Seven days, so many ways to make a difference

Edinburgh’s fundraisers are on day two of their major annual campaign to support vulnerable communities around the world.

Craigsbank and East Craigs held a coffee morning as part of Christian Aid Week 2024. The baking was outstanding and our thanks go to the organisers and all who attended. A full report on money raised will follow.

Money raised during Christian Aid Week will help the organisation’s partners empower vulnerable communities to find practical and sustainable ways out of poverty.

This year’s appeal – from 12-18 May – is focussing on work in Burundi, one of the most densely populated and poorest countries in Africa. Heavily reliant on agriculture, it’s also one of the least prepared to combat the effects of climate change, including droughts, floods and landslides. The global cost of living crisis has intensified the challenges: more than 70 per cent of the population live in poverty and more than half of children are chronically malnourished.

Christian Aid has been working in Burundi since 1995 when it first offered humanitarian assistance to people surviving the civil conflict. Now, alongside local partners, the organisation helps establish Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). These community-led groups mean people can save and borrow money, making small businesses possible, offering reliable and diverse incomes so families can eat regularly, get medicine when they need it, and build safer homes.

Thirty-five-year-old Aline Nibogora is the chairperson of a VSLA which supports some 25 families in a remote village, in Makamba Province. Aline escaped an abusive marriage only to find herself on the streets begging for a place to stay.

Her life changed when she went to a three-day, Christian Aid-funded community workshop. With a small start-up loan, Aline began trading avocados and peanuts locally. She’s now a grocery wholesaler and living on her own plot of land where she’s building a home for her family. In the next five years she hopes to expand, so one day she can buy a mill. This will provide a source of income without the need to transport heavy goods over long distances.

Christian Aid Week offers seven days and so many ways to make a difference – to find out more, visit https://www.christianaid.org.uk/.

Remember, Christian Aid envelopes will be available at the door before and after the service on Sunday. but click here for a new and easier way to donate to Christian Aid

Giving generously during Christian Aid Week

Today marks the start of Christian Aid Week and we encourage everyone to consider whether they can support the work of this remarkable organisation.

What your donation will do:

  • £5 could buy a savings book for a member of a VSLA, setting them up to start their own small business and become finically independent.
  • £30 would help a family buy two Jerrycans to collect water from the river to carry back to their farm. Jerrycans provide irrigation to crops, especially during the dry season, maintaining food production for the family.
  • £50 would mean a vulnerable family can purchase a water storage tank. Water can then be stored for a few days rather than travelling to the communal water point, allowing instant access to water for washing, cleaning and cooking.
  • £100 could help a woman set up her own small business with a starter kit; including money to purchase her first few items to sell. This means she could supply local grocery shops or restaurants with vegetables, set up a roadside shop, or buy maize to sell in bigger markets like Bujumbura.
  • £100 could also help buy a family a bicycle meaning easier transport to school, quicker access to medical treatment in emergencies or support carrying produce from farm to market.

There are envelopes at the doors at church services but do remember that we have made it even easier this year. You can now give safely and securely online. Click here for a new and easier way to donate to Christian Aid

Today and tomorrow in Edinburgh, you can attend the Christian Aid Book Sale at Bruntsfield. The George Street sale is not happening this year (it will be back in October in New Town Church, (formerly St Andrew’s and St George’s) but the Christian Aid Book Sale at Holy Corner at Bruntsfield is definitely on. This sale has taken place every year for 30 years. They welcome support from across the city and beyond.

The Speed of Change at West Craigs

Have you been along the Turnhouse Road or Craigs Road recently? If you have, you will have seen the sudden burst of energy as home builders race to complete the new houses and flats that lie to either side of Turnhouse Road and along the western reaches of Craigs Road. The West Town – 205 acres for 7000 houses – lies to the East of the airport, on the site visible along the Glasgow Road. The Turnhouse area takes the total to 10,950 new homes. Then add the newly announced Maybury Quarter and you reach a total of 11,950 homes, families (so far).

West Craigs was once only called home by those who lived in the houses built in the late 1950s behind what is now the Casino at the Maybury, in West Craigs Avenue and West Craigs Crescent. There was a short stretch of housing on the main Turnhouse Road, a farmhouse part way along and cottages, and then Lennie Cottages beside Turnhouse Golf Course and the farm on the farside of that. Those of us with longer memories will recall the RAF base and housing towards the old airport and the oldest housing of all at the very end of the runway. And of course the commercial units at the quarry and around the end of the runway.

Now? Well, if you haven’t done so already, i would highly recommend an early evening walk along Turnhouse Road. Don’t go on a weekday before 4pm as the roads are just teeming with heavy trucks and builders’ vans.

