Craigrownie Parish Church, Cove
Sacrament of Holy Communion, Sunday 20 October 2013, 11.30am
Minister: Rev Norma Moore
After the not-so-great service at Paisley Abbey last weekend, I carried on northwards and westwards and ended up in the Rosneath peninsula, where I’ve spent a splendid week sequestered at Cove Park getting more work done than I ever thought possible and occasionally braving the rain and the highland cattle to get my daily fix of internet access. There’s definitely something to be said for a break from the norm.
So this week, it was Craigrownie Parish Church, or Craigrownie “Paries” Church if you believe the intimations notice. What is it with church leaflets and proofreading? Apparently people in the peninsula are fighting the scourge of Japanese knotweed, so this may reduce the time they have available to root out typos. I feel I should offer my services; my rates are very reasonable.
Craigrownie is a proper old-fashioned Church of Scotland village kirk with some nice stained glass and the congregational turnout of “about fifty” that I’ve come to expect this year. Whether this is typical for Craigrownie I couldn’t say, but it was a communion service, so that may have drawn a few more than usual. In any case, the church seemed pretty full, although the first thing read out at the beginning of the service was an edict form the presbytery of Dumbarton (yes, yes, it's been pointed out, see comments below, and Matthew 7:1-3) about the linkage of Craigrownie with the neighbouring parishes of Garelochhead and St Modan’s. Linkage … what does that entail? Alas, I won’t be around to find out.
There were proper old-fashioned hymns too, albeit accompanied by ponderous and uneven organ playing, which was at its worst during psalm 121 (I to the hills will lift mine eyes), when the organist couldn’t choose which of the two versions of French in CH4 he/she was playing, settling for a mix-and-match version somewhere in between. Other numbers from the old-school C of S hit parade included Psalm 24:7-10 (Ye gates lift up your heads to St George’s, Edinburgh), God whose almighty word, Now thank we all our God, and O God of Bethel by whose hand, which might be the first paraphrase I’ve heard all year - I need to check that. The paraphrases seem to have gone out of fashion elsewhere, but we actually got two of them at Craigrownie, because we also sang Now, Lord, according to thy word at the end. All that and a sung Amen; you can’t go much more trad than that.
The readings were 2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5 and Luke 18:1-8, the persistent widow and the unjust judge, and the theme of the sermon was “Persistence in Prayer”, drawing on the readings and on psalm 121, a plea for safety and a statement of faith in the absolute reliability of God, who is constantly there (or should that be here?) looking out for us. Just as God is constant, said Rev Moore, we should be constant and should live in confidence that God will prevail.
Turning to the gospel reading, she asked us to consider why we should persist in praying to God for justice when it is in the divine nature to grant justice? And she offered three answers: 1) through persistent prayer we remain mindful of God and of the need to put our own spiritual house in order and to keep alive our own commitment to justice; 2) by praying persistently for something that doesn’t seem to be happening, we may realise that the answer is in our own hands and that God’s will is to be done through us; and 3) God doesn’t see persistent prayer as nagging, but loves to hear our prayers and wants us to share everything with him, and we ought to consider the judge/widow scenario in reverse – what if God is the one who is persistently asking us to deliver justice?
All of which makes me think of a yet-to-be-written blog post about Try Praying, which I will get round to soon.
I had parked at the foot of the hill, outside the burgh hall, and walked (no, actually, I climbed, because getting anywhere in this part of the world somehow involves a steep, slippery hill) the 250 yards to the church. The locals knew better and had all driven up to the church itself. On the short but perilous journey back to the car I nearly fell over twice (first time moss, second time leaves), I got thwacked in the face by a tree branch and I managed to get soaked even through my waterproof coat. That’s the wet, wild west coast for you.
But now it’s back to auld claes and porridge, and back to the east and my beloved Edinburgh. All that fresh air is fine in small doses, but the Soul Searcher is a city girl at heart.