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Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Medication Assisted Treatment and Workforce Update, Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Point of Order, Moveable Transactions (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Business Motion, Motion without Notice, Decision Time, Free Rail Travel (Blind and Partially Sighted People and Companions)


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon. The first item of business is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is the Rev Neil Gardner, who is minister at the Canongate kirk.

The Rev Neil Gardner (Canongate Kirk)

It is good to be with you today, and it was particularly good to welcome a number of members of the Scottish Parliament to Canongate kirk last week for a carol service in aid of Crisis, which is a charity that is committed to tackling homelessness. As a city-centre church, we host a number of such events at this time of year and, since that event last Wednesday evening, we have welcomed friends and supporters of the armed forces benevolent funds and Legion Scotland. However, there is always something distinctive about Crisis at Christmas. I suppose that that is partly because of how the familiar gospel story of a young couple suffering rejection and struggling to find somewhere to stay strikes a particular chord and how the organisers work into the service something of their clients’ own stories, as they did again last week to great effect.

My most poignant memory of a Crisis service is from the Christmas just before lockdown. It comes not from words that were spoken, but from words that were sung, and the song was not a traditional Christmas carol—it was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The words are familiar enough, but they took on a special resonance when sung alongside people who had been homeless:

“When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down”.

We did not sing the song particularly well—not everybody was in tune or in time—but it was deeply moving. At the end, there was a natural time for reflection as each of us considered what the words meant in such a context—not least to those for whom they had such profound and personal resonance; those who had been down and out, on the street when evening falls and darkness comes, and pain and cold are all around. Suddenly, the old words came to new life. For me, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has never sounded quite the same since.

Among his lyrics about darkness and pain, Paul Simon also wrote about comfort and hope, which are themes that lie at the heart of the Christmas message itself, in which God in Christ lays himself down, like a bridge over troubled water—a source of comfort at a time of crisis, now as then.

Happy Christmas.