Ellen Charlton invites people to sign the petition against the Westminster service

This year’s peace service was held on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. In the absence of the Iona Community members because of another commitment, the service was led by Rev. Mitchell Bunting of the United Reformed Church whose parish includes the Faslane Base.  It was a beautiful if somewhat cold day outside the gates of the Base.

The service was centred around the theme of “From Death into Life” and the reading of the raising of Lazarus as told in St John’s Gospel (11:1-44). This was a very appropriate reading as in the Orthodox and Oriental Churches, the Saturday before Palm Sunday is known as Lazarus Saturday. It was also so appropriate for the service of witness against nuclear weapons, where our wish was to move out from the shadow of these weapons of mass killing into a world where all life is held sacred.

Before the service began, Ellen Charlton of SCANA asked people to support a petition which was being circulated. It was addressed to the Dean of Westminster Abbey, asking him to reconsider the holding of a thanksgiving service to mark 50 years of the Continuous at Sea Deterrent.

The service began with the singing of Dona Nobis Pacem in Terra, a plea for peace on earth, and the reading of the Gospel account of the raising of Lazarus which followed, was interspersed with short chants as well as addresses from Bishop Bill Nolan of Galloway Diocese, and Dr Richard Frazer of Greyfriars Kirk.

Bishop Nolan with his thorn – a symbol of our protest

Bishop Nolan took from his pocket a thorn which he had brought back from the Holy Land. He said that those present might not be many in number but they served as a thorn in the side of politicians for the years they have continued to come – a reminder that there is a better use for the money being wasted on nuclear weapons. They were a challenge to those buying into the fallacy of mutual deterrence. Pointing weapons at each other was not peace. Peace required mutual respect and harmony so we have to keep coming to cause politicians to think again. Faslane was a waste of the good and talented people working there whose talents could be put to better uses.

Dr Frazer, with his dog in close attendance at his feet, reflected on the impact of the ideas and words of the late Professor Donald MacKinnon on him. MacKinnon had focused on the kenosis (self-emptying) of Christ and challenged the power structure of churches from the time of Constantine the Great, and their failure to present Christ’s manner of being in his world. MacKinnon had looked for the end of the day when ecclesiastical long sleeves would flutter in blessing over Polaris missiles – a strongly worded challenge indeed. Dr. Frazer suggested the idea of kenosis still awaits adoption by the Church. If we as Church were able to embrace kenosis, what changes we could make in our world.

The service ended with a blessing and the singing of the hymn which begins with the words:

Behold, behold I make all things new, beginning with you and starting from today.

 A challenge and a promise?