. They also provide challenges to people to adopt changes in their life-styles (use of transport, ‘Green Energy’, reduction in meat and dairy consumption etc), and provide means to lobby governments and businesses to change their policies and practices. There are things that individuals can do - from recycling and not dropping litter to making changes in lifestyle – that individually make only a very small impact on Climate Change, but cumulatively can make a big change. Major change needs to come from government and businesses (including agriculture), but costs a lot of money and impacts on livelihoods (which is probably why successive governments around the world have avoided the issue for a long time). Change is planned over the next 20-30 years, which will affect the daily lives of us all (like Climate Change!), and will affect church communities too, with things like heating. ‘Building back’ after the pandemic gives us a special opportunity to address ‘Climate Change’ issues. There are questions we could ask candidates in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections about what they would do. How much do we care, about folk around the world today, or the young folk who are at school or nursery who will inherit what we leave behind? Are we ready for change, are we ready to lobby for change?

Lord, at its best this planet is stunningly beautiful and amazingly inter-connected. But we have spoiled and marred so much of it, with our rubbish, our pollution and our impact on the Climate. We are sorry. Help us to do our bit to care for this planet, the one we will leave to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Inspire governments to be bold in what they plan to do. Help us to remember those suffering the impacts of Climate Change now, and those working to help them cope

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                              Warkworth Castle 4             

Warkworth Castle 4

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Wednesday 17th February  Ash Wednesday

“Ash Wednesday” Service   HERE

 

Thought for the Day

The First Minister indicated yesterday that she will announce a ‘revised strategic framework’ for exiting lockdown next week – what the media usually call a roadmap or routemap. We’ll have to wait till then to see what the triggers will be, the order in which different sectors might re-open, and what restrictions will stay in place. However the indication that remaining school pupils will not return before 15 March and the advice that people should not plan to book Easter holidays suggests that the easing of restrictions will be slow, and not particularly soon. Looking at the weekly positive test rates per 100,000 of population – yesterday West Dunbartonshire was third highest in Scotland with 218.1 [source: BBC] – it is probably no surprise that restrictions will stay in place for longer. But it is hard! We are all struggling to cope, especially through the winter. All that we can do is try to help and support each other, and take all necessary steps to limit the virus’ spread

Lord, we do wish the infection rates would come down across the country – for all sorts of reasons. In our heads we can understand why restrictions have to stay in place, but in our hearts we want to be able to meet up with people and do the things we used to do. Help us to cope. Help us to help other people to cope

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                  Warkworth 3

Warkworth 3

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Tuesday 16th February

Thought for the Day

Today is Shrove Tuesday. In some parts of the world there are usually large ‘Mardi Gras’ carnivals on this day – but presumably they are cancelled this year, and at most there will be an online event. Often in Britain it is referred to as ‘Pancake Day’ – with pancakes served as main course or pudding, using either the sweet batter that makes ‘Scotch/Scots pancakes/ dropped scones’ or the unsweetened batter that produces crepes and offers the opportunity for pancake-tossing (and a few disasters). The original idea was that on the day before Lent begins people would prepare for the Lenten fast by using up all their eggs and dairy products in the pancake batter, and have a final ‘fling’ of enjoying themselves before Lenten restrictions started. People were supposed to seek forgiveness for their sins before Lent started, being ‘shriven’, from which ‘Shrove’ comes. Traditionally things like ‘confession’ and fasting have not been part of the life of the Reformed church in Scotland, and they are probably not part of the life of the majority of Scots/ Britons/ Western Europeans who have at most an arm’s-length relationship with the Christian faith. That said, whatever our background or views on religion, we all have regrets over things we did or didn’t do, did or didn’t say. Maybe life during the Covid-19 pandemic has added more, or made some seem more prominent. If so, maybe today is as good a day as any to acknowledge them, and if possible do something about them – make an apology, arrange to see someone when lockdown ends or whatever. And in the meantime, enjoy the pancakes

Lord, we all carry around regrets. Some can loom quite large. Help us to acknowledge them, and where possible do something to put them right. We acknowledge that there are many times we don’t live by your values and to your standard. We are sorry, and ask for your forgiveness and help to try harder. Help us too to be ready to forgive others, and not hold grudges.

 

Other News

Because of the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Covid, we are having to rely on Zoom meetings. I know that doesn’t suit everyone, but it’s the best that we can do in the circumstances. If you would like to join either of the Lent Study groups, or the Lent Lunch group, let me know, and I can include you in the link that is sent out (usually a couple of days before the meeting).
 
We also have Coffee and Chat on Zoom from 11.15 to about 12.15 on a Sunday – again if you would like included in the invitation (you can come some weeks and not others, if you choose) let me know and I’ll include you.
 Dumbarton Linkage plans for Lent 2021

Lent Studies
On Zoom. Thursdays 25 February – 25 March 10.30-11.30am
Thursdays 25 February – 25 March 7.30-8.30pm
Theme: getting to know each other

25 Feb           Human bingo
  4 Mar            Desert island hymns
11                   Sharing our stories
18                   Understanding different generations
25                   What do I call you?

