DSC01412This heavily worn engraving above the main entrance to the former Barony St. John Church’s hall building and it piqued my curiosity….. what does it mean?

It looked to me to be a flaming poesy of flowers with a banner of words inscribed below it.

A little investigation and all was revealed so if you have ever passed by the building as you walk along the seafront and wondered what this engraving meant, I can now give you the answer.

It is the burning bush emblem, linked with the Church of Scotland since 1691.

There is no record indicating that any General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ever gave approval for the use of the burning bush symbol in any shape or form, but the printer of The Principal Acts of the General Assembly, George Mossman, under his own initiative, introduced a title page in 1691 which carried a representation of the burning bush. It was accompanied by the words: “Nec Tamen Consumebatur”.

This Latin wording (“Yet it was not consumed” in English) is exactly the phrase engraved above the hall door and refers to the Book of Exodus in the Bible when Moses encountered the burning bush (No matter how much it burned, it was never consumed by the flames).

Scholars suggest that George Mossman may have got the idea to use the Latin (which is the Latin of Tremellius and Junius of 1597 and not the earlier Latin of the Vulgate) from France or Holland. It is suggested that the printer deliberately used the wording in its new context to celebrate the liberation that came following the bloodless revolution of 1689 when the suffering of the Church involving the monarchy and the Covenanters was finally over.

The emblem also echoes the teachings of 16th century theologist and preacher John Calvin who saw the burning bush as representative of the people of God: the Church which suffers in any age or place but against which not even the gates of Hell can prevail.

By 1958 the burning bush emblem was registered with the Lord Lyon King of Arms and it officially became the mark of the Church of Scotland for use on stationery, banners, signs, and other material but the fact that this burning bush emblem was carved into the archway above the door of the hall building (which was built in 1887) shows that it was being used ‘unofficially’ long before that date.

Wouldn’t it be great to restore it to its former glory – maybe even adding a touch of colour to preserve it?

burning bush image