Thought for the day 18 June

June 18

We are expecting to hear from the First Minister later today that we will soon be moving into Phase 2 of the easing of restrictions. The chances are, though, that there will be vociferous complaints that the easing does not go far enough, or fast enough. Concerns about children’s education, the state of the economy, the needs of the hospitality, leisure and creative industries, the mental health and well-being of large sections of the community are very real and important. So is the fear that there could be a ‘second spike’. Difficult decisions, weighing one risk against another. We all engage in criticising politicians at some time or another, but would we really like to be doing their job?


Lord, it is always easy to criticise what other people, to be the expert on everything. Have we never made mistakes? Have people never criticised us for decisions we took in good faith, though with hindsight might have been different? We pray that we may be more tolerant and understanding. We pray too for those in Government and their advisers, that they will listen to the voice of your Wisdom


PS Photos show German frigates and the Sugar-boat, and the wheel-house from the Lucy Ashton now in the Maritime Museum at Irvine

Thought for the day 17 June

June 17

One of the main stories yesterday was the decision of Government ministers (in Scotland as well as England) to provide free school meal vouchers for the summer holidays. Holiday hunger (and term-time hunger) are very real  issues for many families – the situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, but it existed long before it, and is likely still to be there once the virus goes away. Similarly demand for the services of foodbanks has been around for quite a number of years – and is not expected to disappear soon. As we move towards the mid-21st Century is this really something we want in our community and country? Should we be asking Governments to address the issues underlying them – not just for the Summer holidays, but all the time?


Lord, you have particular concern for the poor, the vulnerable, the hungry, those in need. Help us to do what we can to assist with their immediate situation. We pray too that Governments will address the longer-term issues that underlie them


Thought for the day 16 June

June 16

How will it be when schools re-open? When will schooling be back to ‘normal’? What will be the immediate impact on pupils hoping to go to university, college or a career? What will the longer term impact be on all children who have lost out on an important part of their schooling this year, and may lose out on some of next session? How will they and their teachers cope with ‘blended’ learning? How can concerns for the children’s well-being and education be squared with worries of children being potential carriers of Covid-19 virus to staff or family? There are no simple or easy answers, and as with so much of the Covid-19 response there may need to be compromises and recognised risks


Lord, we pray for all involved in planning the way ahead for schools, and all affected by decisions taken. We pray for all pupils, particularly those leaving school, and those from homes where they do not receive the same support and encouragement to learn

Thought for the day 15 June

June 15

A few weeks ago roads were very quiet, and people only went out for a short time each day. Now we can go out for longer, and on the whole the weather has been favourable for going out for longer. Many people seem to be walking or cycling, which is good for both physical and mental well-being, but at times it becomes hard to maintain the 2m social distancing. Areas of grass have become extra ‘pavements’, and sometimes one party has to walk in the road (but that isn’t always safe, with more cars etc about). With the possibility that we will hear this week about plans for re-opening more shops and businesses soon, will we hear too about plans to improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists to maintain social distancing?


Lord, we want people to be safe from Covid-19. We also want them to be safe from traffic accidents. Help those with responsibility for such things to come up with practical, creative ways for addressing both


Thought for the day 13 June

13 June

Over the past week there have been on-going debates in the media about ‘racism’ and ‘transphobia’, which join topics such as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and homophobia, that were often in the news before it was swamped by Covid-19 stories. From as far back as we have historical sources, and from a wide spread across Planet Earth, it appears that there is some innate human instinct to be afraid of, feel threatened by, be ready to criticise/vilify anyone who is ‘different’ (whether that means in appearance, dress, speech, behaviour, physical or mental capacity, or whatever). Maybe it is something rooted in our pre-human evolutionary past? Whatever its origin, it is an instinct that does not encourage growth, or peace, and creates injustice. Jesus shocked many of his contemporaries by going out of his way to speak to, deal with, and affirm people who were ‘different’. Rebuilding our world post-Covid-19 gives us an opportunity to build a more inclusive church and a more inclusive society


Lord, your love extends to everyone. Forgive us for the times we have thought or expressed prejudice or dislike against someone you love. Help us to be inclusive, and work to build an inclusive world


PS Time to hurry back to the Pier Park by the Castle and hop on board the steamer to Craigendoran for a wee trip up the Gareloch (and maybe hear the echo of Lucy Ashton chuffing up and down)


Thought for the day 12 June

12 June

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the surrender of the 51st Highland Brigade at St Valery, and Poppy Scotland, the Royal British Legion and others are marking the event in various ways. It was the ‘flip-side’ of Dunkirk, the troops who didn’t get away at the fall of France, and ended up as prisoners of war for five years – almost all Scots. Perhaps for reasons of keeping up morale, nothing much was said publicly at the time or later – but it had a big impact on many Highland communities. It also had a big impact on the soldiers involved, many of them young men: feelings of guilt, anger, even betrayal. It is something to recognise for itself, but also perhaps something to reflect on as we go through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and all the other issues (like racism) that are coming to the surface. Further details can be found at

