On Saturday 10th March 2018, churches in Skye and Lochalsh held their first What A Wonder-Full World event. Rev Rory MacLeod (Church of Scotland) and Rev Roddie Rankin (Free Church of Scotland) were among the local leaders who, along with the Grasping the Nettle team, organised the highly successful evening. The idea was born in August 2017 subsequent to a “Grasping the Nettle with The God Question" day conference in Kyleakin.
“Last year’s conference presented us with a vision of challenging our community to see through the 'God is dead, and science buried Him' rhetoric of the New Atheism” explains Rory.
“In churches of various denominations the Exploring the God Question series was used with midweek house groups. Our hope was that Christians would be enthused with confidence and concern to bring the wider community to an event which would stimulate fresh discussion”
Roddie Rankin was equally enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing church and community together, “What attracted me about the WAWW format and aim was its aspiration to create common ground for believers and sceptics to meet on. Too often we go in too hard and put people off, or hang back and never get started. Neither extreme is constructive but as soon as I heard about WAWW I thought, here's an approach which might just work. My hope was that this event would strengthen the bond between local churches and Christians, through a creative response to aggressive secularism”.
The programme drew heavily on local talent with some poetry and music being presented in Gaelic. As with all WAWW events the programme blended music, drama, film excerpts, poetry and conversation with scientists. In this case they were Dr Antony Lathm MD and Professor John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland. “When it comes to artistic talent, particularly of the musical and literary variety, we are spoiled for choice here. The challenge was deciding what to omit!”, said Rev MacLeod, who is responsible for four churches - from Broadford to Elgol.
“We made sure that the event was widely advertised, which involved, among other approaches, a large team of local Christians posting a flyer to almost every home in the area. We also organised for the Astronomer Royal for Scotland to do an afternoon 'Magical Mystery Tour of the Cosmos' ahead of the evening musical and discussion event”, added Roddie. “Attendance at the WAWW event was good. Most of those present had a local church connection, but there were several people who were not in this category, who had come out of an interest in the theme. They are being followed up on a one to one basis”, he said.
Rev MacLeod emphasised that “From the beginning, this was an interdenominational initiative. On one level it seems ludicrous that such a small Christian community as ours is divided into so many denominations. We can work towards reconciliation now and into the future. Sharing projects like WAWW is a significant part of that process.
I hope that our willingness to engage with people of deep faith and none will have earned credibility for our churches. Ultimately we are motivated by the love of God and our desire to respond faithfully to Jesus' command to go into all the world and make disciples…”
Grasping the Nettle is grateful to the church community in Skye and Lochalsh for their vision, drive and commitment as well as the way they sourced such excellent content for the programme. Summing up, one of the GTN team members commented “Can there be a better place on earth to celebrate our Wonder-Full World than the island of Skye and the west coast of Scotland?”