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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

Sunday services in the Kirk
are suspended until January 2021

Letter from the Manse

November 2020

Dear Friends

I have just heard that Scotland has become the first part of the UK to ban the smacking of children, after new legislation came into effect. Many will see this move as one from a ‘nanny State’ of Government interference trying to take away individual liberties. But I believe that this move is much more profound.

In Psalm 23 we read of the shepherd’s staff and rod. These were two different pieces of equipment used by the shepherd. The staff, or crook, was used to guide the sheep and the handle of the staff was used to rescue sheep that had fallen into the burn. The staff was never used to hit the sheep. The rod on the other hand was used to chase off predators such as wolves or wild dogs. But again the rod – sometime referred to as the rod of chastisement – was never used to harm the sheep.

It was Jesus who said that he was the ‘Good Shepherd’ and it was enshrined in Jesus’ teaching that taking physical revenge was not an option. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find Jesus striking anyone nor do we find him advocating physical punishment upon another. So why then has it taken us so long, as a society, to see that the physical hurt of children is so wrong?

As a Chaplain in a Young Offender’s Institution for eleven years, I encountered the results of many who had been physically abused as children. The effects were long lasting. And whilst these cases were hopefully exceptional cases, the principle nevertheless needs to be there - that in any society the physical harm of our children is wrong.

The Christmas story has a child at its centre. And when we sing ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ or ‘Still the Night’ it would be inconceivable to think of harming the baby. And yet the Gospel story has those who wanted to do just that! Herod went out to harm the baby and many children were slaughtered in the process. When a society sits back and mocks or laughs and does nothing then wrong prevails. This is not a call from me to spoil our children. But it is a recognition that, as the people of God, we can set an example and show the world just how God’s creation, when respected and cared for, can be a most wonderful thing.

I do hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and wish you a blessed New Year from Liz and myself and from all of our Ministry Team.

The Reverend Dr Jim Jack