Langholm Old Church Parish Magazine

No.119                       Price 1/8d - with LIFE AND WORK - 8d LOCAL MAGAZINE ONLY                        May1971.

Minister: Rev. Tom Calvert, The Old Manse, Langholm. Tel. 256.

Session Clerk: Mr. Archibald Findlay, Langholm Lodge. Tel. 453.

Clerk to Board: Mr. E. C. Armstrong, Town Hall, Langholm. Tel. 255.

Treasurer: Mr. Donald Lamont, Royal Bank of Scotland, Langholm. Tel. 430.

Organist: Mr. A. C. Mallinson, A.R.C.O., L.R.A.M., 72 Henry Street.

Church Officer: Mr. W. Elliot, 3 Buccleuch Terrace.

Hall Caretaker: Mr. John Scott, 54 William Street.

< h6>Text for May "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh." 2 Corinthians 12. 7.

The following sermon was preached in the Old Parish Church on Sunday, 18th April, by the Rev. James Beverley, B.D., of St. Luke's Presbyterian Church, Houston, Texas.

Among New Testament scholars there has been much speculation as to what the thorn in the flesh was. One conjecture is that while evangelising on the low coastline of Asia Minor, St. Paul got malaria into his system and was constantly impeded in his work by recurring attacks, and that this was his thorn in the flesh. Another conjecture is that the Apostle was subject to epileptic fits. The view is plausible because in the old world an epileptic frenzy was considered repulsive and Paul writing to the Galatians about an illness which he had while among them says that though, his illness being what it was, they might be tempted to despise him, they did not. Still another conjecture is that the thorn in the flesh was some kind of offensive eye trouble which, coming periodically on him, left him useless and at times prostrate, unable to carry on the work he felt so important.

These speculations are not without interest but I shall spend no further time considering them. After all, Paul did not say what his thorn was. And since he did not feel it necessary to name his physical ailment it cannot be of much practical use to theorise about its nature. What is more important is that we should give some thought to his attitude to his physical ailment. For there he and we are on common ground. Either we have something of the same sort to contend with or there are those who matter to us who do. So how to handle a Thorn In The Flesh is what we want to know.

A thorn in the flesh is an irritant. Paul speaks of his as harassing him. He speaks of it in the present tense, not as something that had come and gone but was with him continually, a daily drain on his body and nerves, thwarting, hampering, and handicapping him. Nowhere though is there any word of complaint or self-commiseration. It is not uncommon for people who are harassed to grumble, to become peevish, petulant, self-pitying. Miserable themselves they make others miserable. Here, however, is a man pestered by an irritant yet not complaining or embittered. We can see what he probably did not see at once, or may have taken a long time to see, that in many ways his thorn was the making of him.

It was the making of him because he found out the meaning of it. He discovered the reason why the thorn had been, as he said, "given" him. Suffering that seems purposeless is very hard to bear. The heart and mind rises in revolt against it. When a man runs smack into trouble the first question he asks is, WHY? Why did this happen to me? If there is some trouble involving a wife, a child, a near and dear friend, the why is even more persistent. If he can find no answer making sense of what has happened to him, the door is wide open to resentment, cynicism, black despair.

Paul believed his thorn in the flesh was evil, that its source was evil, "a messenger of Satan to harass me." But he also believed that it was an evil permitted by God and if it was permitted by God it could not be purposeless, that good could come of it. Paul's theology may not be our theology. You may not believe in a personal devil, but you are surely bound to recognise a spirit of evil at work in the world. The question is whether you believe that this spirit of evil is at work unhampered or whether you believe that over it, mightier than it, using it, is a spirit of good for which the name is the Lord God Almighty. Evil is mystery. Where did it come from? Why has it such power and permanence? There is no complete or final explanation to the problem of human suffering. But there is a way, Paul's way, of handling it. By God's grace good may come out of evil.

The thorn humbles our pride

In Paul's own words the thorn was given him to humble him, to take away his conceit. Now compared with the whole problem of suffering this may seem a minor issue. But for personal life and character and happy, harmonious, human relationships, conceit is not a minor issue. Mostly we think it is and we resist that pride is a great sin, not only a cardinal but the foremost and worst of the cardinal sins. For that reason, consider Paul's case. There is evidence that early in life he had a great deal of pride in his family connections, in his native gifts, in his scholastic achievements, and when he became a Christian, in his spiritual gifts and his superb capacity for leadership. Students of his life and letters think that like many another genius he cannot have been an easy man to live with. In the youthful Paul there may have been an arrogant streak, a tendency to be overbearing, an impatience with average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill folk. Others may have seen all this and he may not have seen it. Self-ignorance is common; self-knowledge is rare. The thorn served to open his eyes to it. His physical ailment was first a wound to his pride, a humiliation, and then it became something altogether different, a humbling influence. It chastened the conceit out of him. He was convinced that it was God's way of saving him from vanity and breeding in him humility.

