General News

Festival of Faiths


In our Festival of Faiths, which is taking place throughout September 2016, our aim is to celebrate spirituality, explore the richness of world religions, and honour the diversity in the human family.


Each Sunday we are being joined by members of different faith communities who will speak on the beauty in their faiths.


Sunday morning, September 4: The Beauty in Islam


Our Festival opened on the morning of Sunday, September 4. Our first speaker was Yahya Barry, Imam at Edinburgh Central Mosque, who spoke on The Beauty in Islam

Yahya was welcomed by our minister, Revd Scott McKenna, to both our morning services: the 9.30 all-age worship and the more formal 10.45 worship. Scott said what a delight and privilege it was to have Yahya Barry with us, and he was welcomed by warm applause from both congregations.


During the worship there were readings from the Qur'an, chosen by Yahya, and read by Scott. In his address, Yahya expressed his pleasure at being invited to be with us, saying how very touched he was and how he had never imagined he would be asked to come and stand in this pulpit and talk about his faith.

His address contained many illustrations from the Qur'an of the beauty to be found in Islam. For example, a picture of God's mercy towards us is how a mother will seek her crying child to breast feed even in chaotic dangerous situations. Yahya also stressed that the Qur'an teaches that God is always there to help us. We can rise above life's difficulties.  It is the planting of the seeds that is important; we do not need to see them bearing fruit.

After both services Yahya joined members of the congregations for refreshments in the hall and a time to chat and ask questions. Together we were richly blessed.

This address may be listened to here


More photographs of this event can be found in our Gallery here


Sunday evening, September 4: The Beauty in Sikhism


On the evening of Sunday, September 4, we welcomed to our sanctuary, Dharmveer Singh, a member of the Edinburgh Gurdwara community, who spoke on  The Beauty in Sikhism.

Dharmveer's talk was immensely entertaining, full of wit and fun! It was also hugely informative and spiritually insightful. He explained how in his early twenties he 'first saw the light' and realised the truth and beauty of Sikhism: living life connecting more and more with the 'One', with God. This happened in many ways, but especially through weekly prayer meetings of meditation and chanting. Gradually he felt different, found he was enjoying prayer, found himself becoming less distracted by the world.


He explained that the reason that Sikhs wear a particular form of dress, including a turban and five articles of faith, the five 'K's, is to remind them who they are and how they should behave. The five 'K's are Kesh (uncut hair), Kara (iron bracelet), Kanga (wooden comb), Kaccha (cotton underwear) and Kirpan (steel knife). Each has a special significance. For example, the iron bracelet 'handcuffs' Sikhs to God, reminding them constantly that hands should only ever do good.


For Sikhs, Dharmveer told us, there are five cardinal sins: lust, greed, anger, attachment and ego, and Sikhs do their best to combat these through reading and singing their scriptures and having five prayer times each day. These start with an early morning time of up to an hour and finish in late evening just before sleep, so that when one wakes one will still feel connected with God.


This fascinating talk was followed by questions from the audience and a time of fellowship with refreshments in the South Transept. It was a great evening.

This address may be listened to here


More photographs of this event can be found in our Gallery here

Sunday morning, September 11: The Beauty in Mysticism

At both morning services, our minister, Revd Scott McKenna, spoke on The Beauty in Mysticsm

Scott shared with us how very much he was drawn to the wisdom and insights offered by the mystics.

In a wide ranging sermon, he said that one reason why the religious practice and mindset of the mystics is so appealing is that their spiritual depth spans the world faiths. Writers of mystical theology in Judaism, Christianity and Islam express in almost identical terms their experience of the Eternal. Going beyond the Abrahamic faiths, there is also common ground with other faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism.

In part their attraction lies in the fact that, on the whole, their emphasis is on direct encounter with the Divine. They care less for dogmas and doctrines and they have no interest in enforcing a particular belief system. 

