Since mid-March 2020, we have been unable to allow anyone access to our hall and small meeting room under the restrictions for COVID19. However, prior to that, our building was in regular use.
Following our Sunday morning worship, those present are invited to go through to the hall to enjoy a chat along with tea/coffee and biscuits. This is a very popular and most people take that chance to meet with others there. Fairtrade products are on sale at this point on the first Sunday of each month.
Our Mid-week service of worship takes place on the fourth Wednesday of each month (although the December date is usually on a different Wednesday). This is a short service held in the small chapel and has a more intimate feel to it than worship in the main sanctuary. It is well supported, especially by those for whom an hour long service becomes too long to sit. A simple soup and sandwich lunch follows immediately after that service. This is open to all, whether they have been at the service or not. The lunch is provided and serviced by a team of willing volunteers.
Easter Sunday starts with a short service on the saddle of the Eildons, which is probably about the halfway mark between Bowden Kirk and Melrose Parish Church. This is a very popular event, despite the fact that it starts at 8.00a.m.! Adults, children and dogs all appreciate the venue, along with the piece of Simnel cake provided. The timing allows the minister to have a quick change before heading for Bowden Kirk to hold the service there at 9.30 a.m. which includes the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper followed by the service in Melrose at 11.00 a.m. The coffee there that day has the added option of Hot Cross buns. The services are all very much family orientated.
Harvest Thanksgiving is celebrated in September. Bowden Kirk is decorated to show the produce from fields and gardens alike and gives a stunning display. The service at Melrose is followed by a very simple lunch of bread and cheese. Those who participate are encouraged to give a donation towards the work of Christian Aid in return for the food.
As our building at Melrose can accommodate large numbers, it is the venue for the town’s ecumenical services. There are three which take place annually – Remembrance Sunday, the Christingle and the Kirkin’ of the Melrosian.
The War memorial is situated on the Weirhill beside the Parish Church and the Remembrance parade leaves the Market Square and takes the direct route along the High Street into St Mary’s Road and up to the memorial where a short service is held. Representatives from the Royal British Legion, Scottish Borders Council, Community Council, Melrose Festival Executive, the Ex-Melrosians’ Association, local schools and youth organisations make up the parade and wreaths are laid by their chosen representatives. The parade is dismissed and the ecumenical service begins in the church. The collection is taken in aid of Poppy Scotland.
The Christingle service is a very popular service. It is held at 6.00 p.m. so is an ideal time for the younger members of the family and those perhaps further along the age range for whom the Watchnight service is a little too late. Everyone is encouraged to bring along their Christingle and the candle is lit from the candles burning at the ends of the pews. The retiring offering from all our Christmas services is for two chosen charities which are nominated in advance by the Kirk Session. One charity is a local one and the other is overseas.
Melrose Festival is held in June each year and its inauguration and the Kirkin’ of the Melrosian takes place within the Sunday morning service. This is a family orientated service.
Many years ago, we began to support the Al Shurooq School for Blind and Partially Sighted Children in Bethlehem. This school is entirely self-funding and not only educates the children but helps to enable the parents to care for their children with this disability. We have been able to support the financing of their trip to their summer camp which is usually held in Beit-Noah in Tabgah. This allows the children to have a tranquil break for a few days away from their normal setting. They learn: daily living skills; orientation and mobility; swimming; group play and music therapy. Last year, the trip was unable to go ahead due to COVID but the funds gave the teachers the opportunity to plan different activities.
Our links with Malawi and in particular, Zomba, also go back a long way. The minister lived in rented accommodation there and we were able to help to give financial support to the building of their own manse. The Street Kids project meant that homeless children could be given school uniforms and that in turn meant that they could go to the local school and receive their education. We gave financial support there too. A group for Melrose went over to visit the area and discover for themselves what had taken place.
The appeal coincides with Harvest Thanksgiving and we publicise the initiative in the community and have a collection point at both of our churches. The generous response usually means that we can send off around fifty filled shoe boxes for those who would not otherwise receive anything for Christmas.
Our Social Committee is very much in its infancy but had planned a series of activities covering the year prior to Lockdown. The first event was a very well attended family St. Andrew’s Night Ceilidh, held in the hall. There was live music and a caller. Every dance was met with great enthusiasm and the refreshments supplied at half time were all under a Scottish them. The age range ran from those who had still to celebrate their first birthday to those who had eight decades under their belt. A Strawberry Tea was planned for the summer but COVID restrictions meant that wasn’t possible.