Monday 2 August 11:33 and I’m reading an article in the Guardian by Severin Carrell, the Scotland Correspondent, about the guerilla golfers of this tiny place in the Western Isles where it is an act of defiance to play golf on a Sunday. I don’t play golf I should point out straight away. However, I will defend a man’s and indeed, a woman’s right to play the game whenever they choose. It seems that the Stornoway Trust which owns the golf club land and many hectares around it, and the Western Isles Council, all deeply sabbatarians, disagree, and don’t allow the club to open on Sundays, thus it is unmanned on that day of the week and people play anyway for free. There is a thought creeping in here that maybe they should ban golf seven days a week in Stornoway, thus allowing it to be played at no cost at all. Ferries and flights, privately owned, all run on Sundays, and the pubs and garages are open too and much used. SportScotland, hypocritically, support sabbatarian groups, and the Western Isles Council supports buses to church while not supporting buses generally on a Sunday, and of course, The Lord’s Day Observance Society fully support the stance against the golf club. Lots of football club pitches, sports centres, and other golf courses that are publicly funded stay closed on Sunday across Lewis and Harris. In the mainly Catholic South, such as Barra and Benbecula, and in the Uists, all sports facilities are open seven days a week. All attempts to get the Stornoway Golf Club open on a Sunday have so far failed.
The article which is about the possibility of Sunday golf being “the last bastion of Sunday observance in the Western Isles”, and there it finishes, but it set me thinking. These rules are made by a bunch of old, generally, crusty old-fashioned people whose mind-set goes back to an outdated Victorian way of thinking that also keeps women, and gay and lesbian people, from being happily ordained into the church as priests, and more recently from being properly promoted to posts that they are clearly the right person for. The case of Dr Jeffrey John, currently the Dean of St Albans is perhaps the one most likely to spring to mind. Firstly Dr John was nominated for the post of Bishop of Reading in the Oxford diocese. Following controversy, the Most Weak Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, asked him to step down, and again more recently, he is believed to have withdrawn his name as the successor to Tom Butler as the Bishop of Southwark.
This archaic attitude towards men of great stature such as Dr John, based solely on their sexuality, and against the unerringly ‘better at the job’ women, is the very reason that church congregations are never going to return to the sort of numbers of worshippers attending church when I was growing up…and that is the rub. Were these old, old men to loosen their stranglehold on the rulebook of community life in places like Stornoway, or in the wider communities in the towns and cities throughout the land, people would soon see that in a modern society the very people they make life difficult for are the people who would probably make up the backbone of a returning congregation. Generally, people don’t want not to believe in God, they want leaders who they can believe in and trust, leaders who recognise that men like Dr John don’t just come along that often and should be trusted and more greatly valued. Weak leaders should stand down. The irony of all this is that the golfers of Stornoway would probably be in church if the attitude towards them was not so iron-fisted. Sensible people would realise that.