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Amanda: Reflections for the Week

It’s Saturday, there is blue sky and the sun is shining…

And we’re in lockdown.

How have you found this week? Are you finding lots of things to fill your time? Or have you found the days long and wearisome?

Our normal family routine has well and truly gone out of the window as my work seems to have taken on a whole new weekly and daily rhythm and school and college are closed.

And if you are someone who like me finds it hard not to do, and just be,

Then enforced time indoors can lead to our days feeling purposeless or without meaning.

But this morning I decided to keep my usual Saturday morning practice of going for a run, and although I didn’t have any company it still made me feel better to get out and do something that I’m used to. I enjoyed the simple pleasure if feeling the wind in my face, and of saying good morning while keeping good social distance to the other path users, dog walkers, a young family and folk out for a walk early before everyone else.

When so much of life is completely out with our control as it is just now it can be helpful to take control of the small things we can; and so, is there something that you could do each day which would give some rhythm or meaning to your day?

Perhaps a walk, watching spring’s progression each day?

Or a time spent mindfully with God praying or dwelling in God’s word.

Could you phone a neighbour or a friend or a family member and let them know they matter to you? Could you volunteer to collect some shopping for an elderly family member or neighbour (but only if it is safe for you to do so)? Perhaps you could write a journal or a blog about your experience on lockdown, or help a grandchild over the phone or a videolink to do some of their school work. Or maybe read a book, take up a new hobby, or learn a new language…

The choice is infinite!

And so why not reflect for a while on what it is that gives your life meaning and purpose? Is it being busy? Is it relationships? Is it work?I was also reminded this week that God created human BEings and not human doings!

And that we are each made in the image of God…

Meaning then that God is reflected in each of us!

And does it that give our lives a whole new meaning?

This time of social distancing and lockdown gives us new opportunities, opportunities to discover who we are without the normal routine, opportunities to discover what really matters to us, and for some of us, opportunities to reset the balance on where our priorities lie…

I pray that you see, and seize the opportunity,

Blessings, Amanda.

Dianes Thoughts: Saturday 28 March

I imagine many of you will be like me and feel that your whole world as we know it has been turned upside down this week.  I realised that life would change for a while, but I wasn’t really expecting to feel like this.   

Last week at this time the schools were closing and I was expecting to be looking after my grandson so his Mum and Dad could work at home.   I wondered how I would keep a lively 5 year old boy entertained and help him keep up with his education – we would do the Body Coach live PE sessions every morning on youtube, maybe check out the live science stream from the Science Centre, craft materials were ordered and I looked forward to helping him with work sent home from school.   We would have fun together – lots of laughs, lots of cuddles.

Just as these plans were made, reality set in!  The Government pleaded with us all to stay within our own households, even family members shouldn’t go into each other’s homes.   So instead of Andrew being here with us most of the week, visits are now to our garden while they are out on their daily walk and we talk to each other from the distance – and definitely no cuddles for Grandma!  The craft materials have arrived but there’s no wee boy here.  But there’s been lots of phone calls and videos and I am so grateful for technology to help keep us in touch.  I’m lucky too that my family live locally.

Now, I’m not usually very good at “technology” things but I’m learning fast and marvel at the ways we can all still keep in contact with each other.   I’ve had phone calls and messages from neighbours I’ve never spoken to before and friends I haven’t spoken to for a long time, meetings through Zoom and I enjoyed our Virtual Coffee Shop on Thursday.   Friends who have resisted Facebook before have now connected to keep in touch.  I hadn’t a clue what Zoom was until the beginning of the week!  And I’m going to attempt doing Messy Church online on Sunday afternoon! 

Let’s all help each other by staying in touch.  Keep phoning and messaging your friends and neighbours – that way we’re sharing God’s love around by showing we care.

Keep safe, stay at home and take care.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In light of the continual spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have been reviewing what we can do to protect our Church family and the local community. This is a rapidly changing situation and updates will be provided here on an ongoing basis.

Following the Government announcement on Monday 16 March, and advice from the Church of Scotland, all worship services are cancelled for the timebeing. All groups and upcoming events have also been postponed.

