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Coach and Crocodile

What can be lovelier than a church full of people? A buzz of conversation, questions and answers, making connections, admiring the sanctuary, appreciating the organ, being welcomed like precious friends.

All of this has been apparent in both churches during the current week.

On Sunday (12th May) the regular worshippers of Meadowside St Paul’s were joined by forty three people from Kilmarnock (mostly from Kay Park Parish Church) who were spending a couple of days sightseeing in Dundee and environs. These annual weekend trips have been going for some years now, ever since a visit to Iona was so much enjoyed that the decision was taken to continue the trend, but in a new place each time. Thanks to friends of mine in Kay Park, they worshipped at Meadowside St Paul’s and stayed for tea and cake in the hall after the service.

The following Tuesday, almost the same number arrived at St Andrew’s – this time, not by coach but in crocodile formation. Thirty seven L2 (primary 2) pupils from the High School of Dundee, who look to the minister (or nearest equivalent) of St Andrew’s to be their chaplain.

As they approached, we began to hear their childish chatter – no doubt they were excited to be out of school for an hour or so. Certainly they had walked much faster than their teacher had expected!

Their visit to the church forms part of a wider approach to explore some of the buildings in their local community. Most of the pupils arrive by bus or car and leave the same way. The young ones are not allowed access to the town during the school day, the result being that they may have little idea of what lies around them. So, as well as St Andrew’s, they were taking in (on separate days) the Caird Hall (major venue for concerts and conferences) in City Square, the City Chambers which are also in City Square, and a mosque.

All but two of the children had been in the church for end of term services so they were not unfamiliar with the sanctuary. What was new to them was the opportunity to move around and see things close-up. With the assistance of the organist and two of our elders, the pupils were divided into four smaller groups so that, in turn, they could explore the chancel, learn a bit about the history of St Andrew’s, and hear and try out for themselves the organ and the bells. Questions to all four of us came thick and fast, making me realise that an hour or so is hardly any time at all to see and hear about everything.

We hope however that they went away with some understanding that they hadn’t had before and also that they would speak enthusiastically about their experiences when they went home to their family. (I do know that one little boy was “very impressed” by the organ.)

Above all, we hope that the children and their teachers felt welcome - in these times of declining church membership and attendance (I have been reading the reports in preparation for attending the General Assembly) perhaps a welcome is the most crucial thing of all.

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