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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament 17 March 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Covid-19 (Update), Curriculum for Excellence (Review), Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Breastfeeding etc (Scotland) Act 2005


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon, colleagues. The first item of business is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is the Rev Fiona Bennett, honorary chaplain and minister of Augustine United Reformed Church, George IV Bridge.

Good afternoon; it is good to be with you.

I have just come, literally moments ago, from the final mental health drop-in meeting to be held at Augustine church. We do those drop-ins in partnership with the national health service chaplains from the Royal Edinburgh hospital. At the end of the drop-in—because it was the last one that will be held for some time, as you will be discussing later today—we discussed with the group how they are going to cope with isolation and be resilient through the coming time.

A lot of the people in the group have had long-term mental ill health. Because they have had to learn to cope with all sorts of stuff, the wisdom that they shared was astounding. It was a real reminder to me that in vulnerability there can be incredible strength. There is great wisdom in the midst of struggle, and perhaps, in the struggles that we experience today throughout society, there will be gifts.

I would like to share with you a short reflection. It says that it is by an Irish monk, but I do not think that that is true. It was sent to me from the Metropolitan Community Church in the United States, and it is called “Lockdown”:

“Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the older folk may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,