The Burning Bush
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 When St. Enoch’s Church of Scotland was rebuilt in 1827, an image of the Burning Bush was incorporated into a window behind the pulpit.  Some members of the Church took exception to this, considering its inclusion to be idolatrous, and at least one irate person had to be refrained from smashing the offending glass.  This is perhaps the most notable record of the use of the symbol within early Glasgow church history, but its existence was certainly known within the Established Church before then.

The image itself is taken from the event described in the Bible at Exodus 3:2 where Moses encounters God in the form of a bush which appeared to be on fire but which was not burned – the latter being the origin of the symbol’s attendant legend in Scotland of “nec tamen consumebator,” translating as “yet it was not consumed”.

Its occurrence is found in the late 16th century in association with the French Reformed Church.  Within the Reformed Church of Scotland, its introduction in 1691 is generally attributed to the printer George Mossman who incorporated it as an adornment to his account of the Acts of the General Assembly.  It seems to have been used to symbolise the emergence of the Church through its years of conflict finally to attain Establishment in 1690, having undergone its own trials and still survived – hence what was seen to be an appropriate use of the image and motto.

Since then, the image has been used by many Presbyterian Churches worldwide, in one format or another, but is certainly ubiquitous within the Church of Scotland.  In an age of corporate logos and trademarks, it might even be seen as the Church’s equivalent.  Most churches now have at least one representation of the Burning Bush and it has become something of a popular object for execution in a variety of media.

Probably the most common depiction is as an embroidered element of communion table linen or lectern cloths, but many churches, such as South Carntyne, have substantial enamelled metalwork emblems either within or outside of the church.  Calton Parkhead  has a vibrant stained glass window of the image made by Gordon Webster in 1971, while Dennistoun Central has an example as a bronze war memorial.  Several churches, such as Barlanark Greyfriars and the Mure Memorial, have stone carvings of the Bush set above their entrances.

Part of the woodwork saved from the previous Sandyhills Church has been transformed by Jim Hamilton into a sculpture of the Burning Bush with the Cross rising from its midst – intended to be symbolic of the both the Old and New Testaments.  One of the most spectacular examples of its depiction is the massive mosaic created by the pupils of Lochend Secondary School for Lochwood Church.

Below are some examples of the Burning Bush depictions to be found in some of the east Glasgow churches.

© 2005 Gordon Adams

 

GALLERY:

Bronze commemorative sculpture, Dennistoun Central Church of Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stained glass window, Calton Parkhead Church of Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail of the Minister's Communion Chair, Carmyle Church of Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES: Updated for 1st July, 2010.

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