This year’s March Riding and Beltane Queen Festival at Peebles began as it has done for seven decades in the open air ruins of an ancient church.
Sunday’s service saw the Reverend Malcolm Jefferson installed as Warden of the Cross Kirk. He went on to lead an ecumenical service that saw the festival on its way.
Peebles Silver Band led the procession from the Chambers Institution on the High Street to the kirkyard. This was once a neglected part of the history of Peebles until a local GP, Dr Clement Bryce Gunn, took matters in hand. He persuaded the town to tidy the ruins to be proud of the history that had been created within its walls.
And in 1930 he became the first Warden of the Cross Kirk and gave it a new place in the annuls of Peebles. He held the post until 1933 when he died and the honour is now swapped each year between one of the local clergy.
This year’s warden is the Rev. Malcolm Jefferson of St Andrews Leckie linked with Lyne and Manor.
The former youth and community worker is married to Hannah and they live in Peebles with their children Samual, 6, three-year-old Millie. He was installed by out-going Warden, Nancy Norman.
He took as his theme, “God’s undeserved kindness and joyful celebration”, and began by reflecting on the spring night when he was introduced to the town as warden.
He commented: “It was fun – I was invited to a party at the rugby club and received a nice surprise. I had a place reserved for me at the top table. I got myself seated and just when I was about to buy a drink, one of the ex-cornets offered to buy it for me. In fact the ex-cornets serve the principals all evening, without expecting you to get the next round. That’s not something that often happens in Scotland – we’re not always known as the most generous people! It was an experience of undeserved kindness and that got me thinking about a parable that Jesus told about a party”
Mr Jefferson spoke about the parable of the banquet (Luke 14:15-24) in which distinguished guests were invited to a party that a VIP was throwing and all made poor excuses why they couldn’t attend. In the parable, the host then invites a guests that other people would normally look down upon and treated to a wonderful banquet and party.
He concluded: “God is throwing a party, are you going to come? He is reaching out to bless and be good to this world and every community, including this community. The question is, will we receive Him?
“I hope that this will be a week full of joy and celebration and that the community will be blessed.”
The principals were escorted back to the Chambers Institute by the Silver Band and the halberdiers.