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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 03 November 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Burntisland Fabrications Ltd, Fireworks, Winter Preparedness in Social Care, Arts Funding, Decision Time, Care Homes and Covid-19 (Amnesty International Report)


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon, colleagues. We begin this afternoon’s business with time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is the Rev Martin Thomson, who is the minister at Dalry Trinity church.

Presiding Officer and members of the Scottish Parliament, thank you for the opportunity to address you this afternoon.

As a church minister, over these past months, I have found—as have many of my colleagues—that by streaming services our congregations have grown. More people are listening online than attended our churches physically. It is not yet clear what the significance of that may be, but perhaps we are all learning afresh that the most important things in life are those that cannot easily be measured—and you are hearing that from a former teacher of mathematics.

In the past months, I have spent hours on the telephone speaking to people who are feeling isolated and anxious. Many of them talk reflectively about hope, significance and meaning in life; still others speak of a rediscovery of the beauty of the natural world on their daily exercise walks. Those are important things, and some of the most important things in life cannot easily be measured.

Let me illustrate. You are in a maternity hospital where a young couple recently travelled in some haste. You can imagine their growing sense of anticipation and excitement and you can guess at all the preparations that have gone into making ready for this big day. Finally, the baby arrives, and the midwife takes this precious bundle and hands her over to the new mother with the words, “I have here for you a bag of bones and biochemical reactions.” Accurate though that might be, I think that most of us would think that our imaginary midwife had missed something important.

My early training was in pure mathematics. One day, I visited my supervisor with a proof of something the details of which, you will be relieved to know, I will not trouble you with. I recall being rather pleased with myself, until the good professor said, “Yes, Martin, but it’s a rather ugly proof. When we meet next week, could you bring me something more elegant?” That was my introduction to the fact that there is a longing, even in science, for beauty amidst the patterns—something beyond the mere material.

Many of the most important things in life cannot easily be measured. Perhaps that is what, at least in part, lies behind the words of Jesus when he said:

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”,

or, in an alternative translation,

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Thank you for listening.

Thank you very much for joining us, Rev Thomson.