Employment and Temperance

The Cathedral was concerned with finding work for those members of the congregation who were destined to go into domestic service.  At the beginning of 1881 an organisation called The Central Agency was set up “with the view of enabling those members of our Congregation who require assistance, to employ their fellow worshippers who require occupation.  Butlers to wait at dinner parties, or for regular employment, light porters, charwomen, servants, dressmakers, washerwomen, etc., may be heard of here.  Sometimes also governesses and office clerks.”

By the end of 1885 a Guild of Aid was established that was “intended to find situations for young Churchwomen in the homes of Churchpeople, where it is supposed they will be more able to avail themselves of Church privileges (as a matter of fact, we have found sometimes that Churchpeople are more thoughtless or indifferent as to their servants’ Church privileges than Presbyterians.  We hope the Guild of Aid will remedy this.)  Employers apply by letter only.

Training for girls going into service was also available through The Girls’ Clothing Club which met weekly on Tuesday evenings. “The object of this club is to enable young girls, on their attaining a proper age for going into service, to enter on their first situations with a suitable supply of clothing.  The club meets weekly, and girls are expected to attend regularly, and learn to make the clothing themselves.  Girls may become members of the club at 11 years of age.  The members pay a weekly subscription of one penny.”

The welfare of workmen was also catered for and there was a request in the December 1882 Monthly Paper for “Those members of the Congregation who feel an interest in the Navvies at work on the Suburban Line, are invited to assist in some of the many ways now adopted for the happiness and comfort and religious instruction of these men.”  The Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Junction Railway opened in 1884.

In 1885 The Workmen’s Welcome was opened in the Water of Leith Mission House and in February 1890 it was reported that “The attendance has been larger this year than last, and the general behaviour has been most satisfactory. There have often been present 50 in one evening.  The lowest attendance has been 20. The Welcome as its name implies is free to all; only a small charge is made for the game of bagatelle.  There is a large room for games, and a Reading Room supplied with books and papers.  It is open every weekday evening from 7 till 10, except on Saturday, when the men do not require it.  Popular works and illustrated papers are needed for the Reading Room and will be gratefully received if sent to the Chaplain at the Mission House.”


The Cathedral was very keen to support the Temperance movement with regular Temperance Guild and Band of Hope meetings.  These started as soon as the Cathedral opened and the very first Monthly Paper in January 1879 reported that a British Workman Public House had opened the previous month in the Water of Leith Mission.  Subscriptions to defray costs from those interested in the Temperance cause were called for as well as “books of a good, healthy, manly tone for the working classes, are requested to give them, as also any illustrated papers.  Such gifts can, if desired, be acknowledged in this paper.”

The concern with excess alcohol consumption was not only confined to the so-called working class as this extract from a letter to the editor printed in February 1884 demonstrates.

“Sometimes it has struck me people are very ready pressing the cause of temperance on the working men and women of the Grassmarket, and forget, perhaps, that the young gentlemen and ladies of our fashionable squares and crescents would be as well abstainers.  Even those who are not tempted themselves might give a great encouragement by becoming total abstainers themselves not merely to a “forlorn or dejected brother,” but to the young maid, young clerk, or young shopman in their employment. In that day when one hopes and prays it may be said of them, he or she “hath done what they could,” will a little self-denial or a little effort in this day of help not be acknowledged?  Is it not worth the while of every Christian man or woman of every rank to try and help to put down this widespread sin of bonnie Scotland?”

As part of the Cathedral’s work in this area, an annual New Year’s Eve Tea was held on the evening of the 31st December (or 30th if the 31st was a Sunday).  This report on the tea held on Hogmanay 1885 was typical. “The attendance was very good, and the music and readings were greatly enjoyed.  Our very best thanks are due to the ladies who arranged the room so well, and who provided so bountiful a supply of sandwiches, apples, and milk – a gentleman also gave a quantity of lemonade, which was thoroughly appreciated.  In consequence of these gifts we were able to provide a much more substantial and attractive tea than we ever did before.  The one thing apparently missed was an opportunity for a pipe!”

The December 1896 evening was not, however, such a great success. The attendance was down from the usual 120 to about 70 due, it was thought, “to changes made as an experiment last year, or to superior attractions elsewhere.”  The evening was further spoilt by “a disturbance, caused by a member of Her Majesty’s Forces having some noisy difference with his bother man in the street below, had no connection with our meeting, one way or another.  We mention it because the report is likely to bring discredit upon the meeting, and has indeed done so, if we can judge from the solitary subscription of ten shillings sent in for the whole of the expense incurred in this well-intentioned effort.”

Next – Bits & Pieces and the End of the Victorian Era

Charitable Endeavours

The Cathedral was always aware of those who were less well-off and through various societies did its best to help.  One of these, the Dorcas Society, provided second-hand clothing at affordable prices.  They took in clothing and other items which were no longer required, repaired them where necessary and sold them on to those who were deemed worthy to receive them.  Periodically, the Society held sales and, unsurprisingly in true Victorian style, these sales had strict rules as shown in September 1889.

“Edinburgh Cathedral Dorcas Society.


  1. No one can be admitted to the Dorcas Sales, unless provided with a Ticket filled up with Name and Address of Bearer, Signature of District Visitor or Biblewoman, and list of clothing required, written by her.
  2. Purchases must not exceed 8s.
  3. The door will be opened exactly at the hour named. All then present draw from a bag of tickets on which is a number.  According to these numbers each takes her turn of being served.  Late comers are afterwards served in the order in which they arrive.
  4. Everything must be paid for at the time of purchase; and the money will not be returned for articles brought back. NOTE – Purchasers should bring with them measurements of the articles they require.
  5. Free Orders for cases of destitution can be obtained only from the Chaplains and must be signed by them. NOTE – Applicants for Free Orders must be content with what suitable clothing happens to be in the cupboards when the order is presented, and old clothing will be given in preference to new.
  6. Entire Outfits either for home or emigration cannot be granted. For girls going to a first place, clothing to a value of 10s. may be given, of which the applicant will be required to pay a third.
  7. In cases when any particular is sold out, the Dorcas Society does not hold itself bound to provide each article for a special case (except perhaps flannels, in case of illness) and at no time will money be given as an equivalent.”

It was not only old clothes that were put to good use, there was also an appeal for old curtains in April 1884.

A Use for Old Curtains – Very many of our people live in one-roomed houses.  Our people can easily imagine the difficulty which is found by the parents in training up their children in modesty. They would be glad often to divide their one room by a curtain, only they cannot afford to but one, and we think that many of our richer people, sympathising with their desire for decency, will gladly send good stuff curtains which can be used for this purpose.  They can be sent to Mrs. Anderson, at the Cathedral Mission house, Water of Leith, or to 52 Palmerston Place, or to any of the Clergy or District Visitors.”

There was also the Cathedral Invalid Loan Society and their rules were also printed in the same magazine.

“Cathedral Invalid Loan Society.


  1. The box will be lent for two months and must be returned on the exact day it is due.
  2. Two shillings will be charged for the use of the box for two months, which must be paid before the box is obtained.
  3. In cases of necessity the box may be kept for two weeks beyond the two months with an extra charge of 6d. for each week, or part of a week, will be made.
  4. A card will be given on application to the District Visitor or Biblewoman, which must be filled and sent to the Secretary at least a month before the box is required. A printed envelope will also be given, in which the money must be put, and left when the box is taken.
  5. All the clothes must be returned clean and in good order. NOTE – Anything accidentally damaged must be returned and if properly accounted for will be replaced.
  6. Anyone returning a box, the contents of which are damaged beyond the ordinary “wear and tear,” or keeping it beyond the prescribed time, will be debarred from the use of a box at a future time.
  7. If desired, the use of “Christening Clothes” can be obtained, price 1s. for each article (prepaid). They may be had the day before, and must be returned the day after the baptism.”