I can think of a man I came to know well. More than one person said about him that he had brains to burn. Everything at school, college, business, he took in his stride. He was intellectually brilliant and soon launched on a successful career. But the character of the man was flawed by cockiness. He was a smart aleck, very sure of himself, at times snobbish, censorious, occasionally insolent. He had a clever and sharp tongue that could wound people by the pert and impertinent things he said about them, not behind their backs but to their faces. An old woman, unlettered but discriminating wise, remarked once, "What he needed was a good humbling". He was given it. He was laid flat on his back by what turned out to be a long, painful, illness. When he got onto his feet again he was a completely changed man, the change apparent in his face and bearing; he was modest, kindly, and at the time he was not more than forty, mellow. When he got back to work again he had a personal weight and influence such as he had not had before. The "thorn" had done its work.

The thorn helps to make us more compassionate.

This it did for Paul. Though he does not speak of it in this way there is evidence for it in all his letters. The thorn bred compassion in him as well as humility. In early life hand in hand with undoubted rectitude there was an unbending austerity. "Upright as a marble column and as cold and hard" - that is not an unfair description of Saul the persecutor. I wonder whether even in his first years as a Christian, caught up in missionary labours, absorbed by them, Paul gave much thought to cultivating the warm, personal touch. He was harsh with John Mark, the deserter, when Barnabas was gentle. There are several stringent passages in his early letters which suggest a man of inflexibly demanding standards, hard put to bear with those who could not match him in aim or achievement. But "the thorn" helped to rid him of asperity and irascibility. It takes trouble to understand trouble. Where but for suffering would be sympathy? Read the later letters of Paul and you will find them instinct with self-identification, fellow-feeling, tenderness, gentleness To the last he was prone to outbursts of anger, but by then he had come by disposition - thanks to the thorn - a man of deep and profound compassion.

Dr. Leslie Weatherhead tells of calling on a brother clergyman who was passing through a trying experience.

He was surprised when the minister said that the experience was almost a relief. Asked why, the reply gave was that for thirty years he had visited people in their times of suffering and had wondered why he was exempt. He had never suffered any physical or mental affliction, and felt he did not deserve such immunity. His present suffering, he said, had eased that situation. Now I reckon there was more to the minister's experience than that. To watch from a balcony what is going on in an arena is one thing; to be in the arena with the contestants and a contender is another. There is not only mutual involvement, there is fellow-feeling. We can understand and sympathise with what others are up against if we have been or are up against something of the sort ourselves. Thornton Wilder wrote a three-minute play which was inspired by the Gospel story about the Pool of Bethesda. Its central character is a doctor suffering from an incurable wound. With other sick people at the pool he is waiting for the coming of the angel to trouble the waters and he hopes to be the first to get in to be healed. But the angel when he comes to the doctor says, "Draw back physician, healing is not for you. Without your wound, where would your power be? It is your very sorrow that puts kindness in your face and makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The angels themselves cannot heal the wretched as can one human being broken on the wheel of life. In love's service, only the wounded can serve." When the doctor draws back, heartsick because there is to be no healing, no cure for him and that he must live with his wound, he finds a man at his side entreating him. "Come home with me, Sir, if only for an hour. My son is lost in dark thoughts, no one understands him, and only you, have ever lifted his mood. My daughter since her child died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us. Only you, who are wounded, can help her."

The thorn increases our prayerfulness.

There was one other good purpose served by Paul's thorn in the flesh. It drove him to his knees. He had always been a praying man, but when his trouble came he prayed as he had never done before. He asked earnestly that the thorn should be removed. He believed in faith healing and he expected that his ailment would be cured. He did not get what he prayed for. The thorn was not removed. As far as we know Paul had to carry his thorn in the flesh to the grave. Others have had to do the same. Beethoven with his deafness, yet think of his Ninth Symphony. Elizabeth Barrett Browning with tuberculosis, yet think of her lyrics. Louis Pasteur, think of him doing his greatest work after a coronary thrombosis. Paul did not get what he prayed for but his prayer did not go unanswered. "My grace is sufficient for you," was God's answer, and by the help of that grace Paul was strengthened in weakness and enabled to live with his thorn in the flesh. Learning to live with it he became humbler, he became more compassionate and his hold upon God was strengthened. Perhaps we should say that Paul "fought a good fight, finished his course, kept the faith" not in spite of his thorn but because of it.