He went on to quote the Roman Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner, who said that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or the Church will have no future. This does not mean that we must all take to the hills at 5.00 am! It does mean that the doctrinal definitions which mattered so much to our forebears will matter less in the future. Faith is a pilgrimage: we are not condemning those who have gone before us but, put quite simply, we need a different way to God. For centuries Christianity has been defined by its words, now it is time for it to share its silence.

Scott's sermon was very much appreciated at both services. At the coffee times afterwards there was a considerable amount of praise and discussion, both amongst regular Mayfield Salisbury worshippers and the vistors who are joining us for the Festival.

This address may be listened to here


Sunday evening, September 11: Islam: Diversity & Women

On the evening of Sunday, September 11, a sizeable audience gathered at Mayfield Salisbury to hear Carole Hillenbrand, Emeritus Professor of Islamic History, speak on Islam, Diversity & Women.

Carole, who is a regular worshipper at Mayfield Salisbury, was warmly welcomed by our minister, Revd Scott Mckenna. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the British Academy and, in 2005, and was the first non-Muslim to win The King Faisal Prize in Islamic Studies, the highest scholarly prize in the Arab world.

Carole started her address by pointing out how people who would never dream of of suggesting that Christianity is a single faith system, with a uniform set of beliefs and practices, are frequently quite prepared to believe that Islam is a monolith, which uniformly oppresses women. For example, there are certain entrenched western stereotypes about Islam which link it to veiled women and abusive practices such as forced marriage and honour killings. These images are fuelled by the way Islam is covered in the western media, which concentrates on stories regarding gender and sexuality, rather than religious beliefs. These glib global generalisations completely ignore the huge diversity of Muslim societies across the world.

It is so easy to exaggerate or mis-represent evidence in highly sensitive areas, so it is vital always to be precise about which Muslim country is under discussion and not to condemn all Muslims everywhere of customs of which westerners do not approve but which are in fact frequently confined to particular, usually impoverished, areas in the Muslim world. The groteseque and terrible distortions of extremists such as the Taliban are not the whole story. 

Carole then went on to paint the wider picture in a most imformative and fascinating lecture. First she talked about the Qur'an and Islamic law and what it actually states about women, pointing out that this has always been open to a wide variety of interpretations. Secondly she spoke at length about the huge breadth of opportunities and experiences for women which can be seen in Muslim countries today.
This she illustrated with a series of colourful, informative and occasionally amusing photograpohs, showing the very wide diversity found, particularly in clothing. 

The lecture was followed by questions from the floor and a time of fellowship with refreshments, where Carole continued to answer questions and discuss this important and topical subject. It ws a great evening!

More photographs of this event can be found in our Gallery here

This address may be listened to here

Sunday morning, September 18: The Beauty in Christianity

On Sunday 18th September John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh began by saying that the Beauty in Christianity was a wonderful title, acknowledging that within Christianity there was indeed a huge amount of beauty. He felt that two stories told by Jesus took him to the heart of the Christian faith. Firstly, the Prodigal Son which illustrates the great and overflowing grace of God and points to the beauty and immensity of the love of God. Secondly, the Good Samaritan which tells how we should respond to others with equal generosity. But most beautiful of all is Jesus himself and how if we are prepared to follow his teachings we will find purpose and meaning in our lives.

Bishop John touched on why he is a Scottish Episcopalian and what he finds beautiful in his church. He spoke of his love of the liturgy, the centrality and regularity of the Eucharist, the choral music, the traditions, its Bishops, its struggles to be inclusive, its concern over the human and natural world and its spirituality. He is drawn to that theology which applies its critical faculty to scripture and interprets the spirit rather than the literal word of scripture. He believes that one of the greatest beauties in Christianity is its people and their diversity, and he thanked God for our differences that contribute to the richness of the Church of God.