Although members of the congregation supported the “great many deserving poor in our congregation” it was made clear that this could not be done in a way that reduced the amount collected to cover the expenses of the Cathedral.  Those wishing to help were asked to put their contributions “in the division of the box which stands in the centre passage, marked, ‘For the Poor.’”

There were also periodic appeals for help for individuals or group of individuals.  Here are three examples from the March and October 1881 and June 1882 Monthly Papers:

“X. Y. Z. – One of our District Visitors wants an old dressing gown for one of the people in her district.  If any one can spare this article, will they kindly send it to Old Coates House, addressed to X. Y. Z.”

“Old clothes of any description – great coats, outer clothing, under-clothing, or old boots – are gratefully accepted, and may be sent to Miss Johnston, 17 Chester Street, for distribution amongst the poor and needy members of our congregation during the winter months.”

“Our readers will remember that a notice was inserted in this paper some time age about Mrs. Woodcock’s shop of greengrocery in William Street, requesting a little regular custom, as helping her to make an honest livelihood.

We have been requested to state that Mr. G. A. Craig, 33 Manor Place, has been making a collection on her behalf, and will be glad to receive subscriptions from any who may feel an interest in this case.”

Similarly those who were ill were also cared for and periodic appeals were made for useful articles; this list was printed in May 1883. “Leg Rests, Air Cushions, Hot Water Bottles, Air Beds, Eye Shades, Hand Bells, Footstools, Feeding Cups, Fire Guards, Easy Chairs, Hot Water Plates, Knee Caps, Tin Baths, Bed Rests, Crutches, Fans, Gauze, Night Lamps, Bed Pans, Lamps for heating food, bits of Carpet, Slippers.”

There was a Poor and Sick Fund, the main source of income being the collection from the New Year’s Day services.  It was reported in the October 1887 magazine that £10 or £12 was usually raised – about £1,400 today.  The October article appealed for more money for this fund.  “Many may imagine that ample funds are provided from the Walker Trust for this purpose, but it is not so.  The money from the fund is given chiefly to aged sick, and infirm people of respectable character in the congregation, in sums varying from £3 to £8 per annum.

When these sums are paid, there is but little left for charitable purposes; and when it is known that there are some thirty district visitors who constantly appeal to the clergy for help in deserving cases, it may be seen how miserably inadequate the funds are to meet the (almost) daily demand for help.  It is not a pleasing duty to beg and plead for help, but if any charitable work is to be carried on this winter, we must appeal; to the generosity of those whom God has prospered.”

From June 1891 the Cathedral partly funded the cost of a Cathedral Nurse who attended sick members of the congregation.  The Cathedral’s contribution of £25 per annum was collected by subscription from members of the congregation.  The nurse was supplied by the Victoria Nurses Institute in Castle Terrace, which later changed its name to the Jubilee Institute for Nurses.  However, in 1898 only £16 11s. had been collected, due according to the May 1899 Monthly Paper, to “deaths of subscribers, and the removal of others from Edinburgh”.

Although the Royal Hospital for Sick Children was opened long before the Cathedral in 1860, in July 1881 the clergy were urging the congregation to make use of it as “there has been a good deal of sickness amongst the children of our congregation”.  More advice on medical matters was printed In the March 1887 magazine.

“Facts to be Remembered.

When you call in a medical man, give him your entire confidence.  Tell him simply the truth, to aid him in his endeavours to effect a cure.

Obey his orders strictly, in diet, medicine, everything.

Induce children always to look on the doctor as their friend.  Never frighten them with threats that the doctor will give nasty medicine, etc.

Always, when it is practicable, send for the doctor early in the morning.  The nature of many complaints is best ascertained in the daylight.  As with fire, so it is with disease.  Call in your doctor, therefore, early; it saves him much trouble, and may save your life.

Everything in the sick-room should be kept scrupulously clean and whispering strictly forbidden.

All food should be freshly prepared, and no more taken to the room than can be eaten at once.  If any remain over, take it to a cool place away from the sick-room.

Avoid, except in cases of urgency, sending for a doctor on Sunday.  He works hard during the week, and often night and day; and his patients ought to endeavour to make the Sunday, as much as possible, a day of rest.”

Next: Employment and Temperance.

Congregational Questions

One of the original “purposes” of the Monthly Paper, as laid out in the very first edition in January 1879, was “A medium for the asking and answering questions on interesting or important subjects.”  The first question was asked in the March edition, it was about the authorship of the Epistles to Timothy, and the questions continued to be asked until 1885.

Trying to choose a few questions, and their answers, has not been easy.  Here are a few examples “What is the origin of Rogation days?”; “Is the Communion Office of the Scottish Episcopal Church older than that of the Established Church of England?”; “What is meant by Muscular Christianity?”; “How can it be just to award an infinite punishment for the finite acts of a finite creature?”

These were some of the simpler questions, there were plenty which were much more complex and most of the answers were usually long and a guaranteed cure for insomniacs! Maybe the theological students at New College should be asked to answer a few of them!  However, here are four of the more interesting questions with their answers.

March 1880 – Why is it supposed that our Lord Jesus Christ did not Himself baptize while He was on earth?

As to the fact, see S. John iv. 2. As to the reason for the fact, may we not believe that our Lord baptized none Himself lest these should have fancied they had received higher blessing than those baptized by His disciples, and in order to give sanction to the work of His disciples as His representatives, taking it as done by Himself.  Compare the language of S. Paul in 1 Cor. i. 14-15 and S. Matt. x. 40.”

April 1880 – What is the meaning of Celebrating in the “Eastward position?”  Is that considered “High Church?”

Some celebrate in the Eastward position, because they consider the Rubric orders it, and apart from all doctrinal significance; others because it is aesthetically preferable, and others again because it seems a better position for the minister when representing the people before God, which the simple fact of his being their mouthpiece in prayer involves; others because they consider this position the truest exposition of what is called the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist – the pleading by representation the one all-sufficient sacrifice once offered – the “showing forth” the Lord’s death.

It is considered “High Church” by many; but it is now becoming gradually recognised as a matter of indifference, as the inquirer may notice in the Cathedral that either position is used.

January 1882 – What is the objection to Evening Communion?

  • Authority

It is a practice opposed to the whole practice of the Church – East and West alike – and it is quite contrary to the plain intention of our own branch of the Church, e.g., the Rubric before the Office, the arrangement of lessons and Gospels (Good Friday, Innocents’ Day, etc.)

And although Article 34 asserts that the Church in different countries has authority to decree rites and ceremonies, and it is conceivable that our Church might have authority to decree evening communion, individual clergy certainly have no such right.

For the maintenance of authority and due discipline, therefore, evening communion is wrong.

  • Reason
  • As the Holy Communion was instituted in the evening, and apparently was celebrated in the evening during the earlier Apostolic times, we may be quite sure that, as we find the time removed to the early morning, directly we come to early history, even in the age of those who must have lived for some years contemporaneously with the Apostles, the change was made with Apostolic sanction, even if not by Apostolic order.
  • It would induce careless reception.
  • It would come when the mind and body were wearied, and excited feelings and emotions would be liable to take the place of real thought.
  • The only reason urged for it is “convenience” for servants and mothers. These cases are met by servants refusing to take situations where frequent opportunities for communicating are denied, and by the practice of resolute self-denial in rising early for the early celebration.  And in the case of mothers, it is easy to point out instances where under circumstances of apparently the greatest difficulties mothers in the hardest working classes contrive to communicate regularly at the early communion.

May 1882 – Why is Mr Green in Prison?

