1,622 years after St Ninian built Scotland’s first church at Whithorn in 397AD, churches in Wigtownshire are holding short daily acts of Christian worship in what is known as Scotland’s Cradle of Christianity. “Ninian Moments” are 10-minute gatherings comprising only a Bible reading and a prayer chosen and led by a volunteer from the local churches, including Wigtown Baptist Church, as well as occasional returning holidaymakers. The Wigtown Step Out teams also always led the Moments during their missions!
We realised six years ago that people who visit the area today could enjoy scenery, see ruins, visit museums and have lovely refreshments, but, unless they came on a Sunday, there was no opportunity to participate in worship with others at Whithorn, the very essence of what makes Whithorn unique, and the reason why pilgrims (including every Scottish Monarch) have come here through 16 centuries.
And so the Ninian Moment in Whithorn was born! Most days there are a few people present, although prayers and readings are still said even if it’s only the reader who is there. The Moments begin on Easter Monday and take place every weekday until September 30. After the first season of summer Moments ended, we decided to have an all-year-round Ninian Moment in Wigtown, 11 miles away, every Monday. This signifies that although it all began in Whithorn, the gospel message didn’t just stay there but spread throughout the country! The Wigtown Moments usually have 15-20 people present, and there is now also a “Cuthbert Moment” in Kirkcudbright (“Kirk Cuthbert”) and occasionally people say they will start Moments in their home town!
I think these Moments could be one simple way of ensuring a continuing opportunity to worship (in a village hall?) in communities where the church has closed down. Ninian Moments don’t need a minister, and we have seen many nervous people grow in confidence as they bravely stand up and read and pray, and be amazed that their reading was “exactly what someone needed to hear today!” Also, if a preacher is unavailable, three people doing a “Ninian Moment” each (plus a few hymns) gives a lovely service on a Sunday! So, we pray that something which started at Whithorn may once again bless and transform the nation!
Rev Stephen McGarva
Wigtown Baptist Church