“May you live in interesting times.” I was reminded of this saying, apparently a blessing but in truth a curse, one Sunday recently. I was on my way to church – fortunately, I had left early – when Mitchell the verger phoned me. There was no power in the church. Interesting! That was the weekend when demolition commenced on the building three doors up from Scots, something that we had received notice of only a few days prior. More interesting! Was there a connection? When I arrived a few minutes later, I discovered that the road traffic control mob had zealously blocked all pedestrian access to Scots, something which we had not been notified of. Even interesting-er! Happily, people were cooperative. Barriers were moved and embarrassed SA Power Networks staff reconnected a cable. By the time church started, the only sign of our interesting times was a series of loud thumps from the demolition machine and an unheated church, since there had been no power to run the heaters that morning. All is good for now, although I am confident that there will be more interesting times as the building work proceeds.
“May you live in interesting times.” When I first heard this saying, it was explained that it was an ancient Chinese curse. “Interestingly,” a quick bit of research indicated that this is very unlikely. The best internet sources place it as a modern proverb, popularised in a speech by Robert Kennedy in 1966. Not ancient, not Chinese.
This titbit of trivia reminds me how quickly we, human beings, can change and adapt. We can take something on board and in a short time, think that this has been the situation for years. For decades, Elizabeth house has been familiar to us. Yet, in a few years’ time, it will be forgotten, and skyscraper housing 400 students become the norm. How will Scots Church have changed in that time?
On the morning of the demolition, power outage and footpath closure, the report from the “Strengthening Life and Witness” review of Scots Church was presented in worship, by the two Synod representatives, Rev Diane Bury and Dr Don Sinnott. On the whole, the report is very affirming of Scots Church. (I will not go through the report in depth here, as copies are available to congregation members.) In brief Diane and Don saw a welcoming community, contributing positively to the lives of those whom we encounter, in worship, through facility usage and in wider outreach, but with have various challenges to face, such as maintaining the congregation at a viable size, and retuning our committees and administration. Thus, we must change.
Some things should not change. The commitment to welcoming inclusion and concern for the welfare of others has been with Scots for a long time. It is in our DNA. Engagement with social issues was one of the foundations of the Free Church, almost two centuries ago; acceptance of others with minimal creedal requirements features in the constitution of the Presbyterian union in SA over 150 years ago. While from time to time we might drift away from the best practice of such things, we cannot escape them. They are part of who we are. As we plan for the inevitable changes required, we must hold our vision before us. (It is excerpted on the page opposite this.)
We can see some changes taking place at the moment. The Op Shop is a month old now. Interest is growing. The first “pop-up” trading table on the forecourt attracted attention. Our hope is that, over time, upstairs in Hamilton Hall might become a place where community develops, as op-shoppers pause for a moment and chat with each other. The new student accommodation also suggests another place for community engagement. I wonder what will come next? If you have any thoughts on initiatives, please talk with me.
In our world, growth is usually much slower than decay. It will only take a few weeks to demolish the buildings near us, but their replacement will take months … years. Likewise, the initiatives we are starting will take time to grow. We must pursue them with a determined faithful patience, trusting that with God, ““all will be well.”
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
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