I have been studying the history of St. Columba Gaelic Church where I am Interim Moderator. It is recorded that when Dr. Norman MacLeod accepted the call to the then newly built St. Columba's Church in Hope Street in 1835 (the predecessor of the present church), the Managers wrote to him enclosing a cheque for 100 guineas, "to assist to defray his removal expenses." While it is difficult to compare values exactly, one calculator tells me that 100 guineas in 1835 is equivalent to £12,495 today. This would have gone well beyond removal expenses from Campsie! It was the most enticing of golden hellos. The rules were different then!
On the eve of Reformation Sunday as I write, and as the Church celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we remember that the chief issue that the reformer Martin Luther had with the church of his day was the use of Indulgences – payments to the church that were said to shorten one’s time in Purgatory, and speed ones journey to heaven. For Luther, this abuse, among a number of others, had to stop. He risked his life in opposing the corruption of his church.
While his efforts did not prevent the misuse of money in the church for evermore, far less in society as a whole, they left us with a clear example to live our lives by if we are to be faithful to the life of Jesus and the teaching of Scripture. This quincentenary is an anniversary truly worth celebrating.
Today, deliberate Government policy is aimed at making life difficult for the poorest and weakest members of society, particularly those affected by Benefits sanctions and delays in starting the payments to which they are entitled, as Universal Credit is rolled out. This has brought the need for Foodbanks to an ever increasing level. Our church, in operating a Foodbank, is doing only what Christians ought to do, as we feed the hungry and take a stand against the inequalities that are in our society. I am nevertheless immensely proud of the commitment of our volunteers and the many generous donors who do this essential work.
We should be proud of our Reformed heritage too, and what it continues to teach us about the just use of wealth, among many other important things. Let us celebrate this anniversary with great joy, and use it to reinforce our commitment to our faith, and to social justice in our land.