We spent Saturday on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. This cobbled street is the main thoroughfare of Old Town, with Edinburgh Castle at the top end (literally the highest point of the city), and the Palace of Holyrood House at the bottom. In between is enough history and beauty to choke a T-Rex.
This would generally make me happy, but, though I am fascinated by Edinburgh, it makes me feel melancholy. It has such a rich history of faith, with the fiery Reformation leader John Knox, the missionary-explorer David Livingstone (educated at the University of Edinburgh), and the martyrdom of the Covenanters (who refused to say the king was the head of the church) and so many other stories of Christians who made wonderful discoveries in science and math, who initiated incredible progress in education, social reform, and medicine. (Antiseptics, anesthesia, public schooling, social reform, etc.)
But the glory is all gone, and the church in Scotland is dying, with only 1-2% of the population confessing themselves to be Christ followers. Some former cathedrals are now nightclubs, and witchcraft is on the rise. Nearly every believer we’ve met has told us, “Please pray for us. Pray for the church in Scotland.”
We learned much of Edinburgh’s wonderful history on the Reformation Tour, led by Paul James-Griffiths of the Edinburgh City Mission. Dressed in a burlap robe, carrying a wooden staff, he told us how the heads of the Covenanters were stuck on the walls of Edinburgh. With our feet standing on the cobbles, and the stone churches rising high around us, it wasn’t difficult to imagine we were back in that time. And even though it was really, really bitter, with intermittent snow and sleet, no one complained of the cold till much later in the tour—when we were talking about a less dark period in the history.
We finished the tour in the basement of the church where we’d started, and Paul talked to us about the current state of the Church in Scotland. It’s dismal, and though he has seen some recent spiritual interest, he said, “We are not yet desperate enough.”
May we be desperate to pray for the Church in Scotland, in the U.S., in the entire world.
We finished the day with a trip to Edinburgh Castle, with its convoluted history. I tried really hard to follow the family trees of all the monarchs, but I finally gave up and simply enjoyed the individual stories without having to fix each one into the big picture. The story that sticks with me most is that of Saint Margaret (1045-1093), the Queen of Scotland who so loved Christ and wanted to follow His example that she often left the castle to care for the poorest people in Edinburgh, feeding them and washing their feet.
This morning (Sunday) we led the church service at Elim Church in Livingston, and it was wonderful. Dave and I always have so much fun watching the Holy Spirit orchestrate these things. Three of our students testified of the transformation Christ has worked in their lives; our worship team played and sang two songs; four students gave a dramatic reading of Scripture; and while Dave preached, Meghan created a beautiful piece of art that illustrated the message and passage of Scripture. Dave spoke on Luke 7:36-50, the story of the sinful woman anointing Christ’s feet, and though I organized the dramatic Scripture reading to include that, and Meghan was inspired by the story, nothing else was really “driven” by it. But it all worked together beautifully to focus on our great need for Christ and His great love for us. We ended the service by repeating one of the songs, and the words “There’s no place I’d rather be than here in Your love” jumped out at me. I told Dave later: “That’s exactly the song I can imagine the woman in the story singing.”
We mingled with the church members following the service and heard several stories of their lives transformed by Christ. Many, though, are in marriages or families in which they are the only believer. I felt driven to pray for them but also blessed beyond belief for my own marriage and the faith heritage of both our families.
The afternoon was spent with host families, and then we returned to the church for the youth service. Many of these youth consider the youth group to be their sole lifeline. The church is the one place they learn about Christ, are encouraged in their faith, and can fellowship with other believers. They are the extreme minority in their schools.
Tomorrow we begin the day by sharing cardboard testimonies at Deans Community Secondary School during their morning assembly time. Please pray.