This address may be listened to here

Sunday evening, September 18: The Beauty in Buddhism

By contrast, that evening we had a talk on the Beauty in Buddhism from Bryan Webb, Facilitator in Mindfulness. Bryan was the least flamboyantly dressed of our speakers from the different Faiths, perhaps because he has achieved the Buddhist quality of ‘non-self ’. Bryan is a member of the Wild Geese Sangha (Sangha means community), which follows the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh who is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and peace activist. The Dalai Lama, when asked about Buddhism summed it up thus: ‘My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.’

Buddhism is about the heart or Buddha Nature. It is about learning compassion for self and others. It is understanding that our true home is here and now. Mindfulness is to know what’s happening while it’s happening without preference. The first step is to love and take care of ones self, to cultivate the seeds of love within us. Learning to drop the sense of ‘I’ and that separation is an illusion. The Buddha saw into the nature of things whilst he sat meditating under the Bodhi tree, and he taught the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path to liberation from suffering. In Buddhism the practice of meditation begins by ‘inviting the bell’: ‘Listen, listen the wonderful sound of the bell takes me back to my true home’. Bryan then led us in a brief period of meditation when we concentrated on breathing in and smiling as we exhaled. This was a truly beautiful experience.

This address may be listened to here

Sunday morning, September 23: The Beauty in Judaism

On the final Sunday of our Festival of Faiths, Rabbi Mark Solomon of the Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community joined our morning services and preached on the Beauty in Judaism. Originally trained as a Rabbi in the Orthodox Jewish community, he rejected their claim that Jewish souls are more special than non-Jewish souls, and has now embraced Liberal Judaism which is inclusive of all. He had noticed, and been very taken with, our stone outside the church halls bearing a Hebrew script which he translated as “the Lord shall Sing”.

One of the beauties of Judaism is their music, and with a wonderful singing voice he treated us to sung scripture. He spoke of how Jews regard their sacred texts as the Word of God to be wrestled with and argued over, even to the extent of arguing with God. For Jews, their specific customs and practices, whether it be the traditional family meal, songs and prayers on the Sabbath or how they celebrate festivals like Rosh Hashanah (New Year), are symbols of hope and renewal so crucial in their many times of trial. They are able to find the divine and the holy in the everyday which he dubbed ‘normal mysticism’. Finally he explained that the Rosh Hashanah ceremony includes the blowing of the Shofar, or Ram’s Horn, a tradition dating back to the time of Abraham, which can be both a cry of anguish for what cannot be spoken, and a shout of joy and triumph. The sound of the Shofar ringing through the Sanctuary brought a dramatic conclusion to a sermon of wisdom and beauty.

This address may be listened to here

Sunday evening, September 23: The Beauty in the Baha’i Faith

The final talk was delivered on Sunday evening by Francesco Cappellari, an Italian scholar studying for a PhD in Edinburgh and a member of the Baha’i community. The Baha’i faith was founded in nineteenth century Persia by Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah means Light (or Beauty) of God and Baha’i means follower of Baha’u’llah. Its 3 concepts are the Oneness of God, of religion and of mankind. It teaches that all religions come from the same source and have the same destination, and Baha’i claims to be the 4th Abrahamic Faith. Baha’i adherents strive to know and worship God and to achieve unity of mankind and world peace.

The Beauty of Baha’i can be considered in metaphysical terms: God is a divine mystery, infinite and unknowable, nature reflects God and the heart of man is a mirror which can reflect Godly qualities if pure. The great religious figures such as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and the Buddha were ‘perfect mirrors’. Ethical beauty describes men and women striving to improve beauty and refinement in all their actions. Aesthetic beauty in any form of art, e.g. architecture, dance or music is a tribute to God. Francesco showed pictures of the beautiful buildings and gardens associated with the holy sites of Baha’i such as the shrine of Bab in Haifa. The numerous questions from the audience reflected the interest in this little-known faith, about which, thanks to Francesco, we are now much better informed.   

This address may be listened to here                                             

Without exception, every speaker was genuinely grateful, indeed moved, to be invited into Mayfield Salisbury Church by Rev Scott McKenna to share their religion with us. We in turn have been educated, entertained, enriched and also moved by these shared spiritual experiences. An enormous thanks to all the speakers and particularly to Scott for this inspirational Festival of Faiths.





