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To the manse born

What happens when the house of God is also your home? Children of the manse Wendy Alexander and David Steel talk to Alan Taylor.

The first thing to remember about Presbyterianism, Alexander says, late one afternoon at Labour’s Glasgow headquarters, is that it is founded on the tradition that we are all equal in the eyes of God. “As an individual, it’s not about what you achieve but who you are that is important in life.” Secondly, she adds, there is the centrality of the parish which the minister serves. “In that sense, the children of the manse grew up in an environment where building community is what’s going on around your family life all the time.”

Though she and Gordon Brown shared the same faith and traditions, Alexander emphasises that her upbringing and her experience of life in a minister’s household was quite different. Born in 1963, she spent her first seven years “living above the shop” at Community House, the Glasgow base of the Iona Community. Winters were spent in the city while in summer the family decamped to Iona, the cradle of Scottish Christianity. Every week in Glasgow, in the room immediately below the family flat, there were meetings of War On Want, Gamblers Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. “I would come home from school in primary one and lay the table for the lunch for homeless people, which was held every single Wednesday.”

• Full story at the Sunday Herald.

‘I was obliged to excel, but not for trinkets or popular acclaim’

It has never surprised me that so many people who work in some sector of public life – politics, television, the stage – are clergymen’s children, writes Sheena McDonald. Growing up in a manse, as I did in the 1950s, instils an unspoken sense of duty.

• Full story at the Sunday Herald.

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