Lent Lunches
On Zoom. Thursdays 25 February – 30 March. 12noon-12.45pm
Bring along your lunch and chat to others online. Short reflection (from Christian Aid?) at the end

Facebook
Building on the Mary, Joseph and the Donkey approach in Advent, Marie Claire is planning to make some decorated stones with symbols associated with the Easter story, and hide them around Dumbarton. Pictures will appear on Facebook, people will be encouraged to look for them and make their own stones to add to the collection. Copies will be shared with schools. Further details will be given in the ‘notices’ in a Sunday service, and on the Facebook pages

Marie Claire and Maureen are starting a Craft and Chat group on a Monday from 2-3pm from Monday 22 February – a chance for those interested in craft work to share with others what they are doing, seek advice, maybe learn something, or just chat over a cup of tea/coffee. If you would like to know more or register to be included in the invitation, contact them on  MCDungavell@churchofscotland.org.uk  or MBurke@churchofscotland.org.uk  or contact me.

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                          Warkworth 2             

Warkworth 2

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Monday 15th February

Thought for the Day

Yesterday was St Valentine’s Day and media and marketing departments gave their full attention to promoting romantic themes. But alongside those celebrating their relationships, we also need to remember those for whom a day like St Valentine’s Day makes them feel uncomfortable: those who have lost their ‘significant other’, those where a relationship has broken down perhaps acrimoniously, those who have never found that ‘other person’, those who are in an abusive relationship, those who are physically separated from their ‘other person’ because of work, pandemic restrictions etc. As we celebrate with those in loving, supportive relationships, so we also express our support and care for those who don’t/ no longer have a ‘significant other’, or who feel trapped in a difficult relationship

Lord, where we have a special relationship with someone, we give thanks. We know that there are many people who are not in that position – some are not particularly concerned by it, but others live with sadness and difficult memories. Some people are in a special relationship with someone, but it is not happy and loving. Relationships in general are not easy, and those ‘special relationships’ require patience, commitment and the kind of self-giving love that you show us. Be with all in ‘special relationships’, all feeling the loss of a relationship that has come to an end, and those living in difficult relationships. Help us to know when and how to support others, without interfering and making things worse.

 

Picture of the Day

On 28 May 1787 Burns and friends set off from Alnwick for Morpeth. Instead of taking the direct route via the Great North Road, they diverted to see the ruined Warkworth Castle (a former stronghold of the Percy Earls of Northumberland) and Hermitage

                                                                       Warkworth Castle 1                    

Warkworth Castle 1

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Saturday 13th February

Thought for the Day

Figures issued by the Scottish Government suggest that all, or almost all, adult care home residents have been vaccinated, as have over 90% of care home staff. That is a tremendous achievement given all the challenges involved. The care sector had a very tough time last year – struggling to keep everyone safe, while not being able to access sufficient equipment, concerns about discharges from hospital, and coping with longer-term issues such as under-funding, staff shortages, low pay and care staff working for more than one care provider. It seems that some handled the situation better than others, and sadly many receiving care died prematurely because of Covid, despite their carers best endeavours to protect them. One of the steps taken to contain the spread was restricting or preventing families and friends meeting care home residents face-to-face. It may have been necessary for the good of the community of residents and staff, but it created considerable distress for families, particularly where their relative was suffering cognitive impairment/ dementia that was getting worse. Some lost a relative feeling that they couldn’t say ‘goodbye’ properly, others feel that they are now dealing with someone who has much less idea who they are. Hopefully things may improve after the vaccine roll-out, but let’s remember those who are receiving care at home or in a care home, their carers, their families andiends, those who manage care homes or care providers, and those who make public policy

Lord, we are grateful that when we reach a stage in life where we cannot fully look after ourselves, nor can we cope with some help from family, friends or neighbours, there is a public social care system to support us. We remember all who need that support, and their families and close friends. We remember too the carers, who so often manage a cheery smile when their work is challenging. Support them all. Also inspire and guide those running care homes and care providers, and those making public policy

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                     Alnwick 6  

Alnwick 6

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Friday 12th February

Thought for the Day

News headlines today say that the economy contracted by almost 10% last year. For most people that is a statistic that doesn’t mean a lot. But people can relate to businesses they knew closing: shops, pubs, cafes and more; people they know being made redundant, or not being offered hours of work under their ‘zero-hours’ contract, others feeling that their job (whether as an employee or their own business) is on a ‘shoogly nail’. The government’s furlough scheme and business support scheme have contained the numbers made redundant, but it is anticipated that when they come to an end there will be more business failures, and more redundancies. Hopefully government plans to provide new stimulus to the economy after the pandemic will lead to growth and new jobs, but at the minute there are a lot of stressed and worried people up and down the country, concerned about being able to pay bills, and the blow to self-confidence that can come with unemployment. Let’s remember them all, and encourage those in government to realise what people are going through, and respond accordingly

Lord, behind every statistic are human lives. Many are affected at the moment by the downturn in the economy caused by the pandemic: jobs lost, the worry about whether they could be made redundant soon, or the business fail. May they be assured of your care and concern for them. Inspire those in government to respond appropriately. Help us to remember them, and give what help and support we can