It appears to the Editor that Mr Green is in prison because he conscientiously believes (1) that the Public Worship Regulation Act is a violation of the Constitution, whereby as in Magna Carta it is distinctly asserted that the Church shall have perfect liberty to make her own laws as affecting doctrine and discipline. (2) That the interpretation lately given of the Church Law is expressed in the Ornaments Rubric is opposed to reason and evidence. (3) That he cannot accept the authority or the Interpretation consistently with his ordination vow, which was “to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the Discipline of Christ as this Church and Realm (i.e. Convocation and Parliament) hath received the same,” seeing that neither the authority or interpretation have received the Sanction of Convocation.

These conscientious convictions lead him to refuse obedience to Lord Penzance’s ruling and order, which is contempt of court, hence the imprisonment.

Mr Green was in fact the Revd Sidney Green who was rector of St. John’s, Miles Platting, Manchester.  He was one of five clergymen who were brought to trial and imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to conform to the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 which was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Tait, to limit what he perceived as the growing ritualism of Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.[1] The Act provided a casus belli for the Anglo-Catholic English Church Union and the evangelical Church Association[2].

Among the “crimes” with which the Revd Green’s was charged were the mixing of wine and water, having light candles, kneeling during the prayer of consecration, elevating the paten and chalice, using the sign of the cross towards the congregation, ceremoniously raising the chalice and displaying a large brass cross.  He was in prison from 1880 to 1882.

The Act, which did not apply to Scotland, was eventually repealed on 1 March 1965 by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.

Iain Morrison

Hon. Archivist

[1] D L Murray (2005)[1927] Disraeli Kessinger

[2] N Yates (1999) Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain 1830-1910

The Organ

Strangely, Sir George Gilbert Scott did not make allowance for an organ in his original plans. However, it was eventually decided to place the organ in the north transept.  Originally the choir stalls were intended to be situated in the chancel to the east of the central tower but fortunately Mr. Henry Willis, the organ builder, suggested that they be moved to their present position under the central tower thereby bringing the choir closer to the organ.  This change allowed the high altar to be moved away from the east wall to give a passageway behind – the present-day clergy vestry.

The organ console was originally situated within the organ case yet, as you could imagine, this arrangement had several disadvantages the main one being that the organist did not have a clear view of either the altar or the choir.  Power for the organ was provided by a coal fired gas-engine which by 1896 was no longer fit for purpose which resulted in the organ being handicapped by an insufficient supply of wind.  Fortunately, that year the Precentor, Rev. Alfred Griffiths, offered to present the Cathedral with an electric console for the organ. This was funded by a legacy he had received some time in the past.  The cost of the new console was estimated to be about £800 and would be provided by Mr. Robert Hope-Jones of the Electric Organ Company, Birkenhead.  This was first mentioned in the August 1896 Monthly Paper.

“The console itself is an instrument resembling a large harmonium, and will have in it four manuals to control the four parts of the organ, viz., the choir, the great, the swell, and the solo, and also a pedal board to control the pedal organ.  This console will be movable, and consequently can be placed at any spot selected by the organist for the better hearing of the choir or organ.

To connect this console with the various parts of the organ a single flexible cable, an inch and a fourth in diameter, will be employed, and will be carried underground to the inside organ case.  Notwithstanding the great size of the organ, a very small current of electricity will be employed: a few dry cells only will be necessary.  The console will be mounted on castors and enclosed in a handsome walnut case to correspond with the beautiful choir stalls of the Cathedral.”

The new console, with the inscription under the stop-keys “To the glory of God, and in memory of G. M. S. a lover of Church Music”, was installed next to the choir stalls thereby affording the organist a much improved view of the high altar and the choir master.  It had been hoped that it would first be used for the Harvest Festival service on 17th October 1897 but was actually first used at Evensong on Saturday 6th November 1897 at the start of that year’s Cathedral Dedication Festival.

That year’s December magazine includes an article written by Mr Collinson, the Organist and Choir Master, which explains in detail how the new console had resulted in a great improvement in the playing of the organ.  As well as the new console, a new gas engine, described in February 1899 as a “Bunsen burner,” had been installed which quadrupled the supply of wind to the organ, thereby ensuring that the organ was no longer underpowered.

Just over a year after his first article, Mr. Collinson writes further about the Cathedral organ. This is a long article which gives a full description of the organ stops and its internal workings, mentioning amongst other matters the 500 magnets and 1,000 miniature pneumatic bellows. The new console included extra electrical contacts which would allow for additional organs to be installed and placed over the west inner porch and in the sanctuary.  Mr. Collinson proposed that the time had now arrived to do just that with the addition of a separate console in the side-chapel (now the Lady Chapel) which would be connected to the sanctuary organ.  He envisaged that as well as these additional organs being able to be played independently, they could all be under the control of the main organ console. The estimated cost of these improvements was given as £1,840.  He hoped that they would be in place for the 25th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral in 1904, but unsurprisingly they were never implemented!

The Hope-Jones console was replaced when the organ was rebuilt by Harrison & Harrison in 1931.

This picture of an organ console was displayed alongside the article in the August 1896 Monthly Paper.

The figure mentioned above of £800 and £1,840 are equivalent to £74,300 and £167,000 today. Robert Hope-Jones led a very interesting and colourful life both in the UK and the USA and if you wish to learn more I suggest you look him up on Wikipedia. – you will not be disappointed!

Next: The Congregation

Easter 7 – sermon preached by Paul Foster Sunday 29th March

Acts 16.16-34

One of my earliest memories after being newly arrived in Edinburgh nearly twenty years ago was walking along Hanover Street, the stretch between Queen Street and George Street. A lady came up to me and asked me something. I could not make out what she said, so I uttered the single word “sorry” and walked away. You might think that would have been the end of the encounter, but you would be wrong! The lady pursued me at a rapid rate. Among her many high-level skills were the following two noteworthy examples. First, she seemed to be remarkably well informed about my parentage. Second, at least in one particular semantic domain, the lady had a quite remarkable vocabulary, combining a range of Scots words with extensive Anglo-Saxon terminology which she recited at some volume. At this point in the encounter, I had the sense that all the eyes of Edinburgh were upon me. In truth, there were probably only two or three people looking in my direction. I tried to quicken my pace, only to find I was matched by the speedy and articulate lady. At that stage, and not at all to my credit, I took what I considered to be the only course of action available – I legged it. After all, I was twenty years younger back then.

The book of Acts tells us of the recent arrival of Paul, Silas and Timothy in Philippi (although Timothy is remarkably absent from the narrative). Last week, in her sermon, Esther, described the encounter with Lydia the seller of purple. We heard how her positive reception of the gospel message led to the opening of her home, and provision of shelter and hospitality. Philippi was a new city built on an ancient site. In 42 B.C. Mark Antony and Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) defeated Cassius and Brutus. After the ensuing power struggle with Mark Antony, Augustus refounded Philippi as a Roman colony. The city and surrounding area was populated with military veterans and Italian farmers. The new inhabitants enjoyed legal privileges as imperial citizens, there was flourishing economic prosperity, and Roman culture predominated. For those who had left their homes to live in the new colony, they certainly made this new city feel like a Rome away Rome.

