Good afternoon. Our first item of business today is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader is the Rev Carol Anne Parker, who is minister of Alloa Ludgate church.
The Rev Carol Anne Parker (Alloa Ludgate Church):
Presiding Officer, members of the Scottish Parliament, I bring you the good wishes of Alloa Ludgate parish church, which sends me here today.
A few years ago, my mum moved from Bathgate to Methil. I joked with a colleague that she was working her way through the Proclaimers song, “Letter from America”—
“Bathgate no more ...
Methil no more”— and that her next stop was likely to be Irvine.
It is 30 years this year since the release of “This Is the Story”, the Proclaimers album on which the song featured. I remember a Friday night in a church hall way back then. I was sitting on a table, my Girls Brigade uniform on, feeling way too cool to be there, and I was singing. I was singing with great gusto,
“When you go, will you send back”,
until one of the leaders cut in on my performance and asked, “Carol Anne, do you know what that song is about?”
I should have known. My dad had worked for British Leyland in Bathgate for a time before his death. He left a sound job with the postal service simply because he fancied a change, which must have felt in the end like delivering his own redundancy notice. I should have known, but it was almost 30 years before I began to work out what the song was about.
Conversation with the same colleague with whom I joked about my mum’s move led to a period of joint study on the clearance of land, of industry and of people, and the more I watched what was happening in the world, with its continued clearance and stranded peoples, the more I read between the red-topped headlines, the more I imagined myself into the heart of the God of my faith, who weeps at love withheld and people left vulnerable, and the more determined I became to create space and place each day for listening, space and place for a gentler voice to be heard, and place and space for stories that are often denied or distorted.
Those who shout the loudest are not always the most reliable voices. Those who insist on telling their own careful version of events can steer us away from a matter’s heart. Maybe the trick is, in all our comings and goings, to listen precisely for the voices that would never presume to press upon us. Maybe then we will know precisely what we are singing.