What I am trying to say is that there can be and is an advantage in disadvantages. They can be handled in such a way that the net result is not loss but gain, is not a minus but a plus. I read the other day from a prayer that went like this, "Thou didst save me by Thy hard refusals." Paul could have offered that prayer. So could our Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man of prayer and never was prayer more passionate than in His Gethsemane, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." But it was not to be. Christ had to drink the cup, every drop of it, to the dregs. Nevertheless the prayer was not offered in vain. He came out of Gethsemane braced for the final conflict with sin and death and emerged from the struggle the world's Divine Redeemer.

So when you pray, your petitions earnest, remember that No is an answer as well as Yes. That there are times when it is the only possible answer to love and wisdom. But it is an answer. And in this sense there is no such thing as unanswered prayer. God always answers prayer. Either He changes the circumstances or provides the grace by which to overcome the circumstances. Either He answers the petition or He answers the person making the petition. And if He, the Father God, says No to a particular request we can be sure that it is for our highest good. He never refuses without reason. He has a bigger purpose for us than we have for ourselves. It may be that He withholds what we ask in order to deepen our inner life, to humble our pride, to make us more compassionate, to increase our prayerfulness. Or He may deny our requests in order to give in a finer and better way. So many of His answers are of that character. God is more ready to hear than we to pray and is wont to give us more than we either desire or deserve. And as Dante said long ago, "In His will is our Peace".


Dear Fellow-Member,

A Memorable Communion

On Sunday, 25th April, we had What I have called a memorable Communion, not only in the large attendance morning, afternoon and evening, but in the privilege of personalities taking part with me in conducting the Services. I wish here to pay tribute with my best thanks to the Rev. James Beverley for the Services he conducted on Sunday, 18th April, and the Communion sermons on 25th April. Jim is a gifted, telling, and down to earth preacher, and we are not surprised to hear from his friend, Rev. Douglas Finch, in his Communion Thanksgiving Sermon, that Jim Beverley is held in the highest esteem in the United States as a preacher, administrator, and a man of charm, of personality, and honesty, in all he says and does. Mrs. Agnes Beverley must feel very proud, as we all do, in her son's achievement and in his high standing in the Presbyterian Church of the United States. I have great pleasure in printing one of the sermons he preached in our Old Parish Church on Sunday evening of the 18th April, which is an example of the kind of material and message that he is giving to his large congregation, Sunday by Sunday, in Houston.

The attendance at Communion was a great encouragement to myself and our Kirk Session. Three hundred-and-fifty-nine partook of Communion at the 11 a.m. Service; one-hundred-and-nine at the 3 p.m. Service; and three who couldn't attend during the day received Communion after the Evening Service, making a total for the day of 471. Since then fourteen have received private Communion, and within the next fortnight I will be taking the Sacrament to more who are prevented attending church by age or illness.

After the Evening Thanksgiving Service, the best attended during the eleven years of my Ministry in Langholm, I felt led to congratulate the Session Clerk and the Elders on the quiet and orderly way in which they played their part in the distribution of the bread and wine. No minister in the land and no parish and congregation is better served by Elders of good humour and deep spiritual conviction than ours in the Langholm Old Parish Church. Having Rev. James Beverley with us we took advantage of having a photograph taken of the Kirk Session, and we will have a copy hung in the vestry.

Memorable and wonderful as was our April Communion, there was one saddening thought in my mind that day which I felt it was premature to make reference to in any way. That is the coming retirement of Mr. James Pattie, Rector of Langholm Academy, and one of our most highly esteemed Elders. Mr. Pattie confided in me some weeks ago that he was retiring as Rector at the end of the present school session, and would be thereafter residing in the Collin district, near Dumfries. We will have occasion to express our appreciation of Mr. Pattie as an Elder of the Langholm Old Parish Church at a later date, but meantime I wish to say that the knowledge of his coming retirement made me feel in many ways sad on Communion Sunday, as he has been one of my closest friends and supporters during the eleven years of my ministry in Langholm. It was Mr. Pattie who as Clerk of the Vacancy Committee, telephoned me asking if I would stand as Sole Nominee in the last vacancy of our Old Parish Church. That was in 1960, and since my induction eleven years ago he has been a very good friend, an Elder whose counsel I have sought in the decisions I have to make in the work of my ministry, and one who always had something encouraging to say to his minister.

