Have Bus Pass, will Travel!

David Gauld

31st July 2019

Mid July saw me in the border town of Peebles. The railway closed to passenger traffic in 1962, but Peebles is easily reached by bus, the X62 running from Edinburgh every half hour. Peebles is an ideal place for the bus pass church visitor. As well as open-to-visitor churches, it has bookshops new and second-hand, and plenty of tearooms.

Perhaps it is only to be expected that Peebles would feature open churches. If I remember correctly, it was one of the places where Scotland’s Churches Scheme was first enthusiastically embraced. Four churches are listed in “Sacred Borders and East Lothian.” They are Peebles Old Parish Church (Church of Scotland), St Andrews Leckie Church (Church of Scotland), St Peter’s Episcopal Church, and St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. I didn’t have that handbook with me, so I missed the Roman Catholic Church, but the others I saw because they all sit prominently on the main street.

The Old Parish Church and the Episcopal Church were, indeed, open, the Old Parish Church prominently advertising the fact with a sign outside. Both of these churches are typical of their type – the Episcopal being small and quietly beautiful, and the Church of Scotland very large with many years of historic accumulations.

St Andrews Leckie was closed when I attempted entry as a casual visitor, but I did see inside later because I attended a Sunday morning service there. It is designed for comfort, or perhaps more accurately, for lack of discomfort. It is not cold, not dark, not dirty, and the chairs which replace pews are not hard. The floor is carpeted, there is no unnecessary clutter, and power point screens obviate the need to be encumbered with hymn books. Use is made of soft lighting and electronic sound systems.

St Andrews Leckie represents the church of the future. It is fit for purpose and multi-functional, but it is of little interest to the casual church visitor because there is really nothing to see and it lacks, somehow or other, any numinous atmosphere.