Dear ones, I am sorry for the silence here recently. Since Easter, the time has passed in a whirlwind, as I’ve been preparing to come to Scotland for the General Assembly and a month of deputation, during which I’ll be traveling to the presbyteries which have been supporting me and my work over the past year and a half.
Despite the busyness, there’s been much to celebrate.
The Scots Hotel is now home to two beehives. And honestly, I am smitten. When work is stressful, I go and sit on a rock in the shade and just watch the bees and marvel at the wonders of nature.
Nearby, ground is being prepared for our labyrinth and new garden, an idea which began after a couple of glasses of wine as a sketch on a bar napkin and is now actually happening.
All being well, when I return, work will start on the church. It won’t be extravagant; much of the budget is going toward the fabric of the building. But eventually, I hope it will be a place of hospitality and welcome for the wider community and our partner churches and organisations.
I’ve spent quite a lot of time with pilgrim groups, telling them about the Church of Scotland’s presence in the land, introducing them to our partners, and taking them to places which show the complexity of the historical and current situation. Many groups have joined us for our Sunday services, and it’s been a particular delight to have musicians amongst them who have enriched our worship with their talents.
Now I am back in Scotland. For the first week I was back, I was with the managers of the Scots Hotel and St Andrew’s Guesthouse traveling around Scotland and attending the opening of the General Assembly. It was an opportunity for them to enjoy the beauty of the Scottish highlands and learn more about the Church of Scotland.
When they left, I took a day to relax, to wander along the water of Leith with a friend, soaking up the fresh air and the deep greens along the path, stopping along the way for cold beer and delicious seafood. I have already seen several friends — though never for long enough to catch up properly — and attended Old St Paul’s, the church which will always be home for me, wherever in the world I might be living at the time.
I’ve just looked again at my schedule and realised that I’ll not be in the same bed for more than a couple of nights in a row. I’ll be recording with BBC Radio Scotland on Friday for their Sunday morning programme, preaching at Old St Paul’s, clearing the last of my things from the house in the Borders (which is now on the market), and traveling around Dundee and Dunfermline Presbyteries speaking, preaching, leading school assemblies, as I talk about the work I do and the context I’m serving in.
I have to confess that it was hard to come away from Israel-Palestine because I’ve come to feel so settled there in recent months. Projects are just beginning, friendships are deepening, and new ideas for partnerships are developing. But the work can also feel isolating and lonely at times, so I am grateful to have the opportunity to feel a part of a bigger church and to connect with a community that welcomes me back so warmly.
And it’s for that reason, despite the busyness, that I am so very much looking forward to meeting the people who have faithfully kept in touch with me over the past eighteen months.
My schedule might be daunting, but my heart is full. Thank you to all who are extending friendship and hospitality to me during this time. And as always, thank you especially to all of you for your prayers.