One Year in Two Hundred!

“Hats off to the past, jackets off for the future!” That was the exhortation from Rev Susan Cowell, a former minister of LIbberton and Quothquan when she came back as guest preacher as part of the year of bicentenary celebrations of the church. And what a year it was! The regular rhythms of the church year and the seasons were augmented by special bicentenary events, all blending together to produce a year long celebration of life in the church.

As the year started so did our regular schedule of events. We opened with our normal 3 monthly joint service, this time in Blackmount church followed as usual by a friendly lunch. The coffee club renewed its regular fortnightly meetings in each others’ homes on Friday morning; the Bible Study & Prayer group began meeting again in the manse in Biggar, under the leadership of our deacon, Ann Lyall; Bill Love continued as our locum; Grace Parton took the children out to Sunday School and David Shannon and Grace continued their work with Scripture Union and the children of Libberton Primary School, supported in school liaison by Ann. The flower, reader and coffee rotas swung into action so that the church has fresh flowers every Sunday, members have the opportunity to play a more active part in worship and we are all able to share friendship and conversation over a cup of tea after the service.

The banner celebrating our bicentenary went up on the fence next to the road where it would remain for the full year, to be seen by the many hundreds of people who drive past every day. As well as organising the series of special events, our very active bicentenary committee designed and ordered commemorative coasters, cards and bags so Libberton and Quothquan Church now has a little place in many households throughout Scotland and beyond – even as far away as California!

As spring emerged, plans for the retreat in Perthshire became firm and later in the summer a group of around 10 members from the three congregations spent a few days in Tibbermore, reflecting on faith and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and thoughtful comfort of The Bield. Sandra Teo from Coulter shared some of the experiences with the wider congregation at the joint service in Blackmount in October.

Lilias ran her Fair Trade stall where we all bought wonderful goodies – with a clear conscience!

During Lent we welcomed back Rev Stephen Pacitti and his wife Sylvia in the first of our “Hats off to the past” services led by former ministers. It was a great service in which Stephen spoke to the children and adults with his usual wisdom, experience and charisma and it was followed by a splendid lunch at The Larches filled with laughter and conversation. As Easter approached a more reflective mood developed, to be followed, as every year, by the joy of Easter Sunday and our usual post service biscuits were replaced by Hot Cross buns – with a napkin explaining their significance!

April saw a joint service in Coulter Parish Church and May heralded the Christian Aid car boot sale in Skirling. It must have been one of the worst days of the year as a biting wind interspersed with icy rain swept its way across the village green but the church had its usual two stalls: Elizabeth and Jan Lyon led the homebaking stall and Adam Foster, Jim & Jean Elliott ran the gardening stall. To all of them for their stoicism when the clouds unfolded their “wings of strife”: RESPECT!

David Brown compiled the first comprehensive history of Libberton & Quothquan Church ranging from earliest references to churches in the area in the 12th century right up to the present day.

As spring moved into summer the threat of chairs sinking into the ground moved our annual outdoor service on the site of the old Quothquan church indoors to the Hall and in July we were honoured to have the Moderator of the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland, Right Reverend Albert Bogle and Mrs Bogle join us for the joint service in Libberton & Quothquan. Seldom does a small linkage of rural churches enjoy such a privilege. The Right Reverend Bogle taught us a chorus which he had introduced to the General Assembly when he was inducted as Moderator of that assembly in May. His sermon acknowledged the Christian witness in this place through the years. He analysed, challenged and inspired even the most world-weary of church members. Towards the end of the service two elders from Libberton and Quothquan, Adam Foster and Tom Brown, together with two from our linked congregations were presented with long service certificates by the Moderator. Everyone attending the service had the opportunity to meet the Moderator, either during tea and coffee in the church after the service or at a specially organised lunch at the Tinto hotel. Throughout the day friendships were established, renewed and developed.

The Coffee Club members went on their annual summer outing, this year to Loch Lomond and, as usual, a “grand day out” was had by all.

In the middle of August during our regular morning service we had an interesting talk from Alex Kelly on the work of the church with young people in the Lanark presbytery.

