John Ray in Highland Dress
Below is a photo of me taken a few years ago which shows me wearing the kilt. I wear it only on special occasions of course. It's a lot less boring than a dinner jacket but takes a heck of a lot longer to get into. The tartan of the kilt is in fact the McRae tartan (appropriate to my surname) and the kilt was made for me in Scotland. The name "Ray" is found throughout the British Isles (generally spelt Rae in Scotland, Rea or Reay in Ireland and Ray or Wray in England) so would seem to be an old Celtic name and is probably derived from the Gaelic "rath", meaning red. "roth" in German also means red. So the Rays were originally the redheads! And guess what? My own father was a redhead (so was generally called "Bluey" in the jocular Australian way).
I in fact have only a small amount of Scottish ancestry but Scottish traditions are strong and they certainly were in my family. So I was baptised into the Presbyterian Church of Australia and was sent off to Presbyterian Sunday School. I still have a treasured letter of recommendation written for me by the (Scottish) minister of the last Presbyterian Church of which I was a communicant member (many years ago). I reproduce the text of that letter below.
Presbyterianism is the most democratic form of Christianity so when a congregation needs a new minister, it "calls" (employs) one rather than having one imposed on it. I remember attending a church meeting in the '60s at which the calling of a new minister was being discussed and someone asked: "Have enquiries been made in Scotland?" The reply was: "Yes. Mr Ralph is over there now looking into it". So the Scottish connection was still alive and well then.
And my wedding to Jenny was held at that church.
For a while the selfsame church (Brisbane's Ann St. Presbyterian Church, founded in 1849) gave most of its services in Korean! It is an inner-city church and the British-origin congregation had shrunk rather. But there are now more Presbyterians in Korea than there are in Scotland so I was completely delighted that the life of the church continued to be vigorous thanks in part to our Korean immigrants. I am sure, however, that the Scotsmen who originally built the church would be struck dumb with amazement! Eventually, however the Koreans set up their own church in the suburbs. Some younger ones still seem to worship at Ann St, however.
I attended an anniversary service there in December, 2005 -- for the English-speaking congregation -- and was completely delighted to note that the Minister (Rev. MacNicol) had a strong Scottish accent. It seemed very fitting. After the service I expressed my pleasure at hearing his accent and he told me he was from Edinburgh.
I have written a bit about Scotland. See here or here
Ann Street Presbyterian Church
To whom it may concern:-
Re. Mr John Joseph Ray
This is to certify that I have known the bearer John Joseph Ray for a period of two years and I have pleasure in certifying to the good name and character he bears.
In association with Young People and in study he has revealed outstanding interest in the deeper things and always in my opinion with intense earnestness and spiritual discernment.
He is trusted and popular and I anticipate that he will do well in any position of trust and in that work that calls for sincerity and courage.
Signed: REV. P.W. Pearson, B.A.
13th December 1964
Archie McNicol "demitted his charge" some years ago -- shortly before he passed away. The church elders took about 3 years to find his replacement. They are a rich church these days so they had to be careful about getting someone who wanted the job for the wrong reasons. In the end they decided that they had the money so now they wanted people. They chose a man who would build up the congregation. And they chose well. Welshman David Jones had been a very successful "planter" (founder of new congegations) in Tasmania and, after his appointment in 2014, he rapidly built up the congregation at Ann St. There are now two sittings for the Sunday morning service. Remarkable.
But, perversely, I do not like Mr Jones. He is clearly a man of enthusiastic faith but he lacks dignity. Ministers at Ann St have always appeared in the pulpit wearing an academic gown with advocate's tabs. Dignified. But Mr Jones appears in the pulpit wearing a grey suit! To me he is a Welsh Methodist, not a Presbyterian.
And his sermons are too long. The sermons at Ann St once ended when the nearby City Hall clock chimed the hour but last time I was there Mr Jones carried on long past the hour.
But I am a cultural Presbyterian rather than a believing one these days so my priorities are not typical. May the Lord bless and keep Mr Jones.
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To be continued ....
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