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.


Thought for the day 8 June

8 June

On a walk along the shore, up-river from the Castle, we came upon dozens of jellyfish washed up by the tide. There is an amazing variety of wildlife in Dumbarton, from ravens to wrens, bats to geese, deer to rabbits and foxes, some folk have spotted a seal and an osprey here. How much wildlife can you spot this week? What do you know about it, what can you learn about it? Share pictures on this page if you can


Lord, thank you for the rich variety of life around us. Help us to appreciate it, and preserve its habitats


Thought for the day 6 June

6 June

“We’re all going on a Summer holiday!” No we’re not, at least not in the near future, and maybe not very far away if we do. Travel companies and those in the hospitality industry would love us to be going on holiday, as their livelihoods depend upon it, but lockdown travel restrictions, quarantine rules for anyone going abroad, uncertainty about job/finance and uncertainty about risk of catching the virus are all factors that will hold people back on planning holidays. Not every holiday community is keen to see an influx of visitors who could potentially bring the virus with them. A few weeks ago the media were promoting ‘staycations’ in Scotland or Britain to preserve businesses and local economies in both. This week the excitement has been about foreign holidays being possible again (and please could the government do this, and this, to make them easier). Why the change of heart? Does it reflect their own wishes, or what they believe their core audience want? And what about the rest of us, who would be delighted even to have a trip ‘doon the waater’?


Lord, help us to cope with ‘staying put’, with not getting a holiday, seeing people, going places. If we can, help us to make the most of the weather, the views, the local facilities that we have. Help us to be aware too of those who do not have such facilities (eg living in flats), and do what we can to help and support them


PS Time to get back on board and sail past Henry Bell’s memorial at Dunglass, and the crannog at Dumbuck, to get off at Dumbarton Castle Pier (1875-1908). Would that the new River Leven walkway were open! We’ll have a look round the town centre – though, as the locals would tell you, a wander round the shops won’t take long


Thought for the day 5 June

5 June

How many of us missed going out to ‘clap for carers’ last night – not just to express support for those people, but also to see, shout to, and wave to, neighbours up and down the street? Though it is probably better for the practice to make a definite stop rather than just drift into extinction. But we still need to remember the carers, and the impact that coping with the crisis has had on them – physically and mentally. We need to remember too the people who were and are patients or residents in hospitals or care homes, and those whose appointments/treatments were cancelled or postponed till well into the future. The health and care systems went into the crisis with ‘underlying health problems’ that have only been made worse. We hope that the decision-makers in government will ensure that all the words said in favour of the staff and the systems will turn into actions (and funding) – maybe we will need to keep reminding them.


Lord, thank you for the continuing care and dedication of health and social care workers. We ask your blessing on them, on all who are or have been in hospital or care homes, and those whose appointments/treatment is postponed. We ask you to inspire those in government to be bold in recognising the importance of the health and social care systems, and addressing issues urgently 


Thought for the day 4 June

4 June

A month or so ago hopes were widely expressed about the New World there would be after Covid-19: greater concern for neighbours; greater respect for health and social care workers, those who worked in transport or retail; more walking, cycling, less use of cars; home working; greater interest in gardening, growing your own food, knitting, sewing, painting; re-evaluating our need constantly to buy new clothes, furnishings etc; a re-focussing of the economy on ‘local’ and ‘sustainable’. Then restrictions started to be eased. Only travel up to five miles was the Scottish Government advice, so people flocked in their cars to beauty spots. Mountains of litter were left behind in places like Balloch. Adult cyclists speed along pavements. Were we mistaken in our hopes and dreams? Has lockdown had a negative effect of making people (some people) more self-focussed? Do we just let the dreams fade away, or do we work hard at holding onto them, and trying to turn them into reality?


Lord, help us to keep our vision of a cleaner, more caring, more just world, and to keep working for it

Thought for the day 3 June

3 June

Much attention is given in the News at the moment to the unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd. Deep-seated prejudice and pent-up anger in a country deeply divided over its core values and so much more, has led to widespread protest and violence. On this side of the Atlantic we like to think that we don’t have the same attitudes to race and inequality, that we all share the same values. But do we? What do stories in the News here tell us?


Lord, it is easy to see what we want to see, to have myths and legends about what we are like as a community or country. Sometimes we fail to recognise that the reality is rather different from the myth. Help us to be open and honest about our failings as individuals and as a community, and seek to address both


Thought for the day 2 June

2 June

We hear politicians say, ‘We’re following the science’, but then hear other eminent scientists disagreeing with the approach government advisers have recommended. People then become confused, and some become sceptical about ‘scientific advice’. There is an old adage ‘What is a fact? Answer: a working hypothesis not yet capable of being disproved.’ That might be hard to get your head round, but it reflects the situation where ‘experts’ (in whatever field) are usually engaged in debate and discussion over experimental evidence or modelling, and adapting and changing their conclusions in the light of new evidence or consideration of other ‘experts’’ critique of their approach. It might have helped if politicians had presented ‘science’ not as some kind of objective truth that cannot be questioned, but rather as a ‘balance of probability in the light of current understanding’. That doesn’t make for easy sound-bites, it might be harder for people to understand, it might even imply that those taking the decisions might not be backed up by unquestionable advice, but it just might help people to understand that we don’t have all the answers. We are where we are, but maybe going forward we need to recognise that neither we, nor the governments, nor their advisers, know everything, but that the advice given is based on years of careful research and review.


Lord, help us to appreciate that we do not know everything about how to suppress and eradicate Covid-19. Help us too to listen to those who have great knowledge and expertise, and follow their advice 


Thought for the day 1 June

1 June

It has long been said that a good law does not have to be just, simply clear and easily enforceable. It is a concept that readily applies to lockdown restrictions. Total lockdown may or may not be fair, but at least the rules/guidelines are clear and are easily enforceable. Once they start to be relaxed, with changes here and there, then it becomes harder to remember what is permissible and what isn’t (especially when people have been ‘confined’ for a long time, are becoming bored with being at home, and the weather is nice). It becomes a little more complex when there are different steps for easing restrictions across the four nations of Britain. At times the media don’t help public awareness of which rules/guidelines apply when they miss out the words ‘in England’, and imply that moves there apply across Britain as a whole. Whether we like the rules/guidelines that apply to us or not, let’s make sure we know what they are and try to stick to them, being examples to others (without setting ourselves up as judge and jury telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing)


Lord, help us to follow the guidelines as they apply to us