Rev Robert Macleod
Rev Robert Macleod
Until mid-teens I had spent my years in the north of Scotland. Home, for most of these years, was the village of Tongue in Sutherland. I was the eldest of six boys. My parents were down-to-earth, hard working people and for the most part my childhood and early adolescent years were enjoyable and happy. Like most people who grow up in the country, you make your own fun and we certainly did!
Neither of my parents were Christian’s and Church attendance was a rare thing. As youngsters, occasionally, [poor Mum, it was like school days - a struggle to get us go] we were sent to Sunday school [although sometimes we did not arrive]. I also had a problem with the lady who taught because from Monday to Friday she was my teacher and unfortunately her and I did not always see eye to eye. I knew too often [I used to think unfairly] the warm rub of her well-worn belt.
The legacy of that experience was to leave me to grow up regarding the Church as an irrelevance and the person of Christ as some ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ figure - someone who did not relate to reality. I also wonder if lingering in the genes of a youth was the resentment of my forefathers and fellow Highlanders to the Duke of Sutherland and the pain caused by the Clearances? You see, as a youngster, I wondered why it was that in our local parish Church the ‘toffs’s’ [our term] had a special box, - at least it was lined in velvet.
Contact with the Christian message came towards the end of my schooling. I had decided to move to Golspie, on the east coast of Scotland, to do a course in the Technical School. It almost did not happen when I learned that my prospective landlady was a Christian and that one of the conditions on a Sunday was that we attend Church. More often than not, I’d get away for the weekend to avoid that obligation.
One particular Sunday, being unable to escape for the weekend [having done my duty] I was lazing the afternoon away. My landlady came into the room and invited me to go a second time and to a Free Church of Scotland in a neighbouring village! Her carrot was the number of young people who went along to that particular congregation. “You’d enjoy it”, she said! “Free Church of Scotland” I said! My mind went into ‘rewind’!
During my time at the school in Bettyhill, on Harvest Thanksgiving, we’d attend the local Churches. The unfortunate souls who went to the Free Church of Scotland always seemed to miss lunch – or so I imagined! The services there always appeared to last longer. No! I’d done my duty! Once, yes! Not twice – simply too much! However, boredom won and I decided to attend.
Entering the Church that evening and sitting in the balcony [I could still take you to the seat] was the beginning of a miracle. I did note the quietness that marked the congregation. There was nothing odd to me about the unaccompanied Psalm singing. I suppose that simply came with my ignorance about the format of worship in different branches of the Christian Church. However, what impacted me was the sermon.
In the course of that sermon I heard the gospel for the first time. I heard who Jesus was, why he had come into the world, what He wanted to do in all our lives if we would but trust Him. At the close of the service I sat and my reasoning was simple. If this is right, I’ve got it all wrong. If everything this man has said is true - I want that!
I was smitten!
After Church there was a visit to the manse where again I listened into every conversation in an attempt to discover more. On arriving home at my lodgings I went and found a bible I knew my mother had put in our case when we left home. Why she did that I do not know. I assume it was the fact it had been bought from a man going the rounds at home selling Christian literature; and either to get rid of it or, for some superstitious reason, had packed it away. Anyway, I found it buried below smelly socks, trainers etc in a wardrobe shared by three of us. I opened it but did not know Old Testament from New. I did not know how to read it and anyway it must have been in the Old Testament in the ‘begat’ sections. I could not make any sense of it. All I knew was that within this book on the basis of what I’d heard was something I wanted to discover.
I recalled that in the Church notices there was a midweek meeting and so I attended it. From then on I rarely missed a weekend in order to discover more. It was like a new world opening up to me which was sealed some months later at the Strathpeffer Convention singing the line of a hymn: “Oh happy day that fixed my choice on thee my Saviour and my God.”
A short time later I telephone home and it was my mother who answered. “Muu um” I said! “I’ve got something to tell you!” “WHAT NOW?” was her response? You know the kind of tone a parent makes when they assume what your going to tell them is bad. In a rather stuttering way I said to her I’d become a Christian.
There was what appeared to be an eternity of a time passed before she broke silence and asked me: “What’s that?” Every time I mention that silence and ultimate response I tremble a little. You see, it’s 1968 in the Highlands! I had never heard the gospel until then and here was my mother and many like her in the same position. If I were analysing my sense of call to the Christian ministry it lies in my mother’s response.
I sensed I was someone who had been given a great gift and almost immediately felt the burden: “to whom much is given much is required.” I like to think that all these years later every time I preach I do so trying to answer my mothers question in the mouths of so many other people.
Rev Robert Macleod
Falkirk Free Church