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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 01 June 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Covid-19, National Health Service Recovery Plan, Urgent Question, Business Motion, Decision Time


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

Good afternoon. I remind members that social distancing measures are in place in the chamber and across the Holyrood campus. I ask members to take care to observe those measures, including when entering and exiting the chamber. Please only use the aisles and walkways to access your seats and when you are moving around the chamber.

The first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection, for which our leader today is the Rev Canon David Richards, the rector of St Paul’s and St George’s church in Edinburgh.

The Rev Canon David Richards (St Paul’s and St George’s Church, Edinburgh)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. When white Europeans arrived on the island of Hawaii, the locals called them “haole”, which literally means “no breath”. One indigenous Hawaiian explained it like this:

“The settlers were always in a hurry to build plantations, harbours and ranches—they always seemed out of breath”.

I have a question for you this afternoon. What patterns or rhythms of life do you have that renew and sustain you, or that give you the chance to draw breath? It has been said that the hardest person you will ever lead is probably yourself. A former United Kingdom chair of the International Stress Management Association observed this about the person of Jesus Christ:

“Jesus taught and practised self-awareness. Jesus responded, rather than reacted to whatever happened. His ability to respond (his response-ability) was strong.”

It is fascinating to see how Jesus sustained his life. He did not spend all his time praying or reading the scriptures. He did not spend all his time alone in quiet and solitude, performing miracles or preaching. He did those things, but he also did other things. He had a group of really close friends that he spent time with and laughed with. He regularly went to corporate worship and to the synagogue and temple. Imagine being the son of God and having to listen to other people’s sermons.

He enjoyed creation, took long walks and exercise. He welcomed small children and listened to them. He enjoyed meals and parties, especially with non-religious people.

If we do not tend our souls, we end up with what one psychologist has called “ego depletion”, which is a level of fatigue that goes beyond mere physical tiredness. Depleted people will feel sad more easily and are more likely to make poor choices. Physiologically, an area of the brain—the anterior cingulate cortex—actually experiences a slowing down.

How do you know if your soul is weary? Small things irritate you more than usual, you find it more difficult to make decisions, and the temptation to eat more, to drink more alcohol or to give in to a particular craving is harder to resist. Simply, you have less courage. There is a famous quote that says:

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all”.

The people of Scotland need you to be healthy, and to have patterns of life that sustain and renew you so that you can make good, brave decisions and be the leaders we need you to be. A Sabbath, whenever you might practise it, is a time to transition from human doings to human beings. My prayer for you is that you find that rhythm of life—a rhythm that gives you the chance to draw breath—and find rest for your souls.