These groups include Thursday Morning Worship, Messy Church, Cafe Connect, OKy, Men of Faith, Good Morning Ladies, Bible Study, The Guild and our Craft Cafe.

This has been an extremely difficult decision as this will cause the absence of much loved and special relationships over the coming months at a time when these are more important than ever. However, the safety and wellbeing of our Church Family and Community is paramount so we hope you understand.

However, this doesn’t mean the Church is closed completely…


Online Worship

Though we are unable to meet together, Church is more than just a building and we are looking at different ways to stay connected with you all both spiritual and pastoral. We’re posting alternative worship every Sunday morning on our Youtube channel which we’ll also post on our social media pages and website. For our first one, we joined Amanda in the comfort of the vestry.


Thoughts & Reflections

It might be difficult to see positives in the current situation but there is still lots to be grateful for with a loving God here to guide us. We’re posting daily thoughts & reflections on our social media which you can also find here.


Keeping In Touch

Social isolation and distancing is going to be a challenge over the next period so one simple way we can help is by staying connected. As part of this, we’ve redesigned our newsletter which you can register for here:

We’ll be issuing our newsletter weekly and you can find out more details here.

We’re always available online (and like a chat!) so comment, tweet, message us as we’re all in this together.


Community Support

This is a time of great concern and our key focus currently is on how we can support those in need both in our Church Family and our community. We are in conversation with the other Bo’ness Churches in regards to this as its clear that a community effort will be needed to help people through this challenging period both.

As part of this, a community support group has been organised so please sign up to find out more about how you can help.

If you or your organisation would like to get involved then you can also get in touch with us via Facebook, Twitter or admin@bokonline.org.uk


Permanent Measures

Measures continue to be reviewed and put in place in accordance with the latest advice from Public Health Scotland and the NHS. Information and advice notices have been placed at the entrances to the Church, and in all washing areas, and we would ask that you follow these closely.

Due to the postponement of services and groups, the Old Kirk building is currently closed with only limited essential staff entering to maintain facilities and security. The following applies to anyone entering the building:

If you are feeling unwell then please do not enter the building and please follow the latest NHS advice found here. Official advice can also be found from Public Health Scotland and the UK Government.

To put people at ease and to reduce the possibility of infection, the below measures have been put in place and must be adhered to. This is continuing to be reviewed with more measures being added.

  • Paper towel dispensers and handwash have been placed next to all washing areas along with advice notices on how to wash hands thoroughly.
  • Notices have been placed in the kitchen regarding food preparation and cleaning. Anyone using the Kitchen are asked to follow these closely.
  • As food should not be left open for communal sharing there will be no open plates of cakes or biscuits at coffee time after services/gatherings. Instead we’ll have biscuits which are individually wrapped.
  • Those who count the offering are advised to follow good practice of washing their hands before and after.
  • We’ll be replacing our usual handshakes with more imaginative ways to make people welcome.

A Church With History

As part of our weekly newsletter, Ken Rae (our Church Historian) has been working over the last few years to document more about the history of the Old Kirk.
To start things off, heres a look at our origins and current building.

How often have you sat in the sanctuary of the Old Kirk and looked around you at the walls, the ceiling, the windows, etc and given some thought as to how did this building and congregation get here?

By 1643 a church had been erected in Bo’ness, within the parish of Kinneil and in 1649 the parish of Bo’ness was disjoined (separated) from the parish of Kinneil by Act of Parliament. In 1669 the two parishes were re-united as a parish with the name of Bo’ness Parish. The congregation took the name Bo’ness Old Parish Church in 1929 following the union of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland.

The present church was built in 1886-8, being opened for worship on 14th Oct. of the latter year. It consists of a nave with aisles, transepts, chancel, and a tower at the north end, and contains a Dutch pulpit said to have been a gift from Dutch sailors, and a ship in the gallery of the west transept, both transferred from the old church.