Having received hospitality from Lydia, Paul and his associates commenced their ministry of gospel proclamation. However, their next encounter with a female in the city was not so congenial. These new arrivals found themselves pursued and hounded by a slave women crying out details of their identity. The text of the story tells us that this young woman had “a spirit of divination.” It is easy at this point to want to interpret the text through our own lens and maybe to understand this as some kind of mental illness. However, perhaps we are better to read this ancient text as it stands, and to resist the temptation to colonize it with our own modern Western worldview and instead simply read it on its own terms. The Greek text does not actually say the woman had a spirit of divination, but that she had a “spirit of python.” Such a designation draws on the fertile mythology of the ancient world, referring to the Greek god Apollo and the story of his defeat of a giant serpent Python. After Apollo’s victory he gained some of the powers of the defeated serpent. In somewhat overlapping mythologies, oracular gifts were also viewed as being possessed by Apollo’s priestess Pythia (a pythoness) who was considered to be a source or reliable prophetic information. This priestess was based at Delphi and the python spirit was considered to be the source of the opaque but reliable Delphic oracles. Therefore, the author of Acts presents the woman in Philippi as enslaved not just by profiteering masters, but also enslaved to a snake like spirit that gave her special insight at a huge personal cost. It is for another day, but one might ask why ancient writers often portrayed women coming under the influence of serpent. Perhaps you can think of another relevant example.

However, taking the story on its own terms, we see an enslaved woman financially exploited for her gift of fortune-telling. In an almost comic scene, we are told that Paul and Silas were heckled by this individual for a number of days. In the end, rather than taking the coward’s action of “legging it”, Paul confronts the woman and performs an ad hoc exorcism. At this point the woman disappears from the story. However, I cannot help but wonder what became of her. Now deprived of her skill was she cast aside as a valueless commodity, or was it the case that freed from the spirit that possessed her that she returned to a more normal life. Unfortunately, we simply do not know.

Instead, the powerful slave-owners step into the narrative. The author of Acts pulls no punches – their motivation is the profit margin. After all, business is business and the fate of a young women seemed inconsequential in comparison. The charge brought against Paul and his associates was that they were causing confusion in the city and his accusers state that Paul and his companions were “advocating customs that are not lawful for us to accept or observe being Romans.” The elite in the city of Philippi revelled in their status as Romans, not only did it make them feel superior, but moreover they wanted to resist any change to the status quo that protected the elite and oppressed the slaves. Consequently, after some rough justice, Paul and Silas received a beating and were thrown in jail. One of my academic colleagues is conducting research into ancient jails (rather him than me!). They were particularly unpleasant places – often subterranean, poorly ventilated, no separate space for bodily functions – hence they were putrid, disease-ridden, inmates were malnourished, and such prisons were likely designed to shorten life-expectancy. We are told that Paul and Silas were confined in the innermost prison cell – a place of utter imprisonment and darkness. Yet despite the bleakness of the reported circumstances, with feet in stocks, we are told that their response was the singing of hymns in praise to God. The author then provides us with another detail that jars with our own worldview – that of a miraculous earthquake. The response of the Philippian jailer is something that only makes sense in a different context. In our society, those in positions of power tend not to accept responsibility for wrong doing. Rather, blame-shifting, equivocation, and manipulation of facts appear to be the stock in trade. By contrast, out of a heavy sense of personal guilt at failing in his task, the Philippian jailer decides to “fall on his sword” – and that was no metaphor. Paul intervenes, reassuring the man that all the prisoners are still present. Until Paul spoke, that was not obvious to the jailer given the lack of light in the prison.

The response in reported in such a mundane manner that its strangeness might allude us. The Philippian jailer recognizes that Paul and his companions as ‘sirs’ or in the Greek kyrioi, that is as ‘lords’ and asks what he can do that he might be saved. Paul’s response is a rejection of the title kyrioi ‘lords’, and instead directs the jailer to the true Lord as he instructs him to ‘believe in the Lord Jesus.’ The response is instant, the transformation striking, and the profession of faith immediate. The jailer tended to the needs of Paul and Silas, and along with his household received baptism as new believers in God.

The author of Acts has transported to a world which at first we may not recognize as being like our own. Yet it is world where violence is prevalent, people are treated as mere commodities, and the business interests of the elite are given precedence over the needs of the poor. Is it little wonder that despite its strangeness this story still speaks to us so powerfully today?

“It is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people.” That is a slogan that sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it. This week in Uvalde nineteen children aged between seven and ten and two adults were shot dead. A further seventeen people were injured. Some parents rushed to the school. One father interviewed described how he comforted a little girl splattered with blood. She recounted how she had run when her best friend Amerie Jo Garza was shot dead next to her. It was in that instant, while comforting another little girl, that the father heard the name of his ten year old daughter who had died as a victim of the wanton and incomprehensible violence. There have already been repeated calls, as there have been before, for reform of laws and controls on gun ownership. However, in response a Texan senator rejected the link between the prevalence of gun ownership and the unrelenting sequence of school shootings. The father who learnt of the death of his beloved Amerie asked the unanswerable, what had she ever done wrong to deserve this.

Prioritization of profits over people, politics over principles, and the right to bear arms over the right to live into adulthood are not new perspectives. For all its strangeness the vivid story from Acts is remarkably relevant. If the well-being of the weakest in society is overlooked then our communities will descend into chaos and anarchy. Our gospel reading draws to a conclusion Jesus’ lengthy farewell speech. Rather than expressing concern regarding his own fate, Jesus instead speaks about those unknown by the powerful in the world. His desire is not to retain, but to share his glory, and that those unnamed and unknown in human society might find their identity and sense of being as part of the inner life and community that exists between the Father and the Son. In this way, the love that Jesus receives from the Father is not to be guarded like a commodity, rather it is to be shared as a way of enriching all who will partake of it.

When we gather round our common table shortly we will pour out a little wine into a cup. It reminds us of a life laid down in love. But today, without detracting from Christ’s supreme act of sacrificial love, perhaps it will serve to focus our minds on other broken and needlessly lost lives. To consider ways in which we can provide a sense of belonging and home for the broken and destitute. So, from a troubled lady on the streets of Edinburgh not engaged with the dignity she deserved, to thousands of displaced, damaged and dying people in Ukraine, to desperate and despairing families in Uvalde, for Amerie Jo Garza and twenty others needlessly killed, for the healing of the nations, for the turning of swords into ploughshares, and that the Father might make his home with all those treated by the world as commodities, we ask, Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.


On average, 12 children were baptised each month during the Victorian period with 1887 leading the way with 154 christenings. Unsurprisingly, the most popular names were William, James and John for the boys and Mary, Margaret and Elizabeth for the girls.  Although there were some unusual names such as Mafeking, Redvers, Ermentrude and Marmion. Happily, the number of confirmation candidates was also buoyant averaging 99 per year over this period. Indeed, in some years there were so many candidates that two confirmation services each year were required.

Sadly, however, in some years 24 children under the age of 6 died.  We know this from when in 1887 the age at death, as well as the names of the departed, were printed in the Monthly Paper. In the period 1887 to 1900, 224 children under the age of 6 died, adding up to over 33% of all deaths.

Despite this sobering figure children featured in many positive ways in the Monthly Paper from participation in sewing classes, to the Sunday School, education and, of course, the choristers.

Every Saturday afternoon from November to May, sewing classes met in the Water of Leith Mission in the Dean Village and the Dalry Mission. The average number enrolled for these classes totalled 160, with 120 regularly attending each month. The class started at 2:30 with the signing of a hymn followed by an hour of instruction finishing with another hymn.  As well as producing clothes for themselves the children also sent their work to Africa as part of the Cathedral’s overseas mission commitment. On the last Saturday in May all the children met together in the Water of Leith Schoolroom and after having tea together they received their prizes and the clothing they had made themselves.

In addition, from December 1884 a Girls’ Clothing Club was established.

“This Clothing Club has been begun, in order to enable young girls, on their attaining a proper age for going to service, to enter on their first situation, with a suitable supply of clothing.

A weekly meeting is held, to which the girls are expected to come, to learn to cut out, and make the clothing themselves.

They have also to pay 1d. a week, and in return, after, the first year’s membership, have a right to a certain amount of clothing, (more or less according to the time they have been members), with a small bonus added.

