Saturday, 14 November 2015

Peacemakers and Peacekeepers

Matthew 5:9
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was moved, yesterday, to hear murdered US Journalist, James Foley's mother speak with grace and dignity on the killing by government security forces of Jihadi John. She questioned how, in the light of her son's peacemaking efforts, anyone could imagine that justice had been done in more violence.
And, as several world leaders declared the world a better place with the death of one terrorist, the horror of IS attacks on Paris, clearly carefully planned and orchestrated, exploded on to our TV screens and social media feeds.
Right now, nations across the world are united in grief and outrage. Public events are being cancelled, both as a mark of respect and out of fear of security breaches. Public buildings are being illuminated with the blue, white and red of France's tricolour.
Religious leaders are calling for prayers for peace.
But how long before governments retaliate with violence?
How long before more lives are lost, lives that will not be mourned or even named publicly, mere collateral in the war on terrorism?
In this week when the UK has honoured those who have fallen in war, along with all those who "kept the home fires burning", as we've heard impassioned pleas from many veterans of war to find a way to peace, we hold our collective breaths, fearing what seems inevitable in a world that knows not how to make peace - that once again we will be led, by our power hungry governments into more revenge and violence in the name of justice.
And our tears mingle with those of God...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Processing change, encountering grace.

It is now six weeks since I left Parish Ministry to take up my new post as Path of Renewal Coordinator.
As well as getting to grips with a new job, the description of which is still, largely, being written, there has been the challenge of moving house, leaving church, and finding a new faith community.
We have discovered how easy it is to accumulate far too much "stuff" in 34 years of marriage. Although neither of the manses we have occupied contained the required number of rooms stipulated by the Church of Scotland,  we still had a lot of recycling to do in order to occupy our new home. 
We have also discovered the freedom of choosing our own colour schemes and having work done without committee discussion and approval!
Finding a new church wasn't difficult: there are plenty around and the one closest was so welcoming that we haven't ventured anywhere else. But Sundays are still traumatic. It is difficult to be in the pew. 
It's not so much that I miss preaching or conducting worship per se. And I certainly don't miss all the preparation and angst. But I miss being with the community that I know and love, the community that appreciated the unpredictable on a Sunday, who were always up for a challenge and who welcomed my style and spontaneity in worship.
Well meaning friends and colleagues have suggested that I should fill in for other ministers, and there have been offers. But that still wouldn't mitigate the miss that I feel of worshipping with a community who had become familiar - pilgrims together.
Sundays are pain-filled but I give thanks for a new community of faith in which folk are willing to let me simply be, offering space and compassion, empathy and companionship on this latest stage on the journey of faith.
And in my new post, as I mentor and support others who are exploring new ways to be communities of faith, I will remember these important lessons in letting go, in grieving,  and in embracing the new, supported by those who live into the grace of God.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Refreshing community

I had occasion to travel by bus today in Glasgow. What a refreshing experience. On my 15 minute journey, I witnessed community in action. 
Having no idea where I needed to alight, and having been informed by the driver: "Saracen Street's a lang street, hen", I asked another passenger if she knew of the church I was scheduled to be. She did know and she took great care to not only make sure that I got off at the right stop but that I also knew in which direction to walk to reach my destination, (including where to cross the road).
One passenger got on, heavily laden with packages. In one of his carriers was some grocery shopping. But the carrier bag was torn and his groceries were in danger of spilling out. Another passenger not only donated another bag for him, but helped him repack his groceries. He then proceeded to share with everyone on the bus where the best bargains of the day were to be had. His advice was heard and appreciated. And good natured banter ensued.
I arrived, glad that I had chosen to travel by public transport.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Another way

Isaiah 65:17-25
The Glorious New Creation
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.
As we continue to witness the appalling plight of refugees throughout the world, fleeing war, persecution, starvation, discrimination and oppression. As our daily news bulletins show children washed up on European beaches, lorries full of bodies abandoned at the road side and migrants being vilified, our hearts tell us: There must be another way. But the vision that is sketched in Isaiah seems like light years away.
And yet...
And yet we see ordinary human beings exercising compassion, refusing to be hampered by governments' attempts to plead poverty or to scaremonger, opening their hearts and their homes, sharing their resources, making a difference in whatever way they can, fulfilling just a bit of that vision, creating chinks in the wall of resistance and fear and apathy that have arisen. We see love in action that gives rise to hope. Hope in the ordinary bringing about the extraordinary.
And we are called simply to keep on being ordinary, using and sharing the gifts that we have until, by the grace of God, our ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Ashamed #Not in my name

As another day dawns and the displaced migrants at Calais (and at other border points) are pilloried by the UK Government, as the chaos unfolding and the loss of business caused by trucks being parked up, unable to cross the channel is blamed, not on port and ferry workers engaged in industrial action, but on those same migrants, treated with less dignity than we treat livestock, as (some)UK tax payers cry foul at the tax funded BBC filming Songs of Praise from a sanctuary erected in the migrants' enclosure and as that same callous UK Government seeks to spend £7 million on a fence to imprison the migrants, already dehumanized by (some) reactive hate filled media reporters, I offer this prayer, written, earlier in the week for Sanctuary First.

