MSPs told Church making God’s love felt one life at a time

The new session of the Scottish Parliament got underway today and proceedings were formally opened this afternoon by Rev Monica Michelin-Salomon, who leads Causeway Church, Tollcross in Glasgow.

Here is what she said to MSPs prior to a statement on the Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2016-2017 made by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

"Presiding Officer, members of Parliament and everyone here, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to address you.

I am Italian by birth, Scottish by adoption, ordained in the Waldensian Church and currently serving in the east end of Glasgow.

Virginia Woolf wrote:

“As a woman, I have no country ... I want no country ... my country is the whole world.”

To me, that applies well, as I have a distinct preference for wild and untamed places.

Tollcross-Shettleston parish is one of them. It is challenging and demanding, as are many who inhabit the place. It is known as a location of multiple deprivation and often prejudices are the only available narratives about the place. Its categorising is often partial and unkind.

I have one example to the contrary.

The church became involved in hospitality towards another Christian denomination almost by accident.

A group of Eritreans asked permission to worship in the sanctuary. Their congregation is almost entirely formed by young refugees who are predominately male.

It has 70 members and is growing. Most of its members had a treacherous journey across land, desert and sea to get here.

Despite all that, they have an unwavering faith and look hopefully on the future and on humanity itself.

Worship on a Sunday is now Italian-Scot Presbyterian in the morning and Tigrigna Coptic Orthodox in the afternoon.

Learning to share the same space and accept each other has not always been easy. For some it was an innate instinct and for others it has been a learning curve, but for all involved it has been a profound experience of growth and acknowledgement of interconnectedness.

We knew it intellectually and we knew it inside ourselves, but to know it whole-heartedly was a completely different matter. It was a change of perception that will never be forgotten.

On one of the guys’ backpacks there was a sticker that read “Mediterranean Hope”. I knew of that project, which is based on Lampedusa, an island near Sicily, and is funded by the eight per thousand of the Waldensian Church.

In that one life saved we found a deep connection between countries, traditions, and customs, raised above all distinctions: humanity at its very best.

That is the east end, too: people battling to survive through many adversities, addictions and mounting debts but still open and willing to learn and to change, and still generous to a fault.

In the midst of it all is the church, which is maybe small in numbers but not small in efforts, tirelessly working in hospitality with community groups, food banks and charities in and outside Scotland, making God’s love felt one life at a time".