The clothing will be of thoroughly good material.

Clothes not to be given until the girl has got a situation.

The meetings are held in the Cathedral Mission House, Water-of-Leith.

Girls wishing to join had better go to one of the meetings, and see the teacher.”

The Sunday School classes for the Cathedral children were held in the Water of Leith Mission. In April 1879 there were 111 children, by July 1894 the number had increased to 400 and by 1900 the combined Water of Leith & Dalry Sunday Schools numbered 831.  There were two sets of classes each Sunday at 10.00 am and 3.00 pm and from February 1881 the lessons taught in Sunday School were listed in the Monthly Paper “for the sake not only of the teachers and the children, but also of the parents, who will know what their children have been learning, so that they can question them at home upon what they have heard at school.”

From 1884 younger children could attend a Day Nursery in the Water of Leith’s Mission House while their mothers attended the morning Sunday service. For this facility a charge of a half-penny per child was levied although bread and milk were provided. This initiative was reported as being a success with 24 children attending by the second week. Presumably for security reasons, the door was locked at 10.45 am and opened again at 12.45.

There was, usually in June, the annual Sunday School Outing.  The outing in June 1881 was typical and this report in the July 1881 Monthly Paper gives an idea of what happened on these occasions.

“Sunday School Treat.

On Tuesday, June 21st, our Sunday school children were taken to Dalkeith for a summer treat, the Duke of Buccleuch having kindly given permission to the school to play in his park.

A special train was put on at the Haymarket Station for them, which ran straight through to Dalkeith; about 365 children and 48 adults made up the party.  On their arrival, they found lunch ready, after which they played cricket (the Dalry and Water of Leith boys playing a match), had bowls, swings, croquet, ran races, and seemed thoroughly to enjoy themselves.  Then they had tea, prizes for racing, etc., were given away, and then they marched off to the station in capital order, and reached the Haymarket Station in safety and happiness.

Great thanks are due to those who organised and carried out the arrangements, which were most admirable. The improvement in the tone and behaviour of the children was most marked, so that there is abundant cause for thankfulness and every reason to believe that our Sunday schools are doing real practical good.”

There were also winter treats; this is from the February 1884 Monthly Paper.

“Sunday School Treats.

During the last month the various Sunday Schools (we have four – Water of Leith, Dalry, Gorgie, Tynecastle) had their treats, which were greatly enjoyed.  Our newest school, at Tynecastle, had its treat in our new Mission Hall, and the Gorgie children joined them.  The children were greatly delighted by some really beautiful magic lantern pictures illustrating the Prince of Wales’ visit to India, and Sir John Frankin’s expedition in the Arctic regions.  Everything seems to promise well in our new mission field in Tynecastle, and we wish our people would warmly interest themselves in it.

Mrs Tuke appeals strongly for an additional Teacher at Gorgie.  It is some way out from the town (1½ miles), but surely it would be a labour of love to many. Perhaps the Mission will stir up hearts to undertake this, no doubt fatiguing but really useful Church work.”

A shortage of Sunday School teachers appears to have been a common problem shared by other churches and an appeal for help from St Columba’s was printed in the October 1883 magazine.

“My congregation is now, with a very few exceptions, composed entirely of the working class, and we must look elsewhere for the assistance of competent teachers.  We have both boys and girls without any one to instruct them.  It is the afternoons that we more especially need assistance.  Will no one who reads this appeal come over and help us?  Yours faithfully, Charles E. Bowden, Incumbent of S. Columba’s. – September 17, 1883. “

The general school education of the Cathedral’s children was a matter of concern to the clergy, the main worries centred round the children being exposed to the Presbyterian Catechism and to a prejudicial view of the Episcopal Church’s history. There were frequent appeals to parents not to send their children to Board schools but to use Church schools instead.  It was pointed out that “The Dean School is not a Church school.  We mention this because a parent confidingly sent a child there, thinking it was the Dean’s School!”

The Episcopal Church did have a representative on the Edinburgh School Board, and he was successful in persuading the Board of “the need for the observance of Christmas Day.  In future the schools under the Edinburgh Board will be closed on that great Festival.   It is, however, greatly to be hoped, that if ever Christmas Day becomes a public holy-day in Scotland it will never be sullied by the conduct which characterises the observance of the so-called National feast of New Year’s Day.”

The choir sang three services on Sundays – 11.00 am Morning Prayer followed by Communion and Evening Prayer at 3.30 pm and 7.00 pm. On Monday to Saturday there was Evening Prayer at 5.00 pm. From May 1880 the choir also attended Morning Prayer at 11.00 am.  Interestingly, the term ‘Evensong’ was not used and ‘Matins’ only occasionally.  There was also a Children’s Service on the 3rd Sunday of each month which from November 1893 was supported by a choir consisting of probationers.

As well as services within the Cathedral the choir boys also visited the Sick Children’s Hospital each January to sing carols as this report printed in February 1897 illustrates.

“The rapt attention of the little invalids, some of whom kept time to the carols by tapping on their dinner boards, while other tuneful ones essayed a supplementary lilt of their own; the bursting into song of a pet canary at the loudest parts or choruses, the fraternising of the Choir boys with the occupants of the cots between times, were all incidents full of tender interest, and the visit was felt to be one of mutual profit and pleasure.”

As with the Sunday School, it was not all work for the choristers and there was an annual outing usually to Aberdour via the ferry from Leith harbour. This report in the September 1884 Monthly Paper is typical.

Forty-two boys and 5 adults assembled at the east end of the Cathedral, at half-past six of the morning of August 7th, and after driving to Leith harbour, embarked in the Lord Morton, and had a delightful sail to Aberdour.

There breakfast was awaiting them in the hotel, supplied by the excellent Mr. Grieg, and superintended by himself and his attentive maidens.  The friends of the choristers will be glad to hear that this year they had perfect weather, although they were reminded of the thunder of two former occasions, by the constant boom of the guns of the Sultan, which was that day bombarding the innocent island of Inchkeith.

The boys seemed to enjoy themselves very much with football, tug-of-war, and other games, and bathing for many of them.  Luncheon was brought on to the ground, and a famous tea was done justice to on returning to the hotel at six o’clock.”

However, the weather was not always kind and in 1889 “the sea passage was by no means so agreeable as it had been in the early morning; the consequence being that several of the band were made aware of an unpleasant illness, which inexperienced travellers on the deep are often liable to suffer from.  “But all is well that ends well”, and though upon arrival home many were almost soaked by the heavy downpour of rain, yet the next day there were no bad results of the journey and wetting.”

The work that went on behind the scenes to keep the choristers presentable for services was undertaken by a team of ladies led by Miss Clementina Gamgee and this extract from the August 1887 Monthly Paper illustrates the work involved.  “Perhaps many in the congregation who see, week by week, the choristers appear in clean surplices and tidy cassocks, have never thought much of the great labour involved in keeping these vestments so carefully in repair.  When it is known that nearly a hundred cassocks and surplices have to be re-made, mended, patched, and constantly examined from time to time it will be seen that there is no light responsibility up on those who undertake the work.  And who is there, that knows anything of boys and their ways, that will not sigh at the thoughts of cassocks rent by carelessness, buttons plucked out by the very roots, and holes torn in the neck to hang them up by?”

There were also recreational activities and visits to the Corporation Baths in Caledonian Crescent, which opened in 1885. These trips where the boys were taught how to swim by the Precentor, Rev. Alfred Griffiths. On Saturday 21st November 1896 two of the senior choir boys, William Toddie and David McGibbon cycled from the Cathedral to Berwick-on-Tweed accompanied by the Precentor.  The boys came back by train arriving home at 9.00 pm. Interestingly it is reported that “McGibbon was mounted on the bamboo machine, and Toddie on a Haymarket, specially built for the boys by Mr. Downie.” William Toddie was killed in action on 4th June 1917 at the Second Battle of Arras.