It is a large Gothic church with Normandy details designed by Shiells and Thomson, architects, George Street, Edinburgh.  Late in 1877 or early in 1878, Robert Thorton Shiells entered into a partnership with James M Thomson.  It would seem that due to the style of Shiells previous work he remained the principal designer until 1984 when the partnership was dissolved as a result of Shiells bankruptcy.  Robert Shiells was involved in the design of at least 15 churches and various significant buildings throughout Scotland.  The Shiells and Thomson partnership won a competition to design the Old Kirk ( further research to determine the nature of the competition)

It is constructed of snecked, squared rubble with ashlar dressings, using local stone. The building is cruciform in plan with additional stair projections flanking the tower. A four bay nave with aisles has a four stage tower with a faceted spire standing at its north end, overlooking the Forth Estuary.

Above the door of the tower is a sculpture of the burning bush, and a carving of the Duke of Hamilton’s coat-of-arms, in gratitude of his subscription. The 175ft tall tower dominates the coastline. The galleried interior consists of three lofts – the Laird’s Loft under the tower; the Mariners’ in the west transept; and the Miners’ in the east.

The timber roof springs from corbelled shafts, supported on alternating round and octagonal columns by pointed arches about 18ft high. The main couples being supported by carved capitals. The chancel arch facing the congregation is 35ft tall with fine carving at the springs and echoes the large traceried window in the gable.

Just think of the number of historic events both good and bad this building and its congregation have faced throughout the timespan since the laying of the foundation stone

Reflections: Amanda 26 March

Almost time for bed at the end of day 3.
How are you coping?
Please know it is completely normal to be all at sea during this time as we adjust to this new way of life in lockdown. What we are experiencing is grief. We have lost something.
Many of us are grieving our old way of life, we are missing seeing members of our families, our friends and we’re mourning our freedom.
And grief can bring an overwhelming surge of emotions, we may find we’re like a see-saw, up one minute or one day and down the next, with anger, doubt and fear for the future all jostling for space within us.
Many of us will have wondered at some point in these last few days if this is a nightmare, wishing we might wake up from it.
It has often been said that the words “Do not fear” appear 366 times in our Bible… one for every single day of the year.
And I’m pretty sure that Jesus spoke them for such times as these!
And so, tonight as you lie down to sleep.
I pray that you may find rest, I pray that you will sense God watching over you,
And I pray that He will give you peace 💟

Reflections: Amanda, 25 March

Day 2 of Lockdown, what’s kept you going today?
I took myself off for a walk with the manse dogs earlier, I was in need of cheering up and getting out in the fresh air did me the world of good, not least because of these …
Buds!
It cheered me to see them and filled me with hope.
The sense that even although we are in the midst of all of this hardship and darkness and barreness, still there are signs of life. God’s got this!
What’s given you hope today? Why not share some thoughts in the comments below to encourage one another…

Reflections: Amanda, 24 March

It’s been a week, a week since we started social distancing, since we started panic buying, since life began to change beyond recognition…
And now we’re at the end of day 1 of lock down.

And so what’s different for you?
What are you noticing?

I don’t know about you, but today I noticed how quiet it was, I awoke this morning to a distinct lack of traffic noise, I’ve noticed the sound of the birds more, and I missed the sound of the children in the school playground at playtime and lunchtime. I’ve also noticed how much less stress there seems now that lockdown is actually here, but maybe that’s just me?


For me it’s been a busy day, of doing things in new ways, connecting and having meetings by zoom, listening to and encouraging my children, and in the midst of it all a funeral, with the weight of a grieving family and none of the normal ways allowed to comfort or console, no hugs, no touch, not even the familiarity of a funeral the way we are used to.
But in it all I have sensed God, in the prayers of a friend, in the laughter of a colleague, in the hug of a child, in the time spent chatting to the operator of the checkout in Tesco. In the many, many moments of blessing, and connecting. 💟

And I have so much to be thankful for!

What about you?
As we reach this point at the end of our first day …
What are you grateful for?
Where have you seen God?
Have you looked for Him?

