Janet and I bought this flat in Carnoustie in 2009, nine years ago, soon after I retired, and have never regretted it. It’s a haven of peace, a castle of solitude if I need that, but equally a place to host family and friends. We have several longstanding friends in Dundee, dating back to when we lived here from 1979 to 1984. This was my first academic post, as lecturer in General Practice, under the late Prof Jimmy Knox, and Campbell Murdoch, who now lives, retired, in New Zealand.
Tomorrow I am invited to Sunday Lunch with friends John and Gill, whom we have know since the early days, when John was the very excelent Orthodontist who corrected Emma’s teeth. We were also part of the same church in Dundee, where John and Gill continue to play key roles. This is the Steeple Church ( http://www.thesteeplechurch.org.uk ) where I dropped in yesterday and spent a very happy hour with the present minister, Robert Calvert (who very recently gained his PhD in theology in the Netherlands!).
We talked about making church more accessible to the “unchurched”, that vast majority of city dwellers for whom church is at th very least distant, and at worst, threatening. I told him of the recent changes at Christchurch Stannington, where instead of a regular 10-30am sevrice of Communion every Sunday, we now have on the first and third Sundays each month a cafe-style service, with round tables seating about 8-10, and related activities for the children. The first Sunday in called “Explore” and deals with absolutely basic core beliefs, as an introduction to the Christian Faith for those completely unfamiliar with it. The third Sunday’s service is called “Connect” and replaced the “Messy Church” held monthly in the afternoon. This service is about growing in the Christian Faith, and like the Explore service, we encourage discussion at the tables, after the short talk.
Steeple Church reaches out in its own ways, by employing two Parish Nurses, whose roles resemble a District Nurse with elements of Heath Visiitng and Counselling. The premises are used by other organisations, which is of mutual benefit, as the is some income for the church. There are regular meetings for prayer, and a mid-week gathering, where the topic is as likely to be concerned with the environment as with personal salvation. This echoes what Robert was telling me, that he viewed salvation as including the whole earth, a theme well known to another hero of mine, Professor Tom Wright, of St Andrews University.
I will add a couple of poems I wrote at Carnoustie, which may have appeared here before, but which, if so, deserve repetition!
Lapping waves splash gently on the shore,
a soft wind strokes my cheek
and makes a low swooshing sound against my eardrum.
The light forces my eyes to squint against its brilliance
as it reflects off silver sand and sparkling sea.
A swallow shoots past, a gull flaps and soars,
sparrows chatter in the dune grass,
a willow tit chirps its abrasive voice,
and the waves softly lap against the gentle shore.
Above me clouds assemble in a congruence of gloom,
far away to the north east, white and fluffy overhead,
almost black in the far distance. It looks like rain.
And still the soft waves gently lap the sloping shore.
From the darkening sky silver gobbets spatter the windscreen,
the road submerges under watery sheets,
flumes of spray squirt sideways from lorries, and visibility falls.
And at the beach the waves continue their lapping.
But summer showers soon stop and sun shines,
the clouds again assume their picturesque beauty,
and all is calm. The gently lapping waves
still tickle the beach, teasing the silver sand to sleep.
Peter Campion 22/6/09 at Carnoustie, Angus.
Familiar walls of chalky stone
silently absorbed centuries of prayer
prayed in silence, or in chorus,
or spoken by one for many,
in such well-remembered words.
Walls and rafters, space and time,
enfold a living, breathing, praying
body, Christ’s own, sublime,
his hands, his voice, his feet,
his salt and light, his disciples.
Solid walls but open doors:
no gate to bar the sheep
from entering this fold.
Not really enclosed,
but embracing all, for his sake.
One day in your presence is
far better than a thousand anywhere else.
I had rather stand at the door of your house
than spend my time selfishly elsewhere.
My place is with you, O my God.
Peter Campion, after Psalm 84. 20thAugust 2009.