Former choristers kept in touch after they left the choir and by June 1900 there was a Cycling Club which met every Wednesday and a Cricket Club which practised in the summer on weeknights and Saturday afternoons in Inverleith Park.

Towards the end of the Victorian period in 1900, there is reference to a Boys’ Club based at the Dalry Mission.  The May 1900 magazine has an article which is written in an unusual way.

“A visitor writes that ‘he recently attended the Mission Hall at Dalry to see the progress made by the boys under Sergeant Fraser of the 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, an experienced instructor, who was secured through the interest of one of the Sunday School teachers.  Sergeant Fraser has worked wonders, and the raw material is now in a most workmanlike condition.  The boys enjoy the physical exercises and drill, and appreciate their instructor – a great point.  The lads assemble every Friday at 9 p.m., for one hour.  The club was started and is carried on, by the Misses Ramsay and Miss Milne-Miller, to whose interest, and almost unknown labours, much credit is due.  Boys and young men between the ages of 15 and 21 respectively, and who are either members of the Dalry Bible class or Sunday School, are admitted,.  If members of the Cathedral congregation would kindly give themselves the opportunity some Friday evening before the middle of May (when the physical tuition will cease until next autumn) of inspecting the boys at their exercises, encouragement would be given to the founders of the Club, the teacher, and the boys themselves.  So far there have been no visitors with the exception of the writer!’”


The Cathedral finances have always been a matter of concern for the Cathedral Board and clergy.  As well as the collections taken at the various services, a system of regular contributions or subscriptions was in place – the Victorian equivalent to a standing order or direct debit mandate.  In most cases a collector would visit parishioners to persuade them to subscribe to, and to collect for, one or more of several good causes, although there could be a separate collector for each good cause.  The amounts collected were faithfully recorded in the collectors’ books and once a year the results of the various subscriptions were published in the Monthly Paper giving full details of how much each member of the congregation contributed in the previous year to each of the good causes, only a few seemed to have contributed anonymously.

The most important subscription was to the Clergy Fund and in 1890 there were 23 collectors who visited 381 subscribers and collected a total of £573 16s 1d which is roughly equivalent to £78,000 today.  This was a reduction on the previous year which no doubt led to the following appeal in the February 1891 Monthly Paper.  “The Cathedral congregation is not a wealthy one, but it is numerous.  There are perhaps few who can give largely, but there are many who could give a little.  The diminution in the total sum collected, points to a want of interest on the part of those who can give more than the smallest sums.  We ought not to depend to such an extent as we now do, upon a few large subscriptions.”

Sadly this appeal was not that successful as only £542 13s 10d was collected in 1891.  The level of subscription to this fund never really recovered throughout the rest of the Victorian period although by 1901 it had improved to £555 9s 1d.

The use of subscription books was not confined to the Cathedral; an article published in January 1887 tells us that in Edinburgh there were between 80 and 90 of these books.  The article also gave the following advice. “As it is impossible to give to all, we would claim for the members of our own congregation their first care for the books sent out by authority from their own Church.  The collecting books sent round from the Cathedral are for the following objects: – Clergy Fund, Home Missions, Education Fund, Foreign Missions, Cathedral Parochial Missions.”

The five funds mentioned above averaged annually £555 for the Clergy Fund, £155 for Home Missions, £58 for the Education Fund, £180 for Foreign Missions and £197 for the Cathedral Parochial Missions.  In addition the Aged & Infirm Clergy Fund, which started in 1891, brought in £48 a year.

Within three years of opening, the Cathedral was in serious debt and an article printed in the June 1882 Monthly Paper reminded readers of a sermon preached by the Dean on 14th May in which he set out the stark realities of the financial situation.  The figures printed in the magazine show that the Cathedral was £700 in debt [roughly £89,600 today] and that the weekly offerings, averaging £26, were well below the required amount of £40.  It was made clear that if matters did not improve, there was a possibility that the choir would have to be reduced and daily services cease.

The offertory on the 14th May was almost £40 but it fell the following Sunday to £32.

Matters did improve and the November 1883 Monthly Paper reported that the debt had reduced to less than £200 and it was felt that this would soon be reduced altogether as this extract shows. “It is thought that by a liberal offertory on one Sunday, this small debt can be entirely cleared off.  When we see how easily £30 is given on a Sunday (so few half-crowns and florins, etc.), we need not think it difficult to raise £150 or £200.  The object is good, and if we only do what we can, we know we shall succeed, and then we shall be free from debt altogether.”

However, the good news did not last long, there was a further warning article in February 1887 and then by February 1890 the debt had grown to £320 [about £43,700 in today’s terms] which was blamed on a “falling off in the weekly offertories – or in other words to the congregation contributing less liberally than before to the ordinary appeal for defraying the expenses for maintaining the Cathedral and its services.  This surely ought not to be – nor need not be.  It cannot be said that the congregation is overtaxed.  When two or three years ago the Cathedral funds were in a worse state than they now are, an appeal to the congregation cleared off the debt, and for a time raised the income to the necessary point. But it has fallen back again.  What we ask for is not a spasmodic effort, but that each should consider how great must be the expenses of attending such a Church and such services, and should give steadily and systematically, according to their means, as an offering to God.”

There was a £51 deficit for the financial year ending 30th November 1901, which was covered by an anonymous donor. However, the February 1902 magazine made clear that the weekly offerings “should never fall below £35 if the services of the Cathedral are to be maintained free of debt.” The average weekly offerings for January were £25.

Cathedral Services

Cathedral Services

In the Victorian era there were more services each Sunday than there are today.  There was a service of Communion at 8.00 am, Morning Prayer at 11.00 am followed by Communion and Evening Prayer at 3.30 pm and 7.00 pm.  There was also an additional Communion service at 7.00 am on the second Sunday of each month.  Sermons were preached at the 11.00 am, 3.30 pm and 7.00 pm services.  During the week, including Saturdays, there were services of Communion at 8.00 am, Morning Prayer at 11.00 am and Evening Prayer at 5.00 pm.  Details of the hymns, settings and anthems to be sung during the month were published in the magazine.

Members of the congregation were expected to bring their own hymn books. This is made clear in the very first magazine in January 1879 under the heading of “Congregational Singing”.

“The Hymn Book used is the new addition of Ancient and Modern.  The pointing for the Canticles and Psalms is Elvey’s.  We hope that those who can afford to buy it (price 2s. 6d., to be obtained from Messrs. Grant and Son, Princes Street, or Messrs. Hamilton and Müller, George Street) will do so, in order that by singing the correct pointing they may help to make the service really hearty, whilst incorrect pointing is too liable to create confusion, and make the words unintelligible.”

However, as not everybody could afford to buy a hymn book and psalter, a “generous friend” funded the cost of having the words of the hymns and psalms due to be sung at the evening services printed and distributed for a period of three months starting in October 1895.  An appeal was made for other members of the congregation to contribute towards the cost of providing hymn sheets for the following year up to Easter – the cost of doing this was given as about 12s for each Sunday.  However this seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as a further appeal was made in the December Monthly Paper.

There are several articles covering special services such as Christmas and Easter usually focusing on what the clergy considered to be poor congregational turnout.  The number of communicants attending the Christmas services was a particular concern. The 1887 Christmas celebrations with 858 communicants set a standard that the following years had trouble matching and it was also reported that Matins and Evening Prayer that day had been so well attended that many people were forced to stand throughout the service!  It also mentioned that the Bishop was the Celebrant at the morning Communion service “and wore his cope at this service, thereby making a link with many English Cathedrals where the cope is always worn by the Bishop of the diocese when he celebrates the Holy Eucharist in his own Cathedral.”  One possible reason for the good turnout that year could have been that Christmas Day fell on a Sunday.