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                Alnwick 5       

Alnwick 5

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Thursday 11th February

Thought for the Day

The sun is shining in Dumbarton, the sky is blue and the snow (such as we have) looks picturesque. The situation in other parts of the country (eg Aberdeenshire and the Borders) is rather different, where they have had heavy snow and very low temperatures. Key workers, including the staff driving the gritters and repairing fallen telephone or electricity lines, have been out and about keeping things going. Staff have travelled into work in shops and hospitals, and (even though there may have been a dip in attendances) the vaccination programme has continued. We appreciate all the work they do, and the discomfort they accept to do it, for our good

Lord, we remember all whose lives are affected by the current very cold and snowy weather. We appreciated all the key workers who are out and about in it, keeping communities gong. Keep them safe

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                             Alnwick 4                

Alnwick 4

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Wednesday 10th February

Thought for the Day

There have been headlines yesterday and today about regulations coming in requiring travellers from abroad to quarantine when they arrive in this country. For many of us travel to or from ‘abroad’ is not on our radar at the moment – if we could just go to Helensburgh, or Glasgow or Braehead… But there are also many people who have close family who live abroad (Europe, Australia, South Asia, North America etc) who have not been able to see them for nearly a year, and who may have to wait a lot longer before they can do so. For some it has meant not just missing family ’get-togethers’, but also sharing in special family events like births, marriages etc, or being able to offer help and support when it is needed. Let’s remember them, and the challenges they face, and assure them that they are in our thoughts

Lord, we are an inter-connected world. Many people have close family who live and work abroad. Travel is not permitted. It causes stress, and people miss seeing each other. It is particularly stressful when there is a special family event, and they cannot be together. Be with all in that position. Help us to know how to offer support

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                           Alnwick 3           

Alnwick 3

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Tuesday 9th February  Safer Internet Day

Thought for the Day

Especially during this pandemic, millions of us have relied heavily on social media and the internet to keep in touch, to shop, to keep going. However, in recent weeks we’ve seen concern about the use of social media in trying to invalidate the result of the American elections and trying to undermine the case for vaccinations against Covid-19 (and in some cases the very existence of the virus). We have also been aware for quite a long time that there are people trying to groom children and vulnerable adults on social media, there is bullying on social media, and there are websites set up to promote ‘fake news’ or to encourage radicalisation. Today is the 18th international Safer Internet Day which is designed to engage with children, young people, teachers and carers in ensuring that there is an internet that young people can trust, and feel safe using. More information can be found at https://www.saferinternetday.org/

Lord, the internet (including social media platforms) is a very valuable part of life. But, like so much else about life, it can be used to create harm rather than good. Support all who are working to keep it safe, to ensure that it shares truth and honesty rather than falsehood or hatred, and that users (especially young people and vulnerable people) are kept safe

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                              Alnwick 2          

Alnwick 2

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Monday 8th February    International Epilepsy day

Thought for the Day

The second Monday in February is International Epilepsy Day, which is marked in 130 countries to acknowledge and highlight the problems faced by people living with it, their families and carers. According to the WHO over 50m people worldwide are living with epilepsy. What is it? A sudden intense burst of electrical activity in the brain causes regular brain messages to become mixed up, and the person takes a ‘seizure’. The impact on behaviour depends on where in the brain this happens. There are different types of epilepsy: some start at an early age, others later in life; some are associated with known damage to the brain, but in the majority of cases there is no known cause; in some cases there are recurrent seizures, in others they can be isolated incidents. In most cases the condition is controlled by medication. More information is available at https://internationalepilepsyday.org/ or on the websites of the NHS or UK epilepsy charities

Lord, there are probably people that we know who have, or have had, epilepsy. Most of us don’t appreciate what the impact can be on someone’s life, or the lives of their family and carers. We know too that in the past there has been stigma associated with the condition – and many of us would be unsure what to do if we encountered someone having a seizure. Be with those living with the condition, and assure them that they are not alone, they have support, and there is no stigma attached to it. Help us to be more aware of it, and responsive to it

 

Picture of the Day

Sunday 27 May 1787 Robert Burns and friends travelled by horse from Coldstream to Alnwick and stayed there, describing the castle as ‘furnished in a most princely manner’

                                                                           Alnwick 1               

Alnwick 1

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Saturday 6th February

Thought for the Day

On Wednesday an independent report commissioned by the Scottish Government on the future of Social Care was published. Will it be turned into law, will only part of it be turned into law, what do people involved with Social Care think of its recommendations? Over the past year the role of the Social Care sector has been highlighted more than for a long time – maybe more than ever before – and some of the issues it faces including remuneration for staff. Most of us don’t know how either the Health Service or Care Service operate, though more of us are ‘users’ of the Health Service, so from an early age we are familiar with GP surgeries and hospitals. Becoming a ‘user’ of the Care Service tends only to happen when there is a specific need: some may need care from an early age, but for others it is only when Mum or Auntie can’t cope on her own that we have our first encounter with the system. Whether we are talking about care at home or care in a facility with support (sheltered accommodation/ care home) the system needs more support and co-ordination – and recognition of the valuable work that staff do. The report is 109 pages long (!) but if you want to read it, it can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/independent-review-adult-social-care-scotland/

