By the Rev Gary Noonan, of Houston and Killellan Kirk
It is a time for us to reflect, as last week we passed a year since the first Covid case in Scotland. This coming Sunday will mark a year since we last held a Sunday service in Houston kirk. As we closed our worship singing “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah”, little did we know what lay ahead.
In the Bible, Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another”—a theme that we are taking forward at Houston throughout Lent this year. It is summed up beautifully in the final section of the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, which was written for President Biden’s inauguration, in which she says:
“For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
In the first few months of the pandemic, the light was visible, as our communities the length and breadth of the country rallied. In Houston, the church co-ordinated a response to collect food and prescriptions for the vulnerable and the isolating and to have phone buddies to keep in touch with those who were socially isolated and separated from their families. The whole community assisted—those of all faiths and none came together and, despite the dark times, there was light.
We organised food bank collections for the most vulnerable in our society, and in nine months we collected the equivalent of 25,000 meals. We adapted to an online platform for mental health support, held musical events that were dementia inclusive and were joined by nursing homes from across the area. There was light to see.
People commented to me that, as they stood out each Thursday evening to clap for the national health service and carers, they ended up chatting across the garden to neighbours who they had previously only said hello to or passed the time of day with. They now invested time, and the community was growing. There was light to see.
However, in the past few months, whether it be because of lockdown fatigue or a return to old ways, society has again appeared to have become more polarised—people are either in a group or out, and there is no middle ground for disagreement, respectful dialogue or debate. This is a time like no other, and we as a society need to be united, to strive for something better and to rebuild stronger in compassion, equality and love. It comes down to all of us—faith leaders, politicians and society as a whole—to be brave enough to see the light but, more important, to be brave enough to be it.
The Rev Gary Noonan was a police officer who is now a Church of Scotland minister. He gave Time for Reflection at the Scottish Parliament.