Locum Minister’s Letter – Summer 2019

Dear friends,

On a bright day in May Hilary and I visited the Atomium, the symbol of this city. Towering above the Heysel Plateau with its new cladding of stainless steel gleaming in the sun, this model of a molecule seems to represent
the last word in modernity.

However, the exhibitions inside provide a trip into the past. The Atomium was built for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958. Looking at posters and photos of the event one is taken back to an era which, although within the lifetime of us “oldies”, seems light years away from today. The neat jackets and skirts and the permed hair of the “hostesses” of 1958 seem far distant from our more informal t-shirt and jeans generation. Hilary and I expected to be given a glimpse of the future, but instead we were pleasantly surprised to be taken back in time to a more innocent era.

The Atomium at the World Expo in 1958
Photo: Hans Lachmann

In 1958 Europe had moved on from the trauma of the recent war and by trade, technology and innovation was creating a new world for her children. In 1958 the world had high hopes. By contrast our world is one of scepticism and fragmentation. The Brussels World’s Fair of 1958 hinted that the world was within reach of the utopia depicted in the science fiction of that time. But the science fiction of today pessimistically puts a great emphasis on the threat of dystopia, societies which are dysfunctional and in decay. Yet there the Atomium stands, glinting in the sunlight, a survivor from more optimistic times, bearing witness that hope need not be abandoned and may yet spring to new life.

“Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Matthew 13:52

The example of the Atomium may help us to interpret our Lord’s words in Matthew 13, verse 52. Jesus seems to be challenging us to draw on the riches and the hopefulness of our past in order to create a new gleaming symbol of hope in these darker times.

Certainly the life and work of St. Andrews is a harmonious combination of old and new. A church built for the worshipping community of Scots now embraces a multicultural and multinational congregation in a cosmopolitan city. All the treasures of scripture and faithful worship are needed to address the present generation which is rich in technology but poor in hope. The challenge is enormous, but the reward for succeeding is also huge.

Let’s be confident that our Christian heritage, like the Atomium, can still gleam brightly in the new dawn of the postmodern age.

Your friend and locum minister,
Denis Campbell