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Church Focuses Pandemic on Food, Communication and Community

LISTEN: Neil Glover joins Ramsay Beattie in conversation to discuss support for the Aberfeldy and beyond community

Neil Glover, a Highland Perthshire Church of Scotland minister, has been sharing with Heartland FM how he and his congregation have been supporting their community throughout lockdown.

Reaching far and wide, Neil covers a vast stretch of Highland Perthshire, preaching in Aberfeldy, Dull, Weem, Grantully and Strathtay.

Working with the Co-Op, they’ve set up the community larder and ran a newsletter to help keep the community in touch.

Neil said: “As a church, things that we have been involved in have been the Community Larder that we set up, and we’re very grateful to the Co-Op who have helped us with that; they give us a lot of the food that they don’t sell. And that community larder has helped us engage and to support people.

“On top of that, we’ve had a newsletter that’s gone out. Initially what we wanted to do was just let people know what’s going on, to share ideas. And we’ve had dozens and dozens of people write to us with articles and photographs and things that they’ve done.

“So those have been two of the things that as a church we’ve been responsible for, but on top of that there’s been lot’s of things that people have done as individuals, lot’s of people who look out for neighbours.

“There’s also our services which we’ve done and they’re online, and they’re apricated by, well, hundreds of people.”

In Neil’s experience from talking to people across Highland Perthshire, he says that loneliness and isolation have been the biggest concerns for people.

Which is why he’s calling on everyone to make the effort to keep in touch with people who might be struggling.

He explained: “Just recently we had a thing where we did a reading of a passage in the bible, which talks about lots of people being parts of a body. So, we thought what we’ll do is we’ll get lots of different people to read out one verse of this bible passage.

“And what we discovered when we rang round folk, initially conversation was ‘could you read verse three, or verse ten’ but people then go on very quickly to say how hard they’re finding it at the moment being apart from other people.”

But thankfully, Highland Perthshire prides itself on its strong community spirit. Neil has faith that this sense of belonging will be what helps locals pull through.

He looked back to some of his favourite poetry as inspiration, leaving him looking to future with a sense of optimism as the community comes closer and closer to vaccinating its way out of the pandemic.

Neil reflected: “There’s an Irish poet called Padraig O Tuama, who I really like, he says ‘it’s the shelter in each other in that we live.

“There’s a cemetery in Logirait, called Hillhead cemetery, and it’s high up and exposed. And I remember once being at a funeral up there, and it was really cold and the wind was blowing in, and people were huddling together.

“This is before the epidemic, and I had a vision that it was a bit like a group of penguins that we see in Antarctica. And the winds blowing in, but because they’re close to each other, they’re able to shelter each other.

“And what happens, of course, is that the penguins take turns to work out who’s going to go on the outside and who’s going to get warmed up on the outside.

“For me that’s been an image of what this time has been like, of looking out for each other, and sometimes you’re on the inside. But it’s in the shelter of each other that we live.”

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