Guild Convener moved by Mary Slessor tributes in Nigeria

Guild Convener Kay Keith is pictured to the right of Mary Slessor's 90-year-old granddaughter.

Celebrations are taking place across two continents to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Scots missionary Mary Mitchell Slessor.

Convener of the Church of Scotland Guild, Kay Keith, was part of a group who travelled to Nigeria, where Mary made such an incredible impact through her work, to take part in the celebrations. The Moderator of the General Assembly, Rt Rev John Chalmers, has also been participating events there.

Mrs Keith reflects on her incredible visit:

It was such an honour and a privilege to be part of that whole event which was the celebration of the life and work of Mary Mitchell Slessor in Calabar and its hinterland in South East Nigeria.

Three of us who made the 'Guild' group travelled to the villages throughout the area where hundreds of Guild women gathered danced and sang with exhuberance to celebrate our arrival with them- for we were Scottish women like 'Mary', we were representing the Guild of the 'Mother' Church of Scotland and we were arrayed like them in Mary Slessor uniforms standing alongside them.

So many new experiences! I have never before laid a foundation stone (in Amasu with the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria) unveiled a statue (in Itu with the Chairman of the Twins Foundation) or been protected by an armed guard.

For yes, in the midst of that sunshine and celebration there was that shadow - the need to ensure our safety in the face of terrorist threat. I have so taken freedom of movement for granted - never before been constrained from stepping outside, exploring my environment or pursuing what interested me because I needed to be protected from those who might want to target and harm me.

That we were willing to go there, to stand with them as fellow Guild members despite threat, served to underline their humbling gratitude that we had come.

We heard of the aspiration and dreams of the PCN Guild to build a new Mary Slessor Resource Centre in Amasu to address poverty and deprivation through locally available medical attention and through provision of free education.

We saw their amazing leap of faith in having plans drawn and laying the foundation stone in the unwavering certainty that the necessary funding will come from whatever source God provides. It felt that we were friends, partners, family working in our discrete ways yet bound together in the same wish to serve through worship, prayer and action...and yes, we learned to let go and sing out and dance in the aisles too!

You can view photos from the Church of Scotland visit to Nigeria here.

Read about the extraordinary work being done by the Church of Scotland Guild.