Lord, help us to appreciate better the valuable work of those involved in the care sector. Inspire those in positions of decision-making to look carefully at the needs of the sector, and the people who rely upon it. Where change is needed encourage them to take action, and not defer decisions. Encourage all involved to treat it as a cross-party issue, and not get caught up in party politics

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                     Berwick 6 Ramparts                        

Berwick 6  Ramparts

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Friday 5th February

Thought for the Day

More rain, more sleet today – but hopefully the prospect of it drying up by Sunday. Oh to have some summer sunshine and heat! Summer sunshine and heat seem to be focussing the minds of politicians and commentators at the minute. As the vaccination programme rolls out there are increasing calls for easing of restrictions, and predictions of life being ‘back to normal’ by the summer (haven’t we heard that somewhere before?). We are all fed up with lockdown restrictions, we want children back in schools, and students at college or university, we want leisure and hospitality re-opened (for the good of owners/ staff and users), we want to be able to travel freely, we want to have folk back in our houses, to be able to give hugs etc. But are there other factors like variants of the virus, uncertainty over the length of time that vaccination provides immunity or prevents transmission, that may make governments cautious about lifting all restrictions (maybe especially come next Autumn/Winter)? We want good news, but we also want honesty and open debate

Lord, coping with lockdown on cold wet days is really hard. Help us to get through it, and support each other through it. Inspire those who make the decisions about public life, and those who seek to influence the opinions of others, to be careful when talking about hopes and challenges, things that are clear and things that are not clear

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                            Berwick 5 Barracks             

Berwick 5  Barracks

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Thursday 4th February   World Cancer Day

Thought for the Day

Cancer is a horrible disease. It can attack anyone, regardless of age, gender, lifestyle, ethnicity or whatever. Tremendous progress has been made in dealing with many forms of cancer (though in some cases the treatment can be quite hard), and research is ongoing in learning more about the various forms of the disease and identifying suitable treatments.

Today is a world-wide ‘day’ to acknowledge and think about cancer, research, treatment, care and public policy. (for further details see below) In Britain it is support by, among others, Cancer Research UK. Maybe today gives us another opportunity to remember people we know who have, or have had, cancer; to think of the support and care that they receive from family, friends, and those who work for organisations like the Beatson, hospices, Marie Curie and MacMillan; for those who raise funds for these charities; and those doing research or carrying out treatment

Lord, cancer is a horrible disease, that disrupts or destroys lives, and creates fear and anxiety. Thank you for those who are there to support and care for people living with it, for those who provide treatment, and those undertaking research. We remember too those in places where they do not have access to the healthcare available here

“World Cancer Day is an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the largest and oldest international cancer organisation dedicated to taking the lead in convening, capacity building and advocacy initiatives that unite the cancer community to reduce the global cancer burden, promote greater equity, and integrate cancer control into the world health and development agenda.
 
We believe that access to life-saving cancer diagnosis, treatment and care should be equal for all – no matter where you live, what your income, your ethnicity or gender. 

We believe that governments must be accountable and national leadership on policies, legislations, investment and innovation is key to accelerated progress.

We believe that individuals, together can create change.
 
World Cancer Day was born on the 4 February 2000 at the World Summit Against Cancer for the New Millennium in Paris. The Paris Charter aims to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer, and includes the adoption of World Cancer Day.”

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                      Berwick 4 Custom House                     

Berwick 4  Custom House

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Wednesday 3rd February

Thought for the Day

It is an encouragement to us all that so many vaccines are providing effective test results, with the potential that there should be a substantial supply to roll-out around the world, and to be available to provide back-up in subsequent years should regular inoculation be necessary. The co-operation between countries and companies could be such a helpful model for addressing many of the world’s other major issues. But at times there are hints, or more than hints, of political and national point-scoring – our vaccine’s more effective than yours, our roll-out rate is faster than yours etc. Can’t we leave the politics etc out of it, and at a national and international level work together as a team around agreed objectives?

Lord, we greatly appreciate the contribution of all who are developing and rolling out the vaccines. Help them to work together effectively, and not compete with each other, for the good of everyone

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                Berwick 3 Town Hall                

Berwick 3  Town Hall

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Tuesday 2nd February  Children’s Mental Health Week

Thought for the Day

Yesterday marked the beginning of Children’s Mental Health Week. For many adults, especially of more senior years, talk of children’s mental health is a fairly new concept. No one talked about it when we were young. Yet how many lives might have been better if it had been? Mental health issues can range from bullying (who said, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.’?), to the impact of conflict in the home, pressure to excel at everything, lack of confidence, loneliness etc. They hurt children when they are young, and they can affect them all their lives. The pandemic, with its impact on schooling and on social mixing has had an impact on the mental health of everyone, including children; but some will be more affected by it than others. One of the first steps to responding to it is to recognise that it exists. Further information can be found on the website https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/

