The Rev Heller González, rector of St Augustine’s, Dumbarton, addressed the Scottish Parliament during Time for Reflection.
The video below contains information licensed under the Scottish Parliament Copyright Licence.
Heller said, “Presiding Officer, members of the Scottish Parliament,
Thank you for inviting me to address you today.
I was born and brought up in Cuba. Twenty years ago, my family and I, like many Cubans before and since, were forced to flee my country.
Travelling into the unknown is a frightening experience. For the next twelve years, Spain would be my new home.
In 2015, an opportunity arose to live and work in Scotland. The Scottish Episcopal Church welcomed my wife and me, heralding the beginning of a new life, serving as an Associate Priest at the Episcopal churches in Kilmacolm, Port Glasgow and Bridge of Weir. Six years of cultural discovery and learning followed.
Then, two years ago, a further new chapter began for us. My ministry took me to the other side of the Clyde: to Dumbarton. Here I was to find a wonderful welcoming community spirit.
It is not a secret that deprivation and unemployment have affected many areas in West Dunbartonshire. The former industries of glassmaking and shipbuilding have now all but disappeared. For such a small place, the number of people struggling is heartbreaking.
Local churches and community groups have pulled together to support those in need. Church community halls are functioning as warm hubs where free lunches are provided. A listening ear is offered to those with little hope, the broken, the fearful, the abused, those struggling with all sorts of addictions, and the lonely. To the people we serve and to us, this is important work.
As a result of the cost-of-living crisis, we have seen a sharp increase in the need for these hubs. As is often the case, people of goodwill and compassion have come forward when most needed.
The opening words of the Rule of St Benedict sum it up beautifully. There needs to be a “listening with the ears of our hearts”.
In these difficult days, days when many feel utter desperation, the message the Church is called to proclaim, is to look towards Easter for renewal of hope and even life itself.
Yes! Through God, these things can be achieved. It is God who breathes life once again into the tired and dispirited.
As you all strive to make Scotland a better place for all, may it be given to you to listen with the ears of your hearts to the needs of the people of this country.