Reflections, 23 March

Our Session Clerk, Diane has written our reflection for today…

Waking early this morning, looking from my window to a garden bursting with new life in spring, across a very still river to the hills and way up to the Trossachs, everything looks well. But it’s not. Life today will be very different from this time last week – the world has changed and we’re all struggling as we find ways to adapt.


As I look out, I see changes in the garden reminding me that nature is still at work, the sun still sets at night and rises again in the morning. I think of the words from one of my favourite hymns:


I the lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save
I have made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall i send?
Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go Lord
If You lead me


God is at work among us – in the beauty of his creation, in all the acts of kindness where people help one another. Take time to pause, look for God’s blessings and see how you could be a blessing on someone today.

World Day Of Prayer

Today has been designated as a worldwide day of prayer.
We believe in the God of miracles, in the one for whom “nothing is impossible “
Why not unite with others around our world tonight by lighting a candle at 7pm, putting it on your windowsill and saying a prayer to the God who loves us and holds us all in the palms of His hands….

For all that is good in life, thank you,
For the love of family and friends, thank you,
For the kindness of good neighbour and Samaritan stranger, thank yo
u.

May those who are vulnerable, hungry or homeless, experience support,
May those who are sick, know healing,
May those who are anxious or bereaved, sense comfort.

Bless and guide political leaders and decision-makers, with wisdom,
Bless and guide health workers and key workers, with strength and well-being, Bless and guide each one of us, as we adapt to a new way of living.

And may the light shining from our windows,
across road and wynd, glen and ben, kyle and isle,
be reflected in our hearts and hands and hopes.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen

Amanda: Reflections for the Week

What a crazy week!

What an absolutely crazy topsy turvy unbelievable week!

Who would have thought just 7 days ago that today we would be living in a Scotland where all of the schools are closed, all pubs and restaurants, cinemas, sports centres, libraries, museums and many other public places closed and the SQA exams cancelled. Where all nonessential medical treatment and surgery is stopped and where NHS speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and staff in other disciplines are being redeployed within the NHS to free up other NHS staff to work on the frontline.

While waiting in a long queue at a supermarket checkout this week I chatted to the elderly woman in front of me, she was scared, unsettled by the empty shelves, even at 10 o’clock in the morning, she’d never seen anything like it, “not even in the war” she said.

How do we respond?

What can we do?

When it seems that we are living in quicksand, where every day brings fresh news and fresh challenges and new changes to the way that we must live our lives and the restrictions placed in them.

When we are afraid, frightened, for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our livelihoods what can we hold onto?

God’s word says God can!

If I need words of comfort it’s often tine Psalms that I turn to, and Psalm 46 is one of my favourite chapters in all of Scripture. The opening verses speak of God as our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble and isn’t that just what we need right now?

To know that we are not alone, to know that even although it seems that this world of ours is right now spinning out of our control that God has got this, and that in God we can seek refuge from the storm and find strength.

And then says, therefore, because we know that God is steady, because we know that we can trust God, “we will not fear, even though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”

Even when the unthinkable happens, even when the world that we know crumbles and falls, even when all around us is sinking sand we need not fear, because God is here beside us and God has got us. God holds us in the palm of God’s hand, God’s got this covered.

Let that thought quieten you, let that knowledge comfort you,

And may you know God’s peace.

Prayer

Loving God,

We have learned this week of our fragility,

And that we are not in control,

But enable us to see that You are.

Encourage us to pause and to stop panicking, remind us to breathe deep,

And to keep on putting our trust in you,

You who spoke and brought light into darkness, you who created order from chaos,

You who stilled the wind and the waves in a storm with a word, and you who died on a rough wooden cross for us…

Such is your love,

May we sense that love now,

May it soak into us and renew us, may it comfort us and strengthen us,

And my it give us the. Courage that we need to open our eyes and to look around and see the opportunities that this new world offers to each of us.

In Jesus name,

Amen.

A message from Amanda: Friday 20 March

It’s a beautiful morning, the sun is shining and it’s crisp and fresh.

What have you got to be thankful for today?

Where are you seeing God’s mercies?

Why not have a quiet moment and give God thanks?

