Tuesday the 19th of May – This has to go down as one of the most extraordinary and surreal days in my life. I was really nervous about the Assembly sermon. That nervousness was made ten times worse when it took longer than anticipated to produce the Faithful and Dutiful address to the Queen. The speech itself seemed to go well – I felt very moved being able to say what was on my heart, and share both the challenges and the opportunities facing us today. I was astounded that it was so well received – I wasn’t looking (my head was in my hands!) but I was told there was even a standing ovation! It is really humbling the reaction afterwards – I really believe that God is at work in and through the Free Church – not because of my speech, but because the people are so open to the vision of the Scriptures.
The rest of the day seemed to go by really quickly. James Fraser, convenor of the Board of Trustees, is a great speaker, leader and an absolute gift to the whole church. Speaking of gifts, my heart is ‘strangely warmed’ every time I hear Sinclair Ferguson preach, and I felt his address to the ‘Fathers and Brethren’ in the afternoon was wonderful. Afterwards I bumped into an old friend and we shared about past sorrows and future opportunities.
And then came the evening ‘Lord High Commissioners’ reception at Holyrood Palace. From the beginning it was just such a different world. The palace itself is beautiful, the ceremonies quaint and the people ‘different class’….mostly aristocracy and high clergy. There was so much that fascinated and amused me. Walking into one room and seeing the portrait of Charles the First (perhaps I shouldn’t have commented ‘off with his head!”); thinking that black tie meant a black tie – not realising that it meant black dickie bow, tails and more formal dress….so there was I standing in my brown suit (and black funeral tie) whilst the other ‘high heid un’ clerlgy were in dog collars, purple robes and the various regalia. Still at least it made people ask ‘what do you do?”.
Sitting at the massive table in the dining room – with 80 others – was also an experience. The Lady beside me asked ‘what do you think of gay marriage’ as her opening gambit. Then I spoke to the Lady on my right – who was a judge and indeed had judged the FCC v’s Free Church case. She was absolutely wonderful. She is an intelligent, thoughtful and open minded atheist/agnostic. She is my new ‘bestie’! Suffice it to say I had the most stimulating two hour conversation (Annabel was sitting further down the table) on the law, the bible and the gospel. I feel that I now have a calling to ministry amongst the aristocracy!
Although I am a bit of a pleb. I was horrified when we were asked to raise a glass to the Queen, as I had already drunk my wine. And I was even more horrified to discover that my part of the beautiful white linen cloth was the only one stained by gravy. I wasn’t the only pleb there though! Annabel was talking to a woman who said that she helped with the Queens flowers. To which Annabel replied ‘Are you a florist?”! Not sure that Lady X was all that enamoured.
We returned back to our hotel, pleasantly tired and very well fed. I then had a note from Premier asking me to write a commentary on the Asher’s decision. No rest for….!
All in all it was a thrilling day – if somewhat bizarre. The impression left on my heart is just simply that whether the footman at the door, the Lady at the table, or the beggar on the street – all of them need to hear about and be invited to, the Feast of the King of Kings.