A Diary of Dundee, Pt II
I have always been blessed to be at a loss when praying with those involved in ministry in Dundee. It is an experience that lets you feel the bricks and mortar of the Kingdom of God being laid around you, while English tumbles from your mouth in a haphazard cascade, and you thank God in your mind that there is grace enough for busted-up prayers from broken-down sinners. I’m sure the eloquence thereof also has something to do with hearing the Scottish accent. We were also blessed to be present for a baby dedication that morning, as we prayed for Johnny and his wife Terry in the raising of their daughter (if she’s anything like her dad, she’ll be an all-star football player). I wish I could tell you what text Graham preached on, but most of us were still so jet-lagged that we had a hard time staying awake during the parts of the service when you sit still. I do remember that I sat next to Gloria, who is a great Scottish lady in the most dignified terms, and who has a spectacular sense of humor (as we shall see later in the game).
Now, you might think that, being six vaingloriously unsophisticated Tennesseans in Scotland (and half of us for the first time, at that), we would drift naturally toward restaurants labeled NOT KFC. But instead of doing Sunday lunch at some local place, I was informed that, yes, indeed we would be paying homage to dear ol’ Harlan Sanders and his international grease-fried empire. So I chose to visit the bakery next door and get a scotch pie and a chicken bake (something akin to a pot pie and a Hot Pocket), and then I ate them in KFC.
The beginnings of the day paled, though, in light of the proceedings which we attended when we filed into the balcony rows of Central Baptist Church that evening and sat in those high-backed wooden pews as if we were in the Globe Theatre. And indeed, the Lord’s genius in the evening nearly had me jumping out of my seat and into thin air. The parishioners of sixteen churches from the corners of Dundee filled the ornate old sanctuary to bursting, both with their presence and the iconoclastic hodge-podge of their denominational traditions. Pentecostals sat next to Baptists, and Congregationalists (I’m not particularly sure what that means) sat next to members of the Church of Scotland. We sang together, and we prayed together, and we wondered at the beautiful kaleidoscope of it all.
Unbeknownst to six rather easily-spotted Americans in the balcony, the leaders of those churches had been meeting together over tea for years, simply to befriend each other and discuss ideas and callings. The charter that they unveiled during the meeting was the prayerful work meant to call the churches of Dundee together in a unified rag-tag bunch to serve a rag-tag city. Then Jim Clark preached on Ephesians, chapter 4.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.
Thus admonished, we went downstairs to a blether where most of the group from the sanctuary filled an even smaller room until we were standing in each others’ pockets, as it were. The ladies from Central Baptist somehow tunneled their way through the milieu carrying trays of exquisitely constructed hand-sized pastries, which I quickly proved to be bite-sized. And of course, tea was served. On a large scale.
We also fit in time for watching Gary and Matt’s band at Dexter’s later that evening. It was great to have a guy from the UK with a somewhat British accent on stage, instead of a guy from America faking it. Plus, punk rock with a solo acoustic guitar and drums takes guts. My favorite part had to the song with the lyrics, I’m a Mormon and I don’t care. I had hoped to spend the late hour after the concert walking along the Tay with Chad and trying to figure out why God had made us roomies other than to have a good laugh. But he went to call his wife and kids, so I struck out alone.
On Brook Street, the air doesn’t move much, thanks to the high courtyard walls that surround everything in Scotland. But one block south, the wind stretches its northerly fingers in among the houses and whips down the lane off the firth. I turned up my collar and pulled my hat down tighter as I trod down the sidewalk next to the waves lapping in cold dark froth at the stony shoreline. I don’t think it was chance, either, that led me to absentmindedly turn my head to look back at a natural pier jutting out into the dark toward a fishing shack. There, in the lee of the pier, six white swans floated silently on the inky water, holy ghosts bobbing in the loose rhythm of the Tay.