 Lord, as we recall the impact that the surrender at St Valery had on individuals and communities at that time, we also take time to pause and reflect on our own day, on people who feel guilt, anger or betrayal because of the effects on them of the Covid-19 pandemic, and on all the attempts to ‘sweep under the carpet’ unpleasant news or statistics. Help us to be honest and truthful (even when it is ‘inconvenient’) and where, we can, to support those living with difficult feelings


Glencairn House, High Street, Dumbarton

Thought for the day 11 June

11 June

The news media, and government advisers, around the world from time to time discuss whether it is better to focus on suppressing the virus (and accepting the economic consequences) or keeping the economy going (and accepting that people will become seriously ill, and some will die). There are arguments both ways (even trying to discount those who are perhaps looking as much to their electoral ratings or personal investments as ‘the common good’). It was reported yesterday that one ‘think tank’ reckons that Britain could be the worst-hit of all Developed economies. Certainly we have seen many businesses beginning the redundancy process (even staff in the Church Offices in Edinburgh have felt the effect), and more are expected. Many self-employed people are struggling. In Developing economies, where there are no ‘furlough’ schemes or unemployment benefits, lockdown restrictions and disruption to global trade systems mean that millions face unemployment, and in some cases starvation


Lord, we believe that you want whole and full lives for everyone, free from worries about health, poverty and hunger. We pray for wisdom for political leaders and their advisers, that they will strive for your goals, and work for the kind of world you want to see

News from Riverside

10 June

There is widespread coverage in the news media of the debate around statues and memorials to people associated with the slave trade, slavery and colonialism. It is a difficult one for Clydeside because its 19th Century prosperity was rooted in all three (tobacco, sugar, cotton, ship building, supplying goods for the Empire). At the same time it must be said that the working and living conditions of many of the ordinary folk here were pretty awful, and they had few of what we would now regard as ‘human rights’. We may also all have in our own family stories ancestors affected by Highland Clearances, the Potato Famine etc. Yesterday we marked St Columba’s Day. We have very little accurate historical data about him, but over the years many legends and myths have grown up. It is true of our other heroes, like Wallace, Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots. People often try to create the character they would like, rather than the ‘warts-and-all’ individual who lived in a very different time and culture, where different values were at times to the fore. As part of the Christian Church we acknowledge that none of us is perfect – though despite that God still loves us – that truth and honesty are important, and that we are called to work for a world of peace and justice


Lord, help us to recognise that we are not perfect, nor is anyone else, to recognise mistakes made by us, by others in our name, by people in the past. Without being judgemental or self-righteous, help us to work to put right wrongs, and to strive to build peace and justice in our community, country and world


St Columba

Tuesday 9 June 2020                    St Columba


  • Welcome
  • Prayer
  • Reading         Luke 6: 27-28 (Good News Bible)
  • Reflection      St Columba at the Castle
  • Prayer for others
  • Blessing


Ordinarily this morning the Christian Heritage of Dumbarton project (part of Dumbarton Churches Together) would have arranged for P6 children from all Primary Schools in Dumbarton, plus representatives of Kilpatrick School, to visit the Castle. It is partly to help them learn more of the history, including the Christian history, of the town, and also to bring together children in the two streams of education as part of an anti-sectarian initiative.

It usually happens on or near 9 June, traditionally marked as the Feast of St Columba.

“Come, bless the Lord, all you his servants. Lift up your hands towards the sanctuary and bless the Lord.” Psalm 134: 1, 2

Prayer                        (A hymn attributed to Columba)

1 Christ is the world’s redeemer,
the lover of the pure,
the fount of heavenly wisdom,
our trust and hope secure,
the armour of his soldiers,
the lord of earth and sky,
our health while we are living,
our life when we shall die.

2 Christ has our host surrounded
with clouds of martyrs bright
who wave their palms in triumph
and fire us for the fight.
For Christ the cross ascended
to save a world undone
and, suffering for the sinful,
our full redemption won.

3 Down in the realm of darkness
he lay a captive bound,
but at the hour appointed
he rose, a victor crowned,
and now, to heaven ascended,
he sits upon the throne
in glorious dominion,
his Father’s and his own.

4 Glory to God the Father,
the unbegotten One;
all honour be to Jesus,
his sole-begotten Son;
and to the Holy Spirit —
the perfect Trinity.
Let all the worlds give answer:
‘Amen, so let it be’.

Reading Luke 6: 27-28

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who ill-treat you.

Reflection                                         Columba at the Castle

Columba and King Roderick

R:        Probably the name most associated with the Christian church in the Highlands and Islands is Columba, the Irish monk who came to Scotland and founded the monastery at Iona which played an important part not only in bringing the Christian faith to Scotland, but also parts of England and the Continent.

