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For Times Like These

For Times Like These

The University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy Blog

Pilgrimage on the Margins: Sharing Stories.

Pilgrimage on the Margins: Sharing Stories

‘As we are approaching Interfaith Week Scotland which focuses on storytelling, allow me to share some stories,’ writes Associate Chaplain Urzula Glienecke.


The man in the silk suit

Alex had been a leading manager of a large company, a high flyer and successful. Then the financial crisis came and the company bankrupted. He couldn’t continue paying for his large flat in the prestigious area. His girl left him. One thing led to another and now he’s sitting on the street in the same shiny business district where he used to rush about before. The only thing that remains from what once was is his silk jacket. “At least it keeps me warm”, he says.


The woman with the cemetery flowers

Every day Eva stands on the bridge, just under the lamp with a bunch of mismatched flowers in all the colours and sizes imaginable. I know that every morning she makes her way out of the city to the big cemetery and collects flowers left on the graves. I know but buy them from her anyway. She says she would never beg. So, I buy the flowers, many worse for the wear and she smiles.


The chemistry professor

Jacob used to be a chemistry professor at a university. He was proud of his job. But his country changed, the system changed and left many unemployed. He was too old to get another permanent job. He lives in an abandoned house just under the roof. He gets the odd painting job now and again. “Well, that’s almost chemistry too, you know,” he says.


The man with the dog called Rex

I see them sheltering from the wind and sleet in a doorway of a closed shop. The man and his shaggy, big shepherd dog. The dog wags his tail politely at me. “His name is Rex,” the man, Andris, says. “It means king.” And the dog is his king and companion. If there’s food Rex gets it first. They can’t go into any of the hostels or shelters, not even in the foulest weather. No dogs allowed, you see. “But I wouldn’t go anywhere without Rex, no way!”


The woman with the shopping cart

Lola pushes her loaded shopping cart through the city. It’s covered in a worn plastic sheet against the rain. When the afternoon comes, she stops and unpacks her life on the pavement. There’s an old blanket and bags with this and that. And then the flowerpot comes out and the icon. She puts them lovingly against the wall. If she can and if she isn’t chased away, she chooses places where she can hear music coming from the bars. She loves music so.


Queen Vera

Vera was born shortly after the war in the Soviet Union, no one knows exactly when. She was born “without papers” and left at an orphanage. Her name then was Vitalij. She was adopted by a woman who lived in a communal flat. From early on Vera knew she was different. When they made a bath for her in the kitchen in a tin bath tube every time a man entered, she hid. She didn’t do that when women entered. When she was a teenager she was forced to go to the public baths – the men’s ones as her body was that of a man. Perpetrators sensed that she was different and wouldn’t be protected. She was abused again and again.

Now she is an elderly queen who adores cats and has found her dignity. “Cats are the love I lacked” she says.[1]


A prayer in response

Loving God, you who have created all of us with worth, dignity and a say, we thank you for your care.

Jesus Christ, you who were laughed at and humiliated, we thank you for your compassion.

Holy Spirit, you who lift us up, we thank you for touching our hearts and moving us to reach out to those who still feel worthless and powerless.

Trinity of love, we ask you to inspire, empower and guide us to work for a more just society in which everybody has dignity, a voice and is able to stand up for their and each other’s rights. Amen.[2]


And an Invitation to Pilgrimage on the Margins on 17th November from 10:00 – 15:00

Stories of real people and real lives move us into action, into wanting change. Join us on Thursday 17th November and spend time with ‘fellow travellers’ listening, reflecting, and sharing dreams, hopes and aspirations for ourselves, our communities and wider society.

Come and listen to and amplify the truths revealed by people in the community sharing their vision of the kind of future they want to see for themselves and the neighbourhood, and standing in solidarity with them in speaking truth to power about the wider changes that are needed to help bring this about.

We will start the day at the University the Chaplaincy, Bristo Square 1, from there we will walk to the Grassmarket Community Project to share lunch and stories together.

To allow for better planning (and food preparation), please register here:


The event will be part of Interfaith Week Scotland:



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