Sunday, 15 September 2013

Liberton Kirk

Morning Worship (early), Sunday 15th September 2013, 9.30am
Preacher: John Young

I have no idea which parish I live in, and I might have reached the end of my Soul Search mission without the thought ever crossing my mind were it not for a very splendid cat. The feline in question has graciously allowed me to live in her house for the past week while her regular butler and housekeeper are on holiday, and what should land on the doormat while I was tending to her every whim but a copy of the Liberton Kirk magazine.

It got me thinking … where I live, over in EH7, I’ve never once in seven years received a leaflet or a newsletter or any other communication from a church in my own (albeit less salubrious) district, although the Presbytery of Edinburgh’s church locator reveals ten churches within a one-mile radius of my flat. Which of these is “my” parish church, though? I’ve no idea. That’s the Church of Scotland, of course. The Catholic directory is “under construction” and full of dead links, and I’m assuming that smaller denominations don’t attempt full coverage.

So who would I call if I wanted to find out which parish I’m domiciled in? The people at 121 George Street couldn’t answer a simple query I had about the General Assembly (which day and what time of day was a particular debate taking place, and this was me asking one week before the Assembly itself – no schedule online, you see), so I expect they’d be equally useless on this one. I could go to the library, I suppose, but who uses a library these days? You really expect a website to be able to serve you up this kind of data, don’t you? I might just have to try all ten local churches and see which one of them claims to cover my street.

But all of this is by the by, because this week it was Liberton Kirk, which, unlike some of its sister churches, has really got its act together. Not only does it produce its 44-page magazine and deliver it to every household in the parish, but it boasts a full programme of activities from badminton and Brownies to Scrabble and Scottish country dancing, on top of its three services on a Sunday and mid-week bible study and praise meetings.

A chap called David, who is a member at Liberton, was kind enough to comment on my blog earlier in the year. I looked for you this morning, David, but I didn’t see you, or I failed to recognise you if you were there. Sorry! But thanks for the recommendation, because I enjoyed the service.

The later service (11am) is for the trendy guitar people, to which Soul Searcher says a resounding, “No thanks!”, but the early service (9.30am) is for people who like proper hymns and no nonsense, and there were about 60 of us. In fact, the minister almost apologised for an unfamiliar hymn, Loving creator, and rightly so, because it really didn’t stand up alongside the others (all from CH4): Immortal, invisible; Jesus, lover of my soul; and You are before me, Lord (psalm 139).

John Young’s theme was “Just 10 – Prosper with a clear conscience”, one in a series of sermons looking at the ten commandments, based on sermons given by one J. John, who seems to be well known to everyone in the world except me. This week, “What is stealing, and is it possible to get by without it?”, which I initially misread on the website as “… is it possible to get away with it?”. Everyone’s at it – the Fiat garage, the respectable Morningside restaurant, the online music downloader – and the sermon notes make it particularly easy to summarise this one because there are eight questions and two places to fill in the blanks. So, here goes:

Three ways not to prosper in life: dishonesty, defrauding and defaulting. Three right ways to prosper: work, saving and prayer. So, yes, I’ll admit to being old-fashioned. No, I have no stolen library books, unpaid taxes or dodgy dealings, so I do pretty well in the “honesty test”, though I can’t claim never to have written a shopping list on an office post-it. But an interesting answer to the final question, “What has God been saying to you today, and how are you planning to respond?”, is contingent on his saying something, otherwise the answer will be, “Nothing”, and, “To what?”.

The reading, incidentally, was Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus (NIV). Maybe that’s me sitting up there in the tree trying to see without being seen, but Jesus didn’t call to me this morning.

So that’s all, really. It’s old-school Church of Scotland. The building is kind of back to front, in the sense that the doors are at the pulpit end, so latecomers will be conspicuous, and the scent of the flowers was pretty strong, but not unpleasant.

And on a completely pedantic note, which will be appreciated only by my fellow grammar freaks, I was delighted to note the use of the vocative comma (sadly, more honoured in the breach than the observance) on the embroidered banner that read, “Here I am, Lord”, although it occurred to me that the omission of the comma would be okay if God ever takes up appliqué: “Here I am Lord” … and that in turn got me wondering if the latter version should be, “Here, I am Lord”. And now I’m wondering if there’s a Pedants for Jesus group out there somewhere. 


  1. The presbytery and parish boundaries have only just been digitised and gone live this week. You should be able to figure out your official parish church from here:

  2. Well, well, I should have dug further. It doesn't actually tell you what parish you're in, but it does give you a list of all churches within a 5-mile radius (5 is the minimum), and after trying the first few on the list and squinting quite hard at the maps, which blur when you zoom in and don't actually show my street, I reckon I'm probably in the 4th parish listed, Pilrig St Paul's.

  3. Everyone’s at it – the Fiat garage, the respectable Morningside restaurant, the online music downloader ...

    and ministers pinching their sermons from J John.

  4. If anyone could claim copyright on the 10 commandments it would be Moses. Did J John pinch his sermons from someone else in turn? It's not exactly original territory, but intellectual property rights are a minefield. All I can say is that J John was acknowledged in the sermon and in the notes on the back of the order of service. I've never heard a J John sermon myself, but if you're interested in comparing J John with J Young there are another seven sermons to come. They're working their way backwards, but I'd like to think that having covered lying and coveting Mr Young wouldn't try to pass off someone else's material as his own.