Summer did not provide much in the way of sunshine but, undaunted, our avid flower arranging members and their friends, under the leadership of Elizabeth Lyon, put on the most amazing flower festival towards the end of August, illustrating aspects of village life through the ages in a series of tableaux of flowers and artefacts. The children arranged the flowers for the education exhibit and senior pupils from the primary school visited with their teachers one morning to learn more about the history of their area. Virtually every member contributed in some way – arranging flowers, providing historical items, organising lighting, opening and closing the church, producing the accompanying booklet, lending tents and a caravan for our tearoom, making homebaking, serving tea and coffee, welcoming visitors, providing security, taking photographs, preparing and tidying up the church etc. etc. We were delighted that a couple of the younger girls from the village came along to help with the tearoom and we welcomed around 400 visitors to our church that weekend! The 2013 flower festival calendar means that the story of the church in the community lives on, long after the flowers have died and the exhibits have found their way back to the attics and storage boxes of the congregation. On the Sunday morning our former minister, Rev Jim Cutler, preached as part of our celebrations and in the evening we had a wonderful “Songs of Praise” evening, organised by Annis Cutler and our locum, Bill Love. The theme of the service was hymns through the last 200 years. We began by singing unaccompanied with Bill acting as our Precentor and were brought right up to date by the end. A couple of weeks later a family ceilidh in Quothquan Hall was attended by many from the local community and beyond. Many young mums and dads expressed their pleasure at being able to attend an event where their children were also welcome and much fun was had in the dancing and singing, led by young Fraser Hewitt on his accordion. Super party food too!

Summer was coming to an end and the schools were starting back. The farmers were still struggling with the weather but the harvest, albeit smaller than many years, did get in. In the church we had our annual Harvest service, this year thinking about those living in our part of Scotland who are not so fortunate. Members contributed foodstuffs for the New Beginnings charity which works locally with people who need a helping hand to re-establish their lives. Our annual harvest supper with its usual great food, great company, great conversation and great raffle was held in Quothquan Hall.

Then came Rev Susan Cowell with her challenge to us to respect and celebrate our past but to get our “jackets off for the future”. Susan’s thoughts on the times ahead gave us all much food for thought and once again it was good to renew old friendships and develop existing ones over lunch following the service.

As the days grew shorter we moved towards Remembrance Sunday and, as every year, Bryce McCosh, in his deeply sonorous voice, led us in our act of remembrance, reading out the names of men from this parish who lost their lives in conflict. Grace led the children of the Sunday School in scattering poppies as the names were read out. This year, Bryce told us the story of the bravery of the young sailors who played a major role in breaking the Enigma code. Lt Tony Fasson and Able Seaman Colin Grazier from HMS Petard seized two vital code books from the enemy submarine, U559 as she was sinking, 70 miles off Egypt. Although Fasson and Grazier were unable to escape before the U-boat sank they managed to pass the books to Canteen Assistant Tommy Brown. For their actions, Fasson and Grazier each received the George Cross; Brown received the George Medal, the youngest recipient of this decoration, as it was then discovered that he had been underage when he had first joined up. Bryce ended with the uplifting thought that when he saw the young lads from the High School out and about in Biggar at lunchtime, he often wondered if they would do the same and decided “I think they would”.

Following the success of the retreats to Iona in 2012 and Tibbermore this year, plans began to take shape to travel to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland in April 2013, under the leadership of Ann Lyall.

As we looked towards Christmas, members once again thought of others both further afield and nearer home. Brightly wrapped shoeboxes full of basic essentials and small treats piled up under the Communion Table and were delivered to Blythswood to be distributed to those who have very, very little in Eastern Europe and in Asia. The annual Senior Citizens’ lunch was held once again, this year in the Robertson Arms in Carnwath.

As every year, families came to the fore as we entered the season of Advent. A different family led the lighting of each of the 4 Advent candles with a short reading and we sang “Will you come and see the light?” adding on a verse each Sunday as we got nearer to Christmas. Nativity Sunday is the day of the children and every year they present the traditional Nativity story in a new way. What a performance they gave us this year! Around a dozen children led by three of our older girls acting as narrators, told us the story of “Babushka”, a Russian lady who, being rather lonely and sad, focused on cleaning her house all of the time. Through her journey to visit the baby Jesus she learned the joy of giving presents and found happiness and contentment through meeting the baby and Mary and Joseph. Christmas itself saw a Watchnight service in Blackmount and a Christmas Day celebration in Libberton and Quothquan where we had such a great congregation, we were worried that we would run out of shortbread and sherry (no fear – Libberton and Quothquan – never knowingly undercatered!) It was a real pleasure to welcome so many people to our little church and we hope to see them again.

The year ended with another very successful family ceilidh in Quothquan Hall and a very thoughtful address from Bill Love on the last Sunday of the year when he encouraged us to look to the future with faith and with hope.

At the end of 2012 we said “Goodbye” to members of Coulter and Blackmount as linked parishes but not as friends and now in 2013 we say “Hello again” to the members of Symington and Cairngryffe, our old / new linked parishes.

So: it’s time to hang up the hats and get the jackets off!