We spent Sunday in Aberlour and then headed back to Arpafeelie to prepare the house for a number of visitors. The first was Lorna Finley, the Provincial Communications Officer. Lorna was coming to spend the inside of a week with us, looking at our communication and organising a number of meetings with the local press. The work started on Tuesday with a visit to the local offices of the Press and Journal and then the offices of the Inverness Courier. On Wednesday Lorna visited Bishop Eden’s Primary School, we had lunch with the children and Lorna spoke to the senior class about her work. I left her to look around Inverness while I chaired the first AGM of the Diocesan Mothers Union and led them in worship at the Cathedral. I had been asked to preach on the role of the church in the shaping of Scotland, whatever happened at the Referendum. I pointed out that the church had continued its life, witness and mission through many changes in government and national boundaries in Scotland and that it would continue to do so.
Thursday was referendum day and first thing I headed off to the polling station to vote. I have to confess I found myself emotionally affected by the process. I had been given the opportunity to vote for Independence, a concept I have always believed in, the possibilities were almost within reach, it was a powerful moment. I then put back on my bishop persona and headed for the Cathedral. Once there I spent the day offering prayer and conversation to the many people who came in and who simply wanted to offer something of the day to God, and I was once again the bishop who listened to people from all sides of debate without allowing my own personal opinions to intrude; a process I have found very difficult, but one I believe to be right.
That evening we had a number of people round for dinner as a welcome to Lorna, I then sat up to watch the results of the referendum…. The following morning I found myself dealing with people who were very relieved, people who were seemingly unaffected and by others who were devastated by the outcome and as the day developed those emotions grew. There were people wanting me to make declarations of joy, others wanting me to lead campaigns of protest. I simply listened, prayed, hugged and spoke of the need to work together. It became clearer as the days went on that for some young people the outcome was leading them to look at leaving, while others wanted to stay and build on the awakening of political debate in the country. Bishop’s House and the peace it offers became a place where people were asking to visit, some to talk, some to reflect, some to lick wounds and others to say thank you. All felt able to speak their minds and to reconcile their differences and friends began to rebuild relationships; Thank God I had not allowed the Bishop in me to become the voice of either side, whatever I may have felt personally.
The week also continued with the normal round of business, we visited the offices of the Northern Scot in Elgin, I attended a safeguarding training at St Duthac’s and then joined the people of the East Sutherland and Tain congregations on a simple pilgrimage at Nigg Old Kirk. We walked down a path called the Bishop’s Path, it led to the sea, and as the waves rolled in and then back out again, the peace and the knowledge of God’s kingdom overwhelmed me.