C:        Columba’s biographer, writing about 100 years after the saint’s death, relates that he was a friend of Rhydderch Hael ap Tudwal (Roderick the Generous), king at Dumbarton. We don’t know if Columba actually visited Dumbarton, but for today’s purposes we’ll assume that he did.

R:       Columba, my old friend, how lovely to see you again!

C:        [Puffing and sounding out of breath] Roderick, these steps up the Rock get longer and steeper every time I come up them. Still the view is worth it, and that gives me an excuse to keep stopping on the way up.

R:        As they say, ‘When you can see the hills it’s about to rain, and when you can’t see them, it’s raining!’

Where have you put your boat?

C:        One of the monks is bringing it upstairs with him, but he’s having to take it slowly.

R:        Bringing it up here? All on his own?

C:        Oh yes! We regularly carry the coracle on someone’s back. It’s quite small and light, so you can transport it easily over narrow strips of land between lochs or round shallow bits in rivers.

R:        Well, I suppose it’s probably safer up here. You can’t leave anything lying around in Dumbarton, or it disappears. If they can pinch church floodlights, they’d soon enough take your coracle. Anyway, how was your trip here?

C:        A bit longer than we had expected. We’d planned to call at Colonsay, then sail down between Islay and Jura, land at West Loch Tarbert, cross over to East Loch Tarbert, sail down round Garroch Head and into the Clyde. But the wind or the Good Lord had other ideas.

R:        What do you mean?

C:        We missed Islay and Jura, and nearly ended up in Belfast Lough. We made it back across to Kintyre and took shelter in Campbeltown Loch..

R:        Did you get some whisky?

C:        No. We went round Arran twice – first one way, then the other. Then we were blown straight past Cumbrae and Bute, we couldn’t turn right right at Gourock, and ended up at Arrochar. So we walked over to Tarbet, came down Loch Lomond and bounced our way down the Leven.

R:        How were the Vale folk?

C:        No problem at all. When you’ve faced down the Loch Ness Monster, the folk from Renton and Bonhill are no problem!

R:        Are all your journeys like that?

C:        Not all, but some can be. That’s what can happen when you travel about in a small boat with a wooden frame covered in ox-hides, with only a small sail and one paddle. Look what happen to Brendan – he got carried off to Iceland, Greenland and North America, and met a whale and a volcano en route. But our trusty little boat takes us to all sorts of places: I’ve been to Mull, Tiree, Eigg, Skye, Ardnamurchan, up the Great Glen to Inverness, and all over Ireland. They may be small, but they are very useful. We simply commend our journey to the Good Lord before we set off, and if we don’t make it, we know that he will take us to a better place.

R:        Do you never think about walking or riding to places on dry land?

C:        I’ve nothing to ride on, and the roads are awful – even without Argyll and Bute Council! You have to negotiate rocks, mud, marshy ground and thick woodland in the river valleys and along the shore, and peat bogs on the hills – not to mention the midges!

R:        What do you do when you go to these places on the edge of the world? Is there much to see? Are there people? Are there shops?

C:        When you can see the views they are stunning, but on many days you can’t see anything for the mist, drizzle and rain. Then you have to stay put – wet, midgy and put. On the clear days, with that vast sky and the cry of the sea, the wind and the sea birds, you want to praise the Good Lord for the beauty of the world he made. On the wet days you thank him for his presence  – there is just him and you, and it’s beautiful.

As for people, yes there are small scattered farming and fishing communities. Some are thriving, some very poor. Some are friendly, some less so. When we meet them we tell them the Good News of Jesus, we seek to bring healing and wholeness for their troubles, we pray with them, if they respond to the message we baptise them and share communion. And many islands and remote spots have small communities of monks, or hermits seeking peace and solitude to pray and think about the Good Lord.

R:        I think I prefer living here, with all the bustle of a busy place like Dumbarton.

C:        I’m sure you do, and that’s where the Good Lord probably wants you to be. But I believe he wants me to be out and about in his Highlands and Islands working for him there.

Prayer                        (a hymn attributed to Columba)

1 O God, thou art the Father
of all that have believed:
from whom all hosts of angels
have life and power received.
O God, thou art the maker
of all created things,
the righteous Judge of judges,
the almighty King of kings.

2 High in the heavenly Zion
thou reignest God adored;
and in the coming glory
thou shalt be Sovereign Lord.
Beyond our ken thou shinest,
the everlasting Light;
ineffable in loving,
unthinkable in might.

3 Thou to the meek and lowly
thy secrets dost unfold;
O God, thou doest all things,
all things both new and old.
I walk secure and blessèd
in every clime or coast,
in name of God the Father,
and Son, and Holy Ghost.

Blessing                   The so-called Prayer of St Columba:

See that you be at peace among yourselves, my children,
and love one another.
Follow the example of good men of old,
and God will comfort you and help you,
both in this world
and in the world which is to come.

May the Father shield you in the valleys

may Christ aid you on the mountains

may the Holy Spirit bathe you on the slopes

and may God Almighty take you in the clasp of his own two hands.