By John Ellis
My last two Sundays have both taken me into new territory. In Edinburgh the new trams trundle past the end of the street where Saughtonhall United Reformed Church is situated but were still only on trial runs when I visited. In contrast the congregation at Saughtonhall were well beyond the trial stage with their 1995 building, being well practised at using it for a splendid variety of community uses.
Their award for a play put on during the Edinburgh fringe sat in the corner of the space we used first for worship and then for a church lunch. The Girls’ Brigade display had taken place in the same hall a few days before and two of their members sang in the Sunday service. A distinctly Scottish flavour was also provided by four of the men being attired in their kilts.
The following weekend I was in the beauty of the Peak District in Derbyshire with time for a tour with the URC minister for Buxton and Tideswell, Steve Fisher. Both congregations joined on Sunday morning in the strategically placed Fountain Square United Church at the heart of the village of Tideswell. Methodist and URC Christians have united to increase their impact on the village and await approval of their plans to refurbish and extend their premises which were last refurbished just before the outbreak of war in 1914.
Delays in moving toward implementing their building project have been frustrating but as a sign of the good fruit that will eventually come I was invited to plant a peace tree, which will in due course find a permanent home in the new church garden. The architect and the local vicar joined us for the service and a lunch afterwards and there was a sense of the whole community waiting eagerly for the new creation.
Two positive stories of churches addressing creatively, joyfully and with necessary determination the challenge of engaging with their communities. Urban Edinburgh and rural Derbyshire may offer different sorts of beauty but the need for the Gospel is common.