Friday, 2 May 2014

Shetland - Holy week and Easter

The plane dropped low over the sea and the runway came into view at the very last minute as, on a beautiful clear day I flew into Sumburgh Airport to begin my journey through Holy Week to Easter in the company of the people on the Shetland Islands. Robert (my husband) was with me for this visit and we stayed with my colleague Rev. Jeremy Dare, Chair of the Shetland District.

Jeremy was there to meet us at the airport and we drove to Lerwick, almost always in sight of the sea and the beautiful coastline - you are never more than 3 miles from the sea in Shetland. This was a week when I could never forget the beauty of creation.

We spent the afternoon in Lerwick and visited the museum where we learned something of the heritage of the islands and the fascinating geology of the area.
Photograph taken outside the museum shows fishing boat in foreground, ferry in background and floatel for oil workers on the left.
In the evening we worshipped in Dunrossness Baptist Church. This was an ecumenical service for Holy Week led by the Baptist Mnister, Ian Thomson and the music group. I was invited to preach, and Ian led us through the gospel - afterwards we enjoyed fellowship together. 

North Roe Methodist Church
The next day we visited the Methodist Church in North Roe. Here the congregation have worked hard to refurbish the chapel, transforming it into a welcoming space for the whole community. Much of the work was done by volunteers. We met the people here at their weekly 'Cuppa and cakes.' The group included a couple who had come to North Roe from Coverdale in North Yorkshire (Darlington District) and a young mother, originally from Denmark who has married a local man. The population in Shetland is very varied and the community spirit is strong.

Cuppa and cakes in North Roe
In the evening I preached in the service in Scalloway Methodist Church. This was a united service with the Church of Scotland and we focused on Sieger Koder's painting of the Last Supper and the love of God which extends to all, even to Judas as he leaves the group in the Upper Room, perhaps still holding onto the bread that he has been given. (You can see the picture here).

Barns next to the original croft house
Thursday began with a visit to the local radio studio in Lerwick where I recorded an interview to be broadcast on Good Friday. We then drove to the West side of the island and to Walls where we were welcomed by Alma (a Local Preacher) to her croft.

Alma talked to us about life on the croft. The crofters cannot support themselves and their families with the work they do on the croft and so they will do other work as well. We saw a calf that had been born during the night and Alma was hoping that the other 3 heifers  would calve before the lambing began in another 10 days.
The newborn calf
The plantie-crub
 Any crops that are grown are sheltered by dry stone walls and the young plants are grown in a plantie-crub which is a protected enclosure. Alma's plantie-crub is unusual as it has a gate, usually you have to climb over the wall to get in. The young plants are protected from the wind and the animals.

Alma and her dog
We drove from Walls to Scalloway where we met Jeremy in the Walter and Joan Gray Home where I was taking part in the afternoon service. Here, it was a huge privilege to meet Rev. Leonard Bridgeman, a supernumerary minister.  His wife, Rosemary, was there with him for the service and we discovered that we had been to the same school in Salisbury and knew the same head-teacher there.

St Magnus Church
In the evening we were back in Lerwick for Maundy Thursday worship a united service in St Magnus Episcopal Church including Holy Communion, handwashing and the stripping of the altar. Here I preached, this time focusing on the Sieger Koder painting of the footwashing. You can see the painting and read a reflection I have written on the 'Glimpses of Glory' powerpoint here

On Good Friday I joined Jeremy in leading an assembly in the school - the holidays are fixed in Shetland so the children were in on Good Friday. After this we drove to the ferry terminal on the north of Mainland Shetland and crossed to Yell.
Rev Jeremy Dare on the ferry
Haroldswick MC
We then drove across Yell to catch another ferry to Unst and drove to the most northern church in the British Isles, Haroldswick Methodist Church.
The people we met at Haroldswick
This church was rebuilt in 1993, the work being done by volunteers from the whole community here.
In the centre of the ceiling is a wheel boss which was made by Alan, then a pupil in the school, now a Methodist living and worshipping in the West of Mainland Shetland. We met the people here and shared in a short act of worship before having lunch together. Jeremy then took us to the most northern beach and we caught a glimpse of Muckle Flugga lighthouse, the most northerly in the UK.
Muckle Flugga
Another ferry crossing took us back to Yell and we had time to see this pictish carving of a Christian symbol on a stone which had been used as a lintel in a church which has now fallen into ruins.

At Gloup we walked to the memorial to 58 Shetland fishermen who lost their lives in a storm at sea in 1881. The men had been forced to go out in dangerous conditions by the Laird. They depended on fishing to supplement their income from the crofts after much of their land had been taken from them in the clearances. At the memorial is the figure of a woman, holding a child in her arms and looking out to sea and waiting. It was very poignant to see this statue on Good Friday when other women had waited at the foot of the cross.

She looks out to sea and waits
 We were invited to have tea with Louis and Lilias in their home and it was here that I was able to meet their two Shetland ponies. I have always loved horses and had hoped to get close to some ponies on Shetland. These hardy animals are well suited to the climate here and Louis told us that they disdain the shelter he offers them in the winter preferring to stand outside with the snow on their backs.

Good Friday worship was in East Yell Methodist Church. The church stands alone on the hillside but was built here as it is between two communities and so equal travelling distance from both.
With the people at East Yell
Dr Val Turner at Old Scatness
On Saturday there were no services or official visits but we had a wonderful day with Dr Val Turner, a Methodist who is the archaeologist for Shetland. Val took us to Old Scatness, an iron age broch and village, you can read about it here. It was fabulous to be guided by Val who had overseen the digs and the development of this site from the very beginning.

View from St Ninians Isle
Sumburgh Head

Val also took us to St Ninian's Isle and Sumburgh Head and the whole day was enhanced by the beautiful, clear sunny weather.

View up the coast from Sumburgh Head on a beautiful day
Whiteness MC
Easter Sunday began at 7.00 am in the radio studio where I did a series of local radio interviews for stations around Britain on the issue of food-banks and poverty. Then I went on to four services to celebrate the resurrection. The first of these was a communion service in Whiteness Methodist Church. After that I was in Lerwick for the family service at 10.45. We shared in the Easter acclamation in English, Russian and Greek - Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
After lunch at Whiteness we went on to an afternoon service in the chapel at Culswick and finally to cafe worship in the evening in Walls.

 A great day of celebration in the far north of Britain and my final day on Shetland.

Lerwick MC

Easter morning coffee at Whiteness

View through the door of Cuswick MC
Cafe worship at Walls
The tomb of John Nicolson who brought Methodism to West Shetland
A passing ferry

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