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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Seòmar agus comataidhean

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 20, 2022


Time for Reflection

The first item of business is time for reflection, and our time for reflection leader today is the Rev Neil Gardner, who is the minister of Canongate kirk.

The Rev Neil Gardner (Minister, Canongate Kirk)

This ancient parish in which our respective places of work—yours and mine—are set traces its origins to the 12th century and the legendary encounter between King David I and an angry stag, in the forest that once stood where the wide open plains of Holyrood park now extend, just beyond the palace.

Just at the point when the stag was ready to attack King David, it is said that he had a vision of the cross of Jesus amongst the stag’s sharp antlers and that the stag suddenly withdrew to the forest and left the King alone. As a result, and as a sign of his thankfulness, David vowed that he would build an abbey as close to the spot as possible, and so the story of the abbey of the holy rood—in old language, holy cross—began to take shape all those centuries ago.

To this day, the cross in the antlers is the striking emblem of Canongate kirk, but I have often wondered why the King’s immediate reaction was to build an abbey in the first place and, indeed, why he went on to establish the great Borders abbeys of Dryburgh, Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose, too.

I cannot help feeling that the answer must lie somewhere in his upbringing and in the influence and example that he found in his mother, Queen Margaret, in whose life the church played an important part. She was renowned for her capacity to express her Christian faith in practical ways—tending to the sick, feeding the hungry and showing special concern to the poorest and neediest of her people. Something of that instinct and influence must surely have passed from mother to son, from Queen to King.

As it was in those days, so it is in these days, for our late Queen was not just defender of the faith but a demonstrator of it in the way in which she tried to lead her life. By her own confession, she strove always to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, not just in the public sense of lifelong duty and service for which she was rightly renowned, but in the small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that characterised Her late Majesty’s private dealings with people of every rank and station. All those centuries later, hers too is an influence and example that now passes from mother to son, from Queen to King.

God save the King.

Thank you, Rev Gardner.

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