read all Pastoral

We are all important to God

We are all important to God

One summer, many years ago, I conducted a wedding, as you do. The church was very popular for weddings because it was a fine building and had beautiful gardens, which were maintained by a small group of enthusiastic gardeners and, as the church was planted right in the middle of the High street, there was always a real buzz about the place.

When there was a wedding - and most weddings were on a Saturday - many of the shoppers and the locals would take advantage of the church gardens and often sit on one of the benches in the church grounds, settle themselves down with their picnic and confetti, and wait for the happy couple to emerge.

Now, on this particular day, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and we also experienced that odd phenomenon in Scotland - we had a mini heat wave! Factor 50 sunblock was required for all and sundry and T-shirts and shorts were compulsory daywear - unless you were conducting a wedding in a church. It was a hot and humid Saturday afternoon - so hot that, even with the heating off, the doors of the church had to be left open. I noticed that members of the wedding party were waving their order of services in front of their faces trying to keep cool and I think the brides’ mother took off her hat and kicked off her shoes just to make herself feel at home. It was hot.

I zoomed through the ceremony, the readings, the vows and as we got to the exchange of rings, we heard it. A few musical notes wafted through the stifling air of the sanctuary. It was getting louder with the passing of every moment. As the bride took the other ring and placed it on the fourth finger of her beloved's left hand, the music swelled so loud that it filled the sanctuary and we could not even hear her say the words, "With this ring, I thee wed." It appeared to be a kind of tinny version of the song "The Entertainer" and as it got louder, it became clear that the music was coming from outside the sanctuary and in through the open back door.

As well as the happy melody, there were now the harmonies of children's voices shouting from the main street outside the church. I then knew what it was. It was an ice cream van! And while "The Entertainer" continued to blare through the van’s speakers and children shouted out their orders for 99’s and ice-cream topped with strawberry syrup, I pronounced the couple "husband and wife” gave them a blessing and ended the service.

On that day it struck me that, whenever we gather as a community of faith to do the sacred things, the holy things, the prayerful things, which we do inside the church, there is always another world just outside. Beyond our stained-glass windows, beyond our chancels and pulpits and lecterns and pews, ice cream vans blare their songs, children laugh, and people go about their lives. People who are incredibly important to God. (John 3:16)

This story reminds me of the wonderful illustration by Rev Dr George Macleod about a boy who threw a stone at the stained glass window of the Incarnation. It nicked out the ‘E’ in the word HIGHEST in the text GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST. Thus, till unfortunately it was mended it read, GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGH ST. Beyond the stained-glass windows of the church there is a whole other world of people. People God cares about. People God loves. People among whom God is at work - in our High streets and Low streets and every other street inbetween.

Rev Douglas Stevenson
Cullen and Deskford Parish Church