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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Inward Investment Plan, Covid-19: Scotland’s Strategic Framework, Decision Time, Student Paramedics (Bursary Support)


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Welcome back, colleagues. Before we begin, I remind members of the social distancing rules that are in place throughout the Holyrood campus—in particular, our new rules on colleagues wearing masks when moving around. I also remind members that, when they are entering and leaving the chamber, they should try to keep the noise down, as all the doors at the back are now open.

Our first item of business today is time for reflection, and our time for reflection leader is Canon Hugh White of St John the Baptist Roman Catholic church in Fauldhouse.

Canon Hugh White (St John the Baptist RC Church, Fauldhouse)

Members of this distinguished chamber, although the pulpit and the political platform are not interchangeable, each provides a unique opportunity to serve the best interests of all the people who live here, in Scotland. To stand in either is a privilege, but it is also a responsibility that has been entrusted to us in good faith and is deserving of equal good faith from us—although faith is usually associated more with the pulpit, and some might consider it to have no place in the political arena.

During debates, the cry “Hear, hear” might be music to your ears, it being a sign of approval. There is no corresponding sign from a normal Scottish congregation. However, the first time that I preached in an Afro-American church, in New Orleans, I was initially taken aback—but was increasingly encouraged—by spontaneous outbursts of “Amen, father”. I doubt that that will catch on over here, but it set me thinking about the word “amen”.

Once, on a flight home from Rome, I found myself seated next to the then British Minister to the Holy See. Throughout the journey, he read a dictionary. I first thought, “How odd”, but, on reflection, that became, “How appropriate for a diplomat.” For him, good wordcraft was important—as it should be for us, because we have to choose our words wisely at times.

Roots can help with that. “Amen” is a word that is in common religious usage, but its root reaches beyond religious frontiers and suggests that every human being needs an amen in life. It is a Hebrew word whose root—“amin”—means to stand on firm ground and to take a stance in life from which we can speak with authority and operate with confidence.

In 1980, Bishop Agnellus Andrew, a Glasgow-born Franciscan priest, was appointed vice-president of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications. He was wont to say:

“Good communication is to speak, is to be heard, is to be understood, is to be accepted”

—that is, to be accepted as a person whose personal amen is evidently built on principle, conviction and experience, and whose word is good.

So the question is, what is my amen? As a priest, I am expected to build my life, my word and my work on the word of God himself: Jesus Christ. That word is capable not only of informing people but of transforming their lives for the better. It is through him that I answer amen to the praise of God.


Amen—and thank you, Canon White.