“What a difference a day makes” as it says in the song, or in the case of the annual Peace Picnic organised by SCANA (Scottish Christians against Nuclear Arms) “What a difference a year makes”. Last year we were sheltering beneath umbrellas and huddled in anoraks as the rain poured down. This year it was glorious sunshine and “did anyone bring sun lotion!”, and a good crowd had arrived to take advantage of the weather.
It was a relief to have such perfect picnic weather because this year we had a special piece of business to carry out – the signing of a letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, urging her and her government as a matter of urgency to develop and publish a transition plan so that the UK would be ready to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the earliest opportunity
The format of the service was built around this signing and gave it a special focus (with the support of Wild Goose and the Iona Community). It took the shape of the New Testament epistles, with an opening greeting from the Christians gathered at Faslane to the Prime Minister, using the familiar formula “Grace to you and peace from God the Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ”. The service proceeded to set out the facts about nuclear weapons and those possessing them (9 independent countries out of a total of 195), as well as the current treaties on nuclear weapons. It continued with the text of the petition letter, interspersed with song and prayer, before the formal signing was carried out. The church representatives present, including Bishop Bill Nolan (Bishop President of the National Justice & Peace Commission), Rt Rev Susan Brown(Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev. Mitchell “Bungie” Bunting (Acting Moderator of the United Reformed Church) signed a large version of the signature page, and copies were circulated round the crowd present to enable them to add their signatures. As the signing proceeded, we sang two S. African hymns which felt very appropriate: Mayenziwe (Your will be done on earth) and Freedom is Coming.
The church representatives spoke briefly after the signing of the letter. Bishop Nolan spoke of the need for a nuclear free world and for our politicians to recognise that these weapons don’t bring stability to our world. He asked us to remember not only the power of protest but also the power of prayer. Rev. Mitchell whose parish is now in Helensburgh asked us to remember the need to deal with the pastoral realities of the Faslane base for his congregation and find a solution for them also.
The shortest input was from the Rt. Rev. Susan Brown who confirmed that the General Assembly this year had reaffirmed its opposition to nuclear weapons and who said that the best comment she had heard on the issue was that “it is not normal to have nuclear weapons”.
The service ended with an affirmation of our beliefs for our world, ending with the Lord’s Prayer. Then there was time to enjoy our picnic in the sunshine, and share food and conversation with others, before heading back to our various parishes. It was heartening to note that the event was punctuated by the tooting of horns from passing drivers who waved in support of the peaceful protest