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Friday September 30
At the Seaside
THE CHURCH GETS ALONGSIDE THE PEOPLE
IT was a long time since I had been down the Clyde at Glasgow Fair. Not, in fact, since school-days, days filled with donkey rides, sandbuilding competitions, ice-cream “pokes” and rowing boats. But among the other attractions the Seaside Mission took pride of place.
And so it was with a strong feeling of nostalgia that I took a train for the Clyde Coast early one morning during Fair Week. First port of call was Irvine, which was H.Q. for the Church of Scotland Missions on the Clyde. From there men were sent out to staff the Missions at Troon, Ayr, Girvan, Ettrick Bay and Meadowpark Holiday Camp.
Church at Seaside
The headquarters C.O. when I was there was an ex-naval chaplain. Male members of the teams were billeted in local church halls and sleeping on “biscuit” beds. Not exactly boarding-house standards, but as the majority were ex-servicemen it was no uncommon hardship.
The women members were billeted out, but cooked all the teams’ meals in the hall kitchen. Food and fellowship were both first-rate.
Audiences of hundreds
The programme of the Missions’ activities provided both for the needs of the children and adults. The children’s morning service on the sands was generally the highlight of the day. The service I attended at Girvan had over 150 chidlren, and fully as many adults. Parable plays drew audiences up to 500.
In the afternoons the children had organised games, salvage hunts, picnics, sand-building competitions, and all the fun of “the Fair”.
In the evening I went up to Ayr for an adults’ meeting on the Low Green. At these evening meetings the Christian message was presented in a variety of ways. The teams made full use of the Witness-Box which was always a favourite.
“The Church is Interested”
To the mind of the visitor the question inevitably arises, “What is the value of these Missions?” That question can only be adequately answered by members of the teams themselves. “This work is a thrilling experience, and a tremendous opportunity,” said one. “You can make contacts here that you can make nowhere else,” said another. “Here the Church is on the ‘offensive’ not the ‘defensive,’” stated a third.
One afternoon a Church Sister was sent out, armed with literature, to visit the residents of a holiday camp. “I didn’t want the job,” she frankly admitted. But what impressed her was the kindly welcome she received, even in unexpected quarters. Other members of the team confirmed her experience. People as a whole are always ready to welcome the Church when it shows an interest in them personally. And more personal interest in the churchless millions is what is needed.
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