Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Lerwick, Vidlin and out at sea.

On Monday we spent the day around Lerwick, including a visit to the award winning Shetland museum, which includes in it’s displays a preaching plan for the former Lerwick circuit from the end of the 1800s and a description of the development of religious traditions on the Sheltands. That evening we met with the leadership team of the Circuit and District at the church in Lerwick. David and I talked about the events of Conference and a little about the themes of our respective conference addresses, which initiated lively discussion.

Anne and I were then taken to spend the evening with Dr Brian and Mrs Chris Clemison. Both have recently retired from the local health centre, Brian as a GP and Chris a practice nurse. Brian is also a local preacher in the circuit. It was good to meet them both and learn a little of the life of a respected Christian doctor and nurse and how they have served this community for over 30 years.

On Tuesday we made the most of clear blue skies calm seas to join Scalloway church members Thelma and Geordie Pottinger on their fishing boat. They took us across to Oxna, a small island inhabited only by sheep and watched over by inquisitive seals. We walked around the small island which has spectacular views of the open sea and the mainland’s south-west coastline. While we walked around the small island Geordie took the boat a little further out to sea and came back in a short time with a small catch of mackerel. As we shared fresh egg sandwiches in the fishing boat we certainly felt a strong connection with those fishermen 2000 years ago, although thankfully for us we did not need to call on anyone to calm a storm, the sea remaining beautifully calm throughout our trip.

Geordie then went on to take us to his mussel lines, long lines of rope supported by a series of barrels on which mussels seem to grow with ease. They are a common site in the voes (water inlets) around Shetland.

On Tuesday afternoon we visited a small Church of Scotland church at Lunna, which has been in continuous use longer than any other on the island. The current building dates back some 250 years, but previous buildings on the site date back to pre-reformation times. Just a few miles away is Vidlin Methodist church, and the two congregations alternate each week between the two buildings as they share worship together.

Later that evening we were to take part in a Network event that filled the small Vidlin church, bringing together people from across the district. I spoke about how the church can respond to the rapid changes in our society that are affecting children and parents. We also heard a choir singing in the Shetland dialect as well as sharing with us hymns and songs that had been written by local ministers.

One verse of a hymn written by former minister John Williamson summed up our day well (blyde means glad or joyful):

Blyde to the foregather in faith and in friendship,

Blyde to be here in this breathtaking place,

Blest as we celebrate beauty in smallness,

Scattered, united, refreshed by God’s grace.

Today we returned to explore St Ninian’s Isle, where there are ruins of a 12th century church. Pictish treasure, dating from 800AD, was found here in 1958, hidden below a slab of sandstone. The silver bowls and ornaments were probably hidden at the time Vikings were invading and bringing some much terror to these peaceful islands.

Unfortunately we have to leave today, returning by ferry overnight to Aberdeen and then back to Leeds. We’ve been very fortunate to see the Shetland Islands at their glorious best over the last few days and been welcomed with love, fellowship, and wonderful hospitality wherever we have been.

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