11 Jun 2015

RPCS Reformation Tour

Beaches, books, and burnings at the stake, three things that make up the St. Andrews Reformation Tour and while at first glance may look intimidating, instead make for an inviting day out.  The Tour, led by Jimmy and Helen Fisher of Scottish Reformation Tours, began at the Airdrie Reformed Presbyterian Church on Saturday morning.  The group, 46 strong and ready to learn, loaded on to the bus and set off.  Our group was made up of people, young and not quite as young, from Airdrie, Glasgow, and as far away as the United States.  Once on the bus, seating partners chosen, we headed for St Andrews.

The conversation on the way up was lively as old friends reconnected and kids settled in with snacks.  We made a quick stop for tea and coffee as it was quite cold, and then also in Falkland we stopped off for a teaching moment at the Covenanter Richard Cameron’s house. On the bus we entertained ourselves by listening to music and watching the beautiful green Scottish countryside pass by our windows.  Our next stop was St Athernase Kirk.  Jimmy led the group inside, and we gathered around the front while he told us of the Norman influence in the architecture and of Alexander Henderson’s conversion.  Before we departed, we sang Psalm 100.  The tune filled every corner up to the rafters of the church, even the youngest child singing along, many in the group singing from memory.

On to St Andrews and the sun finally joined us.  We found the famous St. Andrews beach, and we ran to the Chariots of Fire theme.  One of the ladies from the mission team, Abigail, had never been to been to the beach before, so to share in her joy was a treat.  This was also our stop for lunch; it turned out a bit sandy as the wind was particularly gusty and some members elected to stay on the bus and enjoy the view from shelter.  After lunch Jimmy guided us around the town, we visited the site where Patrick Hamilton, first martyr before the Reformation in Scotland, burned at the stake.  Next was St Andrews Castle where we learned about George Wishart and where he was burned at the stake for heresy according to the Catholic Church in 1546.  Mr. Wishart was also instrumental in John Knox’s life and conversion.  Last but not least in St Andrews, we visited the cathedral where many Covenanters were tried and tortured for heresy.  Samuel Rutherford was buried in the graveyard adjoining the cathedral.  Joseph Dunlap, the Scotland Mission team leader, had brought a first edition Christ Dying by Rutherford from 1647 and read a portion to the group.  It was amazing to hear Rutherford’s words about Christ written so long ago read out over the town where he walked and died.  And to think that he is there with Christ now.

That was the end of the St Andrews portion of the tour, and we made our way back on the bus and back to Airdrie in time for the rain to start again.  As a bonus, we stopped off at the Kirk of Shotts, where Jimmy told us of the time 500 people were converted after standing in the kirkyard listening to preaching.  They listened for over two hours in weather much like we were shivering through for five minutes.  The tour was amazing, and I would go again in a heartbeat.
Alissa Terpstra