Lord, there is still something of a stigma attached to mental health issues, of admitting to struggling with stress, bullying, coping with conflict, or living up to other people’s expectations. It is hard for adults, it is hard for children, who are still learning about what you can and can’t say, and how you express your feelings. Help us to acknowledge our own challenges, and the challenges that other people are facing. Help us to be good listeners. Help us not to point the finger or dismiss other people’s concerns. Help us to help others through their hard times

 

Picture of the Day

Burns actually crossed the Border for the first time on 7 May, ‘just to see what it felt like’, going as far as Cornhill-on-Tweed. However on 27 May he travelled on horseback with two friends from Coldstream to Alnwick

                                                                         Berwick 2 Berwick Castle                  

Berwick 2  Berwick Castle

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Monday 1st February

Thought for the Day

There are stories in the news of people being arrested at anti-government/ ‘release Navalny’ protests in Russia, and of the arrest of government leaders and others in Myanmar (formerly Burma). They are not isolated incidents, but reflect a pattern found in many countries – and in some cases people are simply arrested and imprisoned without any charges or trial. Prosecutors in those countries will say that people broke laws, but others will dispute whether those laws are fair and just (let alone the legal process). There are a number of people in the Bible who faced imprisonment for political reasons or were treated unfairly by the legal system – names like Moses, Samson, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and Paul spring to mind.

Many of us are struggling to cope with lockdown restrictions. We can’t have people to visit, we can’t visit them. We can’t go for a trip to the seaside, or a shopping centre,or the hills. We can’t go out for a coffee or lunch. We are trying hard to cope, but it is very difficult. At least we can go outside, we have the freedom to move around in our house/flat, we don’t have people watching our every movement. How would we feel if we were in the position of a Moses or a Daniel, a Peter or a Paul? From our own experience of frustration and resentment against being in ‘lockdown’ maybe we can give some thought to those arrested and confined, with no freedoms and no privacy

Lord, we are struggling to cope with the restrictions of lockdown. We remember those who have been arrested for all sorts of political reasons, who face unfair trials, or no trials. We pray for freedom for them and the righting of wrongs

 

Picture of the Day

On 18 May 1787 Robert Burns and Robert Ainslie visited Berwick, which he described as an ‘idle town but rudely picturesque’. Lord Errol showed him round the walls, he dined with a merchant called Mr Clunzie, but did not stay over

                                                                            Berwick 1 Berwick Bridge           

Berwick 1  Berwick Bridge

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Saturday 30th January

Thought for the Day

Another recurring question is: ‘when will the schools go back?’ There seem to be different opinions among government advisers about the role played by schools in transmission of the disease. Whilst children are probably not at high risk of contracting it, there seems to be some link between schools being open and increased transmission (but they are maybe not certain exactly what that is?). Meanwhile parents and carers are struggling to cope with home schooling, and juggling that with trying to carry on with their own work. Teachers and educationalists are worried about the long-term impact of children being away from school for so long, both on their educational attainment and their general social skills and well-being. Children and teenagers are reacting to the situation in different ways – some are putting in a lot of effort to achieve longer-term goals, others are not engaging with online schooling, and are showing signs of missing interaction with peers/ engagement with sport etc. And teachers are under great pressure – trying to prepare material for those who are in school (children of key workers, and from ‘vulnerable’ families) and those who are at home. Let’s remember them all and their different, but related, needs

Lord, we pray for all associated with the education system – children/teenagers, parents/carers, teachers and educationalists. Give them the physical and mental strength to keep going, to feel that their effort is both of value, and valued. Be with them when they are struggling, and help them to find appropriate help and support

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                     Ayrshire Alloway Old Brig of Alloway                       

Ayrshire Alloway Old Brig of Alloway

PS In May 1787 Robert Burns crossed the Border, and in a week walked from Coldstream to Newcastle, on to Carlisle and back over the border to Annan. For the next wee while we’ll have some pictures of places that he visited on his journey

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Friday 29th January

Thought for the Day

Vaccines and vaccinations have been in the news a lot lately: how are governments in Britain performing against the targets for vaccinating priority groups; should teachers, police, transport workers and other ‘front line’ staff become priority groups; the development of another vaccine; and the dispute between Astra Zeneca and the European Union. All important issues, all issues on which we may have views, but in many cases issues on which we do not have access to key information. There is another question, which is asked, but not addressed very often by people in government here or elsewhere: what about vaccines for those in middle and low-income countries, where healthcare and hygiene systems are much less developed than in high income countries, and where in many cases there is suspicion of or hostility to ‘Western medicine’?

