Good afternoon. The first item of business is time for reflection, for which our leader is the Rev Alison Britchfield, minister at Tillicoultry parish church, Tillicoultry.
The Rev Alison Britchfield (Tillicoultry Parish Church):
Presiding Officer, members of the Scottish Parliament, it is my privilege to address you this afternoon.
I wonder how many things you and I have in common. In many ways, probably not much; in others a great deal. One thing that I am certain about is that we all hold dear a desire to provide the best possible leadership to those whom we have committed ourselves to serving.
When I became minister at Tillicoultry four years ago, a large part of the church garden was overgrown and neglected and over time had become a dumping ground. It was my vision to transform it into a community garden, an asset that could benefit the whole community as an oasis of calm and a place that they could help if they wanted to. Over the past three years, some of my office-bearers have taken the vision and, by their leadership, transformed it into a reality. So it was that, on Easter Sunday, our outdoor dawn service took place in a wonderful calm and well-tended garden in the shadows of the hills. People come and go all the time. They sit on the benches, they join in the maintenance, they offer their skills or they just chat to one another or walk their dogs. Not long ago, a family were able to use the garden to release balloons at the time of a family funeral on the other side of the world. That is happening all because there was a vision and because others were willing to pick up that vision and take on the responsibility of leadership to make the dream come true for the good of others.
Leadership is never easy. It comes at a cost to ourselves in terms of time and energy. It can be frustrating when others do not share the dream or hijack it for their own ends. It can be painful when we are criticised for doing our best. It can be disillusioning when we are misunderstood. However, when our leadership works and inspires others to work and to lead too, it is all worth while.
You have a vision of the difference you personally can make, and you all have the task of making a difference corporately. I urge you and encourage you to continue to bear the mantle of leadership, to persuade others to share it and to allow yet more to flourish under its protection.
May God bless you in that task.