Christian Living Dundee St Peters The Church in Scotland

Letter from Australia 41 – Blessed are the Dead……i

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

They say that when you are in a congregation as a minister you should not have friends within that congregation. They say that when you leave a congregation you should forget about it – or at least retain sweet memories (get rid of the bitter ones), but forget about the people you have left behind. They were wrong. Simon Manchester and I were talking about this the other day – both of us have served the one congregation for almost 30 years. It’s not just a job. It’s not just a calling. It’s a relationship. And if it has any meaning at all – that relationship cannot just be consigned to the dustbin of history. Yes – things fade. Yes – there will be new people who knew not Joseph who become part of the fellowship. Yes – you are no longer their pastor – but you still care for those you cared for.   I often pray especially for the children and for those who, in breaking that other rule of ‘they’, I would call friends – as well as the wider church.

So it was with a degree of sorrow and thankfulness that I recently heard of the death of three people who were part of St Peters.

Two of those who died were former Church of Scotland ministers (I had a congregation full of them!) and one who would not have been known to many either outwith or within the congregation – but in the Lord’s economy the weak and the lowly are often the most exalted!

Screenshot 2020-05-06 15.39.43Dominic Smart was the minister in Logie and St John’s Church of Scotland when I came to Dundee. He transformed that congregation, ploughed his own furrow and had a deeply effective and profound ministry. He, like so many faithful men, left the denomination and for a while was minister of Gilcomston Church in Aberdeen, which had also left the C of S. Sadly things did not work out.  I will never forget his sermon on the day he resigned from that church.  It was probably the most emotional, hard hitting and realistic sermon on the state of the church that I have ever heard. For his faithful stand Dominic was brutally dealt with by the Church of Scotland  (even some of his fellow evangelicals – although many others offered support).  I suspect that the reason for the hard way he was treated was to ‘discourage the others’ from following a similar path.   He was the victim of gossip and many attacks. It was a deeply distressing and difficult time.

I asked him to come and help us in St Peters – and he did – preaching regularly for several months.   I found him to be kind, wise, honest, self-deprecating, humourous and a powerful teacher of the Word of God. He was comforting but not comfortable.   He also helped us out in setting up the new Free Church in Montrose.   In his later years he wanted to set up a consultation and training service for church leaders in Scotland – but Scotland is too small and the church sometimes too small-minded. There was no room or at least not enough desire for that.   I am so thankful for Dominic and his ministry – which will continue through his writings. Please remember Marjorie and the family in their pain, sorrow and joy.   If you haven’t seen it this video from CFP with Dominic is wonderful.

 

Screenshot 2020-05-06 15.35.52Brock White was a Church of Scotland minister in Kirkcaldy who after many long years of faithful service retired to Blairgowrie – where after attending the local Church of Scotland for some time, they decided they had had enough and came to worship with us in St Peters. Brock was not spectacular or showy but like Dominic I would say of him, these are they of whom the world is not worthy.   If I had to describe faithfulness in all its positive nature I would point to Brock and Dreena.   He above all was an example to me of how to serve the Lord with faithfulness, kindness and love. I appreciated not just his counsel but his enthusiasm. He once told me that his latter years in St Peters had been some of the best of his life as he had been fed the Word.   Their home was a model of Christian hospitality and service. I will never forget going out to lead a bible study discussion in a packed house of local parishioners. Give me half a dozen couples like Brock and Dreena in any church and the world would be turned upside down. Brock is a great example to me of how to finish well. I pray that I will be like him at the end.

family1-423x564Finally Fiona Linton.   Fiona had a rare genetic disorder called mitochondrial disease which amongst other things meant she had muscle weakness, blindness and deafness. She came to church with her carers and was always early and sat at the very front. When she was there I made a point of going to speak to her and was always greeted with warmth and love. Our conversation (sometimes done through signing but often through shouting!) was invariably ended with Fiona shouting ‘Oh David!’. Maybe I shouldn’t have teased her so much but it was always a joy to share the Word of God with her and to point her to Christ who I believe she loved, and who I know loved her.

The Evening Telegraph carried a sad story about the family not being able to go to the funeral (with the Covid 19 limit). I find it depressing that we have to hit everything with such a blunt instrument. Surely it is not beyond the realm of possibility to have 20 people and safe social distancing at the crematorium? After all we can have 200 in the Supermarket – surely being able to say farewell to your loved ones is as important as being able to buy your can of beans? Anyway the family hope to have a proper memorial service when they are permitted. But they don’t have a lot of money so if you would like to help them even a little then just why not donate to this crowdfunder?

There is something bittersweet about a Christian’s death. It is bitter for those who are left and it is sweet for those who leave.   We mourn, but not as those with no hope. We know that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. It’s ironic isn’t it that a society which has largely rejected the Good News of Jesus as irrelevant, now has no answer to the fear of death.  But all the Lord’s people do.  We do not fear death because we know the One who has defeated it.  Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, their deeds follow after them.

See you next week,

Your brother in Christ

David

Beside Still Waters – Letter from Australia 40

6 comments

  1. Thanks David for your reflections this week. When I clicked on the link for your letter, I laughed out loud before I had read a word. Why? Because I had just been thinking about Dominic Smart and how greatly he will be missed and the random thought crossed my mind, I wonder if people who die are aware of the impact they had on people and the sense of loss their death leaves us with? Daft question?

    Thanks for sharing your memories of Brock White, he was obviously one of those special people who die in the Lord and as you say, leave their deeds behind them. And Fiona too, she reminds me of a lady whom I used to visit in hospital, which was her permanent home. Sheila had cerebral palsy and was severely physically disabled but her spirit certainly wasn’t and every time I left her, I went away feeling energised and uplifted! I remember Sheila who had spent her entire life in various wheelchairs asking me if I thought she would be able to dance in heaven? I assured her that yes she would, and her first dance would probably be with the Lord himself!

    It’s such a paradox isn’t it? Those whom the world would deem unworthy of even being brought to birth are so often the very ones who have that life spark within which touches other lives as Fiona obviously touched yours.

    As you know, Dominic Smart was one such person and his loss is keenly felt by many of us in and around Aberdeen and no doubt throughout the world. But the sense of loss felt by Marjorie and their children must be immense and those who knew Dominic are surrounding them with prayer. When he spoke at Keswick last year, with his usual sense of humour, he shared how he had come to terms with his prognosis and was preparing himself for the moment when his struggle would be over. In fact, he said, he was looking forward to meeting the Lord face to face, and was a ‘bit miffed’ that it was taking longer than expected! With a twinkle in his eye and a nod to Marjorie, he admitted that may seem an odd thing to say with his wife sitting there. But I’m sure most people knew exactly what he meant. There are days when my own longing to see the Lord is overwhelming, not because I don’t want to live anymore, but because as I grow older, I know what Paul meant when he said: ‘For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.’

    So, why did I laugh when I opened your letter? Well there he was with that mischievous smile and I thought, mmm, maybe they are aware of us after all!

  2. Hi David.

    I just wanted to send many thanks from Fionas family for writing this piece and for your kind donation.

    Mum was very fond of you and enjoyed going to church. She even convinced myself to attend with her at times.

    Again,
    Thank you so much.

  3. Thank you, David. This is very helpful. May we have the wisdom to speak and act rightly according to our contexts as well, as it seems you’re striving hard to do in yours.

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