In 1888 there were 602 communicants. This increased to 644 in 1889.  In an effort to improve numbers further, the December 1890 Monthly Paper made it clear that “There is no reason why there should be 400 fewer Communicants on Christmas Day than on Easter Day, which is generally the case with us at the Cathedral; last year there were not 700 Communicants on Christmas Day itself.”  The fact that members of the congregation would usually have to work on Christmas Day seemed, in the eyes of the clergy, not to be an excuse for not attending the Cathedral.  Services of Communion at 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. were expressly arranged to enable those working on Christmas Day to make their Communion in the early morning.  “The 5 a.m. Celebration is provided for the benefit of the laity who have to work, and not for the amusement or employment of the Clergy, who would have a long day even without this service.  Instead of the usual 20 or 30 who come, there might easily be 200 at the very least, if the laity responded to their duty.  Will not some of our working friends respond to this invitation, and make use of the opportunity this year, and show they appreciate the chance given of this early Communion.”

This exhortation did not have the desired effect as this extract from January 1891 shows.

“At the 5 a.m. Celebration there was 34 communicants, being exactly the same number as last year.  At 7 a.m. there were 130 communicants; but it was at 8 a.m. that there was a fairly large increase.  During the day there were 654 communicants, and with those who have made their Communion during the Octave, and the sick, the number is brought up to 700 or 710.  There is still room for an improvement, for if 1100 can come at Easter-tide, there ought to be 1100 also at Christmas-tide.  There are 300 or 400 who have clearly broken the plainest of the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, which orders, “That every Parishioner shall communicate three times in the year, of which, Easter to be one.”  Clearly, Christmas comes next!

In January 1892 it was reported that “some 105 large firms appended their names to a list of those who were ready to close their place of business; and, no doubt, next year the list will again be larger and more characteristic of Edinburgh citizenship.”  The point was made, however, that this extra holiday could result in “an increase in the consumption of strong drink and unrestrained morals”.

This reservation seemed to be based on what was happening south of the border. “An English Good Friday turned into a day of revelry is even worse than a Scottish New Year’s Day, with its train of drunkenness and immorality.”    It was not until 1958 that Christmas Day became a public holiday in Scotland.

In April 1885 the clergy were concerned about a deficit of £116 [about £15,800 today] in the Cathedral’s finances, and expressed the hope that the Easter Offertory would be especially good.  This plea was successful as a total of 1,146 communicants attended the various Easter Communion services.  However, the question was asked in the May edition as to where these people had been the rest of the year!

An interesting article printed in April 1898 sets down how the congregation should conduct themselves when receiving communion.

“Services, etc., for Easter Day.

The following hints are given in the hope of securing greater orderliness in the chancel: –

  1. Communicants must approach the alter rails by the centre passage; not by the side gates.
  2. They should advance in lines, on either side of the passage, keeping their place in the line until they reach the lower steps of the sanctuary.
  3. They should come forward as soon as the celebrant begins to hand the vessels to the assistant clergy; but members of the choir who communicate at the choral celebrations should be allowed to return to the stalls before the other communicants advance beyond the centre of the choir stalls.
  4. In retiring from the altar rails all (except members of the choir) must pass out from the sanctuary by the side gates, and return to their places.
  5. No one should rise from kneeling at the altar rail until the clergyman has finished administering the cup to the person next on the right.

It is not unnecessary for a reminder to be given that persons who enter the Church too late to hear the Gospel for the day, ought not to come forward to receive the Holy Communion on that occasion. Nor should any who have communicated leave the Church until the Benediction has been pronounced.  When exceptional circumstances, such as care of the sick, etc., necessitate an earlier departure, then at least the remaining prayers should be read over privately before leaving the Church.”

A poor turnout at Whitsun 1888 provoked this strongly worded article in the June 1888 Monthly Paper.  The use of upper-case letters in the heading emphasises the seriousness of this matter.


At the three celebrations on Whitsun Day there were only 360 communicants.  This was a slight increase upon last year; but in spite of this attendance was very far below what it should have been.  The rubric at the end of the Communion Service expressly orders – ‘And note, that every parishioner shall communicate AT THE LEAST three times in the year, of which Easter is to be one.’

Although there is a silence regarding the two other days for Communion (expected and required of all Churchpeople) the Anglican Church has a clear unwritten rule that the two other feasts are Christmas Day and Whitsun Day.  It is only in the Roman Church that one Communion (to be made during the octave of Easter) suffices for Church membership; and we are sorry to say that there are many who evidently are satisfied if they fulfill this requirement of a foreign church, for there are numbers in our congregation who communicate but once a year, and that on Easter Day.”

The Cathedral celebrated Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in June 1887 and the event was covered in the July magazine.  The service itself, which was a Diocesan celebration, was well received with the Cathedral choir being supplemented by choirs from other churches in the Diocese as well as an orchestra. However, what should have been a joyous occasion seemed to have had some underlying niggles as shown in the following extract!

“The offertory reached £33, and an analysis of the coins is published on anther page, from which it may be seen that 1500 people contributed; as there were certainly some 1800 people present, a great many gave nothing whatever to the offertory.  We fear that there has been some annoyance caused to members of the Cathedral congregation concerning the tickets for reserved chairs; but we may remind such as are aggrieved, that it was a service for the Diocese, and not for one congregation alone; and had tickets been given to all Cathedral worshippers, there would have been a “bitter cry” from the Diocese!”

Next: Finances

Iain Morrison Hon. Archivist.

Pentecost – Sermon preached online by the Vice Provost, Marion Chatterley

‘How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?’.

We hear and see and taste and smell each in our own unique way, emerging from our own life experiences and personal make up. Babies learn how to make sense of what they encounter by looking and touching and tasting – and as we journey through our lives, we continue to gather information that helps us to process what our brains encounter. We learn that things that look a particular way have a certain texture; that things that don’t look inviting probably don’t taste so good; that people from different cultures use their mouths differently and are able to make different sounds as they speak and sing. Our native language is more than just the use of a particular alphabet or phraseology; our native language connects with who we are physically and physiologically. Some languages are expressive, romantic; some languages are functional and sound harsh to other ears; some have sounds that people from other cultures are simply incapable of imitating. Some people communicate by signs and gestures – there may be no sound.  Those differences in how we use our ears and mouths are true of our other senses as well. That may be less about cultural differences and perhaps a little more about lived experience. Our native language is about more than words.

Think for a moment about looking with other people at a work of art. As an example, here’s a Turner painting from the National Gallery. I wonder what catches your attention. Do you scan the landscape for familiar buildings or is your eye drawn to the people in the foreground? Knowing it’s a Turner, do you check out the sky, wondering what the Edinburgh weather was like that day? And if you were to come back to it tomorrow, would you focus on the same things or would your eye be drawn towards something different? What happens when someone points out something that they have just noticed? The gallery notes tell me that the building to the east of Regent Bridge is a Masons’ shed – does that little bit of information help you to see the painting differently? Art speaks to us in its own voice – and we respond with our own voice.

Of course, it’s not just our visual sense that takes in information in ways that are particular to us. Our sense of smell is a good example of personal response to the same stimulus. One person’s beautiful aroma is another person’s nightmare scent. A good example of that is the smell of a wet dog – you either love it or hate it. And the answer is probably rooted in experiences you’ve had in your life. Look again at the painting – what smells might it evoke for you? Can you imagine how that scene might sound? What would it feel like to be there, to be one of those people that Turner painted?

