Chocolate Eggs in Church by Alastair Scouller

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Easter is not really for the children …

So runs the second verse of a poem by Steve Turner, comparing the two great Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter. And this year, in the parish church at Scalasaig, Colonsay appeared to have got the message. Not a wean in sight! Which was a pity, because the visiting minister, Rev. Mitchell Bunting, known to his friends as ‘Bungie’, had turned up early and secreted chocolate eggs around the building for them to hunt for after the service.

For many years now, the Easter Day service on Colonsay has been held in the Baptist Church at Kilchattan. Indeed, the entire alternating pattern of services in the island’s two churches was made to hinge on the date of Easter – a notorious variable and arcane calculation, as the Rev. Bungie explained to us during his sermon. But now that the Baptist Church has been born again as the island’s Heritage Centre, all services are held in Scalasaig.

Was it the change of venue that discouraged families from turning out for this Family Service? Or was it the distinctly un-springlike weather? Work on improving the disabled access to the parish church was sadly not completed in time for Easter as planned, but this did not deter the island’s oldest resident, Betty Galbraith, who was safely driven to the end of the existing level pathway by the Session Clerk, Kevin Byrne.

With around 40 worshippers present, there was a kind of reverential buzz about the place, although the absence of background organ music threatened to discourage conversation. True, the Buntings’ son was seated at the organ console, but as I remarked to my neighbour, his skills did not appear to extend to playing a ‘voluntary’ before the service began. The reason became evident during the first hymn, when the ‘organist’ stood up to sing, while the organ continued to play. The young man’s keyboard skills, it transpired, were being deployed on a cunningly concealed computer, and the music was all recorded. If only he had stayed sitting down, we would all have complemented him on his musical ability.

The service focussed on a series of readings from all four Gospels, telling the story of how Jesus rose again from the dead on the first Easter Day. These were interspersed with a selection of Easter hymns. The folky cadences of ‘Now the green blade riseth’ were unfamiliar to some, but the more traditional strains of ‘Jesus Christ is risen today’ evoked a jubilant ‘Alleluia’ from the assembled congregation.

Bungie, who is a regular visitor to Colonsay, was attired for the occasion in a white habit, with a matching stole embroidered in sand-coloured Palestinian needlework. The same needlework was used to drape the pulpit and lectern – almost literally pinning his colours to the mast, one felt. Amongst more weighty theological issues, the sermon considered such profound questions as ‘Why is Easter all to do with chocolate?’ A foil-wrapped, suitably ‘fair trade’ Easter egg was solemnly broken and passed around the congregation. And at the end of the service, in the continued absence of children, concealed Easter eggs were duly hunted down by the grown-ups. Which is appropriate, because the line from Steve Turner’s poem actually reads:

Easter is not really for the children, unless accompanied by a cream filled egg.

Easter on Colonsay
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