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Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church,
18 West Mayfield,

0131 667 1522 / 0780 801 1234

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Scottish Charity Number: SC000785


  • Because God is both knowable and unknowable the tension of the symbol, the multilayers of the myth and the openness of the poetic are all vital to our desire to celebrate the Mystery to whom we relate and in whom we have our being.
    Mark Oakley

  • You must love him as he is: neither God, nor spirit, nor image; even more, the One without commingling, pure, luminous ...

    Meister Eckhart

  • The purpose of our life is God's glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.
    Oscar Romero

  • Faith may justify bigotry or fanaticism, as Church history tragically witnesses. It needs a safeguard. If it is not animated as it were by the greatest of the theological virtues (love), faith can become defective.
    Thomas Norris

  • Dry not, dry not, your tears of love eternal! Only to eyes that fail to weep does this world seem so dull and dead. Dry not, dry not, those long, sad tears of love.
    Johann von Goette

  • The post modern paradigm manifests itself as a unity which preserves diversity and diversity which strives after unity.
    David Bosch

  • There is only one assertion that requires no evidence. Children are a sacred trust...Unless we care properly for our children, we shall never build a better world.
    'A Good Childhood’ The Children’s Society

  • These are only hints and guesses, hints followed by guesses; and the rest is prayer.
    'The Dry Salvages' T.S.Eliot

  • According to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured.

  • Myth is a story about the way things never were, but always are.
    Thomas Mann

  • In the darkness ...The child of your love - and now become as the most hated one - the one You have thrown away as unwanted - unloved ..... The darkness is so dark .... I have no faith.
    Mother Teresa

  • I love the Bible. I owe my faith and my life to the Bible and its liberating message. It is in the Bible that I first met Jesus ... I too am included in God's embrace.
    Gene Robinson

  • It is this great absence that is like a presence, that compels me to address it without hope of a reply ....
    R.S. Thomas

  • Faith is not a proud self-consistent philosophy. It involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can't be solved by analysis. It is therefore a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives.
    Mark Oakley

  • Any religion which does not say that God is hidden is not true.
    Blaise Pascal

  • The contemporary Church is losing aspects of its wide and generous memory and therefore condemning itself to become a 'swimming pool Church' - one that has all the noise coming from the shallow end.
    Mark Oakley

  • For all your doctrinal headaches take Paradox.
    Mark Oakley

  • The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility.
    St Gregory of Nyssa

  • Death, death be hanged, the Lord has promised me that I shall live. This I believe!
    Martin Luther

  • We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life have not been put to rest.

  • Religion is the flight of the alone to the Alone.

  • Stupid clergymen appeal quite directly to a Bible passage directly understood ....
    Soren Kirkegaard

  • What is the point of the arts of reading and criticism as long as the ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible, Protestant as well as Catholic, is cultivated as ever?
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  • A figure like Ecclesiast, rugged and luminous, chants in the dark a text that is the answer, although obscure.
    Wallace Stevens

  • Myth is the poetry of the soul.
    Sara Maitland

  • Our loss of the ability to think mythically, poetically, allegorically, creatively, theologically, and artfully is a greater threat to our religious experience than anything good scientists have to report ...
    Sara Maitland

  • In general, Zen attitude is that words and truth are incompatible, or at least that no words can capture truth.
    Douglas Hofstadter

  • 'God' is a one word poem
    Rowan Williams

  • What is today? Today is eternity.
    Meister Eckhart

  • Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
    Meister Eckhart

  • The most powerful hunger we have, mostly suppressed and misdirected, is the hunger for God.
    Miroslav Volf

  • We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.
    Thomas a Kempis

  • Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
    Rabindranath Tagore

  • God is the beyond in our midst.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • 'God is not the answer, God is the question.'
    Herbert McCabe