Lord, we ask for your guidance and blessing on those planning and carrying out the vaccination programmes here, and for resolution of disputes so that supply does not get caught up in politics. We pray too that leaders in high income countries will remember the need for vaccinations in middle and low income countries, and plan an inclusive way forward that embraces everyone on the planet

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                   Kirkoswald Souter Johnnie's Cottage     

Kirkoswald Souter Johnnie's Cottage

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Thursday 28th January

Thought for the Day

In the past couple of days the number of deaths in the UK where Covid-19 appears on the death certificate has passed the 100,000 mark. Every death from whatever cause is sad, as someone who touched the lives of others slips away and becomes a memory rather than a living presence with them (though, being honest, we must acknowledge that some of those who slip away have had little interaction with others, and few or none are there to mourn their passing). When someone has had a long and fulfilled life, though there is sadness at their passing, there is also much to remember and celebrate. When someone dies at a younger age, the grief at their loss is made all the harder to bear because of the lost opportunities and potential – the things they might have done, the things they might have seen or experienced had they lived. For so many at the moment losing a loved one or friend comes after a long period of not being able to see each other, to share together in the usual ways, to shake hands/ give hugs/ offer kisses. That often leaves a sense of regret, guilt and anger on top of grief. ‘We didn’t get a chance to say a proper ‘Good-bye.’’ In hospitals healthcare staff have encountered unprecedented levels of death on their wards: they are professionals, trained to experience death, but also human beings who feel acutely the loss of each person in their care. Let’s hold in our thoughts and prayers all who have lost someone during this pandemic – whether Covid-19 appears on the death certificate or not, and remember the additional pain caused by loss and grieving during the restrictions that are in place

Lord, you know and understand pain and grief, what it means not to have a loved one close by at the time of passing. Be close to all who have lost someone close in this time of pandemic. Help us to be sensitive to their needs, and offer what support we can

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                Cowal Highland Mary's statue        

Cowal Highland Mary’s statue

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Wednesday 27th January

Thought for the Day   Holocaust Memorial Day

Two days ago we were marking Burns Night. Behind some of his greatest poems and songs we see the inspiration of the European (and Scottish) Enlightenment, and Revolutionary thinking in in America and France: The Declaration of the Rights of Man, Liberte Egalite Fraternity etc.

Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That man to man the world o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.

However it is also worth remembering that amid the intellectual and political turmoil of Burns’ adult years the Transatlantic slave trade was still in place, and many economies depended upon slavery. The hope then, and among many people for the next 150 years was that humanity would put away all the mediaeval superstition about human sinfulness and strive for ever greater knowledge and civilisation.

Two days after Burns Night we mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and remember those who perished under the Nazi extermination policies, those who continued to carry mental or physical scars for many years, the motivations that led up to the Holocaust, its objective, the choices faced by those who did not agree with it but did not know how to oppose it. We reflect too on all other attempts to eradicate people of different ethnicities, political views, sexualities etc simply because they are ‘different’.

It is right to remember what happened in the 1930s and 40s, what happened in Darfur, Rwanda and Cambodia. But we need to go beyond remembering the past and look at our contemporary country and world. How readily is ‘difference’ accepted or embraced today? What are our prejudices and dislikes? Why do we have them? Is there anything we have to address in our attitudes?

Lord, we are all different from each other, and you love us for who we are. Help us to love each other. Help us to confront our own prejudices and dislikes. As we remember those who suffered and died in the Holocaust and all campaigns against minority groups, we pray those situations in our world today where people are in much the same position as those who suffered in the 1930s and 40s.

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                 Dumfries Burns Mausoleum         

Dumfries Burns Mausoleum

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Tuesday 26th January

Thought for the Day

‘Yes, but..’ Two words that seem to sum up quite a lot about life at the moment. The vaccination programme is rolling out, but questions keep being asked about the speed, who should be given priority, the flow of supplies, the effectiveness of current vaccines both in the longer-term and against new variants. With increased vaccination across the population, with more rapid flow tests, with the onset of better weather, can we look forward to/ plan for the re-opening of life (meeting others, children going back to school, venues opening, travel permitted, holidays)? We come to this year with our experience of last year – a series of hopes dashed. Quite a lot of people thought the whole ‘Covid-thing’ would be over by Easter, many more thought by the Autumn we would be back to normal. If we ask the question, ‘Will we get back to normal this Autumn?’ are we being realistic or pessimistic? If we ponder a summer holiday (some of us had to book them because of ‘vouchers’ for cancelled holidays last year), are we being optimistic or unrealistic? We may find that family or friends have a different perspective on the future from us – and it can be hard trying to accept that

Lord, living with uncertainty is hard. Help us to cope. Help us to cope with people who see things differently from us. If we get into discussion, help us to avoid argument, and try to explore the uncertainty together

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                                Dumfries Burns Cottage   

Dumfries Burns Cottage

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Monday 25th January

Thought for the Day

The Rev Ian Johnson, Minister of the Church of Scotland Linkage in Dumbarton

Today marks the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and Burns’ Night. I’m not sure what Burns would have made of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. He could be fairly scathing in his depictions of the Established Church, its ministers and those who frequented it. Yet there are many hints that Burns did believe in God or some Higher Power. It seems that his dislike was not with the concept of ‘God’ but with church structure, church worship (which seemed to do nothing for him), church engagement in doctrinal disputes that seemed irrelevant to his life, and church attitudes to morality and ethical issues (more concerned with incidences of sexual behaviour or drunkenness than poverty, human rights or hypocrisy).

It’s probably not a million miles from the situation in Scotland and most of the Western world today. Many people have a ‘spiritual’ dimension, believe in some kind of Higher Power, in life beyond death, in a sense of Right and Wrong. They agree that there are big moral and ethical issues that must be addressed – human rights, poverty, inequality, inclusiveness, abuse, corruption etc – and they are looking for clear leadership on them. They are also turned off by anything that smacks of hypocrisy or ‘do as I say, not what I do’.