The western expansion is vast. In this area alone new housing is transforming mixed use land that has lain in some neglect for a number of years. Those who move in, do so with the expectation of a 20 minute town. No more than 20 minutes by foot to transport hubs (tram and train – with bus still to be announced), education and GP level healthcare. The first of three new primary schools in the full area is due to open in August. No plans as yet appear to be in place for cafes, cinema, library, arts centre, shops, community buildings… church.

The building is not one style throughout. There is variety, there are parks, there are green spaces. Take a look at how it is shaping up. That variety makes it a lot more interesting than many of the new build areas around Edinburgh at present.

And if you do take a walk through the area, be sure to say hello to any new neighbours you might meet. A month ago there were hardly any. Today there are really quite a few homes complete and cars parked in the drives (ironically, for an area promoted as an ‘active town’).

For our planet, this Earth Day – 22 April 2024

Photographs for creative contemplation on Earth Day

Dear Mother Earth, gift of God, we thank you,
for you are our life, our breath and our blood.
You bear us in your arms and receive us at our death,
and will never refuse us.
The rolling sea in our heart, the mountains in our bones,
the wind in our lungs, the flowing rivers in our blood,
the many-splendored creatures living within us
all sing praise to God and remind us we are of you.

Dear Mother Earth, we confess:
though the forest and desert are our own flesh
we have wounded you,
we have treated you selfishly, as “the least of these.”
We have betrayed our oneness
with the grasses and the hawk, the beetle and the whale.
Even as we use you, we repent;
even as we torture you you forgive us.

Dear Mother of Life,
as you renew the earth in spring, restore our mercy;
return us to our place in the great circle of life;
give us the generosity of your fields,
the humility and wisdom of your small creatures.

Dear Mother God, hear our praise and our confession,
and renew in us the beauty of the earth,
for the sake of all life. Amen.

From a prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

A Pioneering Education

A group of us (Alan, Jan, Alison, Jackie and Gavin) were sent back to school in February for twelve weeks. This was the Pioneering and Church Planting course run by Edinburgh University at New College. So, grand wood-panelled rooms and a wonderful view of the city from the top of the Mound. That was only two Saturdays though. The rest of the time was huddled around a Zoom session with the class of about fifteen, a mix of ministers and other Church of Scotland folk. Students do it online these days.

One of the first things we learnt, which we knew already, was that church attendance has been falling. What we didn’t appreciate was that membership of the Church of Scotland has fallen in every single year since 1957. This course was set up to try to address the problem by making church more relevant to people who don’t attend. There was a bit of theology, a lot of research on why people have turned away from church and what kind of church does attract new faces.

The bottom line is that a church based on a parish system, largely unchanged in three hundred years, doesn’t meet the needs of a society which is driven by technology and where people are typically time-poor. The answer is a form of church which allows people to come together in their own space. Three hymns and a sermon have gone out of fashion. These new churches, called ‘fresh-expressions’ are more informal than traditional and based on relationships more than a strict liturgy. We were shown several examples where the new approach is thriving.

With the western expansion taking place on our doorstep, and not a church anywhere in sight, we have an opportunity to explore fresh-expression in this area, taking the gospel with us. The course has given us a blueprint to work to along with a lot of dos and don’ts. We have seen what is possible elsewhere and have a rough idea of how to set out. This will not be quick. It will be a long-haul with possible dead-ends and changes of tack. There are no certainties, only what emerges as we follow the Spirit and our noses.

Anyone interested in joining the adventure should get in touch with Alan Childs or one of the team.

Gavin Ryalls

Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations


 

The Edinburgh Easter Play

On Easter Saturday, the Edinburgh Easter Play took place in Princes Street Gardens to a crowd of some 600, following the street players as they moved around the gardens acting out the life of Jesus. The actors always give everything to this annual event and the sound carries right across the gardens. No matter how familiar from our reading of the bible, some scenes were deeply moving, powerful, upsetting. It is entirely different to see the story played out before you.

The crowd was made up from local Christians, interested by-standers, tourists and those who had never before heard the story of Christ.

At one point, I stood next to a young Scottish woman in her late 20s who knew the name of Jesus, knew he was in the bible but this was her first introduction to the story of his life, death and resurrection. She was deeply moved and very interested to know more.

And then there was the young man who was obviously enjoying his Easter weekend and exclaimed in horror, ‘they are crucifying someone in Edinburgh in broad daylight!’. And indeed they were, under the towers of New College.

Both left with memories they will not forget. As did I.

Doors Open – a great result

Craigsbank was one of the buildings that flung its doors wide open on Doors Open Sunday this year. And the result was really very positive indeed. John Baker arranged the weekend’s activities and he was ably supported by a strong team of volunteers.

