Lord’s Day morning service, 7 July 2013, 11am
Preacher: not the regular minister (I really should have asked his name)
Time flies when you’re having fun; it hardly seems thirteen years since the schism in which the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) separated itself from the Free Church of Scotland with much acrimony and subsequent legal wrangling. Presbyterian churches are worryingly prone to schism, but somehow all the little splinter groups keep going.
There’s little in the format of an FCC service to distinguish it from a Free Church or even a Free Presbyterian Church service, although the keen observer will notice subtle gradations of conservatism. For example, the Edinburgh FCC eschews more recent metrical psalm translations in favour of the 1650 edition, “Translated and diligently compared with The Original Text and Former Translations—More plain, smooth, and agreeable to the text than any heretofore”, and uses the Authorised Version of the bible.
Conservatism in social matters is also evident in the FCC, or perhaps they’re just more willing than other denominations to give public voice to their opinions. As a good social liberal, I’m afraid I just don’t understand churches’ obsession with homosexuality—live and let live, I say—but yesterday there were prayers for the politicians who “do a fearful thing by destroying marriage” and for “those men and women who seek a marriage that is legally withheld from them”. In the same prayer, there were also entreaties for the humility of the royal family and for the conversion of the Jews, “that they may through recognition of Jesus as the Messiah—for no other will come—become true sons and daughters of Abraham”.
Well, I’ll say one thing for the FCC: they’re not afraid to be out of step with the mainstream.
The psalms (2:7-12, 22:15-21, 69:16-21 and 31:19-24) were chosen for their apparent prefiguring of the crucifixion, and we were not to take heed of the “so-called scholars” who would have us believe that these verses do not refer to Christ’s passion. There had also been prayers, incidentally, for the translators, editors and publishers of scripture throughout the world, but I’m not sure if the “so-called scholars” are to be numbered among these.
The abovementioned psalm verses, together with Matthew 27:11-53, formed the basis of the sermon, which spoke of a “red line of blood redemption that runs from Genesis to Revelation” as God in his mercy reveals little by little his truth throughout the scriptures, building up to the climax, the perfect death of Jesus Christ, of which all other prefiguring bible stories (Abraham’s ram caught in the thicket, for example) are but imperfect portraits. If you want the whole sermon, they’re all online, and I should imagine yesterday's will soon be uploaded too.
There were only eighteen people present, including the minister and the precentor, although no fewer than five of them were at pains to tell me afterwards that there are usually many more people there but that lots of them, including the tea committee, were on holiday. I spoke to the preacher but stupidly forgot to ask his name, or I’d have put it at the top of this blog post. The regular minister, James I Gracie, will be conducting next week’s service.
It’s probably safe to say that the FCC is not the place for me. I just don’t feel comfortable around all that social conservatism, even if it’s expressed with genuine sorrow rather than terrifying ranting, and I’m sure I must represent all kinds of sinful worldliness in their eyes too, so we’d be unhappy bedfellows, and I’m afraid even the promise of tea and coffee next time isn’t going to tempt me back.