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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 15 June 2021

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Statistics 2019, Women’s Health, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Dr Gray’s Maternity Unit


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 use the aisles and walkways only to access your seats and when moving around the chamber.

The first item of business is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is the Rev Andy Philip, chaplain, St Mary’s Episcopal cathedral, Edinburgh.

The Rev Andy Philip (St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Edinburgh)

Presiding Officer, members and staff of the Scottish Parliament, it is an honour and a joy to lead you in this time for reflection—not least because, for me, as a former official reporter, it is a homecoming of sorts.

On Friday last week, the church celebrated St Barnabas, who was a leader, although perhaps not a leading figure, in the early Christian movement. We know relatively little about him, apart from the fact that Barnabas was certainly not his real name; it was a nickname given to him by the 12 apostles, and it means “son of encouragement”.

That name tells us a lot about Barnabas. For instance, when St Paul, fresh from his conversion on the road to Damascus, tried to meet the 12 apostles, it was Barnabas who overcame their scepticism and made the introduction. It was also Barnabas who accompanied Paul on his first missionary journeys. Barnabas was there in the background, encouraging and supporting—and shaping history.

We all need others who support and encourage us. I am sure that such people helped to shape your journey to the seats that you now occupy. I can think of several who helped to shape my journey towards ordination. There are, of course, many people behind the scenes who support the functioning of the Parliament and help you to shape history.

Encouragement is not really the flavour of our culture. We Scots are a gey carnaptious clanjamfry, and the sharply critical global atmosphere in which we live just ramps up the pressure of that tendency. Even if the sun sets on our anger, it does not so easily set on our tweets. At times, it seems that we are all more likely to scratch from our friends lists those with whom we disagree than to say “scratch that” to our outraged Facebook posts.

Criticism is essential to the functioning of a healthy political system; we make no progress without proper scrutiny. However, whether we are members of the Parliament, the public or the punditariat, we must all remember that encouragement is at least as necessary as criticism, for encouragement feeds our growth as people and as a society.

Like Barnabas, the encouragers are often in the background, but they, too, shape history and they are remembered most fondly. I encourage you to value most not your moments of glory but your hours of encouragement, and to value being in the background and the people in the background—because to encourage is to love, and love is our highest calling. [Applause.]