It’s a challenge to us as churches – as individual congregations, as denominations, as the ‘whole people of God’. We want to remain faithful to the Good News that Jesus brought and was. We want to explore the differences between us to see if we can find common ground, or agree to differ, because what unites is more than what divides. (Sometimes that means accepting not only that another branch of the church may see and express things differently, but so might the person next to us in the pew.)

We also have to remember our call to be Christ’s witnesses in the world, trying to live out the values of the Kingdom as an example to the world; and our call to go out and build the Kingdom, engaging with people and the big issues, trying to see both through God’s eyes.

Lord, thank you for your love for us and all people. Following you faithfully is hard. Loving others is hard – whether they are doing things that fly in the face of your teaching, or they simply disagree with us. Fill us again with your Spirit, help us to know the love, the patience that comes from you, and apply it in our interactions with others. Help us as your church to serve you as faithfully as we can

PS As a nod to Burns’ Night:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

 

Pictures of the Day

       West Kirk interior from gallery      stanchurchin5     Riverside pulpit from Gallery    

                         Inside West Kirk                                   Inside St. Andrew’s                               Inside Riverside

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Sunday 24th January

Thought for the Day

This is the time for Prayers for Christian Unity the local clergy and church leaders from Dumbarton Churches Together will be submitting Thoughts for the Day

Oli Higham, Pastor of Rock Community Church

This week we have been reflecting on the theme of Christian Unity.  Perhaps our best example of this is found in God himself.  The Franciscan friar, Richard Rohr says "In the Trinity, the three must be maintained as three and understood as different from one another. Yet the infinite trust and flow between them is so constant, so reliable, so true, and so faithful that they are also completely one."  As we come to the end of this week and move into the rest of the year, may our love for one another continue to be constant, reliable and faithful.  There is much beauty when we share this journey together and stand in unity across our traditions, forms and models of church. May our eyes be set on God for from him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:16.)

 

Picture of the Day

                                             Phoenix                              

Rock Community Church in the Phoenix

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Saturday 23rd January

Thought for the Day

The Rev Heller Gonzalez, Rector of St Augustine’s Episcopal Church

“that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. John 17: 21 NRSV, Anglicised

It’s been a winter of records!.
Records are a mixed blessing: they can be received with wonder, exhilaration, and excitement, but they can also be received with fear, irritation and not a little anxiety.
 
Records cause us to stop, think and ask the question: What does this mean for me, for us? The world has become complicated; we all understand the kind of tiredness that this causes… The Grace of God, though, can still be experienced in a myriad of ways.
 
I personally feel that one of the most powerful ways of showing that grace in our world is faithful ‘cooperation’ and a willingness to develop a dialogue which transcends our differences, without the loss of the beauty woven into our own traditional liturgies, worship styles, and practices.

Especially now at this time in earth’s human history when there is daily evidence thrust onto our screens and media platforms, proclaiming more division and disunity, injustice and inequality; it is imperative as Christians that we find common ground to work together in unity.

The church, the bride of Christ Jesus speaking in one voice and using the language of God’s love for His creation, is wonderful and powerful. When the people are heard and the language of love which is rooted in Scripture spoken, unity becomes a reality.

It is through His Word that we are called to be united, and to love one another as He has loved us. Now, what can we and our own love of God and humanity do to build the bridges needed to draw us all together so that we may all be one? Diverse but not divided.  May God who calls us to be one body, bind us together in love, the perfect bond of unity.

 

Pictures of the Day

                 Heller         St Augs                                                     

As Heller arrived in Dumbarton during the Autumn of 2020, not many people have had  a chance to meet him. So for that reason we are attaching a photo of him as well as the church

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Friday 22nd January

Thought for the Day

Pastor Grant Hamilton, Dumbarton Baptist Church

My family lived for a few years in a large city in a North African country. There were 2 local Christians, a handful on our team, a small number of students from French speaking countries like Cameroon, another handful of French women who had married local Muslim men or were working in the area. We all gathered for worship with our friends, colleagues, compatriots or secretly with local people who were on a journey of faith with Jesus but every Saturday night we met altogether in the flat of an elderly Catholic priest who had converted his living room into a chapel. He let the students stay in his spare rooms, he let us pray in our own languages, we shared the Eucharist together regardless of denomination and we often ended up working together in the field doing development work with the poorest people we had all ever met. We were a massive minority who chose to focus in on what we had in common rather than our many differences. It is a lesson that has stuck with me and one that we try to make a reality in Dumbarton through praying together in Awake Dumbarton and through sharing each other’s thoughts on special occasions like this. In some small way we help keep the light shining in the darkness.

