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Communion Sunday at Crathie 13 Nov 1871

Balmoral, Sunday, November 13, 1871

A very bright morning with deep snow. At twelve o’clock I went to the kirk with my two ladies (the Duchess of Roxburghe and Lady Ely), Lord Bridport being also in attendance. At the end of the sermon began the service of the Communion, which is most touching and beautiful, and impressed and moved me more than I can express. I shall never forget it.

The appearance of the kirk was very striking, with the tables in the cross seats, on either side facing the pulpit, covered with a white cloth. Neither Brown, though he come with us, nor any of our Scotch servants sat behind us, as usual, but all below, as every one does who intends taking the sacrament at the “first table.” A table, also covered with a white cloth, was placed in front of the middle pew, directly facing the pulpit.

The service was the same as that on ordinary Sundays until after the sermon, excepting that every psalm and prayer had reference to the Lord’s Supper, and the sermon was on the perfect obedience of the Son (Hebrews ii. 10).

The prayer after the sermon was very short, after which Dr. Taylor delivered an address from the pulpit, in which he very beautifully invited all true penitents to receive the communion, the hardened sinner alone to abstain. It was done in a very kind and encouraging tone. Dr. Taylor adopted part of one of the English prayers, only shortened and simplified. . . . After this address—“the Fencing of the Tables,” as it is called— the minister came down to the small table in front of the pulpit, where he stood with the assistant minister, and the elders on either side, and while the 35th Paraphrase was being sung the elders brought in the Elements, and placed them on the table, viz. the bread cut into small pieces, and two large plates lined with napkins, and the wine in four large silver cups. The minister then read the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, from 1 Corinthians xi. 23, and this was followed by a short but very impressive prayer of consecration.

This done, he handed the bread first, and then the wine, right and left to the elders, Francis Leys (Brown’s uncle), Symon “the merchant,’’ Hunter, and Dr. Robertson, to dispense; himself giving both to one or two people nearest to him, who were in the middle pew, where the Thomsons all sit generally, and in which, on this occasion, were old Donald Stewart and his wife (eighty-six and eighty-one, looking so nice and venerable), the young Donald Stewarts, the Thomsons, old Mr. and Mrs. Brown (he eighty-one and very much bent, and she seventy-one). Old John Brown and old Donald Stewart wore large plaids; old Smith of Kintore was likewise in this pew. The bread was then reverently eaten, and the wine drunk, sitting, each person passing it on one to the other; the cup being replaced by each on the table before them after they had partaken of the wine, and then the elder carried it on to the next pews, in which there were tables, until all those in that portion of the church prepared for the Lord’s Supper, had communicated. After which the elders replaced the Elements on the table before the minister, who delivered a short address of thankfulness and exhortation. he then gave out the 103rd Psalm, which was sung while the communicants were leaving the tables, to be occupied in turn by others.

We left after this. It would indeed be impossible to say how deeply we were impressed by the grand simplicity of the service. It was all so truly earnest, and no description can do justice to the perfect devotion of the whole assemblage. It was most touching, and I longed much to join in it. [Since 1873 I have regularly partaken of the Communion at Crathie every autumn, it being always given at that time.] To see all these simple good people in their nice plain dresses (including an old woman in her mutch), so many of whom I knew, and some of whom had walked far, old as they were, in the deep snow, was very striking. Almost all. our own people were there. We came home at twenty minutes before two o’clock.

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