64 individuals visited the buildings over the weekend. Below are just a few of the comments received:

  • Fantastic experience: wonderful building: everyone so friendly and helpful.
  • Thanks for taking part in Doors Open Day – loved the building and music
  • So impressed! This “hidden gem” is amazing. Intriguing architecture. Even more I admire the way you form and run your church community. Our visit has been well worthwhile.
  • Beautiful     Magical     Spiritual   Many thanks  Music
  • It was a thrill to find such a beautiful modernist building in a part of Edinburgh we did not know. The quality of light and the serenity of the building make it very special apart from it’s functional success.
  • Amazing architecture Thank you so much for your time and knowledge. This is a hidden gem.
  • Having been Christened here on 8 August 1943, I found my visit a quite moving and enjoyable event. (Also repeated his visit to deliver copies of the October 1943 and March 1959  Intimations and family contributions)
  • Very beautiful building, inside and out.
  • Great to visit again and enjoyed Tree’s piece! ( Composer) Compliments the perfectly-realised minimalism of the architecture perfectly !
  • The nicest church I have visited in a long time. Architecturally stunning and a surprisingly warm and inviting space. A reflection of the congregation, no doubt.
  • Beautiful architectural lines. A hidden gem thanks to “Doors Open Day”
  • This church has the WOW! Factor from the moment you catch sight of it coming round the corner and on entering – so unexpected to see the configuration which is so dramatic and inspiring. A wonderful space for worship – what a lucky congregation you are to have this gem. So pleased to hear that it has been recognised as “A” listed. Thank you for opening up today.
  • We enjoyed the very warm welcome and were inspired by the beautiful airy space. The architecture is truly magnificent and is in great condition.
  • An amazing place- well hosted – such a great performance and what a hidden gem. Wonderful.
  • A wonderful display for a magnificent building! I appreciated the exhibits showing the construction of the complex. Great to see a hidden modernist gem in the City.
  • A truly striking building beautifully looked after. Marion and John were brilliantly knowledgeable.
  • A beautiful piece of Architecture. Really enjoyed talking to the volunteers and getting to experience the space and its wonderful light. Thank you

The Coat of Hopes – a ‘Troubadour Pilgrim’

Did you spot The Coat of Hopes as it travelled from Edinburgh to The Great Tapestry of Scotland centre in Galashiels?


Have you heard of the Coat of Hopes? It was the vision of one person during lockdown and created by many hands on the long walk to Cop26, each person hand-stitching their story of hope on to pieces of blanket before attaching them to the coat. 700 people carried the coat on their back during the nine week pilgrimage from Newhaven on the south coast of England to Glasgow and throughout Cop26, each sharing their hopes and prayers for the future. Above you can see the coat before the patches of hope and prayer for the future were added and as it was early last week with so many stories captured on its long flowing skirts.

Andrew Crummy, artist behind The Great Tapestry of Scotland, wearing the coast at the Tapestry Centre in Galashiels.

You can read the background on the Coat of Hopes website and see pics of the Coat at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral where it was displayed during the Fringe.

After that, on 30 August, it was walked over the course of a day from Edinburgh to Dalkeith, then from Dalkeith to North Middleton, North Middleton on to Fountainhall, and Fountainhall to Galashiels, with a special event at the centre for The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels on the morning of Sunday 3 September. Late that afternoon those accompanying the Coat of Hopes set off again, this time to Newstead.

Let there be a tree?

‘Let there be a tree,’ said God, once upon a time, ‘which grows from the birds down.’

And the church came into being. And its branches spread and its trunk grew downwards, until it rooted itself in the dusty ground. And theologians and clergy of many nations nested among its roots.

After a time, a dispute rose among them. ‘This tree does not flourish as it should,’ they said to one another. ‘We should pull up our roots, and move to richer soil, for one can see the quality of the earth here is abysmally poor. Other trees are improved by such transplanting. Let us have courage and follow their example.’ (For they saw from other trees that it was so.)

‘No! No!’ said others. ‘We have seen trees wither and die when you tamper with their roots. There are bad years and good ones, and we must take the rough with the smooth. It would be colossal folly to pull up our roots, which give us all our sustenance. Let us wait, and things will improve.’ (For they saw from other trees that it was so.)

Meanwhile, the noise of the debate reached some of the birds in the topmost branches, and they were puzzled. ‘Do they not know,’ said one small sparrow, ‘that we give this tree its life? Shall we not fly down, and stop them grubbing around in their toots?’ ‘No,’ replied a wise old pigeon. ‘We can only sing when we are touched by the sunlight. But we must sing louder, so that they remember the possibilities of birdsong. And he began to coo with all his might.’

Elizabeth Templeton