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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: The Church on the Sands

Looking Back

Friday August 28 2020

Looking Back: The Church on the Sands

From August 1939, some reflections on the Church of Scotland's Seaside Mission by W. A. L. Hutchison

THE “church on the sands” has not failed to interest and influence many lives. Once again, in July and August, this summer, the familiar banner of the Church of Scotland Seaside Mission will bravely weather the elements round our coasts. Sometimes it meets with indifference, sometimes with encouragement.

The Children’s Own on the beach every morning attracts boys and girls of all ages. The Chalk Talks and Object Lessons help to hold the attention, while the bright singing of old and new choruses and hymns forms the main topic of the morning’s meeting.

An hour before the start, boys and girls arrive at the beach with the leaders. After carrying down the equipment and hoisting the banner, they set to work and build the sand pulpit. While the boys dig and model, the girls decorate and finish it off with seaweed, shells, and flowers. Some mornings the pulpits takes the form of a racing-car, boat, or an aeroplane, when the “race of lfie,” or “aim high,” becomes the central theme of the leader’s address.

The serial story, the action choruses and “the box that’s never empty” – kept full of sweets by the kindness of friends – with songs and games after the meeting, help to cater for the younger children, while the interest of the older boys and girls is maintained by Flower Services and Flag Services, Museum Services and Missionary Days. Route marches, “nicpics,” and bathing parades are usually held in the afternoons. It is just great to hear the children sing, and most encouraging to see them regularly bring their New Testaments with them to the meetings.

Many an afternoon the banner is carried down to the wet sands, and there the children, together with many grown-ups, join in a tide-fight or in sand-modelling. Hundreds of people turn out to see the Parable and Scriptural Plays, such as “The Great Supper,” “The Wicked Husbandmen,” and “The Call of Samuel.” The children, dressed in Eastern fashion, act while the leader gives the narrative, and together children and leader are the means of presenting to the people the old, old story in this powerful and memorable fashion. The reverence and sincerity of the children as they act the story are never to be forgotten.

In the evenings the meetings on the promenade are very popular. A favourite type of meeting takes the form of the “witness-box,” when students and ministers cross-examine each other in turn, and answer such questions as, “Why go to Church?” and “What Christ means to me.” This method never fails to draw large crowds, and the speakers hold their interest till the finish.

Novel items at night are the “Torchlight Processions,” “Sausage-Sizzles,” and Bonfires, and these draw crowds of people. Many are the questions and answers at these meetings which have led to “changed lives.”

How we were thrilled one night when a thousand voices joined in singing “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name.” The words were wafted through the evening air as in Letham Glen the people reverently sang to God’s praise. What a tremendous challenge came through to us at the close of a powerful meeting for young folks on the promenade at Prestwick! “Just as I am” was sung with real meaning that night. We shall never forget a night by Arbroath’s shore. A congregation of about two thousand all sang “The Lord’s my Shepherd,” while the last golden rays of sunset were slowly dying on the western horizon.

Let us keep in mind this summer the great influence of this splendid work by the sea. Let us remember, in our prayer and in our giving, “The Church on the Sands.” Finally, let us realise that He who first “taught by the sea,” still calls us to be witnesses by the seashore.

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