A message from our Minister, The Rev Dr Neil Dougall - July 2018

201807 smallHelen and I were excited when we woke up. We’d arrived in Niagara Falls the previous afternoon. We’d spent a couple of hours scouting out the Falls and working out which of the various tours might give us the best experience. Then we’d booked a day tour which would take us from the US over into Canada. We hoped to get the best of both worlds.

The tour bus was scheduled to pick us up at our hotel at 10.30 am, which left time for a leisurely breakfast. Our server was a very pleasant young man by the name of Tzekh. He was very attentive. At the end of breakfast he asked, ‘How was everything?’

I replied, ‘It was great. Thank you very much’.

To which Tzekh said, ‘Awesome’

Awesome was a word we heard quite regularly during our week in the States. It made me smile inwardly. It brought to mind George Bernard Shaw’s quip that Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language. I wonder about things we said that made Tzekh crack up when he was in the kitchen with his colleagues.

On this day of all days though, Tzekh’s answer, ‘Awesome,’ jarred. It made me want to shout out. ‘No, Tzekh, the fact that we enjoyed breakfast was fine. It wasn’t awesome. If you want to know what awesome is, look out that window. Look at the Niagara Falls!’

Helen and I spent the rest of the day doing just that. We looked at the Falls from above and below. We viewed them from land, water and air. We were deafened by their roar. We were soaked by their spray. We were blown away by the stats.

The Falls have moved upriver some 12 miles in 20,000 years creating the Niagara gorge, such is the force of the water. Half of the water no longer goes over the falls but is diverted into giant tunnels to generate electricity. If there were 10 Niagara Falls, it would produce sufficient electricity to power the entire National Grid in the UK!

Something which is awesome takes our breath away. It stops us in our tracks. It prompts us to marvel. It puts us in our place. It shakes us out of our complacency. And it prods us to worship.

The Psalms are full of this. Take Psalm 8 for example:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4 )

Worship can be humbling. It puts us in our place. It helps us realise that humans are not the centre of the universe.

At the same time worship is also strangely affirming. The Psalm continues

Yet you have made them a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honour (Psalm 8:5 ).

We humans are not the be all and the end all we often imagine themselves to be. At the same time, though, in God’s eyes humans are special. Very special indeed. He has given us a privileged position and a unique place. We have been given a status and a role that is far greater than we anything we deserve. It puts us right next to God himself.

Now that is amazing.

It’s maybe even, awesome!


>What is worthy of our love?
You alone, O God.
What is worth our searching, never again to leave it?
You alone, O God.
What is worth our never leaving it?
You my Lord, you alone.
And in you we find everything again
and everything renewed
a new heaven and a new earth
all good human beings
and every glory in thousandfold sweetness.
Here we are reflected light.
There we will be light itself. AMEN
(Hanngeorg von Heinschel-Heinegg)

To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.

July 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019
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