Boys' Brigade Display

I have reported at some length on the Boys' Brigade thirteenth annual inspection and display in the local press. It was a tremendous credit to the Captain Ramsay Johnstone, his officers and the lads of the 1st Langholm Company. In both senior and junior sections the Company strength stands at over 80, and there is a spirit of keenness and purpose that leaves one with the impression that this is a really worthwhile work. The Inspecting Officer, Colonel F. S. Goodwin, C.B.E., was tremendously impressed with the smartness, discipline, and excellent display, and has since his visit sent a generous donation to the Company Funds as a token of his admiration on the visit here on Friday, 23rd April. The Parents' Committee deserves a lot of praise for the help and encouragement given to the Company in building up their funds by so many local efforts. The big event this year is the visit to Montreux, Switzerland, from 1st to 13th August, when six officers and twenty-one lads will enjoy staying in the Youth Hostel at Montreux and a few days in organised excursions in their visit to the Continent.

Coffee Morning at Hopsrigg and Sponsored Walk

As reported in press and earlier parish magazines, through the kindness of Miss Barbara Paterson, a coffee morning will be held at Hopsrigg Farm on Saturday, 19th June, in aid of our Church Fabric Fund. The Woman's Guild are helping in this effort, which will be from 11 a.m. to noon. In the afternoon tea will be served from 2.30 p.m. onwards, when visitors will be welcomed. The sponsored walk being organised by the officers of the Boys' Brigade and Sunday School teachers will leave Kilngreen at 12 noon on a 17-mile trek via Langholm Lodge, Burnfoot, Westerhall and on to Enzieholm bridge, and return via Bentpath to Hopsrigg where they will be served with refreshments by the Guild ladies and then back to the Buccleuch Hall. I appeal to all our young people to obtain cards from Mr. Gavin Graham and enter the sponsored walk and others who may not be classed as youth and who are ready to enter the walk. I am also asking all the Elders and members of the Board for their help, and all who have cars to take duty at check points. More information in the June magazine.

Church Services

With the beginning of the early morning half-hour Service at 9.30 a.m. it has been decided by the Kirk Session to discontinue the Evening Service until the end of August, except for Common Riding Sunday. I appeal to all our members to help in making the early Services widely known among visitors. As I have had a request from some who take advantage of the early morning Service to attend worship before going out for the day, to hold the Sunday School earlier, it has been decided that until the end of the present session of the Sunday School the time will be 10.15 a.m. to 10.40 a.m. I hope that children not being taken out for the day will come over to the 11 a.m. Church Service, and will be given opportunity to leave after the first hymn. I feel this is very important as any of our activities that become divorced from the Church and an act of worship soon lose any real purpose.

The Sunday School outings have been planned, the Junior and Senior outing to Mossyard Farm, Gatehouse of Fleet, on Saturday, 26th June, and the Primary and Beginners outing on Saturday, 3rd July.

On Sunday, 16th May, the 9.30 a.m. half-hour Service and the 11 a.m. Morning Service will be conducted by the Rev. Hamish Baillie, B.A., minister of Fisher Street Presbyterian Church, Carlisle. This is a pulpit exchange arrangement. Mr. Baillie is a keen young minister whom I have known from the days when I was a minister of the Portsmouth Presbyterian Church. He was then a minister in Eastbourne and has taken a big part in youth enterprises, as well as having very great understanding with the elderly. On 7th June he is to bring a party of elderly from Homes in Carlisle on a visit to Langholm, when our Over 60 Club will entertain them to a meal in the Hall.

Church Caretaker

We are all very sorry indeed that Mrs. Betty Elliot has found it necessary to resign as Church caretaker. She has done the work with such entire devotion and pride and I express the thanks of congregation and office-bearers to her for her splendid services. I am very happy that Billy will continue as Church Officer. He is a very good friend to the minister, and a young gentleman who exerts a grand influence for good in Church and community.

Sympathy with the Bereaved

On 5th April, Mrs. Isabella Gribbon McCall, passed away in Dumfries Royal Infirmary at the age of 67. We all mourn the loss of a very devoted Church member and worker. She was the kind of member whose passing away from us leaves a real gap, as she was in Church twice every Sunday, and a keen member and worker of the Guild. Her illness came suddenly and we all hoped and prayed she would recover. Our deepest sympathy with her sisters and relatives.

