Canonbie Kirk

Canonbie Kirk is the southernmost church within Scotland, and belongs to the state church, the Kirk. While its gable end is typically Scottish and presbyterian, it has added a large grey, battlemented tower, such as one might find on a castle or baronial mansion. Quite why such expense and ostentation were deemed justified, I cannot tell. Still, I like interesting and unusual buildings, and Canonbie Kirk is more likely to retain its place in my ever decreasing memory banks.

To my surprise, it has a website, and even has, unusually, a bit of spiritual content, among the usual sections about room hire. Here it is:

We are here to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and further God’s Kingdom; to teach, encourage and nurture all believers; to respond to human needs by loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation, and to care for God’s creation.

The first clauses are perfectly orthodox, laudable, even. The last four are fine, but suggestive that the Kirk might be merely reflecting worldly priorities. Opposing unjust structures, opposing violence and caring for the environment would have been radical and welcome when the church was built. Claiming these as one’s objectives in the contemporary climate seems a little less impressive.

In medieval siege warfare, a castle could fall because it was attacked from without or because they were surrendered or betrayed from within. The protestant church in France and the ancient churches of Turkey were all but smothered by the aggressive versions of Catholicism and Islam respectively. In Britain and America, the churches have succumbed to fifth columns, de-emphasising the gospel and distracting us with other issues, like prosperity, social justice and ecology. There is a place for each of these in the Christian’s attention span, but those churches which wax lyrically about such things tend to have precious little to say about the forgiveness of sins, the hell to shun and the blood-bought entry to heaven.