Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.

Reflection for Monday 29 June 2020
By Fred Coutts

Brechin Cathdral


Brechin Cathedral was our family church.  My parents were married there, I was baptised there and went to Sunday School there.  It was in Brechin Cathedral that I heard Rev James Anderson once talk about the need for people to become ministers.  That planted a wee seed in me.  It’s an old church, even older than Cruden, and this year it should have been celebrating the 800th anniversary of the building, though its history goes much further back.  Lockdown has delayed these celebrations.

This week I was reading a  book which the Cathedral has produced about its story, with lovely coloured pictures of the stained glass windows that I used to look at during what seemed like interminable sermons, in language far above my head.  What jumped out at me from the pages of the book was what happened in 1647, when a terrible plague struck Brechin, as it did many parts of Scotland that year. Civil War was still raging at the time and memories were fresh of the ransacking of the church and the burning of much of the town by the Marquis of Montrose’s army.  The plague must have been the final straw  There is a memorial stone on the wall beside a gate to the churchyard that records (in Latin)  “In four quarters of the crescent moon, 600 people have died of the pestilence” –  that’s half the population of Brechin at that time.
As I read a little more about the plague, it occurred to me how similar a situation it was to the pandemic through which we are living.  There were no services in the Cathedral for months.  Plague victims were sent to live in rough huts outside the city. Food was left for them at a safe distance to avoid infection.  When these “exiles” died, some were left in the huts; people were too afraid to bury them.  Although people at the time did not understand the transmission of the disease, they knew it was infectious and they kept their distance.  The Session Clerk in Leith, which was another hotspot of the plague, put it this way: “It cannot be decernit quha are clean and quha are foulle.

The Cathedral Kirk Session decided they had to do something to clean up the town, so “cleansers” were brought from Edinburgh to carry away the dead and fumigate the streets by dragging blazing tar barrels up and down them. 
Aberdeen was hit too, and watchers were charged with stopping refugees from the likes of Brechin entering the city and bringing more inflection with them.  The university was shut down and students evacuated to Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
When the infection, though not the war, was past, the Brechin Kirk Session provided money to clean the church, to have it swept and washed down.  “On Sunday 7 November services at last resumed with a sorely depleted congregation.  The gratitude of those who had survived the misery of the last seven months was shown in the offering collected on that day.” (Archie Milne, Brechin Cathedral a “Material” Journey)

At the core of our faith is the commandment of Jesus that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves.  Over our time in lockdown we have seen the best in people offering to shop, collect medicine and provide food for those not able to do it. We have even seen people going out to cut the jungle-length grass which has sprouted up. Let us give thanks for those who have willingly offered help and reflect on what we might do to respond to Jesus’ “Great Commandment”.
As we move into a time of gradual easing of lockdown with some shops in Scotland being allowed to open today, we need to remember the question that Cain asked when confronted by God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – and the implied answer, yes!  It is easy to be self-centred, particularly at times of crisis. But we have a responsibility to our sisters and brothers when we are asked to continue to take all the measures we can to avoid the spike in infection rates we are seeing in some parts of the USA and other parts of the world.  We have a spiritual duty to avoid congregating in large crowds.  The main purpose of being asked to wear face coverings is not to protect ourselves but to avoid spreading a stealthy virus which seems to lurk unseen before it strikes.  We are our brother’s keepers!

Remember now our minister and Kirk Session as they plan how we can move from isolation and virtual electronic meetings, and prepare to gather together again to worship God as a congregation face to face.  Perhaps burning tar barrels will not be in evidence, but an extensive cleaning regime must be put in place and appropriate distancing, before we can gather together again in Cruden Church. We must give thanks to God that our part of the world has not been hit as severely as some and remember those who have been hardest hit. 

When we do enter our church building again, perhaps you might like to look afresh at the brass plaque on the wall of the church which commemorates Bishop James Drummond, who was Bishop of Brechin in the 1680s. He was caught up in the turbulent church politics of the time, eventually going into exile at Slains Castle in 1695 when the Presbyterian party gained ascendency in the church in Scotland.  He must have known and ministered to many a family in Brechin who had suffered during the plague of 1647.

Two churches 70 miles apart, two plagues 375 years apart, one faith. one church, one Lord!


Genesis 4:2-9

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’
‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

Mark 12:28-34

The greatest commandment
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’
‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Psalm 136:1-4

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good
His love endures for ever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures for ever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures for ever.
to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures for ever.


Trust in the unfailing love of God.
Let your heart rejoiuce in God's love for his people.
God does not abandon us,
though we wrestle with doubt and sorrow.
God does not turn away and hide.
Instead, God’s light shines in the darkness.
God shields us from all threat
and lifts us when we fall.
Trust in the unfailing love of God.
let your heart rejoice in God’s love for you.

Loving God, in whose love we live and move,
we pray for a world crying out to feel loved,
wanted, cherished and unique.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

We pray for a world ravaged by disease,
For people that live uneasily in a climate of fear,
with no clear vision of what the future holds.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

We pray for a world that thinks less of others than of self,
a world where division between nations, race, religion, colour,
neighbour and family leads to distrust and fear.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

We pray for a world that is short on happiness,
for people too anxious to enjoy the world you have created,
too preoccupied with just surviving to appreciate life.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

We pray for a world where people find spiritual longing satisfied
by fashionable notions and temporary solutions,
with no thought for tomorrow
and no picture of Jesus before them.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

We pray for a world that needs to know your love, your hope,
your peace, your joy and salvation.
Where people need to know they are special, unique
and uniquely loved by a loving God.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.

The Lord’s prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.


Give thanks to God who is good.
His love stands firm forever.

Let thanksgiving enhance the joys you experience,
let thanksgiving transcend the pains you may suffer,
let thanksgiving sweeten the duties you must perform,
let thanksgiving underpin even the griefs you may have to endure.

Give thanks to God who is good.
His love stands firm forever.