On 7th April, Arthur Irving passed away suddenly in the Thomas Hope Hospital at the age of 85. He was a well-known and beloved figure in Langholm, Cornet in 1910, and served on the Western Front with the King's Own Scottish Border Regiment, in World War I. He was devoted to the care of his wife Mary Elizabeth Tait, also a patient in the Hospital. Our deepest sympathy with Tom and Ella at The Bield, who gave so much love and care to Tom's parents.

On 18th April, Mrs. Alice Martin Graham, passed away at 4 Galaside, at the age of 82. Widow of the late George Graham, they enjoyed over 59 years together before his passing. In her last months she enjoyed the loving care of her son James and his wife and daughter, and the constant remembrance of her son George. Our sincere sympathy with them in their bereavement.

With warm regards to all our people.

Yours sincerely,

TOM CALVERT, Minister.


At the meeting of the Kirk Session on Thursday, 15th April, the following were received into full membership on profession of faith: Lesley McKone, 9 Braehead; Shiela Vevers, 20 Holmwood Drive; Hazel Little, The Becks Cottage; Robert Alisdair Calvert, The Manse; William George Calvert, The Manse; Catherine Gill Milligan, 5 Buccleuch Square; Edward Armstrong, 40 Hillview Street, Lockerbie; Mr. and Mrs. Michael Saville, 36 William Street. By certificate and restoration: Mrs. Catherine Douglas, Arresgill, from Edinkillie Parish; Mr. Robert Neill Douglas, Arresgill, from Erskine Parish; Mr. J. W. and Miss Pringle, Fitzburn, Terrona, from Ewes Parish; Miss Linda E. M. Murphy, 59 Eskdaill Street, from Congregational Church; Mrs. H. B. Reid, Scots Knowe, from Thornhill Old Parish; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Graham, Old Irvine, from Minto Parish; Mr. James Cecil Carmichael, 10 Holmwood Drive, from Erskine Parish; Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Scott, 9 Eskdaill Street; Mr. Richard A. Irving, 42 Waverley Road, from Congregational Church, Mrs. Elizabeth Ernst, 16 Waverley Road; Mrs. Armstrong, 32 Henry Street.


April 4 - Jane Louise, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Saville, 36 William Street.
April 4 - Gillian Marie, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Graham, 4 Galaside.
May 2 - Nicholas Alexander, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Trussler, 23 Eskdaill Street.
May 2 - Samantha, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Glyn Irving, 14 Caroline Street.
May 2 - Lorna, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Magnus Neill, 21 Dean Crescent, St. Anns, Carlisle.


April 8 - Alaistair Robert Heughan, 3 John Street, to Catherine Margaret Young, 10 Braehead.
April 17 - James Colvin Kingstree, 28 Academy Place, to Dorothy Park, 1 Holmwood Drive.


April 5 - Mrs. Isabella Gribbon McCall, 30 West Street. Age 67.
April 7 - Mr. Arthur Irving, 35 Henry Street. Age 85.
April 18 - Mrs. Alice M, Graham, formerly 9 Walter Street. Age 82.
"I shall not die but live, to proclaim the works of the Lord." Psalm 118. 17. N.E.B.


May 9 - 9.30 a.m. Half-hour Service. 11 a.m. Morning Service. Rev. Tom Calvert. Flowers, Mrs. M. Douglas, The Parsonage.
May 16 - 9.30 a.m. Half-hour Service. 11 a.m. Morning Service. Rev. Hamish Baillie, B.A. Flowers, Mrs. A. Cowing, 9 Wauchope Place.
May 23 - 9.30 a.m. Half-hour Service. 11 a.m. Morning Service. Rev. Tom Calvert. Flowers, Mrs. Lottie Douglas, Westwater.
May 30 - 9.30 a.m. Half-hour Service. 11 a.m. Morning Service. Rev. Tom Calvert. Flowers, Mrs. William Elliot, 3 Buccleuch Terrace.
June 6 - 9.30 a.m. Half-hour Service. 11 a.m. Morning Service. Rev. Tom Calvert. Flowers, Mrs. David Hendrie, Cleuchfoot.


Presbyterial Council Spring Rally, Kirkton Church, Tuesday, 11th May, at 7.30 p.m. Coach leaves David Street at 6.30 p.m.

Guild afternoon outing to Bewcastle, Lanercost and meal at Brampton on Saturday, 29th May. Coach leaving David Street at 1 p.m. Charge including high tea a guinea. Still ten seats to fill on coach. Friends not members of Guild would be welcomed.