From the Kirkyard
FROM THE KIRKYARD
On Sunday mornings, attending church in Cramond, I like to think that I had a very small part in appointing Dr Barr to the pulpit of the Kirk. When the previous Minister announced his imminent retirement, the procedure to be followed is that a small group within the congregation should be elected to find a suitable successor. There were twenty five of us appointed to do just that and, if I were to admit it, it proved to be a memorable mission. Leaving the Kirk that special morning, I was apprehended by one of the older members of Session. “Now Doris, keep your feet on the ground, we do not want any tambourine playing and Hallelujahs in our pulpit!! (for a moment, I was reminded of our jubilant Communion hymn, sung to the tune St Georges West, but I was too excited by the honour I had been given, to explore this further at the time!)
I was in a group of four ,namely, Ronald Armstrong, (fondly named Chubby), Archie Gilchrist, Dr Liz McSwan, and myself. Sundays became journeys into the unknown and we had many encounters over some months until our objective became reality. It really was a challenge I never regretted following up.
One such Sabbath found us in a housing scheme within the city of Glasgow. There was a procedure to follow, that we should try to be anonymous, and melt in with the congregation we were visiting as discreetly as possible. We decided to split up, Archie and Liz were to occupy the right side of the sanctuary and Chubby and myself the left. Edging into our seats, a worshipper on my right, slid along the pew to be beside me. “Hello, Are you a stranger here?” she queried, with a pleasant smile. I answered in the affirmative. “Where have you come from?”, “Edinburgh”, I replied. “Why have you come here?” “We are visiting my brother in Newlands”. Here I was in the house of God making up stories, well half true, as my brother was a resident in that area. To my relief my neighbour seemed satisfied with my replies and settled.
The organist signalled the entrance of the minister, who was not the one we had travelled to hear. He (we were told later, was on holiday), and the service began. First hymn over, we settled for an opening prayer. Suddenly, there were loud noises from the other side of the church, the area where our colleagues were seated. “That’s Sadie” whispered my companion, “she generally sits on our side but has moved over there today”. The minister continued the prayer, but my eyes were focussed across to the commotion. There was Liz attempting to climb quietly over the pew to the stricken parishioner, who was now outdoing the cleric as he continued his pleas for forgiveness, “she has wee fits often, when she comes to the church, but we know how to take care of her” whispered my neighbour. At which point there came a regular squeaking sound as a wheelchair was pushed down the aisle to the unfortunate Sadie. (I was reminded of the laundry basket which appeared in the film Thoroughly Modern Millie, concealing young girls, drugged for some dreadful future). I wanted to reassure my new friend and tell her that my colleague was Doctor, forgetting that the person I had in mind was on the other side of the church and not sitting beside me, and everything would be alright, but we were supposed to be incognito weren’t we? I told myself we were, and stayed silent. The prayer ended and the minister announced the next hymn, which, during its singing, drowned the patient who was seated in the wheelchair as it made its way to the exit. Liz followed her with Archie behind, the door closed and the sermon began. As I have said, this minister was not the one we had expected to hear, and perhaps he had been made aware of the possible attendance of Sadie and knew how to handle the situation. I hope so.
It was just as well, because the next sound to assail our ears was the warning call of the ambulance as it made its way to the church door. I am afraid I could not concentrate on anything by this time, as Archie had departed with Liz and the patient, and he had the keys to the car which was to take us home. Finally, the last hymn was played followed by the Benediction. The organist played his final piece of music, courtesy of Beethoven, or possibly Bach?, and we rose to make our way out. It seemed to take an age to leave the church, we could not seem to be in a hurry, but I was slightly apprehensive as my friendly neighbour was carrying on a conversation, which I, honestly cannot recall, but was afraid of where it would lead. Descending the steps at the door, the ambulance was not to be seen, but we were informed after querying its absence, that it had gone straight to the hospital with Sadie, who was a “weel kent face” and who, we were assured would soon be “hunky doary” We saw, with relief that Liz and Archie were standing across the road, and within our sight, waiting for us to emerge.
Usually, we, as a group would go to a nearby, suitable spot, to have a coffee, carried with us for this occasion, to discuss and compare our notes, but, that Sunday, the sermon we had travelled to hear, seemed to have slipped from all our minds as we made for the M8 and home.
One less candidate to consider, one more visit covered!