 

Picture of the Day

                                                           Baptist                        

                                                       Dumbarton Baptist Church

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Thursday 21st January

Thought for the Day

The Rev Sara Jayne Rettie, minister of Dalreoch United Free Church of Scotland:

Just before his arrest and trial Jesus prayed for all believers asking that they might be one (John 17:21).  Difficult though the last few months have been with so many restrictions on Christians meeting in their individual buildings, it has however provided many people with a unique opportunity, through multi-media platforms, to join with different groups to worship.  Christian leaders have joined together to bring televised worship to all Christians.  We have faced a common threat and have perhaps been more united in our prayers in our individual homes than we managed before when meeting together was possible.  Jesus prayed that we might ‘be one’, perhaps this is the opportunity we have been given to learn more about what unites us, when much that divides us has been stripped away.

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                      Dalreoch UF          

                                                       Dalreoch United Free Church of Scotland

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Wednesday 20th January

Thought for the Day

The Rev Mitchell Bunting, minister of the United Reformed Churches in Helensburgh and Dumbarton:

I am writing this short reflection on Epiphany - the ancient Christian Festival which preceded the creation of the Christmas festival  possibly by a couple of hundred years. It is a festival marked by many churches today as we recall the first indications of who Jesus was to become and the first events in his ministry. I was going to reflect on the visitors from the East and their symbolic gifts each indicative of a future Messiah who would be a King of Kings (gold),  a High Priest (frankincense) and a Suffering Servant (myrrh).

But, as I write, another story of abuse of power unfolds in Washington and I am reminded of King Herod and his part in the story of the birth of Jesus. By the time you read this the events in Washington will have moved on from the storming of the Capitol but the events unfolding just now  serve as a reminder of the price we pay for exacerbating divisions in our society rather than building unity.

The Christian unity we share in the Body of Christ is a fragile gift as precious as gold, frankincense or myrrh. Let us pray that we can use this gift to build unity in the wider society in which we serve and witness.

 

Pictures of the Day

                 URC 1   urc 2  urc 3     

                                                                United Reform Church

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Tuesday 19th January

Thought for the Day

David Buchan, Lennox Evangelical Church

1 Corinthians 3:5 – 9 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. 9 For we are fellow workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

BBC news ran an article on the 11th of November 2020 entitled “covid-19 new lock down brings new DIY projects”.
Now for many lockdown has been a terrible experience in which lives and livelihoods have been lost. I must say as someone who does have the privilege of working from home, I do sometimes feel a little bit jealous when I hear of people who have the time to learn an instrument, paint their house or take up a new hobby!
 
Nonetheless lockdown for some has brought the time and opportunity to undertake projects and learn new skills (remember Joe Wicks).  Remember when you couldn't find flour because of the upsurge in home baking? Maybe your kids are teaching you how to use TikTok? Perhaps you’ve been volunteering to help others – keeping others connected through phone calls, delivering essential medicines, medical equipment or shopping. Or perhaps, like me it was sowing seeds and plants (we gave some to our nephews and nieces children packets of seeds to sow).
 
I'd like to ask you a question: What will you be sowing or planting or watering this year? In the Bible text 1st Corinthians chapter 3 verses 5 to 9 it says “I planted the seed, Apollo's watered it.. But God made it grow”. Paul makes the point that the Lord has assigned each his task. We also know that the seed is the word of God in the parable of the sower (Luke 8:11) but allow me to suggest that we can sow good actions to benefit others. Now we know that in this text Paul is speaking about Christians. He wants them to be spiritual not just having the Spirit but having the Spirit in charge. He's speaking about maturity.
 
Three things that are important as we face a new year together:
         diversity: Paul says one ploughs the soil, another sows, while a third waters the seed and others enjoy reaping the harvest. Diversity! Everybody is important. Everybody is needed in the kingdom of God.
         unity of purpose: No matter what we do for the Lord, all are part of the work and the harvest: verse 8 says they have one purpose. Paul, Apollos and Peter were not competing with one another. Each did their bit – their assigned task under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This required unity of purpose and unity of the Spirit.
         humility: None of us can produce the harvest (vs 6 and 7 repeat God made it grow, and God is the one who makes it grow). The Corinthians were proud of their church and their leaders but the glory belongs to the Lord. Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility but was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it?!  “Humility, said William Temple, does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people. Nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.”
So the challenge in this New Year is to ask ourselves: “What am I planting? Have I been called to water something or have I been called to pray that God makes it grow?”  In acknowledging our diversity, unity of purpose with humidity, may God bless our service for him in Dumbarton!

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                         Lennox Evangelical            

                                                               Lennox Evangelical Church

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Monday 18th January

Thought for the Day

Today sees the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Local clergy and church leaders from Dumbarton Churches Together will be submitting Thoughts for the Day during this period

Canon Fr Gerry Conroy, priest at St Patrick’s:

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (Heb. 5:8-9).

This pandemic has brought to the surface many of the fears we have been supressing or dealing with in a kind of a way, most of which we have been keeping at bay for a good number of years. Maybe bringing these things to the surface is the first stage in healing. Christ taught us there could be a value in facing suffering for the children of God. It can bring us to obedience and through obedience to eternal life. The journey back to Christian unity is not without its suffering. May it teach us that same obedience to the will of God that Christ has mapped out for us.

 

Picture of the Day

                                                                      St Pat's                   

                                                                        St. Patrick’s

 

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