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Greyfriars food

I am minister at Greyfriars Kirk in the heart of Edinburgh. It is an unlikely place in which to imagine that food, farming and caring for the land should be major themes of ministry, but they are.

For many years we have been supporting vulnerable and homeless people. Six years ago we had a soup kitchen serving more than 500 meals each week. We decided at that time we needed to do much more than offer people a hand out, we wanted to give people a hand up. We wanted to help people to aspire to success, develop their skills, enjoy a healthier lifestyle and feel better about themselves.

We started by offering cooking and nutritional awareness classes that can lead to qualifications in elementary food hygiene, to help people find a job. In addition, those who have been the helped can now become a helper, volunteering in our busy catering kitchen. We have developed a medicinal herb garden in the Greyfriars kirkyard. Some of those who in the past have been perceived as being a part of the security problem because they have passed a sunny afternoon drinking in the kirkyard, are now responsible for beautifying it and maintaining it and we are already seeing the biodiversity of the kirkyard increasing and the amount of drinking going down.

We are branching out soon into community gardening and plan to establish a vegetable garden that will supply our canteen with fresh fruit and vegetables. We have also developed a social enterprise turning discarded church pews into beautifully crafted pieces of furniture for sale. (Please get in touch with us if you have old pews you want rid of!). We are developing a weaving, knitting and mending group and plan to design our own Greyfriars Tartan.

As a student studying for ministry in the Church of Scotland, I well remember one of my lecturers telling us that we were being prepared to be resident theologians in our parishes. He meant that our role in ministry was to reflect on the day to day life of our community through the lens of our knowledge of Christ, our understanding of the ethical implications of the Gospel and our grasp of the scriptures.

As someone who has long taken an interest in matters to do with food, farming and caring for the land, I find it hard, in reading the Bible, to avoid concluding that it is a very rural book. The Old Testament is a manual for

survival for an agricultural people, the ethical thrust of the Gospel is a challenge to any community to include the excluded and avoid over living at the expense of others or indeed the earth. And, Christ is a fount of endless pastoral stories who chose the fellowship of the table to reveal most fully his purpose of love.

All that we are seeking to do is grounded in our theological reflection and in a conviction that if the Bible makes much of food, farming and caring for the earth and its limited resources, so should we today. 

Richard Frazer


green and pleasant land

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