Benefits of Leisure Time in the Gerard Room!

At every residential weekend at St Mary’s Kinnoull staff are at pains to ensure there is ample downtime for all involved, so that no-one gets too exhausted by the busy schedule of work and worship. During the daytime, students and staff often enjoy wandering in the beautiful monastery grounds, but ‘the Gerard Room’ is the locus of the evening’s relaxation. And clearly also the place where significant conversations happen – as second year Mixed Mode student Ross Stirling-Young (St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane) and final year Lay Reader candidate Pat Ellison (Moray, Ross and Caithness) describe below.

Pat writes:  

Aviemore, at present, is home to many Ukrainian refugee families – over 200 people in all.  They are being accommodated in two hotels locally – and there are over 30 children at primary school in the town. Some of the families who belong to the Orthodox faith have found their way to the Episcopal Church at Rothiemurchus (above), where they feel comfortable in terms of worship and where the welcome has been both warm and practical.  Noting how miserable it must be for a long period not to be able to cook in your own way, the congregation offered the church hall kitchen to the families so that they could sometimes cater for themselves.  One result was a Sunday lunch of Borscht for all, fellowship for everyone.  The families’ future is quite uncertain as the Scottish government funding for this initiative is due to end fairly soon and no one knows what will happen next.

I was describing my placement at Rothiemurchus to Ross, who had visited it in the summer whilst in the Highlands. A chance conversation in the Gerard Room has had an amazing outcome.

Ross takes up the story:

Spending time in the Gerard Room at St. Mary’s Monastery is an integral part of our formation journey within the SEI. It’s during this leisure time that we get to speak with our peers on a more one-to-one basis, sharing our journeys and discussing our placements etc. It was during the previous residential that I had a conversation with Pat about her placement for the coming year, and I was amazed to hear it was taking place in Rothiemurchus, which I had only visited as a tourist the week before! I was even more amazed to hear that Aviemore is currently home to over two hundred Ukrainian refugees.

The moment Pat explained the situation and the plight of the families, I realised my placement at St. Luke’s, albeit over one hundred miles apart in distance, could be of help. As part of my engagement with Morrisons Supermarket in Glenrothes, we received generous donations of brand-new clothing for children. Many of these donations were sent directly to Ukraine. However, we still had a fair amount waiting to be given to those in need, and this seemed the ideal place to give. God was certainly at work in that chance encounter, and I feel blessed to work with my fellow student and friend Pat across dioceses to help others in this way. The photo above shows the handover of the goods in Perth!

And I’ll leave you with this fact; the Gerard Room is named after Saint Gerard Majella, the Patron Saint of Mothers. How fitting that our conversation led to the assisting of mothers with their children in their time of need.

Photographs courtesy of Ross Stirling-Young and Raymond Stirling-Young