9th March 2022

Last Sunday I was guest preacher at a church in Glasgow. I imagine that just about every occupant of a pulpit that morning knew that somehow they had to address the appalling events in and around Ukraine. I certainly knew I would be expected to do so, and was also aware that any Church of Scotland congregation would have high expectations of a preacher! But there was an added reason for anxiety: the minister had told me beforehand about a couple in the congregation. Their son was a journalist who had lived in Ukraine for many years. Now, he, his wife and children and mother-in-law (who had never been outside Ukraine in her life) were among the thousands trying to get out. So I was having to address not just a tragedy in the news, but an almost unbearable trial for real people known in the church.

All I could do was acknowledge that for some present it was a uniquely personal crisis which we would seek to bear with them in thought and prayer. In fact before the end of the service news came that the family had now reached the safety of Warsaw and hoped soon to be on a flight to the UK, though still distressed at the scenes they had left behand. Afterwards I talked with the couple. It was evident they were more than grateful for what little I had been able to say. A salutary and encouraging lesson: for people undergoing such trials, simply to be noticed is what really matters. Too many words can create a blanket shielding us from their pain.

Keith Clements