So here we are at Pentecost, celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit – each hearing in their own native language. Each engaging and responding from a place of lived experience. For the disciples, a lived experience of the presence of God in the human form of Jesus Christ; and then they found themselves gifted with a new way to engage with God in the form of the Holy Spirit. Imagine yourself now into that scene from Acts. What might you see and hear and smell and feel?

And now imagine hearing one of the disciples speaking in a language that is familiar to you, speaking in English, communicating in a way that you can pick out and understand. Allow yourself to be reminded that the Holy Spirit is God’s gift for God’s people.

We can be quick to think that the Holy Spirit is only about holy moments; that we pray for the Holy Spirit to bless us at particular moments in our liturgy, but that it’s not prominent in our day to day lives. What it we reframe that thinking and see the Spirit as multi-faceted, see the Spirit as a pathway to and from God that resonates for us in different ways at different times. What if our experience of the Holy Spirit can be shaped by our lived experience; what if an encounter with that Holy Spirit is available to us a lot more of the time if we only shift our awareness?

We already think and speak about our encounters with God the Creator as being multi-faceted. We might recognise the hand of God in the landscape of the Highlands; we might feel close to God when we’re walking in the Pentlands; we might hear God with us when we’re praying alone; we might feel that God is present when we gather to worship. This morning, I’d like to consider that our encounters with the Holy Spirit are similarly multi-faceted and are rooted within our lived experience of engaging within our cultural context.

We hear, each of us, in our own native language. We hear more and more clearly when we listen. We hear more and more clearly when we dig a bit deeper to broaden our understanding of what our native language might be. As soon as we remember that language is about much more than words, our perspective changes. In a place like this, that’s perhaps especially apparent as we listen to the language of music and liturgy and are surrounded by visual stimuli. Within our church community, we perhaps hear even more when we begin to share with other people.

In the same way that sharing what we saw within the painting broadened our experience, so sharing what we hear and see and feel when we encounter God deepens our own experience and has the potential to impact on those who listen to us. We’re not always good at discussing our experiences of God; they can feel private, personal, so fleeting that we don’t know whether to mention them. But if we create opportunities to take that risk, to offer a word or an image or a feeling, maybe, just maybe, someone who is listening will hear in their native language.

As we make plans to gather together again, I wonder whether there may be people within this worshipping community who would be willing to take that kind of risk. People who would like to gather as a small group – or groups – that would offer the space to access and share something of each person’s native language, each person’s unique response, each person’s lived experience. This would be a different way to pray together, an opportunity to focus on our own journeying and deepening. An opportunity to actively walk alongside, to share what might be an emerging language for all of us.

Whether we intentionally go forward with others, or commit to being a little more aware day by day, the gift of the Spirit journeys with us and for us. I pray that with our ears and our eyes, with our voices and our senses we will each recognise and honour that Spirit.

Epiphany – Marion Chatterley, Vice Provost – 5/1/2020

We’ve journeyed from Christmas to Epiphany – 12 days that have taken us from shepherds to kings by way of a star.  12 days that remind us, yet again, of the enormity of the Incarnation, that moment when the world really was changed.

Just over a week ago, during the first services of the Christmas season, we heard one of our best loved passages of Scripture, St John’s revelation of the mystery of the Incarnation – in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Our Christmas celebrations began with a reminder that the truth about God is a revelation, that this is all about mystery; that it’s a truth we know in our hearts rather than our heads.

This morning, as we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, our focus is on sharing more widely the revelation that Jesus is God incarnate.  That revelation is represented by the arrival of the Magi who have moved into our crib scene to give us a visual reminder.  The essence of the revelation is spelled out to us in our reading from the letter to the Ephesians.  The revelation this writer is referring to is of the mystery of God, the otherness of God, the inclusive nature of God.

This is the moment in the Christmas story when it is spelled out, more or less in words of one syllable, that the Incarnation is for all humanity, that, as St Paul said in the letter to the Galatians, there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female…  The mystery of God was revealed to and for the whole of humanity, without difference, without any kind of hierarchy, without comment.  The Word didn’t become flesh as an end game; the word became flesh as a starting place, the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the relationship between God and humankind.

One of the tasks of this Cathedral is to share the story of the Good News with people who visit our building.  Not just those who join us for worship, but the many people who come into this building, perhaps as part of their exploration of our city; people who come looking initially at what we have and who, in that pursuit, may discover something about who we are.  Our challenge, I suggest, is for our visitors to both see and experience something of interest, something that touches them and makes a difference to their spiritual lives.

This is not just another venue on the tourist trail, it’s an active and living place of worship, a building whose primary purpose is to glorify God and to support people in their own journeys towards engagement with their God.

I like to observe people as they arrive in the building when there isn’t an act of worship underway.  People find their way through the glass doors and they almost always are stopped in their tracks.  Whatever they had anticipated, it’s not what they find here.  The sheer scale and proportions of the building speak for themselves.  People arrive at the West end and they can’t help but look up.  At the moment, they see Mike Appleby’s sculpture – the star of Bethlehem leading to the crown of thorns, the baby in the manger who will within months be remembered as the Crucified and resurrected one.  People stop because the physical surroundings cause them to stop, but I think it’s something more than that.  People stop in their tracks because there is something intangible that they meet as soon as they come into this place.  This is a place that seeks to say something by its very existence.

When those people orientate themselves, most of them then do one of two things.  They may stop at the candle stands and light a candle, say a prayer, perhaps even sit for a time.  Others wander around, looking at the art and the windows and the altars.  Most of them will find their way to the painting of the Presence in the North Aisle here.  Some people come specifically to see that painting.  It’s a painting that tells us something about the Epiphany, tells us something about what the revelation of God is about in this place.  The painting shows the grandeur of the building, it tells us something about the human response to God, the use of gifts and skills to create somewhere that speaks of something and someone far beyond itself.  But it also speaks about the mystery of God, the God whom we encounter when we least expect it, the God who seeks us out even when we don’t think we’re looking in that direction.

The Presence reminds us that a part of our mission in this place is to find ways to say something about the revealed mystery of God, to be sure that we are alert to the possibilities that arise to share more than the glory of our building, but to point people towards the glory of God.

This morning’s reminder is that God is the God of all people – whoever and however they are.  There is not a chosen elite, each of us is invited to make a choice – a choice to follow in the footsteps of the Magi, to travel this particular path alongside the earliest believers and disciples; to follow the light and the word, journeying towards our God, allowing ourselves to open our eyes and hearts to the revealed mystery that is told and explored within our Scriptures and in our lived experience.

The painting of the Presence has two points of focus.  There is a strong and compelling light over the High Altar, a light that draws us to that place where the bread is taken and broken – for every one of us.  And at the same time, our eyes are drawn to that place at the very back of the Cathedral where the Christ is fully present.  Fully present for every one of us.

The daily celebration of the Eucharist in this place is a reminder of the offering of self that God makes to us.  The bread and the wine are blessed and consecrated, they become for us something that is holy, our spiritual food and drink, the means of physical encounter with our Incarnate God.

At the same time, the moments of silence and reflection that we can find here enable us to access the God who is always present in this place, present in the beauty and the holiness, present in the Word and in that Word made flesh.

It’s easy for us to take this place for granted, to forget to look and to reflect because this is where we’ve made our spiritual home.  And so I’d like to suggest that we each set ourselves an exercise over the coming weeks – to come into the building as though it were for the first time.  To come into the building slowly and prayerfully and to allow ourselves to be drawn into the revealed truth that is in these very stones, the revealed truth that God offers to each of us.

Let’s allow ourselves to be drawn into that Presence, both at the altar and as we light a candle.  Whether we identify with the shepherds or the Magi, our Incarnate God is waiting to greet us.