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The alchemy of a down-to-earth visionary

Tributes by Ron Ferguson to the late Alice Scrimgeour, and to fellow church worker Lilias Graham. “In church life in Scotland, the public spotlight tends to fall upon Archbishops and Moderators. Yet Alice Scrimgeour, in her 93 years, has probably influenced as many people in her quiet and inspiring way. Her name will appear in no histories of the Church in Scotland, but her work in the east end of Glasgow was greatly admired by Protestants and Catholics alike.”

“Typically, Alice never sought any honours. In 1976, however, The Evening Times annual readers’ poll for Scotswoman of the Year elected her by a landslide. She was taken to the dinner in the City Chambers in a clapped-out mini. The owner and driver? Geoff Shaw, convener of Strathclyde Regional Council. Alice was diffident about receiving the honour, but, when she heard that she was to receive the rosebowl from singer Frankie Vaughan, she went as weak at the knees as any love-struck teenage devotee. “He kissed me,” was all people could out get of her after the ceremony.”

“Alice Scrimgeour was one of those women who, by their warmth, commitment and humanity, transcended the indubitably sexist, often patronising assumptions that still haunt church structures. I think of the likes of Lilias Graham, a Scottish Episcopal Church worker, living in the Gorbals area of Glasgow many years ago. She became involved with the Gorbals Group and out of her knowledge of the deadly effects of poverty, she established a place of retreat and hope for struggling families at Braendam, near Stirling. It was an unassuming, untrumpeted, but very effective project, and out of it grew the Glasgow-Braendam link, which has a tremendous track record on Scottish poverty issues.

People like Alice and Lilias are Christian hope bringers. They certainly have been for me. They represent the kind of quiet, unheralded, compassionate work that goes on every day in parishes throughout the land. This is the true heart of the church, the beating heart of the ecumenical movement. It survives defeatist rhetoric, erring priests and judgmental church statements. With Scotland itself at the crossroads, Alice Scrimgeour is now embarked on a different journey. God go with her.”

Full story at The Herald.

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