Queued at ferry ports
Hanging around dock yards
In the cold light of day and under the cover of darkness
Gathered up like cattle 
Escorted back to persecution and death
As you see these now familiar sights O God
What are your thoughts?
As you see small boats washed up without their many occupants
who now lie at the bottom of the ocean
What are your thoughts,O God?
As you see prosperous nations refusing to offer aid
or even temporary shelter or asylum
What are your thoughts O God?
And as you witness us redrawing boundaries
feeling our security threatened by the plight of others
Or, worse, turning to look the other way
What are your thoughts,O God?
Your son was often far from welcome
in our streets and towns
seen as a threat to security
a challenge to the authorities of the day.
What are your thoughts O God
as you see your children today
still closing ranks
still refusing to share
still condemning others to death
God help us to see what you see
and to be convicted by your thoughts
until we open the borders of our hearts and our minds
to make room for all your people. 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Path of Renewal

Matthew 10:5-9 (The Message)
Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start.

At the end of this month, I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of my Ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.
I have served those years in Health Care Chaplaincy, in rural ministry and in urban ministry.
I have had the joy of being involved in church councils and committees (no, really!), mentoring students, facilitating discernment, and staffing National youth events while engaged in the immense breadth of everyday Parish Ministry.
And now, a new challenge beckons.
I have been called to serve as Coordinator for the Path of Renewal Project on which the Church of Scotland is embarking.
This project seeks to serve and support, in the first instance, 20 congregations throughout Scotland as they seek to discern the mission of God in their communities and grow and equip leaders to join in that mission.(in a nutshell!)
Since I first shared with the congregation I serve that I felt called to pursue this new pathway I have been profoundly affected by their questions and comments as well as by their grief and congratulations.
Questions such as: "Were you not happy here?"
Comments such as:"We always knew you were destined for higher things."
I know that few of us handle the process of change well. Indeed, the Path of Renewal Project will be hugely concerned with supporting Transitions as we seek other ways to do and to be church.
And, to be honest, I'm really struggling with the major upheaval it is to move from parish ministry into this new post- not least, finding a new home!
People say things out of shock or grief.
However, I would hope that it is clear to anyone who knows me how much I love Parish Ministry and how much I love this parish I am about to leave.
And it is frustrating that, after seven years of preaching on how special, unique and loved by God these people are, that any should think there is a higher or better calling in service of God.
But I cannot deny that God has now called me to a new thing and so I must relinquish a ministry I hold dear at present.
No matter how risky it is, no matter how fatuous colleagues might deem this new role, it is a role to which God is calling me at this time.
And so I go in faith.
Not without tears.
Not without trepidation.
Not because I seek something higher or better.
But because God calls.
And where God calls, there I must follow.
I look forward to continuing to share the journey with you.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Reinforcing the Stained Glass Ceiling

I am a member of RevGalBlogPals, a supportive network for women clergy. I discovered this ministry some ten years into my own ordained ministry in the Church. Enduring the isolation of a solo pastorate and being surrounded by male colleagues, I experienced the need to reach out to other women who were juggling the tasks of ministry with all sorts of other roles in life. I immediately found kindred spirits who, quite simply,"got it", women who knew how challenging it is to balance all the different tasks assigned uniquely to women in Ministry. RevGalBlogPals remains a life line for me. I serve on the Board and I participate in their Continuing Ed events. Recently, some of my colleagues have been questioning the gender exclusivity of these events. This is my response:
When I began the process toward ordination over twenty five years ago, I had barely heard of the Stained Glass Ceiling. My denomination had been ordaining women to the ministry of word and sacrament for over twenty years and I had experienced some impressive role models of women in leadership along the way.
After training, experiencing a call to Hospital Chaplaincy rather than Parish Ministry saved me from some of the pain other women colleagues were encountering.when they applied for parishes and were rejected on the basis of gender. And each of my appointments since have been based on reputation and recommendation. Along the way,I have had occasion to challenge discrimination against women as I've encountered it. And, for a time, I was confident that there were cracks appearing in the Stained glass ceiling of the church. But, more recently, as my denomination grapples with issues of inclusion based on sexuality, it seems that, for some, re-establishing the church's historically narrow, male-dominated, conservative leadership is a priority.
Twenty years post ordination, my fear is that the Stained glass ceiling was too fragile for many and so now, it has been reinforced in all sorts of obvious and insidious ways. And, while the most effective way to counter this is for women to keep stepping up, to challenge this denial of God's call that does not discriminate on the basis of either gender or sexuality, when one is often the only woman in a room full of men, or when one's contributions have been mansplained one more time (and once is one time too many), it is wearing to keep going back for more. It calls for certain appendages with which only men are endowed. And, meanwhile, there are other tasks to be accomplished as the body of Christ: feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked... Tasks that, as a woman in Ministry, I find it difficult to subjugate to the fight to be accorded my rightful place at the table as a woman called by God.
Hence my need to indulge in women only events that examine the role we play in an institution that continues to discriminate against us because of an alignment of chromosomes or of body parts over which God presided.
That tinkle of breaking glass? It wasn't the glass ceiling coming down. It was being reinforced.

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