A message from Amanda: Thursday 19 March

For our young folks who have today learned that this year’s SQA exams won’t go ahead.

None of them are joyful, none of them are happy, only sad, disappointed, annoyed and frustrated that they won’t be able to display their learning in the usual way, and for those who maybe didn’t do as well in their prelims but have been working hard since then… worry… will that more recent hard work be counted?

Loving God,
During these unusual days,
Days where it feels like the world is spinning out of control,
Comfort us in the knowledge that you’ve got this,
That you have a plan for our future,
And enable and encourage us to trust you!

Amen 💟

Coronavirus – Community Action

We might be unable to meet together but Church is more than just a building…

We’re continuing to figure out our next steps, particularly around supporting those in our Church Family and community who are at greater risk. We’ll update in more details as soon as we can but a new community support group is starting up here

One quick way we can help is by staying in touch with you all as isolation and distanting is going to have a big impact over the coming months particularly in regards to mental health.

So if you haven’t already, please sign up for our mailing list here:

We’ll be using it to stay connected including reflections, craft ideas for kids, the latest news, NHS advice and anything else we can think of (suggestions welcome!). Think of it as a weekly magazine for Bo’ness to help the time go a little quicker.

We’re always here online (and like a chat!) so comment, tweet, message us even if its just to say hi. We’re all in this together

Diane’s Thoughts: Friday 20 April

Life is changing for us all just now and although we may be physically far apart we can still support each other through the tough times ahead.

At the moment it’s hard to keep up with the constant stream of news as we try to adapt our lives and most of us are feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
As life moves towards a “new normal” we’re having to find new ways of being “church” as we seek to serve our community and hope that our newsletters and posts will help to bring us all closer together. As well as reflections and prayers, there will be ideas for things to do when we‘re at home, links to advice pages, and ways for us all to help our community and fun stuff too. And we want to hear from you too – we’re hoping there will be lots of comments, suggestions and pictures.


Already there has been an amazing response from our community in Bo’ness. A Coronavirus Support Group, Love Thy Neighbour, is being set up so please follow this link to their page and help if you can. Our local businesses are working very hard to keep the shops stocked with food with some now offering deliveries, Corvi’s have made a very generous offer of free meals for vulnerable children and people are already checking on their neighbours. Shop local if you can and help our small traders survive.


This will be a big strain for many people so, if you are able, please remember the foodbank. Church buildings are closed so there’s no drop off points there now but there’s still one in Tesco. Or put some in a bag at home as “Love Thy Neighbour” are looking into how to collect non perishable food items.

Although we’re all a bit scared, let’s all stick together, help one another and bring out the best in our community. Take time to stop and reflect on all the good things that are happening as we care for one another. As we step into the unknown remember we are not alone in this, God is with us always.

Have faith, have courage and keep strong ( and keep washing your hands!!)

A message from Amanda: Wed 18 March

Is it still only Wednesday?

I’m not sure I like this new normal where we don’t even have time to get used to things before it all changes again.

Monday brought news that life will be very different for all of us for the foreseeable future, yesterday brought home to many of us exactly what reducing our social contact looks like as organisations, companies and businesses encouraged people to work from home and churches the length and breadth of the country announced that they were pausing public worship. Today that continues as we heard that libraries, museums, and sport centres would close their doors for the foreseeable future and tonight the news is that schools will close on Friday, unlikely that they will reopen before the summer holidays and with a question mark over SQA exams.

Many of us are worried, feeling overwhelmed by the constant deluge of news and information about a virus we hadn’t even heard of until a few weeks ago.

We’re worried for ourselves, for loved ones, and for businesses and livelihoods and that’s entirely normal in a totally unprecedented time like this.

Remember though, we may be learning what social distancing means, but it doesn’t need to be complete isolation.

Put the kettle on, and sit down and text or phone a friend or loved one. Be honest, share how you’re feeling as the chances are they’re feeling exactly the same as you, and remember in all of this we have a God who loves us deeply and tenderly, share how you’re feeling with Him, and know His peace. 💟