Note on Claverhouse Conversation, 16th June 2018
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Philippians (2, 3-5)
On Saturday 16 June, we had a “Claverhouse Conversation with Ourselves”. About 40 of us mingled over breakfast and got to know each other a bit better, which many of us really appreciated. We chatted in pairs and at tables, finding ways to open up about our feelings, and many points of view were expressed. Some were positive and hopeful about the future. Others were frustrated, sad, hurt and uncertain – and concerned about the survival of the congregation at Liberton Northfield. There was a lot of honesty about differences and even perceived divisions within the congregation. There were some who needed the traditional hymns and structure; others preferred the more modern songs and flexibility.
Some wanted the congregation to move on, to change. Others wished we could return to how it had been before. There were feelings both of disconnection and of welcome. A real mixture. Some expressed their sense of guilt (“what if I had done more?”) and loss of energy and, at the same time, others felt excited about the future, sensing God being with us in the journey.
Many of us felt relief to be talking about these things, and there a strong desire to learn as a congregation from what had happened in the months before. Perhaps above all we recognised the importance of communicating with each other, fellowship, love and support for each other, of mixing, and acknowledging our diversity and the need for tolerance of different opinions, styles and interpretations. We could see light at the end of what seemed, for some, a rather dark tunnel.
We noted the forthcoming 150th anniversary of Liberton Northfield, taking place in 2019, and the relevance of the words with which the meeting opened: “There is no us and them, only us”. “We have so much more in common than ever divides us”. Others appreciated the words: “We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing.”
It seemed that kindness was the key: “Any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to a fellow human being, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it. I may not pass this way again.”
The words: “When you don’t know what to do, do the kindest thing” were a good way to end our morning, as we said the Grace together and gave thanks for the opportunity to spend time in this way.
Session are grateful to John Sturrock for facilitating this Conversation and look forward to working with everyone in the congregation to build on this over the coming months. The feelings noted in John’s reflection above may well resonate with those of you who weren’t able to attend, and there may be other thoughts to consider also. Session invite you all to spend some time this summer reflecting and praying about the feelings expressed at the Conversation. Session anticipate holding an event in the autumn to take this further forward.
Rev Gordon Kennedy – Interim Moderator
Margaret Padfield – Session Clerk”