On Thursday of last week, Father Len Black and I boarded the train in Inverness for the long but very spectacular journey to Edinburgh, arriving at the headquarters of the Scottish Episcopal Church for a meeting of the national Forward in Faith Committee. There was so much to discuss, arising out of the Scottish Forward in Faith Conference at Kinoul Monastery (near Perth) a week before, and the meeting lasted most of the afternoon, with one committee member participating from London via the speaker phone!
In the evening we enjoyed a meal in our hotel with Fr Nigel and Christine Zimmermann, who continue to ensure that Australia is well represented in Edinburgh's halls of learning. It is always good to catch up with such friends, and, as Nigel remarked, "it was like old times."
The next day was taken up with a mini-pilgrimage to the Shrine of our Lady at Haddington in the East Lothian region. Dr Michael Thrusfield, a member of the FiF Scotland national committee who lives in that part of the country met us at Longniddry station and drove us the rest of the way where we were joined by the others who were coming to pray with us. I had the huge honour of celebrating Mass at the Shrine in the Lauderdale Aisle of this Church of Scotland Church!
On a vist "home" to Sydney in 1986 I had been introduced to Sir Patrick Maitland, Baronet, 17th Earl of Lauderdale, at Christ Church St Laurence. A Guardian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, he was a deeply committed Anglo-Catholic layman in the Episcopal Church of Scotland tradition who believed passionately in Our Lady's intercession, especially in connection with the healing ministry, and also in the unity of Christians. He had a great love of the Orthodox Churches.
Inspired by a remark of Father Alfred Hope Patten at Walsingham, Sir Patrick restored, in the Lauderdale aisle of the Presbyterian Kirk in Haddington, the mediaeval shrine of Our Lady of the Three Kings. From the first he wanted it to be an ecumenical shrine. Indeed, it has continued to draw many pilgrims from the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches and Anglicans from elsewhere in the British Isles, and is now a centre for spiritual and physical healing. Fifty years ago it would have been unthinkable that a shrine to the Mother of God would find a home in the Scottish Kirk, but due to the Earle's "drive and charm and ecumenical contacts, and the feeling that here was a Christian who could be trusted, it became a reality, and will remain his permanent memorial." (Fr John Salter)
Some time ago the Earl wrote:
"I had little notion of the relevant history. The Lauderdale Aisle had been overlooked in the details of the Maitland/Lauderdale inheritance, and my recent predecessors had therefore cared little about it.
"Detailed research convinced me of the importance of the Aisle. Our Lady of Haddington was a major focus of mediæval devotion in the British Isles, with a Shrine at Whitekirk, which was in the old county of Haddingtonshire. However, English invasions left the Shrine desecrated, and Whitekirk in ruins. Subsequently, the Forrest family endowed 'an Altarage of the Blessed Virgin and the Three Kings of Cologne' in the 'Northwest corner' of the recently dedicated Church of St. Mary in Haddington, and this was presumably a revival of Whitekirk's Shrine.
"St. Mary's subsequently suffered severe damage during the Siege of Haddington, and details of the precise position and appearance of the Shrine were lost. Initially, I thought that it was situated in the North Transept, but it was most likely located where the current bookshop stands. The only clue to its likely appearance was a mediæval carved panel of the Adoration of the Magi, now in the crypt of St. Nicholas East Church, Aberdeen. This depicted the Kings literally running in haste to bring their gifts to the Christ-Child, and clad in toga-like plaid kilts. Here, then, was a model costume for the Three Kings. Moreover, I learned of a seal of the erstwhile nunnery of Haddington, deposited in the British Museum, with the inscription 'House of Our Lady at Haddington.' Thus, equipped with two images, and stimulated by the surge of interest in restoring St. Mary's, I commissioned a wood carver from Oberammergau, then living in Norfolk, to carve figures of the Magi and of Christ in his Mother's arms. The result is a wonderfully tranquil portrayal of Christ's Mother, visible to all in the Lauderdale Aisle.
"Once the Aisle had been converted back to its original use as the private chapel of the Lauderdales, it was consecrated for public worship by the Bishop of Edinburgh, the late Primus Alastair Haggart, during one of the early Pilgrimages in the I970s. An ecumenical service - never before seen in Scotland - followed. The Primus presided; Dr. Roy Sanderson, then a former Moderator, also participated and offered prayers; then the Polish Orthodox priest in Edinburgh offered a prayer; and the Abbot of Nunraw blessed the figures which had been newly instated.
"The first pilgrimage was attended by only 30 people. Thirty years later, some 2000 were coming to the various services. Intercessions are requested by people from all around the world. Many people write back to thank us for the prayers that have been offered, and tell us that their prayers have been answered. The Aisle continues to maintain its reputation for holding special healing qualities."
Patrick Francis Maitland, the 17th Earl of Lauderdale, died on 2nd December 2008, aged 97.
For me it was a deeply moving experience to offer the Mass at the Shrine in the Lauderdale Aisle of that Scottish Kirk! Our special intention was for God's blessing on the orthodox remnant of the Scottish Episcopal Church as they enter into a new period of building an ecclesial structure enabling them not just to survive, but to gather so many who have fallen away, and bring the Gospel to those who have never believed.
Doing his bit for Christian unity: Lord Lauderdale (with walking stick) with clergy of various Christian traditions at the Haddington-Whitekirk Pilgrimage in May 2006